Monday was a stressful day for me. I had to deal with a supplier, who was supposed to execute our calado arch for our porch. You see the gorgeous beige latticework, just below the multi-colored glasses? That’s a calado arch.
I wanted the calado arches up as soon as we moved in to our home more than 3 years ago, but we needed to defer this project. We had to save up for it. Every detail of a calado arch is skilfully handcarved into wood. In our case, I specifically required that the supplier use about an inch-thick hardwood so, it can withstand harsh heat and the rain. Labor-intensive and definitely requires skills so, a bit costly.
This was their mock-up for the project.
Beautiful, no? Naturally, I had high hopes that it would turn out really nice. The Husband and I wanted the arches up in time for our New Year’s Eve reunion with The Husband’s side of the family. Unfortunately, the arches did not fit in between the posts! They were too wide. Nakakalungkot!
The supplier promised to do right by us. I required that they show me a full-sized pattern for approval prior to working on another set of arches. I was given so many patterns, but with incorrect measurements and/or details. So frustrating! The Husband, who is the most patient person I know, told me to give the supplier another chance. Being the good wife that I am, I did as I was told. I contacted our supplier and requested that I speak to her carver and carpenter personally to discuss specifications. After an hour’s meeting and a week’s delay, I was sent this:
The carver rendered half of a supposedly full-sized pattern and judging from the photos (yep, I am judgmental like that!), with incorrect measurements (again!). I am now awaiting the full refund of our downpayment and carver’s advances.
Next, I dealt with the lampposts that I ordered from a store at CW Home Depot’s San Fernando, Pampanga branch. They were delivered when we were about to leave for Manila last week so, I had no time to check on them. I asked our Kuya Erwin to put one up last Monday. The shafts that connect the lamps to the arms (of the posts) were too short, causing the lamps to wobble. What a nightmare! Worse, when the store’s salesguy, who attended to my concern, called up their supplier – I was horrified to learn that the items were not QCd prior to delivery and that the length of the shafts was mere tantsa. Que horror! I am no expert in fabrication of lighting fixtures, but I am sure that the design should be sound and wirings should be guaranteed safe. I informed the salesperson that I would opt to return their items and get a full refund.
The following day, the storeowners took their time to personally check on the items. The owners were gracious enough to apologize for this inconvenience and offered to set everything right. They committed to replace the shafts of the lamps that were too short and offered to install the lampposts free of charge the next day. They also assured me that they can personally vouch for their supplier and the quality of their products, with whom they have been doing business with for the past 19 years. The lampposts are now up in our garden.
My takeaway from these setbacks, which are quite constant in home-building:
1. Demand to speak to someone with discretion – the store’s owner or manager. Suppliers, who are earnest in doing their business, will personally attend to your concern no matter how busy they are. Salespersons, as much as they would want to help you, can only do so much. They have no authority whatsoever to decide on exchanges, returns, or refunds.
2. Await resolution or best offer of the store’s owner or manager. Of course, be ready to accommodate reasonable proposals. Do not make undue demands.
3. Know your rights. In the event that the store owner’s or manager’s proposition is unreasonable and/or unacceptable to you, you can always course your complaint through the relevant consumer agencies. This list is useful.
I have personally filed a complaint with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), whose jurisdiction covers consumer products other than food, drugs, cosmetics, and agriculture products. They also act upon complaints on services and warranties. The complaint was acted upon and resolved within 19 days. So refreshing especially for someone, who has handled cases in court that lasted years!
The complaint I filed with the DTI involved defective light switches that I purchased from a leading hardware store. To turn on and off a light, switch should be pressed on the left (instead of right) and right (instead of left). With further probing, I also discovered that the hardware’s salespeople and store manager knew about the glitch and admitted to have, in fact, received several complaints on said defect. Tumaas ang BP ko!
I demanded that the defective switches be replaced with standard ones and they reimburse the additional labor costs I will incur when new switches are installed to replace the defective ones. They cannot, however, provide the quantities that I needed. They also refused to shoulder additional labor costs. They only offered a refund of the amount I paid for the defective switches. I was constrained to file a complaint with the DTI. As they say, “Hell hath no fury like a lawyer-turned-foreman/project manager scorned.” Haha!
So I soldiered on and visited the nearest DTI office, the DTI Pampanga Provincial Office in San Fernando, Pampanga (DTI-Pampanga) and was given this Complaint Form to fill-out. I then submitted the accomplished Complaint Form with photos of the items I purchased, copies of sales receipts/invoices, e-mail correspondences with the store and regional managers of the hardware, and other documents in support of my claim. I demanded the: (1) immediate refund of the amount I paid for the defective switches, (2) reimbursement of labor costs, (3) reimbursement of the price difference between the defective switches and replacement switches of my preferred brand, and (4) removal of the defective switches from the hardware’s display shelves.
Yes, under The Consumer Act of the Philippines, we can reasonably demand these things if the defect in the products are not corrected within 30 days from demand. In the alternative, we may also insist on a proportionate price reduction.
After 7 days from the date I submitted the accomplished Complaint Form to DTI-Pampanga, our first mediation conference took place. A lawyer representing the hardware attended. 5 days later, the second mediation conference was set. I have reached an amicable settlement with the hardware’s lawyer and the owner of the company that supplied the defective switches by then. A week after the last mediation conference, I received the check. Cashing! Cashing! Yay, for these standard Panasonic switches in our home!
Another yay because the hardware no longer carries the brand of the defective switches that were sold to me.
I have also heard from friends that you may simply e-mail Atty. Joseph Manuel P. Pamittan of the DTI’s Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau via firstname.lastname@example.org for consumer complaints and expect a prompt reply. You may find the “HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT” section on the DTI’s website helpful.
4. As in any situation, tact and diplomacy (and maybe a bit sweet-talking) come in handy. Those who know me well would know that I am not the most patient person. When confronted with such situations, I take a deep breath, try to get into my zen, and do my very, very best to soak up The Husband’s graciousness and humanity. Haha!
I shall end this post with this sage advice: spare yourself from unnecessary stress and heartache, deal only with reputable suppliers and make sure to purchase trusted brands.
I hope you find this post helpful. It is always good to know your rights, and when and how to assert them.
Stress-free weekend, everyone!