THE TOUGH CUSTOMER- Keeping cool: Under the Roof on top of the problem

Crossed signals, missed connections and misunderstandings are a part of life. 

When they occur in a commercial transaction, with the added stress of potentially lost money and impaired quality of life, emotions can run high, accusations can fly, and– faster than you can say caveat emptor– we have something to write about.

But a missed connection that came across our desk last week shows that conflict doesn't have to rule the day when misunderstandings occur.

After Meghan Pianta graduates from UVA this spring, she'll be moving to Connecticut to begin a career in communications. The recent liquidation sale at Under the Roof's former location on West Main Street– the trendy furniture retailer is moving to Waynesboro– provided a great opportunity to furnish her new place at attractive prices. She purchased a dining set, a bedroom set and several coffee tables– $800 total.

As she was led to believe by the floor salesperson, Pianta was expecting a call from Under the Roof to arrange delivery in two weeks. When the call didn't come, she decided to wait a bit longer, and then a bit longer, before trying to contact them. When she finally tried to reach them in December, however, Under the Roof had closed its doors.

"Unfortunately, I waited maybe a little too long," Pianta says.

Pianta says she left many voice mail messages on Under the Roof's phone, but she didn't hear back. Pianta also tried to email the store, but the email was kicked back as undeliverable (as was an email I sent to Under the Roof last week). Pianta even called the Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce seeking information on when the new store would open, and she also tried to find personal telephone numbers for the owners, but no dice on either.

By the time Pianta got in touch with me, uncertain about what was happening with the store and her order, she was frustrated and ready to go to small claims court.

But what she really wanted was her furniture. 

Under the Roof was a long-time successful Charlottesville business, and therefore I believed that Pianta's order had just fallen through the cracks as Under the Roof closed up shop here and began to focus on the new store.

As it turned out, unlike Pianta, I was able to get Under the Roof's co-owner, Jeff Grosfeld, on the phone on my first try. He was working on getting his new store ready for its February 9 opening.

Grosfeld said that Under the Roof had tried to reach Pianta late last year, but was unable to do so. So I gave him Pianta's phone number again (in case he had the wrong one), and Under the Roof called her and ironed everything out within 15 minutes.

There are still a few of her items on back-order– arguably a long wait considering the October purchase date– but Pianta, who won't be moving until graduation, is willing to wait until the order is complete before taking delivery.

As for the difficulty Pianta had in getting in touch with the store, an Under the Roof employee, Scott, called me back to explain their telephone provider had been having trouble with call-forwarding. Similarly, Grosfeld told me that technical difficulties were behind the bounced emails.

I'm a bit baffled about why the store wasn't able to reach Pianta in the first place, especially since they had already collected the entire purchase price for the items. All Grosfeld said was his records showed they couldn't reach her.

And it should not have been so difficult for Pianta to get in touch with the store. As long as they had her money and her order wasn't yet delivered, they were still in business, as far as I could see, even if their store was shuttered.

But because Pianta kept her cool, and because once Under the Roof became aware of the problem the owners didn't hem or haw but just fixed it with alacrity and integrity, a happy resolution was reached.

And I still got something to write about.