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Why is it so hard to get furniture companies to honor their warranties?

By Jeff Frank

All warranties are not alike.

  • Some warranties are designed to protect consumers. Most automobile warranties fall into this category.
  • Other warranties may appear to protect consumers, but actually afford significant legal protections to manufacturers and retailers against common consumer complaints.

Furniture warranties fall into this second category. A furniture warranty has two main purposes:

    • It is a marketing tool to give consumers confidence that the product they are purchasing is good quality and that they will be protected against product defects.

<li”>It is also a legal document that shields furniture retailers and manufacturers from responsibility for fixing many common customer complaints. These include:

      • Cushions that lose their shape and comfort after a short period of time
      • Most fabric-related problems.
      • Comfort related issues, including almost all complaints regarding mattresses once the “trial period” has expired.

Furniture warranties are extended by both the manufacturer and retailer of the furniture.

      • The manufacturer’s warranty will generally specify that all claims must be made through the retailer.
      • The only time the manufacturer’s warranty will apply is when the original retailer is no longer in business.
      • Extended warranties purchased from third party vendors (insurance companies) will typically void the manufacturer’s warranty under all circumstances.

At the top of furniture warranties, large bold letters will spell out the time limit for each major part of the furniture. For example:
Frames – 10 years
Cushions – 5 years
Recliner or Sleeper Mechanisms – 3 years
Fabric – 1 year
Mattresses – 1 year

Much further down the document, in smaller print, there will be exceptions and exclusions. These exceptions and exclusions can make the bold print terms virtually meaningless.

Furniture warranties are honored only by the retailer you purchased from. Manufacturers will do nothing to help unless you first go through your local retailer.

Always check out reviews and complaints about your local retailer before making major purchases.

      • Although some retailers are serious about helping out their customers, others will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid paying for costly repairs or returns.

Furniture warranties may seem, at first glance, to cover everything, at least for a specified amount of time.

    • In reality the warranty document will contain numerous exceptions and exclusions. These usually cover the most common complaints that furniture purchasers will have.
    • For example cushions are almost always excluded from warranty protection.
      • That may not be obvious. The bold print may promise a 5 year or limited lifetime warranty.
      • Further down in the warranty, however, will be a clause stating that “Normal wear” is excluded.
      • If cushions sag or lose their shape that is considered “normal wear” no matter how soon it happens after you purchased the furniture.

      There have been thousands of complaints over the past decade about “peeling” bonded leather fabrics. This type of problem is not repairable and virtually destroys the value of the furniture.

      • Retailers routinely refuse to cover peeling bonded leather citing either “normal use” or “customer abuse” as justification for their inaction.
        • Normal use can include sliding back and forth on the cushions when operating the reclining mechanism.
        • Customer abuse can include allowing pets on the furniture or the use of cleaning or conditioning products.
      • Even in extreme cases where bonded leather begins to peel in less than a year, many retailers will fight against replacing the furniture.
      • There have been hundreds of lawsuits on this subject. Consumers rarely prevail.

      Frames and foundations have far fewer problems than cushions and fabrics. Defects are also more difficult to prove.
      Most furniture damage occurs during shipping. This can be from the factory to the retailer or from the retailer to the customer.

      • Defects must be seen and documented while the delivery people are still in your home. Otherwise you may have great difficulty getting the warranty provisions honored.
      • Many retailers routinely “deluxe” their furniture before delivery from their warehouse to the customer.
      • “Deluxing” means that the retailer removes the furniture from the manufacturer’s packaging, inspects it, repairs any noticeable defects and then blanket wraps the furniture for delivery to the home.
      • The reason for this practice is that a significant percentage of furniture arrives at the retailer’s warehouse already damaged. Or it is damaged in the warehouse before leaving.
      • Repairs are far less expensive when they are made before the furniture reaches the customer’s home.

      Customers sometimes pick up furniture at the retailer’s warehouse.

      • If something in one of the boxes you picked up is damaged when you arrive home, some stores may deny all responsibility.
      • The pickup document you signed before leaving the warehouse may have a clause stating that you have inspected the furniture and certified it to be in good condition.
      • This allows the retailer to disclaim any responsibility for damages discovered when you open the sealed boxes in your home.

      Online retailers are often easier to deal with. They are able accept returns more economically. They are also in a better position to force manufacturers to share the cost of returns.

      Bedding warranties are virtually useless. Almost anything that can go wrong with a mattress or foundation after the “trial period” will be dismissed as “normal wear.” Major defects like broken springs that might be covered are extremely rare.

      Extended Warranty Plans
      Extended warranties may work for some types of consumer goods. Extended furniture warranties are never a good idea.

      They void the manufacturer’s warranty and are loaded with exclusions.

