Why is this upholstery company holding my sofa hostage?

sofa

Sonia Strauss entrusts her sofa to Miller Mills Decorating in Delray Beach, Fla., for an upholstering job. Then the furniture disappears.

Q: This January, my husband and I gave our sectional sofa to Miller Mills Decorating in Delray Beach, Fla., along with the fabric to be reupholstered. A representative told us the work would take four to six weeks. It’s been more than six months.

Miller Mills Decorating doesn’t respond to our phone calls. The company required total payment in advance. I put the total on my Visa card. Last month, after six months of waiting, I disputed the charges on my card.

Now Miller Mills Decorating is telling me that it only accepts cash or a check before delivery. The company is going to wait for payment before delivery. In the meantime, my husband, who was suffering from brain cancer, died.

I’ve promised to pay for the sofa when they deliver it, but so far they haven’t. Can you help me get my money back? — Sonia Strauss, Boynton Beach, Fla.

A: I’m very sorry for your loss. Miller Mills Decorating should have upholstered your sofa within the specified timeframe or returned your furniture and your money.

So why didn’t it? You might find a clue in the company’s online reviews. While it has one or two happy customers, many guests are not pleased. And that’s putting it mildly. They complained about slow service and high prices. As one customer put it, “If I could give it less than one star I would.”

Interestingly, these reviews were online before you and your husband approached Miller Mills Decorating about your sofa. A little research might have persuaded you to find another contractor.

A few minutes of research could have prevented this

That’s the real takeaway from your case. A few minutes of research might have prevented this from happening. It’s no guarantee, but at least you would have had a fair warning.

You followed all the right steps to a resolution. You contacted the business. You were more than patient. Then, when you say it failed to respond, you placed the $1,300 in dispute on your credit card.

A credit card dispute, or chargeback, is the last resort when a business doesn’t deliver a product or service. But it’s what the Fair Credit Billing Act is designed to do — to protect you from charges for goods and services you didn’t accept or not delivered as agreed. I’m surprised your bank accepted your chargeback request. The law requires that you file a chargeback within 90 days of the transaction.

I contacted Miller Mills Decorating on your behalf. In the meantime, Visa made a final decision on your case, agreeing to credit you with the $1,300 you spent. Miller Mills also returned your sofa in “fine shape.” You said you’re grateful to have both your sofa and your money back.

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Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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