The subject of warranty certificates is one of my
life’s passions. I have quite a collection of them here in the metal filing
cabinet next to my desk. Haven’t read many, but one did come in handy when
the dishwasher melted the linoleum. So, when I say to you… “You should
really know what the warranty is before you buy.”… I mean…”Here’s some quick
facts.” and “What to ask your salesperson while in the store.”
I have always made sure
the customer understands two gray areas on this issue. First - the
definition of manufacturer’s defect; second - labor vs. parts. Before I get
into that, let’s look at some general guidelines.
There are two types of
furniture, case goods and upholstery. Case goods are generally constructed
of wood, with other materials such as marble, glass, Formica, etc. They
almost always carry a one year warranty. Salespeople know that saying this
to a hot prospect results in looks of doubt and concern. Honestly though,
one year is plenty for most wood products.
The big concern here
is what the lumberjacks call “seasonal-splits”. After yelling “timber”, one
of the next steps in making a case good is the kiln-drying of the wood.
It’s a tricky process, during which the wood shrinks as the moisture is
removed. Seasonal splits occur when not enough moisture was removed during
kiln-drying, and your furnace, with its dry heat, finishes the job. One
winter in Massachusetts and your oak table will let you know how it went.
So ask to make sure that there is a warranty before you buy and check for
splits when the snow melts.
Upholstery is more
complicated. What you can’t see can hurt you here, since the fabric hides
everything else. Plus, you have a different warranty on each component:
fabric, cushions, springs, and frame (if you happen to buy a sleeper sofa
reading the warranty will leave you face down and slobbering). The most
common combination is lifetime on the frame, 5 years on the springs, 3 years
on cushions, and one year on fabric. If you buy something with less than
this, look for the telltale staples holding the frame together when it
collapses next week.
Ok, that’s the basics, now on to the tricky stuff.
Manufacturers defect’s can be a catch phrase for “We don’t cover anything”
if you buy from the wrong store. Simply put, most retailers will honor
the warranty whenever the problem isn’t caused by abuse. I once had a
customer tell everyone they knew what a bad salesperson I was because we wouldn’t fix the
scratches on their expensive, highly polished cherry dining table. We
weren’t sure that it was customer abuse, but we were positive that the
Matchbox cars sitting on the table during our service call were not the
manufacturer’s! Remember, the retailer is responsible for fixing
manufacturer’s defects only. They are reimbursed by the company that made
the furniture for the repair, but only if it is proven that the damage was
not from abuse.
for the skeleton in the closet. Almost all warranty time frames apply
to parts only. The actual labor to fix or replace the part is usually only
covered for the first year. Gasp! So that lifetime warranty on
the frame of your sofa is a great value at $2.79 for the plank they replace,
and will cost you around $200 for the labor to replace it. I will not
attempt to justify this for my friends here in the industry, but do feel
that you should know this up front, before you buy. With cushions,
it’s easy. They mail you a new one and you simply unzip the casing and
replace them (if you were smart enough to check for removable cushions with
zippered casings…). Anything else on an upholstered piece will generally
require that it be taken back to the shop, and it may be there a while.
Have heart though, while this warranty is the industry standard, a few
brands do cover labor longer than one year.
It’s a good idea to
find out what you’re in for “before the linoleum melts”. In the
meantime, be sure to get something in writing at the time of purchase.
Many stores provide a general warranty policy that they honor regardless of
which brand you buy, and you should get a copy of it if they do. If
not, ask the salesperson to sum up what he/she told you by jotting down the
basics on your copy of the sales order. Then, when the warranty end date
approaches, examine your furniture for problems that are still covered.
test a sofa’s construction while in the store
-End of Warranty Checklist