THE FEARLESS CONSUMER- I don't: Wedding deadlines spark friction

Kimberly Raines didn't realize how slowly things move in the wedding-garment world when she went to Tiffany's Bridal in Richmond to order her wedding dress. 

Although Raines says she placed the order five months before her September 23 wedding, Leslie Eddington, Tiffany's manager, says their records show the dress was ordered on June 1, or less than four months ahead. Even five months, she says, would have been "a very tight timeframe." To get the dress back with time for alterations, Raines' mother paid an extra $80 for express shipping. 

The gown arrived at the store in August (not July, as Raines claims they'd been promised), and when she went in for the fitting, all she needed was to have the shoulder straps shortened. While there, she asked when the bridesmaids' dresses would arrive and says the clerk replied that they wouldn't be in until a week before the wedding– even though she says she had been told the last week of August. 

According to Raines, this led to a contentious conversation with Eddington and no happy ending– of all her trips to Tiffany's, she says, "Only once did I not leave there crying or so angry I wanted to punch something." 

In the end, however, the dresses arrived on the date promised. She got a message saying they'd arrived, and she drove over the next day to pick them up. But when she asked for the shoes, she says she was told she should have called the day before so they would have known to go ahead and dye them. Since she hadn't, they would have to keep one of the dresses to match the dye. 

Raines claims that about 30 minutes later, when she was headed home to Afton on I-64, her cell phone rang." It was the clerk at Tiffany's who'd waited on her, asking whether she could come back and sign a contract that was required before the shoes could be dyed. 

According to Raines, the conversation went on for quite a while, during which the clerk asked at least twice whether she couldn't come back, put her on hold twice to consult with Eddington, and generally exhibited less than stellar customer service. In the end, however, the clerk agreed that Raines could email the necessary statement when she got home. 

Eddington vigorously disputes Raines' account of the call, saying that the employee would never have suggested Raines turn around and return to Richmond. Eddington also asserts– although she was not a party to the conversation– that it was brief and businesslike. Raines' cell-phone records, however, show that the call lasted for 12 minutes. 

In the end, like the wedding gown and the bridesmaids' dresses, the shoes were delivered on time and in good condition, and on September 23, Raines was married. The story doesn't end there, however. "Five minutes after the ceremony," Raines claims, "I leaned it to hug my now mother-in-law and both of us hear a rip. One of my straps had completely torn. I had to safety-pin it for pictures and the reception." 

When I spoke with Eddington and asked her, among other things, about the confusion over when the various dresses would arrive, she said, "Most people hear what they want to hear." She also emphasized that brides are usually under a great deal of stress when planning their wedding, which is one reason the store keeps meticulous records. Even so, she was sorry to hear that Raines was unhappy, and offered Tiffany's wedding-gown preservation service to Raines free. Raines declined, however, saying that she preferred not to have further dealings with the store. 

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer or write her at 100 Second Street NW, Charlottesville 22902.