      • These plans are typically pitched as though they offer added protection and cover defects that are not included in the normal warranties. They do not do that.
      • Extended warranties are third party insurance contracts from financial companies.
      • If the company backing the extended warranty goes out of business you lose your coverage. There are many cases of extended warranty companies that have gone out of business. Customers are left with no protection.
      • Extended warranty companies subcontract furniture repair services. Contracts are usually awarded to 3rd party repair services.
      • Contracts are often awarded to the lowest bidder. These may have bad reputations or be inconveniently located. They have no relationships or agreements with the furniture manufacturer for obtaining parts.
      • Extended warranty plans generally end up costing anywhere from $100 to 6% of the total cost of furniture. They are extremely lucrative to the store.
        • Essentially these extended warranties represent additional income for the store while simultaneously absolving it of responsibility for fixing problems.
        • Salespeople receive very high commissions for selling these plans.

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6 thoughts on “Why is it so hard to get furniture companies to honor their warranties?”

  1. Bought a mattress from Jerome’s in 2019. Spring popped causing huge lump in middle of mattress. Jerome’s sent 3rd party inspector who said no issues with mattress and I had no proper support which caused the sag in mattress (there is no sag). Turns out after calling Jerome’s, agents told me report stated inspector wasnt able to do a full inspection. After many calls and no help, I contacted BBB. Jerome’s called me that day saying I have to wait 60 days before another inspector comes. I said if that inspector can’t tell difference between sag and lump we just gonna end up in same place. So they sent a Jerome’s technician, he saw the lump, determined mattress defective and took pictures to prove proper bed support. Got a message from supervisor saying inspection determined issue with mattress and request for reselection to bedding returns department. Heard back today that reselection was denied because 2nd inspector was Jerome’s technician so not a valid source and that he had no pictures. Any suggestions of what I can do next please?

    • You should immediately contact the warranty company and send them the Jerome’s report along with a clear photo of your mattress “lump.”

      Carefully document everything. You may need it later if you choose to hire an attorney.

      This is a textbook example of why I feel third party extended furniture warranties are a waste of money.

      The company that “owns” your warranty increases its profits by not doing any service. It loses money on every service call.
      There is no incentive for them to perform for your benefit.
      There are no review sites to complain about warranty companies.

      I don’t know of any furniture retailer that sells extended warranties directly to its customers.
      That is because they know it would not be profitable.

      If extended warranty companies serviced all legitimate warranty claims, it would not be profitable for them either.
      The only way for warranty companies to make a profit is by “not servicing” most warranty claims.

      One of the most effective ways to limit warranty servicing is through the inclusion of dozens of exclusionary clauses buried deep down in the warranty document (in small print.)

      These exclusionary clauses are carefully crafted by the warranty company’s attorneys to limit their liability.
      The exclusionary clauses void many of the protections that appear to be offered in bold print at the top of the warranty document.

      Over past years, there are several examples of extended warranty companies that have gone out of business by doing too good a job of servicing their customers.
      The few remaining behemoths stay in business (and make substantial profits) by carefully watching costs.

      Legitimate warranty claims that occur soon after purchase are usually taken care of eventually.

      The longer the time period between when you bought the furniture and your request for service, the more difficult it becomes to have your warranty honored.

      About 1/3 of what you paid for the extended warranty went to Jeromes. In addition to being paid, they also profit from no longer being legally responsible for taking care of any warranty or repair issues.

      Jerome’s was very nice to send someone to your home. But they are legally powerless to help you other than filing a complaint to the warranty firm.

      It takes thousands of similar complaints before the retailer would feel enough pressure to cut ties with the extended warranty company.
      They benefit financially from the relationship. It may be complicated and expensive to change warranty service companies.

      Mattress defects are very rare. But they are expensive to correct when they do occur.

      3rd party warranty companies are well aware that more than half of all people who have legitimate warranty issues will simply “give up” if they are delayed or refused even once.

      The cost of sending an inspector to your home is minimal.
      The cost of replacing your mattress is substantially more.

      Most people who fail to “give up” try to take action against the company that sold them the furniture.
      This is useless. Once you have purchased an extended warranty, it legally absolves the retailer of all responsibility for warranty issues.

      3rd party warranty companies are completely insulated against complaints to the BBB and other non-governmental consumer organizations.
      Negative comments on the BBB (and others) are always placed against the retailer, not the warranty company.

      Warranty companies listen only to official government consumer protection agencies or to direct lawsuits.
      It is very possible that once they have been contacted by a lawyer (or government agency) they will immediately capitulate to you.

      The expense (to them) of fighting a lawsuit or responding to government agency demands increases their cost of refusal (from $0 where it is right now) to a figure that may approach or exceed the cost of replacing your mattress.

      At that point, it is worthwhile for them to “give in” to your demands.

      The problem for you is that this process can take several months (at least.)
      Do you have the patience to take this all the way.
      Most people don’t.

