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The problem with buying large items such as lounge suites is that you generally can’t pay and then leave the store with them in one clean transaction.
In most cases the suite on which you base your decision is a store display, and your actual purchase gets delivered to your home at some later date. And as my inbox reveals, a lot can go wrong between showroom and home.
Thokozani Jili of Pinetown, KZN, bought a seven-piece “Bella” dining room suite from House & Home’s Pavilion branch on a Saturday last November.
She paid R3 599 for it and it was delivered the following morning, while she was at church, so her younger brother signed the delivery note. (The delivery was at the agreed time, but Jili left church later than expected.)
The trouble is, while the note described the delivery as a seven-piece suite, only three pieces were delivered – two chairs and a table – and Jili says the chairs were broken and the table was not in good condition.
She says she reported this to the sales agent on the Monday, and was told that because that model was sold out, she should come in and choose something else.
As Jili was about to leave for the Eastern Cape at the time, she asked if she could do that on her return in December and was told she could.
In early December, Jili returned to the store and chose another seven-piece dining room suite – the “Hudson” – paying the R400 price difference.
“They said they were still waiting for stock from Johannesburg, but promised to deliver it before Christmas,” she told Consumer Alert.
But five days before Christmas, she received a call from the sales agent to say “management” had said the dining room suite exchange could not go ahead, and she should collect her R400.
“She said she didn’t know what the problem was,” Jili says.
All Jili was told was that she had to accept the original Bella suite as she had bought it “as is” at a discounted price.
Totally confused by the store’s conflicting decisions, Jili contacted me for help.
I took up the case with House & Home MD Aubrey Karp, who immediately arranged for the Hudson suite to be delivered to Jili.
He said that despite the fact that she had “knowingly” purchased the damaged Bella suite at a discounted price, “I am not satisfied that store personnel complied with the company’s procedures, and on top of this they did not execute a prompt delivery of the Hudson, or keep Ms Jili informed of problems”.
One of the problems was that while only three pieces of the Bella were delivered, the delivery note describes the suite as a seven-piece, and the store staff failed to note that only three pieces were being delivered, Karp said.
The sales agent insists that Jili knew she was paying R3 599 for two less-than-perfect chairs and a table, but Jili is equally insistent that the sales agent told her that a full seven-piece suite would be delivered to her, as per the invoice.
It’s crucial that you are present when goods you’ve pre-ordered and paid for are delivered to your home, so that you can inspect them and check whether they are what you ordered, and that the goods match the description on the delivery note – and on your invoice.
Incidentally, the Consumer Protection Act allows you to cancel a deal for no penalty if goods are delivered at a time other than agreed, or if they do not fit the description on the invoice.