When Jenny Wilson was in the market for a buggy for her baby son, she did what she thought was the right thing and researched products and prices on the internet.
She was attracted to a new child transporter travel system range from Graco Fusio, which advertised it as being suitable for children up to three years old.
Mother-of-three Jenny’s research revealed that the keenest prices were to be had from Toys R Us, so she immediately headed for the Portsmouth store.
But little did the 28-year-old from Gosport realise that her diligence would end up leaving her £165 out of pocket and trigger a battle with the store when it became obvious her son, Oliver, was rapidly outgrowing his £300 pushchair.
‘When my son was six months old it was noticeable he was becoming really squashed in,’ she says.
‘At nine months he had to have the harness on the loosest setting to allow him to sit forward right on the edge of the seat, as he was too big to sit back in it.’
Jenny had no hesitation in going to the store to complain that she had been sold an unsuitable product.
She says two members of staff agreed with her. But instead of trying to put things right, Jenny says they then started arguing with her in classic Fawlty Towers-style.
‘First of all they wiggled the back of the pushchair up and down and claimed I’d broken it. My husband then wiggled the back of one of their display models, which behaved in exactly the same way so that wasn’t the problem.
‘Undeterred, they then claimed the problem was all down to my son wearing a thick winter coat and that a changing bag I occasionally hung over the back of the pushchair handles was distorting the frame and squashing the seat in.
‘Then they switched to saying it wasn’t their problem, it was up to the manufacturer.
‘Eventually they agreed to send the chair back to Graco for measuring and testing. A week later a report came back confirming there was nothing wrong with it, so they weren’t prepared to do anything for me.’
Frustrated, Jenny came to Streetwise for advice.
We agreed with her that the pushchair was probably not fit for purpose.
Had she known her son would grow out of it within a matter of months, she wouldn’t have bought it.
In such circumstances, if it could not be replaced by something more suitable, she was entitled to a refund.
Determined not to be fobbed off, Jenny returned to the Toys R Us Portsmouth store to have a final showdown with the manager.
The manager conceded there was no fault with the chair. As a ‘gesture of goodwill’ the store was reluctantly prepared to offer her a credit note, but if she insisted on her right to a cash refund she was told they would have to negotiate through solicitors.
A Which? Consumers’ Association legal expert confirms the initial Streetwise advice.
He says: ‘It’s important to remember that retailers are legally obliged to sell products that are of satisfactory quality, as described, and fit for their purpose.
‘If they’re not, you may be entitled to ask for a refund where the product cannot be repaired or replaced. You don’t have to accept a credit note or vouchers.’
Streetwise has repeatedly attempted to contact Toys R Us managing director Roger McLaughlan and senior management for comment, but without success.
The company has no formal mechanism to air customer complaints apart from contacting its customer services department, which can only be accessed by post, or filling in a form online.
Although Jenny finally used her £300 credit note to obtain a satisfactory replacement pushchair from the Southampton Toys R Us store, the one she bought only cost £135.
She says: ‘I never usually shop in Toys R Us and, after the way I was treated by the staff at the Portsmouth store, I won’t be going back there.’