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Mkhize92

Trader of bespoke furnishings problem with customer

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HI there,

 

I have had some issues with a customer who we have made some furnishings for. 

There are a couple of errors which are easily fixable but I think, to add to their case, the customer has pointed out a whole load of things that in their eyes are unacceptable but are actually the product is well made.

 

They are demanding that we right the wrongs which aren't wrongs and that we perform the impossible,

our work, aside from the fixable issues was done to a very high standard and some of the faults were not there when we delivered the product. 

 

We have the goods back, and have agreed to put them back as we think they should be, then the customer can get a second opinion. 

There are 3 stages to this work that are to be delivered, and 2 more stages to come. 

I don't think they are going to pay us.

 

They paid a 50% deposit and the balance is to be paid at the point of completion. 

If I deliver stage one of the goods it leaves me out of pocket,

it means that they will have some of the goods but not all,

the deposit they paid will cover the cost of the fitting, my workers who did the work and some of the blinds but I will have lost out. 

 

If I deliver this to them can I just walk away and 'sack' my client? 

The client has been rude,

very difficult and controlling,

and damaged the goods I delivered while saying they were substandard. 

 

TBH if I delivered sub standard goods like that I wouldn't have a job

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I'm afraid that we need much better detail.

Although you have provided a lot of narrative, you really have given much to go on in terms of being able to advise you or make judgements as to your best course of action.

I think you need to lay out much more carefully what has happened, what it is you provided, why the contract is in three parts, what arrangements have been made for payment, any photographs – et cetera.

Then we may be able to form an opinion and give you some useful advice.


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Do you make blinds?

What product are we talking about?

And what faults the customers thinks are there?

I worked with wood, so i know what you mean that something that it's an indication of a good job can be seen by the ignorant eye as a defect.

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I make soft furnishings, and I totally agree with you about ignorant people seeing something right as a defect, I just want to know where I stand legally

 

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Well has been askedseveral questions in at least a couple of posts and you haven't addressed any of them.

it won't be possible to help you unless you decide to respond to these questions

 


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I took an order for a large job of curtains and blinds for a whole house. 

they paid a 50% deposit up front.

 

We fitted 13 of the blinds.

There were a couple of sewing errors that are easily fixable, as you might expect some as there was about 100 hours work done. 

 

when you walk into the customer's bedroom its long and thin and you can see behind the blinds to the outside when you stand in certain parts of the room.  One of those blinds needs to be widened but the others are all correct sizes.  They have all been made to the high standards, the sewing was beautiful and aside from the fixable errors the work was good.

 

However, the customer is adamant that its all wrong,

the linings aren't fit for purpose,

some little side covers to cover the sides of the blind tracks are inadequate,

the blind tracks are too thick so the blinds stick out,

the fitting was bad,

they weren't even,

there were pinholes in the fabric,

the treads might rot in the sun...

she complained that the blinds weren't exactly even to less than half a cm,

they weren't substantial,

 

I was there for 2 hours and this went on and on. 

Every time I tried to defend myself she would say that I was wrong. 

There was nothing I could say to try and restore a bit of faith in my work. 

 

When my fitters left they said that one rod was missing from one from the blinds and one of the side covers had come loose, otherwise the work was fine. 

 

When I went there most of the side covers had been tugged at and were half hanging off, and she had picked at the bottom linings and pulled the stitches apart. When I was there she literally started to pull and yank them and say that they were coming a part. 

 

I said, Well they will if you do that?  and then I said "Don't do that!" 

Her reply was, "Do I need to treat them with kid gloves?" 

I have tried to be quiet and diplomatic and diffuse the situation but its not working, what ever I say she gets more and more angry.

 

The blind tracks are a legal requirement due to child fatalities with roman blinds.  I use the best ones which cost me more and they dont have to have the chain screwed into the wall which pleases the customer.  

 

I used the best, thickest linings and she didn't want blackout lining.  She wants a lining thats more fit for purpose, but you cant get more fit for purpose than what we gave her.

