THE TOUGH CUSTOMER- Unhappy ending: Customer, furniture-seller at odds

Last week brought a surprise email from Meghan Pianta, the UVA fourth year about whom I wrote last winter ["Keeping cool: Under the Roof on top of the problem," February 7].

Pianta had purchased about $800 worth of furniture earlier this year from Under the Roof, the former Main Street retailer that has since moved to Waynesboro. When her furniture was not delivered on time and she was unable to contact the closed store, she called me.

I was able to reach co-owner Jeffrey Grosfeld on my first try. To explain Pianta's problems, he told me the store's move had wreaked havoc with its voice-mail and email. He also agreed Pianta had a valid complaint and quickly took steps to put it right.

So I wrote, "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."

At the time, several of Pianta's items were on back-order, but Pianta said she would wait and take all her items in a single delivery, since she didn't need the furniture until she moved after graduation. 

But under the subject heading "Frustrated Consumer," Pianta wrote me last Friday, "Just thought you should know that I still don't have my furniture from Under The Roof. ... The only thing standing between me and graduating and moving out of this town is a horribly run furniture store.... Ughhh."

I called Pianta for details and called Under the Roof as well, where I had to leave a message on an answering machine. 

I didn't hear back from either by my deadline, and filed a story stating as much.

Late Friday at about 10:40pm, Grosfeld emailed me saying he was unable to get past a busy signal at my house earlier that evening when he tried to return my call. I didn't see the email until Saturday morning.

Grosfeld said that his store had, in fact, been in touch with Pianta since February and the two had agreed to a May 10 delivery date for her order, which was on schedule. 

He further said, "I ask that you consider not writing an article about this because it is not ‘good press' for a company to appear in your column in most cases."

Grosfeld copied Pianta on his email, generating this comment from her: "I did not email Alan again in hopes of stirring up more problems with this situation. I just thought it was laughable that even 6.5 months later I still don't have my furniture. I do not want another article or anything of the like. I was merely updating him on the situation."

She continued: "It's frustrating that Under The Roof has not been proactive in contacting me and that I've had to make repeated phone calls and emails to find out that my furniture will not be delivered until May 10 (the absolute last day I had to have it). If my flexibility and patience need to be blamed for why the furniture is late, so be it."

I understand Grosfeld's concerns about my column, as well as Pianta's ex post facto statement of her intent. But this column serves only it readers, and the continuing conflict between these parties carries a valuable lesson– namely, the importance of maintaining easy lines of communication with customers. At the end of the day, all of Pianta's complaints boil down to her difficulty in getting in touch with Under the Roof, even though Grosfeld claims his communication with her was adequate.

In that light, I can appreciate Pianta's frustration. After all, I got an answering machine in the middle of a business day when I tried to call the store.

This isn't to fault Under the Roof in this particular matter. In fact, I'm not quite sure what has Pianta so peeved. She agreed to a May 10 delivery date, and Under the Roof says it will deliver on time. Why the fuss?

Pianta should have known that her email to me might have the effect of "stirring up more problems"– that I might write another column. I'm inclined to believe Grosfeld's claims that, notwithstanding my personal experience, his store has adequately communicated with Pianta, at least since my initial column.

Got a consumer situation? Call the Hook newsroom at 434-295-8700x405 or e-mail the Tough Customer directly.