The couple, in their 80s, have done a lot of work in their kitchen over the years and doubled its size three decades ago.
Last summer, they decided to buy a new dishwasher — a simple upgrade.
Other improvements were not on their immediate to-do list and could hold indefinitely.
After doing their homework and price comparisons, the Carlsons decided to buy the dishwasher from Lowe’s in Paterson.
The installation took place Aug. 27, 2010.
“We purchased a dishwasher in good faith and now have experienced enormous aggravation by a corporate bully — one that admittedly made installation errors,” Martin Carlson said. “Their refusal to pay the costs associated with fairly correcting the problem is disgraceful.”
During the installation, the Formica countertop — admittedly about 30 years old — separated from the cabinets underneath. This had never happened before, despite the countertop’s age, he said.
“The original installer showed up and, in his attempt to reattach the countertop and cabinets, used too large a screw,” Carlson said. “As a result, he created a noticeable chip in the countertop.”
While he was there, the plumber also adjusted the feet on the dishwasher. That shook Carlson’s confidence in the worker, who, Carlson said, should have made that adjustment during his first visit.
The plumber said he could try to repair the damage but might worsen the crack, Carlson said. He offered to find a company that specialized in such repairs.
Carlson said a week passed and he didn’t hear anything, so he contacted the plumber, who said he was unable to find someone to make the repair.
ASKING FOR THE FIX
Carlson said he left several messages for Lowe’s, but no one called back.
He said he finally reached an assistant manager, who offered to come to Carlson’s home to assess the damage.
“Like the plumber, he also volunteered to find an outside contractor who could repair a damaged Formica countertop,” Carlson said.
But the assistant manager never called back, he said.
Frustrated, Carlson decided to get some estimates to replace the old countertop. He realized because the countertop and matching Formica backsplash had aged, it was impossible to find a replacement countertop to match the backsplash. Both would need replacing to coordinate a consistent look in the kitchen. If they didn’t match, it could be a problem if the couple decided to sell their home, Carlson said. Most buyers would notice a new countertop with a 30-year-old, unmatching backsplash.
The estimates averaged about $2,200.
Carlson called Lowe’s again and thought he was on the way to satisfaction, he said.
The company offered $300.
“When I argued that $300 wouldn’t begin to cover replacing a replacement, we were offered $500, but only on the condition that we accept immediately,” he said.
Negotiations continued, and Lowe’s made another offer — this time for a mere $400.
Then the offer changed again. Lowe’s offered to have an outside company replace the countertop, Carlson said, and it sent someone to take measurements.
That worker suggested the Carlsons return to Lowe’s to select the color for the replacement Formica.
The Paterson Lowe’s carries two shades of white. Neither matched the existing countertop or backsplash, which meant even if Lowe’s paid for a new countertop, it wouldn’t match the backsplash, Carlson said.
The store never approved a backsplash replacement to make a match — a match that was needed because of the Lowe’s installer’s error.
Carlson turned to the Lowe’s corporate customer care office but kept getting referred back to the store, he said.
Next, he spoke several times to the district manager. During one conversation, a discouraged Carlson asked the district manager, “Do I have to sue to get the real amount I’m owed?”
After that, the district manager wouldn’t talk to Carlson anymore, and said Carlson would have to speak to the company’s legal department.
Carlson reached out to customer care again, he said, and was told the district manager closed his case but recommended the company replace the countertop.
But no one from the company called to make an offer, Carlson said.
Carlson admits the break in the Formica isn’t huge — it’s about half the size of a penny — but it’s damage that wasn’t there before.
By now, Carlson said, it’s not about the money. Even if the company offered to replace the countertop and the backsplash, Carlson said, he doesn’t feel comfortable enough in the workmanship to accept.
“I’m straightforward and I’m honest,” he said. “I don’t want their money and I don’t want them in my house ever again.”
He said it’s about a company doing the right thing — or not doing the right thing.
That’s when he contacted Bamboozled.
SO MUCH FOR SATISFACTION
Bamboozled reached out to Lowe’s about this customer’s experience.
A day after our call, Carlson was contacted by the corporate offices.
Carlson said he received an apology. The rep said the company would offer a new countertop, but he had to check with others to see if the matching backsplash would be approved.
Carlson received a second call. The backsplash was still in the works, he was told.
Okay. Moving in the right direction.
Then, a surprise.
“When Mr. Carlson contacted us to share concerns, we worked closely with him to gain his satisfaction and have made numerous overtures we felt were fair including full repair and a written guarantee of his satisfaction,” wrote Lowe’s spokeswoman Karen Cobb in an e-mail. “Unfortunately, the customer and Lowe’s were not able to come to terms, and Mr. Carlson indicated he planned to hire an attorney to represent him.”
Well, that’s not exactly what Carlson said. He said he sarcastically asked if he needed to sue and never again mentioned a lawsuit, he told Bamboozled after we got involved. We called Cobb to see if it was possible that the company misunderstood, or was overreacting to Carlson’s comment to the district manager.
Cobb stuck closely to her e-mailed statement.
“We have offered a written guarantee of his satisfaction,” she said.
What did she mean? Satisfaction with what? A replacement countertop? A countertop and backsplash? A repair of the damage caused by its worker?
Exactly what was the company offering?
“I’m sorry that I can’t share more,” she said. “As I said, unfortunately the customer and Lowe’s were not able to come to terms.”
If Lowe’s wanted to dispute Carlson’s claims, we gave the company every opportunity.
And Carlson was never interested in a lawsuit.
“At my age, I don’t need that,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about me. Customers just have to be so careful of what they might pull. It’s mind-boggling.”