That’s what Raymour & Flanigan has done for Marlene Riether, a customer who said she purchased a dresser that wasn’t what was promised.
Riether wanted a piece of “forever furniture” to give as a gift to her granddaughter Isabella.
The Robbinsville woman went to Raymour & Flanigan in the Mercer Mall in Lawrenceville, she said, because she trusted the store, and that’s where her family had shopped in the past.
“I asked the representative to show me a piece of furniture that my granddaughter could pass on to her children someday,” Reither said. “I specifically asked for solid woods and a no-particle board piece.”
Riether said the saleswoman showed her a dresser from the store’s Charlie Collection, assuring her it was made of solid wood.
Riether made the purchase on Aug. 14, 2013, records show. With a matching mirror, a delivery charge and tax, the total bill was $716.90.
Fast forward two years and a couple of weeks, when Isabella’s family moved from one home to another. The movers damaged the top corner of the dresser during the move.
That damage showed something a far cry from solid wood.
“I was horrified to see that it was a solid sheet of particle board that disintegrated as I touched it,” Riether said.
Riether said she went back to the store on Aug. 31 — two days after the smash up — to explain to the manager that she was sold a product that wasn’t what she thought she had purchased.
“[She] was very disinterested in my plight and kept saying the two-year warranty was over and they were not responsible,” Riether said. “I explained this was about deception and no warranty should be placed on that.”
If not for the move, Riether said, she could have gone a long time, if not forever, without knowing what the dresser was really made of.
She said she asked the manager to take the piece back and replace it with one that was solid wood.
The manager said she would get back to Riether by Sept. 2, but Riether didn’t get a call.
So late in the day on Sept. 2, Riether said, she called the store and this time spoke with a man. The conversation wasn’t much more fruitful.
“He was rather rude and said he would send someone out to try to repair it and nothing else,” Riether said. “He ended the conversation by saying that the two-year warranty was over and I was lucky he was going to even send someone out to repair it.”
WHEN ‘SOLID WOOD’ ISN’T
We reviewed Riether’s paperwork from the purchase, and then we looked at the online description of the dresser. We know it was the same one because of the photos and the matching SKU number.
The dresser’s description read: “Kiln-dried poplar solids: Bedroom dresser is carefully crafted of poplar solids for a beautiful appearance and a strong durable foundation that’s meant to last; kiln drying removes moisture to protect the frame from changes in humidity that could cause splitting, warping and cracking.”
The description backs up Riether’s claim that she was told by the salesperson that the dresser was solid wood.
We reached out to Raymour & Flanigan to ask it to review the case, and we shared photos of the damage for its review.
While we waited for a response, we looked for a wood furniture expert.
We found one at the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers, a Calif.-based industry group. We shared photos of the dresser and asked for an opinion on whether or not the damaged dresser showed solid wood or something else.
“Particle board, all the way,” said Angelo Gangone, executive vice president of the group.
We also showed Gangone the online description of the product without sharing who the seller was.
“They phrased it in a way that is a bit misleading,” he said. “However, when they mention poplar solids, I wonder if it includes the drawer fronts which may actually be constructed from solid wood? The frame is obviously not solid wood based on the photos.”
We then heard back from Raymour & Flanigan’s senior vice president for operation and customer care. Brian Schwarz said he was disappointed in the response Riether received from the company.
“Our goal is to enhance the shopping experience of every customer by providing them the best experience in the furniture industry,” Schwarz said. “We obviously missed that mark with her.”
Schwarz asked us to put him in touch with Riether, and he said he’d take a “personal interest and make sure that she has the issue resolved to her satisfaction.”
And that’s exactly what he did, with several options for Riether.
First, he said one of his vendors has agreed to specialty-make a dresser of solid wood for Riether.
The second option would be to replace the exact dresser she purchased.
“Even though we no longer carry the item, I am able to still get a replacement for her from the vendor,” he said. “I will also refund her purchase price, simply as an acknowledgement and apology for the manner in which we handled her issue.”
The third option would be to refund her money, and allow her to choose a different dresser from the store, free-of-charge.
A generous offer, indeed.
Riether decided to choose another dresser from the store, noting Schwarz said he is also sending her a full refund from the original purchase.
We clarified the offer with Schwarz, who said Riether was free to select any dresser and mirror she likes with no budget constraints. For free.
So Riether went back to the store on Sunday, and she selected a new dresser and mirror that cost the same as the initial ones, but by a different manufacturer.
She walked away happy.
We thank Raymour & Flanigan for stepping up for this customer — with gusto — but we had one more question.
The original dresser’s online description said: “Bedroom dresser is carefully crafted of poplar solids…”
But the dresser wasn’t solid. What gives?
“We decline to answer that question,” said Neal Rube, the company’s executive vice president.
Despite the unanswered question, companies out there should take note.
Raymour & Flanigan’s response to the customer’s complaint is a prime example of how you keep a customer, and how you make what could have been an ugly customer service experience into a very positive one.
We’d love to see more of that.
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.