 

We made the blinds to the width of the widow sills, which is how we and most curtain makers do them.  We have been doing them for years like this and never had a complaint.

 

I am sorry that we made the errors we did and I would go out of my way to fix anything and negotiate compensation if necessary, but its impossible to deal with her. 

She has ended up being so aggressive that I don't want to deal with her any more. 

 

I suggested to her that we take 8 of the blinds back this Friday, if she is happy with them she can settle the bill for them and we can do her bedroom. 

 

I offered to do a re-make for this, although I didn't have to.

Then if she is happy with this we can do the last bit of work which is downstairs and we would be paid before we leave. 

 

I did this because I dont want to do any more work and have them still not happy and refuse to pay. 

I can't afford this.   

 

Because of her aggressive behaiour, I no longer want to finish the job. 

I think I am on a hiding to nothing and I could plough all my energy into it and not get paid. 

She was so toxic in her email tonight that I have asked another curtain maker to go and take the blinds for me on Friday, I just can't go there anymore.

 

Here is my question. 

If we put the 8 blinds mentioned back up, (she already has a pair of curtains that we have made as part of the job, waiting to be hung in her house), the cost of the curtains, roman blinids, fitting and labour, and fabric will cost more than the deposit that she has paid me. 

It means she will owe me money. 

Can I walk away once I have delivered the blinds?

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This sounds like the ever unhappy customer. 

I had a couple in my days and on one occasion I cleared the site within half hour and left a kitchen extension half done.

I lost a couple of grand on that project, but I was glad to go with all my team to a better job with a more reasonable customer. 

The woman ended up begging us to go back because nobody in the area would deal with her after we spread the news around local pubs.

So, my advice is: if you can walk away and cut your losses, do it, otherwise she will make your life a misery.

Tell her to buy her curtains and blinds from argos, they have a no quibble refund policy, so she can take the all lot back in a continuous cycle and keep moaning forever.

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Ok. Someone said if there is a dispute and it’s bespoke that we are protected and can keep our expenses to pay people who made the work etc, eg I had to pay about £1400 to my fitters and curtain makers, if I leave 8 blinds I am out of pocket but I’ll do it just to be free of the abuse that’s flying at me

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The customer can always argue that the product is not fit for purpose, even when custom made.

Then what?

A long battle probably through county court.

I'd avoid that like the plague and walk away with a loss.

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I am going through a customer nightmare of my own at the moment. So I really understand your suffering.

 

One thing I do though is document everything! Now we work in completely different industries but I get customers to agree to stuff and communicate by email or text. I have been in this business for nine years now, although self employed for much, much longer. In my experience I have trouble with about 2% of my customers. I turn over a lot of work so thats about 7 to 10 people a year. Of those only 2 on average give me the really bad grief

 

Experience has taught me to build a contingency fund. I don't however use it unless its reached a point where its better to just walk away. I have gone to court before just on principle, in my previous business. I decide whether its important to me. But remember the time spent on preparing court documents and appearing in court is time lost that you can be earning. I have only ever gone to court on an issue where I could countersue and the probability not only of winning but recovering costs is significant. I won the case, only for the other side to die in an accident before they could pay and then I found I had to claim from their estate, which dragged it out even longer. But if you find yourself having to got that route, document absolutely everything.

 

if you can walk away from it and survive - then do it - Avoid courts at all costs, not because you're in the wrong, you're probably in the right, but because of the cost to you and your business. Emotionally its very destructive.

 

I am in that place right now. Do I give the guy the money that I don't owe him? Or do I leave this and see where it goes. I have little doubt, based on the latest behaviour of the client that I will win should it go to court, but the the emotional cost is possibly too much for me. Unfortunately my good customers pay just a little bit more to mitigate the bad ones like him....

 

What I do recommend is get your customer to fill in a form detailing their complaint. Then offer a reply in writing. You can even provide them with a second opinion. If they are trying to get money back on goods they have damaged, essentially they are committing fraud. Include in your service agreement details about the condition of the product and outline the boundaries in terms of what can be repaired and what cant. 

