There's something very satisfying about heading out to choose a brand new lounge suite. At last, something comfy and stylish to give your sitting room a lift.
It was an especially big day for Santana Bagnall and Jared Richards, because with three little kids, they rarely got to splash out on something new. But with a move from inner Auckland to the Waitakeres, they had a little money to spare.
We say a little, because they're the first to admit they weren't going for top of the range. They just wanted something modern, that felt comfortable and would last. So off they went to the Harvey Norman outlet store in Henderson, West Auckland.
They felt they'd hit the jackpot with a grey, synthetic fabric, two piece set for $1699. Being fully aware it wasn't real leather, they say they quizzed the salesperson about any extra care needed, but were told it should be good as gold.
Turns out that really wasn't true. Within six months, the fabric had started to peel off in tiny bits, sticking to the kids skin, and ending up on the carpet. It was annoying, and an eye sore.
Santana and Jared did the right thing by contacting the store and asking for some kind of repair or a refund. They were told nothing could be done and that perhaps they hadn't looked after the couch properly.
Jared says the manager Kevin Kang "laughed it off really and offered us a small amount of money and said the couch is only expected to last for its 12-month warranty and that's it".
The first offer was for $300, apparently out of the manager's own pocket. When they clearly weren't impressed, he upped the amount to a final offer of $500, but they still felt that wasn't good enough for a couch that started to show damage after just six months. With the demands of children and jobs, life was busy and the issue took a backseat.
This is when Grandma Cheryl stepped in. She couldn't bear to look at the unappealing peeling sofa and knew her daughter-in-law Santana was embarrassed by it, so she took it on herself to chase things up with Harvey Norman.
She couldn't understand why they'd have a product like this in their store. "If they bring it out and they know it's not going to last then why sell them? And what now? Will it go to the rubbish to get dumped?".
Deciding to take action, Cheryl rang head office. The head office staff told her to contact the manager of the store concerned. So she got back to Kevin Kang, sending him a photo of the damage. He said he'd send it to the manufacturer to see what they could do and would get back to her. A week later and no response, so Cheryl emailed again. Mr Kang said the manufacturer couldn't help, saying the couch was too old and it's condition was too bad. No kidding!
This lack of action from stores can be very frustrating. Consumer law clearly states that a product that's not fit for purpose should be repaired, replaced or refunded.
The couch belonging to Santana and Jared definitely isn't fit for purpose, and it would be fair to expect it to last more than two years.
So consumer law is on their side, but what good is it if the store or manufacturer refuses to honour it?
Cheryl was getting increasingly annoyed and turned to Fair Go. So it was our turn to contact Mr Kang and this time he said the problem was that the family were refusing to allow him to see the couch for himself, even after he'd asked several times.
We put that to Cheryl who was nothing short of gob-smacked. "Really? Wow … he's never asked to look at them. If he wants to come and see them, then of course we'll let him come, why wouldn't we? We want it solved."
We rang Mr Kang with the good news that they were happy for him to pay a visit and view the couches, and we arranged a time and date. Then just an hour later, he rang back with even better news. He said he didn't need to look at the couch after all, but would do the right thing and give the family a refund in full.
So a great result for the family, who can now head off to get a replacement sofa. They might go for a different colour, or a different look, but the absolute key will be getting one that lasts.