Claims file: Smelly carpet

Home Columns Claims file: Smelly carpet

A dealer contacted us with a complaint he had regarding a smelly carpet. The consumer claimed the carpet was making her sick. The dealer visited the home and could smell nothing but new carpet. The rep came to the home and he could smell nothing and the independent inspector they called in came to the same conclusion. This was a case where the homeowner was being affected by an odor that obviously only she could smell.

The homeowner persisted in her complaint, eventually telling the dealer that she was experiencing physical maladies as a result of the carpet, however she produced no proof of this. The dealer did everything he could to resolve the issue, when the manufacturer stepped in and told the dealer to replace the carpet.

In any case where a consumer complains an odor in the carpet is making them sick, the manufacturer will typically tell you to remove the product and credit you. In this case, the manufacturer also gave the dealer a credit for the labor. This has been the norm for many years when it comes to a consumer complaining about flooring being the cause of a health condition. It’s easier to remove the flooring than have to contend with threatened legal action.

Carpet contains nothing that will make anyone ill and the odor it emits is just a new carpet odor. Just like a new car, new furniture or a new shower curtain.

The dealer appreciated the manufacturer’s action but was upset it didn’t pay him his profit. He said the consumer thought he and the manufacturer were hiding something when they gave in. On the contrary, most companies today would rather let you steal from them, rather than confront a customer or press charges and deal with the threat of a lawsuit: It’s easier to take the loss.

In this case, that’s what the manufacturer did. The manufacturer gave the dealer what he had in the carpet plus his labor—they didn’t give him his profit nor should it have. It is not any manufacturers’ responsibility to reimburse you or any dealer for profit. Just because a customer decides, as in this case, not to do business with the dealer again because of her problem, the manufacturer has no control over that.

You sell the product for a price, which includes profit, and no one else participates in that. If you lose money on the sale that is your issue and no one else’s; the supplier is not entitled to any of your profit so it is not responsible if you lose it either. Unfortunately that’s a cost of doing business.

This is also not a standard practice in the industry, or in business for that matter. To state this further, you can’t expect a manufacturer of any product to credit you fully for your purchase and then add to that, profit you lost on a transaction they were not a party to.

The dealer thought the mill made a hasty decision that obliged him with no say in the matter and as a result he was caught in the middle—he thought—and lost.

In reality, the mill saved the dealer because, had the matter persisted, you can bet a lawsuit would have been filed. The first check he’d write toward his defense would be to his lawyer which would likely have exceeded what he lost in profit. From there the additional costs to defend himself would have far exceeded profits from several other jobs.

Being in business and especially business that provides service, product or material to one’s home or business, means that at some point you’re going to encounter a customer who turns out to be a nut. Arguing on principal will almost always cost you way more than you bargained for.

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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