Bamboozled October 3, 2016: Furniture company holds order hostage over refund dispute, homeowner says

 

Nancy Sheridan’s Ortley Beach bungalow has been in her family for 35 years.

After it was decimated by Superstorm Sandy, Sheridan purchased the home from her parents to try to keep it in the family.

Getting the home rehabbed was a nightmare, she said.

“We started with a contractor who essentially walked away from the job, leaving us on the hook for a substantial amount of money,” Sheridan said.

Soon after, her husband died unexpectedly. Several weeks later, her mother died.

“After several months, I pulled myself together enough to resume the work on the house for the sake of my children and in memory of my mother,” she said. “I used some of her estate to resurrect the house and purchase furniture.”

In April and again in June, Sheridan placed orders with Seaside Furniture in Toms River.

The two separate orders added up to nearly $7,500. After her deposits, Sheridan would owe $3,034.88 upon delivery, which would be in July.

In late June, she placed a third order, for nearly $3,000 of merchandise.

Several days before the delivery date for the first two orders, Sheridan said, she called the store to ask if she could swap a full mattress for a queen-sized one after realizing a set she bought at a garage sale actually needed a queen.

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Nancy Sheridan with her son Brian at the bunk bed set, where a new set of steps didn’t fit and the store agreed to take it back — at first. 

The rep couldn’t give a confirmation on the phone, Sheridan said, so she visited the store.

She left thinking it was all worked out.

But when the delivery came July 23, the replacement queen mattress was missing. Also, Sheridan realized the stairs for the bunk bed set wouldn’t fit properly, so she asked the delivery drivers to take it back.

“The delivery people said there were no returns, but I said keep it on the truck since I had no place to put it,” she said. “The invoice included both the missing mattress and the stairs, but if I wanted to keep anything, I had to pay the entire amount. I figured I could work it out with the store.”

So Sheridan wrote a check for the balance and called the warehouse.

“I was told that since it was a special order there were no returns,” she said. “I replied how could it be a special order when it was a stock item, and besides, it was a relatively small portion of a very large order.”

And, she said, she reminded the rep, she still had another order pending.

That got her nowhere.

CUSTOMER SERVICE CONFUSION

After getting nowhere, she went to the store. She said the salesperson told her she’d have to speak to Jamie Ulrey, a new hire who would be in charge of customer service. Ulrey would be starting the next day, the rep told Sheridan.

“When I called Jamie the next day, she assured me that she would find a way to work with me,” Sheridan said. “After some haggling, she said that they would take back the steps but there would be a re-stocking fee of $186.”

Sheridan wasn’t thrilled, but said she agreed to show she was reasonable and willing to compromise.

She asked about the missing queen set, which she needed the following week because she was expecting guests. Ulrey said it would be there in time, Sheridan said.

By the end of that week, Sheridan said, there was no word so she called Ulrey. Sheridan said she assured her it was coming.

But around 6:30 that night, Sheridan said, Ulrey called to say it wasn’t on the truck.

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Brian Sheridan sits at the kitchen counter on old stools that don’t fit. The replacement stools are part of the dispute his mother Nancy Sheridan is having with the furniture store. 

“She said she could get it to me the following week,” Sheridan said. “Since I needed the mattress the next day, I told her to cancel the order and I would get it somewhere else. She agreed.”

Sheridan got the mattress she needed from another store.

About two weeks later, Sheridan said, she received a call that her remaining order was ready for delivery. They set a date, and she was told the remaining balance on the order.

She thought the amount was wrong, so she returned to the store with her paperwork.

None of the employees could figure out the invoices, and Ulrey was on vacation, Sheridan said. An employee said the owners suggested waiting for Ulrey’s return, so she’d have to wait.

Soon after, Sheridan said she tried calling Ulrey but was told she was unavailable.

The next call was one to Sheridan saying the delivery on the new order was cancelled and that she should get a call from Ulrey.

Instead of waiting, Sheridan said, she called and spoke to a different employee to clarify the credits and the amount due.

About four hours later, Sheridan said Ulrey called to say they had gone through the receipts and were ready to reschedule the delivery.

“When I asked her the balance, it was now up to $1,400,” Sheridan said. She asked for an itemized bill and was told it included “$500-plus for the mattress I received.”

Sheridan reminded her she never received the mattress, she said.

“Then I asked her about the $568.99 credit for the steps, and she said that the owners were refusing to honor it,” Sheridan said. “That’s when I told her I couldn’t deal with her company anymore.”

The owners were refusing to talk, she said, so she contacted Bamboozled.

IT DOESN’T ADD UP

We reviewed Sheridan’s timeline and reviewed all the receipts, including a handwritten note that Sheridan said shows Ulrey’s handwriting.

It clearly says Sheridan was getting a credit for the mattress and the steps, less the restocking fee, but other parts were incorrect.

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Nancy Sheridan says this note handwritten by a store employee shows the refund she’s due, but it’s wrong about other charges. 

It shows the replacement mattress was never delivered or charged, but that cost was added to the total due.

Plus, it lists a $1,500 balance from a previous order, but other invoices show that amount was paid as part of her very first deposit. That’s another reason the total due on the sheet was wrong.

The $300 and $900 balance due listings for the additional order that was not yet delivered are correct, Sheridan said.

Those amounts would cover the missing items: a coffee table, two end tables, three counter stools and a TV console, paperwork shows.

One item to note: the original invoice for the full mattress that was returned does say it’s a special order, but Ulrey agreed to swap it for a queen. When it couldn’t be delivered on time, Ulrey agreed to take it back, Sheridan said.

Seaside Furniture has an “F” rating with the Better Better Bureau, with five complaints in the past three years. BBB said the company didn’t respond to two complaints, and one complaint was not resolved. (You can learn more about how BBB works here.)

We reached out to Ulrey by telephone and by email several times, and after five days, we got her by phone.

She said she was in a meeting and promised to call back in an hour.

But she didn’t.

We recommended Sheridan file a complaint with the Division of Consumer Affairs, and she said she will.

“In dealing with Seaside Furniture, my mistake was assuming that basic standards of customer service would apply,” Sheridan said. “I didn’t think it was asking too much to get a refund on merchandise I never received, but it looks like I was wrong.”

We’ll let you know what happens.

Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.

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