  2. I am looking at some chairs on the Wayfair website. One of the chairs is the Copola 41″ leather armchair, manufactured by Craftmaster. I noticed under the “specifications” for this chair that it says “NO commercial warranty.” Does this mean that the consumer has NO warranty protection whatsoever on such a piece of furniture if that furniture fails/has a defect during the first year?
    I do NOT want to purchase the expensive (and unnecessary) 5 year protection plan that Wayfair offers on such furniture products. From what I can tell, the consumer has “ZERO” protection, provided by the seller or the manufacturer, on such furniture after 30 days from purchase. I would hope/expect that some entity (either the manufacturer or the seller) would give the consumer at least a ONE YEAR warranty.
    Thanks for your time.

    • This is not a Craftmaster issue. Wayfair and most other large furniture retailers have recently started increasing their legal protection against warranty claims.
      There are two major reasons for this:

      1. It reduces customer service costs. The vast majority of warranty claims are denied, including almost all of those made directly to the manufacturers. Warranty disclaimers, like the one you have noted, greatly reduce the costs of responding to those warranty claims.
      2. This is actually not new. Wayfair and most major furniture retailers have always included broad warranty disclaimers, buried deep in the Terms and Conditions that nobody reads. (See the Wayfair Warranty Disclaimer listed below.)

        What is new is that the retailers are beginning to clearly notify their customers that these warranty disclaimers exist, discouraging future warranty claims.

      3. Wayfair (and other retailers) also want to force more of their customers into purchasing extended warranties. Extended warranties are one of the most profitable items sold by furniture retailers.

      Extended warranties achieve two important goals (for the retailer):

      1. It relieves the retailer from the responsibility (and costs) of servicing damaged or defective products in the customer’s home.
      2. It is a major source of revenue. The 3rd party insurance company that takes over responsibility for servicing pays the retailer about 1/3 of the amount you have paid for the extended warranty – for doing almost nothing.
      3. Retailers used to take responsibility for problems with their furniture for 1 year before the extended warranty (Protection Plan) kicked in. As you noticed, that period is now reduced to 30 days. The good news is that most of the serious problems, that will be covered under warranty, will become obvious within those first 30 days.

        • Extended warranties do not make it any easier to protect against future problems with your furniture. The 3rd party companies, responsible for servicing extended warranties, need to make a profit on 2/3 of what you have paid. As a result, there will be numerous exclusionary clauses. These exclusions typically include the majority of the most likely problems you will experience.

          Common exclusions include liability for:

        • Fabric problems (including peeling or flaking bonded leather.)
        • Seat cushions that have lost their resiliency and comfort.
        • Furniture that has been cleaned or protected with commercial products not specifically approved by the retailer.

        There will be dozens of other specific exclusions listed. Many of these may completely contradict the bold warranty protections promised at the top of the warranty document!

        Below, I have printed the current Wayfair Disclaimer of Warranties clause listed near the bottom of Wayfair’s Terms and Conditions.

        Wayfair Disclaimer of Warranties
        Wayfair intends for the information and data contained in the Sites to be accurate and reliable but since the information and data have been compiled from a variety of sources, they are provided ‘AS IS’ and “AS AVAILABLE”. You expressly agree that your use of the Sites and any information contained therein is at your sole risk. Accordingly, to the extent permitted by applicable law, WAYFAIR EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES AND CONDITIONS, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION, IMPLIED WARRANTIES AND CONDITIONS OF TITLE, NON-INFRINGEMENT, ACCURACY, MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, AND ANY WARRANTIES AND CONDITIONS THAT MAY ARISE FROM COURSE OF DEALING, COURSE OF PERFORMANCE OR USAGE OF TRADE. Some jurisdictions do not allow the disclaimer of warranties or conditions so such disclaimers may not apply to you.

        There are additional paragraphs in the Terms and Conditions that further limit the consumer’s protections.

  3. I brought my sofa 3 years ago at Jerome with warranty. I called and sent them pictures of my sofa. For some reason it took them a week already but no answer. Can you help me out?

    • Repairing or replacing furniture is a huge expense for retailers, even when the furniture is covered under warranty. As a result, many (most?) retailers will drag their feet on providing service. In about half the cases, the customer finally just gives up and stops complaining.
      If you want a response, you need to be persistent and you need to document your requests in writing (by email.) If you have heard nothing after a week (which is pretty normal) it is time to contact them again. This time, if you don’t hear back within 3 days, try again and escalate, asking for a manager or supervisor. Try to keep all correspondence calm and professional. Many customer service professionals do not like to “give in” to customers who yell, scream or threaten.
      In many cases, your warranty will not cover the problem you are experiencing. Warranties are carefully written by attorneys who represent the retailer or warranty provider. There are typically many exclusionary clauses (in small print far down in the document) that deny liability for many of the most common problems and complaints.


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