 

A final hint. get your fitters to take photographs after every fitting with their mobile phones and send you the images. Ensure they are date and time stamped. There is nothing like hard evidence when a client breaks your product and tries to blame you. My son in law is a builder and he takes pictures of all his work on handover. It works magic when hes had a client raise a complaint three weeks later and he can show them images attached to sign over document.

 

The world is a jungle out there and it gets tougher every day. be good and kind and courteous to your customers, but always look after yourself first.

 

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Thanks for this. I contacted my insurers who put me on to a legal team, they have given me the advice I need to move forward.  It’s not a very nice experience. The advice I have been given is that I can’t just walk away from a contract but that if everything has been done with ‘reasonable care and skill’ I am protected by law. I can set out how much the work so far has cost me and as it’s so toxic (their doing, not mine), I can offer that we go our separate ways. The guy has threatened to sue me, before any other course of action. He’s a lawyer but in a different field and I think once he has read the law he will see that I can recuperate my costs and drop it. My costs leave him £145 short but me £500. I’ve taken back the work that needed to be done so he has the cost of his first payment now in his house less £145. The work is good, I had it verified by 3 independent professionals

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Don't be impressed by the fact he's a lawyer. 

They very rarely sue someone because they know the risks and hours involved in the process. 

My bet is that short of doing all the work for free or at cost price, she'll complain.

It's typical of people who come from squalid backgrounds and meet some money along their way.

They know it all and nothing is good enough for their superior standards.

They want top quality at cheap prices and they love being the customer who is always right.

In reality they're still the same people who had to search food from rubbish and use bushes as toilets.

I put them in their place a lot of times when i was at the beginning,  then i learned to spot the trouble makers and avoid them.

I remember one in particular who threatened to sue me because I refused to give him a quote. 

He was convinced that I had no right to refuse his custom and insisted on many occasions that I visited his house for a quote.

He eventually stopped calling but then 12 months later he called again because his compatriot contractor had messed things up and the extension had been failed by the council.

My answer: "pay peanuts, get monkeys"

I gave him a 45k quote there and then on the phone, to demolish and start again: he never called again.

Your case is difficult because you have already done a lot of the work.

The risk of starting negotiations is that they'll feel you are at fault, so if you do that, make sure you let them know that you are doing it because you don't want them as your customers.

As soon as you give them an inch they'll take a full mile.

One more thing: if you have any contact with them, face to face or phone, record it; their other trick is to say that you agreed to something or that you threatened them. 

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agree with kingy, get your stuff back and walk away.

It wont be a breach of contract because the contract is only crystallised once they are happy and have paid the balance and that day will never come.

What will hurt them is they wont have got one over on you and they then have to go somewhere else and hope that the new company hasnt heard of their behaviour.

No need to tell all and sundry but if you let your fabric supplier know about a difficult customer they may well let the next company who orders the same know (if your hint is strong enough)

Edited by ericsbrother

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Hi,

I did get some legal advice.

I can’t walk away from the job because I would be in breach of the contract.

i did reply to them reaffirmed my position and suggested a proposed way forward but they have rejected it and are going straight to the courts. They are demanding a full refund plus their ‘expenses’, and I know I’m not duty bound to provide this. I have verification that my work is good.  I know I’ll be ok, as a lawyer he should know better than to do this, I have held my counsel but they have been so vile and abusive, on paper they do not look good. 

Thanks anyway

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On 12/07/2019 at 18:01, ericsbrother said:

 

It wont be a breach of contract because the contract is only crystallised once they are happy and have paid the balance and that day will never come.

 

 

The contract is crystallised (comes into existence) once there is

a) offer,

b) acceptance,

c) intent (& capacity) to create a legal relationship, and

d) consideration.

 

If what you were saying was correct, no one need ever be in breach of contract, just by not completing the job

 

If they have paid some and the

job isn’t completed they can sue if they believe the contract has been breached and they have suffered a loss.

 

Equally, if the OP feels they have completed the contract and haven’t been paid, they could sue for the outstanding balance.

 

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