I don’t want this damaged couch — can I just get a refund?

If Chris Sigmund could flop on his Living Spaces couch in frustration, he’d do that. But the couch has been coming apart ever since he received it, and Living Spaces won’t offer him a resolution he’s willing to accept.

Sigmund would like a full refund for the purchase price of the couch — which is a replacement for another couch that had problems. Unfortunately, all Living Spaces is willing to offer him is yet another couch.

“At the beginning I just wanted the problem solved, but at this point I’m so disgusted with Living Spaces I want my money back,” says Sigmund. “I have no faith they’ll treat me any differently if I reselect a new item.”

Given all the problems Sigmund has had so far with Living Spaces, we can’t blame him for not believing that the third time will be the charm. But we can’t help him get his money back. Our advocates generally aren’t able to get companies to agree to other resolutions when they offer free replacements for defective goods.

The first couch Sigmund purchased from Living Spaces had scuffed upholstery from improper taping as well as seams that were coming undone within two weeks of delivery. Sigmund filed a claim under his warranty for the couch, and Living Spaces agreed to replace it. Three weeks later, he received his current couch.

Over the next few months, the frame of the couch began to crack, causing the armrests to dip and the padding to come out of the couch. Sigmund called Living Spaces again, and was told that he would have to file a new claim on his warranty and submit photos. Sigmund did so, and was told that he would receive a call from a Living Spaces representative within 48 hours. But there was no call.

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Sigmund called again to follow up, and learned that nobody at Living Spaces had looked at his photos. He asked for a manager, who looked at the photos and confirmed that the couch appeared to be broken. The manager told Sigmund that a warranty department employee would call him within 48 hours. But again, there was no call. Sigmund followed up again and was told that his claim had been assigned to Furniture Services Network, a furniture repair company.

Nearly three weeks later, a technician from Furniture Services Network visited his home. The technician confirmed the problems Sigmund had found with the couch frame and noticed another one. But all he could do for Sigmund was add padding to the couch. He could not repair the frame, but he promised that someone from Living Spaces would follow up with Sigmund. Unfortunately, the only follow-up communication that Sigmund received from Living Spaces was an email indicating that his case was considered closed.

Sigmund called Living Spaces back, only to be asked to refile his claim and resubmit the photos. He was told again that someone from Living Spaces would call him back within 72 hours, but he received no call. And when he followed up again, Living Spaces’ representative confirmed that his resubmitted photos had not been reviewed. The representative also told Sigmund that no managers were available to speak to him that day.

The following day, a warranty manager from Living Spaces called Sigmund, but told him that Living Spaces could not issue him a refund and his only options were a replacement couch or store credit. And no higher-ranking managers were available to speak to Sigmund. The warranty manager promised to escalate Sigmund’s case.

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But Sigmund was forced to call Living Spaces several more times, each time learning that nobody had escalated his case or was willing to assist him. He complained about the amount of time he had spent trying to get his case resolved, only to be told that “We are unable to put a monetary value on your time.” He was also told that Living Spaces’ Director of Customer Services doesn’t actually speak to customers. That sounded as ridiculous to Sigmund as it does to us.

Sigmund then posted about his story on Yelp and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Living Spaces responded to the BBB complaint:

Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention and we apologize for the inconvenience. After review of the account we notice you spoke with a manager today 6/7 at which point you were offered a re selection for your defective piece. A free delivery was also offered. Please visit any one of our store locations to complete this offer.

Sigmund rejected the offer:

Please note that it took over six weeks, dozens of phone calls, and countless hours of waiting on hold and frustration for you to even reach that conclusion. What you’re asking is for me to continue to place my faith in a company that has failed me more times than I’m capable of counting on a single hand. I refuse your offer of a reselection of another piece of furniture. You’ve shown your true cards, and if and when that piece fails, I’ll have to go through this nightmare of an ordeal all over again. Please refund my full purchase price of $711. This matter is NOT resolved.

Then he asked our advocates for assistance.

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Living Spaces website indicates that its couches are covered under a one-year warranty for manufacturing defects, including issues with seams and frames. The company’s terms and conditions also indicate that “items must be in new condition and in the original packaging to qualify for a refund.”

Many other customers of Living Spaces have apparently also experienced terrible service. Reviews for Living Spaces are mixed, ranging from excellent to terrible, and the BBB website lists over 700 complaints filed against Living Spaces by unhappy customers.

Unfortunately, because Sigmund’s couch isn’t new and in the original packaging, our advocates can’t help Sigmund get a refund. Although we certainly sympathize with his frustration with receiving two bad couches and terrible customer service, we advised him that we’re not going to be able to provide him with a better response than the free couch Living Spaces offered.

Should Living Spaces refund Chris Sigmund the full cost of his couch in spite of its refund policy?

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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