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11 months and counting: Consumers frustrated with furniture delays

Attorney details consumers' rights
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Posted at 6:00 AM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 07:17:04-04

BALTIMORE — Holidays mean sales and many shoppers took advantage of furniture deals over Memorial Day Weekend. However, customers should be prepared for long delays when it comes to delivery.

Edward Holland needed a reclining chair and saw Gavigan’s Furniture advertising deals over the July 4th holiday weekend.

“It was the best recliner that suit me, to elevate my feet, so I went ahead. I said okay, these are the ones I want, I want two of them,” said Holland, who paid full price for the chairs.

Holland knew his order would take longer than usual and was prepared to wait the 20 weeks he was quoted.

“They did have you sign a piece of paper saying it could be as long as November 2021, but then I get a phone call in November 2021 saying we cannot deliver, you’ll get them in April 2022,” Holland said.

Nearly 11 months later, he still doesn’t have his chairs or an estimated delivery date.

“I mean be upfront with me that’s all I’m asking,” said Holland.

WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii spoke with Rob Gavigan of Gavigan’s Furniture by phone. He declined an in-person interview. Gavigan told Sofastaii that he's unable to provide Holland with an estimated delivery date because he hasn't received any new information from the manufacturer in China, and information has been hard to come by.

Gavigan is waiting until he receives confirmation the chair is in a shipping container, and even then it could be awhile. He once had a shipping container filled with furniture sit in Panama for two months before arriving in the U.S.

Gavigan’s Furniture also has a notice on its website warning customers that demand and a backlog of orders have significantly slowed down production, and factories are operating with limited staff and a reduced supply of raw materials.

According to their website, the company doesn’t offer cancellations after 24 hours, but Gavigan offered Holland a refund.

Holland isn’t interested.

“I went through all the trouble waiting and getting the chair, and I paid for it. I just want the recliner to come so I can get off my feet, get my legs elevated that’s what I’m after,” said Holland who suffers from health issues limiting his mobility.

Gavigan added that if Holland were to re-buy the same chair, it’d cost $200 more today, but he’s not passing along those increases to customers.

Holland doesn’t want to pay more for a different recliner and is asking the company for additional communication regarding his order.

“Somebody call me and let me know where I stand, yah know?” said Holland.

Consumer's rights with delayed orders
Peter Holland, a consumer rights attorney with the Holland Law Firm, said it’s the law for retailers to be honest and upfront.

“Whether it’s furniture or anything else, you have rights, and your right is to be informed,” said Holland, who has no relation to Edward Holland.

While Edward Holland had been warned about delays, other furniture companies are accused of intentionally misleading customers and refusing to provide refunds.

The Maryland Office of the Attorney General recently filed charges against Frederick County furniture sellers.

“We’re still living through COVID and supply chain issues. The merchant should be able to say, ‘Honestly, it’s going to be X number of weeks, or honestly, we really don’t know. It could be two weeks, it could be three months.’ Honesty and transparency are the main thing so a consumer can make an informed choice,” said Holland.

Buyers can also ask for a delivery date to be written into their contract.

“Have them put it in writing and sign it so that you can rely on it. So, if they say two weeks and two months go by, you can say I want my money back,” added Holland.

If a customer decides to cancel an order and the retailer doesn't allow it, consumers can file a complaint with the Maryland Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division, the Federal Trade Commission, file a dispute with their credit card company, or hire a private attorney.

Private attorneys can sue under Maryland's Consumer Protection Act and request attorney’s fees be paid by the retailer if they win.

Whether it's furniture or something else, retailers must clearly communicate when they will deliver your order. According to the FTC’s Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Rule, if a company can't deliver within the time stated or 30 days, they must seek consent from the customer for the delayed shipment. If they’re unable to obtain consent, then they must issue a refund.