Home – New Forums Tell me straight… Customer says there’s a problem with my item … and they’ve dismantled it!

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  • #995505
    P111
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    I have a customer who claims that there is a problem with their product, a shop counter made from pallet wood.

    The customer viewed the product during manufacture, and OKed it after installation. I have received a message tonight (at 9PM) saying that there’s a problem with the pallet wood not being strong enough, so they’ve dismantled the counter.

    As business owners, and as customers, what do you think my obligations are in this situation? My gut feel is as follows:

    1) Pallet wood is rustic by nature and small cracks or imperfections *that don’t stop the product from functioning* are to be expected. In fact, the rustic look was the reason the customer requested pallet wood.

    2) Dismantling the product makes it very difficult – impossible – for me to ascertain what, if anything, was wrong with it. If the counter was wobbly, how can I tell that now? It’s not prima-facie obvious from a pile of pallet pieces.

    3) If the timber has cracked or splintered unacceptably and needs replacement, I can’t now determine the cause of that. Was it fair use, abuse, or because the customer dismantled the product? (How do I know this isn’t a change of mind?)

    4) I don’t think it’s fair for me to refund or replace the counter, because I have no idea whether anything was actually wrong with it. And the customer has made the situation worse by dismantling it, as it leaves me unable to repair it. The nature of the job makes this feel less like someone had a go at DIY plumbing, and more like they’ve painted over an art work.

    5) Dismantling the main counter has removed some of the support for a secondary counter, which the client now says is ‘bending’. I just want to shake my head and say no, sorry, you did this to yourself… but I worry about being on the wrong side of the law, and I don’t want negative word of mouth out there besides.

    Thank you so much for any insights you can offer.

    #1202223
    gingerbeardhs
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    If you have a written scope of work and have completed that work to that specification, what the client does to it after hand over is out of your control.

    They have taken upon themselves to modify by dismantling: you have no way to inspect or rectify. You have to ask:

    Do you want a happy client? (The fact is that no matter what now, you wont be happy with the situation)

    1. Explain these points to the client. They most certainly should not have dismantled the counter until you had a chance to inspect it. The most they should have done was take any equipment off the counter. You can try explaining this. The client isn’t going to be happy.

    2. The best thing you can probably do is try to leverage the best you can out of it. Inspect what is left (is it only dismantled or has it been cut/destroyed) see if it can be re-assembled/remade, see what can be done. If you can salvage a happy client out of it, explain that they really must not do what they did. Try to get a stellar testimonial out of it.

    It sounds like your client hasn’t had something like this happen before. You could gently inform them that if something like this happens again for anything, the worst thing they can do is what they have just done (dismantling) because now a difficult situation is worse.

    I think the key part is that no matter what, you are going to be stuffed around. Recognise it and try for the best outcome with that constraint. The worst thing you could do is abandon the client. You might be able to work a discount in there (to recover some extra costs) if the counter is salvageable.

    #1202224
    Dave Gillen – Former FS Concierge
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    Welcome to the forums [USER=87141]@P111[/USER],

    I’d say something like:
    Refunds or warranties clearly won’t be available to any customer who has dismantled the product. The same would apply to any other product, whether it’s an iPhone, a car engine or a shop counter, because it means that…
    a) We can’t reuse or resell the product.
    b) We can’t inspect any flaws or failings of the product.
    c) We don’t have an opportunity to fix it.
    But I am willing to come out and see if I can help you out with any issues you have with the counter in it’s new state.

    Good luck with it!
    Dave

    P.S. From now on you’ll have a passage in your T&C that advises what to do in case of a problem, and what actions will void the warranty :)

    #1202225
    P111
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    Thank you both for the swift replies. It seems my intuition is on the right track.

    Thank you for reinforcing my thought that the dismantling of the counter really was a bad idea!

    I have a feeling that this is one of those situations that won’t resolve to either of our complete satisfaction, but let’s wait and see.

    #1202226
    bb1
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    It’s a bit like I have had a couple of people claim I have broken their windows (one a car window) with flying stones. But they have come to me a week later with an invoice for the replaced window, so I haven’t had an opportunity to even inspect them to see if it could have being me.

    I have spoken to a solicitor and my insurance company and both agree with me, that I shouldn’t have to pay unless I have had the opportunity to inspect the damage.

    In each case they quickly forgot about it once I mentioned the solicitors comment.

    Sounds like your people had a change of mind, claim denied.

    #1202227
    P111
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    I got some more info today, the item broke because employees have been standing on it!

    Thanks for all your advice x

    #1202228
    Kokoronkwo
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    Oh dear! I’m so glad to hear there was a clear reason for the issue – employees standing on it.

    It’s a great lesson for future sales. Why not write up a terms & conditions and attach it to your final invoice for customers. It should say something regarding refund or replacement – that they must provide photo evidence of the issue so that it can be addressed appropriately.
    Also, it’s so important that your spell out the nature of pallet wood. So the customer understands & essentially takes on this risk.

    It’s frustrating that so many rules & insurances have to be made for the few people who just ‘try it on’ … :(

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