Laurin Clarke said she bought The Brick’s 5 Year Blanket Warranty because she was told she would be covered if anything went wrong with her new leather furniture.
But when she tried to get repair work done, she said the retailer wouldn’t fix what she calls obvious flaws.
“Don’t buy this warranty because they don’t honour it,” Clarke said. “It’s not worth the $300.”
The Brick describes the sofa and loveseat Clarke bought in 2009 as being made of “premium, top-grain leather.”
“I really believe in buying quality,“ Clarke said. “My parents taught me: ‘buy quality so that it lasts a long time.’”
She said the salesman persuaded her to pay an extra $300 for the extended warranty because it would buy her peace of mind.
“He said this is really good quality leather, but if anything at all happens, ‘even if you spill nail polish, food stains, he said anything — rips, tears, seams, structural damage — you are covered.’ He made it sound so wonderful.”
However, Clarke said the couch had begun to sag in the spot where her husband generally sits to watch TV.
Then she started noticing marks and flakes on the leather surface, and saw that two seams had split.
The Brick sent someone to take pictures of the damage, and Clarke said she expected it would be an easy fix.
However, when the retailer caller back, Clarke said they agreed only to fix the sagging cushion, saying the marked surface and split seams weren’t covered under the warranty.
Clarke said she pored over the fine print in the warranty and still can’t see how the company could refuse to repair the split seams and marks on the furniture.
The Brick’s 5 Year Blanket Warranty includes failed stitching, as well as cracking and peeling leather finish.
“I’m not a lawyer, but I read through it, “Clarke said. “I think everything’s valid here.”
She said talking to The Brick’s customer service department felt like an argument in semantics.
“I was calling it ‘rips’ and ‘cuts’ and ‘peeling leather’ and she was calling it ‘scratches.’ We just seemed to go round in circles. It almost felt like she was reading from a script because she sure wasn’t listening to me.”
Clarke said she was told even the splitting seams couldn’t be covered as a sewing defect.
“She said, ‘We don’t cover scratches and the splitting seams — and the scratches are on the same piece so we won’t cover those.’ I said ‘that’s not even logical.’”
“I’m starting to feel cheated actually,” Clarke said.
The Brick’s record of the chain of events is very different from Clarke’s.
Greg Nakonechny, the Vice President, Legal for The Brick, said the company offered to fix the seams and the cushion, but that Clarke insisted the company give her new furniture.
“She only sought a full replacement of the product, which is certainly not in line with the terms of the warranty,” Nakonechny said.
Clarke denies she insisted on having the furniture replaced, or that she was offered $800, only that she wanted the furniture repaired.
Nakonechny said, based on photographs taken of the damage, the marks on Clarke’s couch are excessive.
“Any use that is in excess of what is reasonably expected, then it’s considered abuse and neglect,” he said.
“I come from a family with four active kids. I look at the sofas we have that are approaching ten years and they are nowhere close to having that level of scratch marks,” he said.
Although the warranty Clarke bought covers more that 20 mishaps — including stains from food, drink or bodily fluids, spilled nail polish and cosmetics, as well as burns and cuts — Nakonechny said it won’t cover the marks on her sofa.
“Those are clearly not covered under the warranty as they fall in the category of either reasonable wear and tear, which is expressly excluded under warranty, or use that is outside the ordinary,” Nakonechny said.
Abuse and neglect, along with wear and tear are two items excluded from the warranty.
Clarke says the company’s conclusion is unfair.
“I could see it if we were abusive people, but I think we take care of our stuff,” she said.
The Better Business Bureau of Central and Northern Alberta has recorded 700 complaints against furniture companies.
More than 90% of those are against The Brick, however that number includes complaints made against any of its stores located across Canada since the company’s corporate headquarters are in Edmonton.
One-third of the complaints concern warranties.
“We don’t look at numbers in terms of number of Better Business Bureau complaints,” Nakonechny said. “We look at overall our performance from our customers, the feedback our customers give.”
The Consumers’ Association of Canada says extended warranties aren’t worth the money.
“I would not buy an extended warranty,” said Association President Bruce Cran.“These salespeople want you to buy these warranties for all sorts of things.”
“Sometimes there’s up to 50% commission involved, so that will probably give you an idea who benefits,” he added.
“These warranties aren’t worth very much,” Cran said.
Nakonechny admitted The Brick’s salespeople are paid a commission to sell extended warranties.
“In any commercial enterprise there needs to be an incentive to offer it, and so our sales people are compensated based on their sales.”
Nakonechny said although the company won’t fix the marks on Clarke’s sofa, it fully intends to repair the stitching and sagging cushion and will be in touch with her.
Clarke said she’s still waiting to hear from them.
“It’s unfortunate that the communication has broken down,” he said. “The foam or the seams, that is covered. We think she is entitled to repairs and we want to repair those aspects.”
Clarke meanwhile, thinks the Blanket Warranty she paid $300 for is a blanket with holes.
“What does a blanket mean to you? You’re covered! You’re protected.”