Claims file: Can’t have it both ways

Home Columns Claims file: Can’t have it both ways

by Lew Migliore

A retailer called to discuss a very unique situation he encountered with a carpet installation. He installed a product in the basement of a home and the consumer is complaining of a visible seam, but only when the lights are out, during the day, when the sun is shining in from two windows on a far wall.

When the dealer went to look at the carpet the seam was not visible when the lights were on, and the lights are always on when the space is occupied. He could see what she was talking about with the lights off but what was seen is the seaming tape telegraphing, not the seam itself. This comes as no surprise because seaming tape can often be seen in certain lighting. Most often when the space is illuminated it washes out and is not a visible eyesore.

The dealer sent the installer back to look at the seam. The results of that visit were that the seam looked perfect; no gaps, peaking or any other physical inconsistency, only the seam tape visible when the lights are off. He reached the same conclusion as in the scenario above. The installer said that if he tried to do anything with the seam he would create a problem much worse. This complaint reminds me of the saying, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?”

None of this made the consumer happy. Her idea of a fair and reasonable resolution is that she gets her money back and keeps the carpet as is. The question that must be asked then is, “If it’s so terrible that you need a free replacement, how can you live with it?” If the consumer goes to court—and she is threatening to do so unless the dealer complies with her demands—she has the legal right to replacement or to give the carpet back and get her money back but there is no provision in the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) that allows her to have it both ways. That would not be fair and reasonable. The dealer could also offer a settlement, but in this case that is not acceptable to the consumer.

I find it increasingly difficult to buy into the saying that the customer is always right. They are right when they are legitimately right and have actually been damaged but when they try to give a retailer the short end of the stick simply because they think they can, because they don’t like something or they’re completely unreasonable or demanding, I get upset.

The pendulum of reasonable has swung too far in the wrong direction. We need some humane adjustments because you can’t have it both ways. In this case, the carpet looks fine other than when the lights are off at a certain time of day. The lights are always on when the space is occupied so the concern is not visible. The seam is made perfectly and the cause of the concern is the seam tape showing through the carpet face.

Seams are not invisible and a lower profile, dense carpet will allow the seam tape to show. Even if a low profile seaming tape is used it may still create a visible effect on a seam under certain conditions. This all goes to the standard of care and common practice in the industry.

Is what’s being experienced a typical industry standard practice? Yes. Seams are not invisible; sometimes they can be seen under certain conditions. Sometimes however they really are made poorly and the consumer has a right to have them fixed, which is reasonable and fair.

This should be a lesson to you. You should have an information sheet to give to the customer right after the sale which mentions seams, loose fiber, fiber in the see-through vacuum cleaner, spots, cleaning, etc. It would make your life a lot easier and it’s something your competition isn’t doing. It shows you care about her floor.

Lewis Migliore is a troubleshooter, consultant and speaker based in Dalton. To reach him, call 706.370.5888, e-mail or log on to

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