A broken chair leaves Judithsitting far from comfortably...

An angry Judith Kisbee felt abandoned by The Range when the home and leisure retailer gave her the cold shoulder and failed to take her complaint about a faulty product seriously.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 10th August 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 12:06 pm

Judith asked the Gosport store for help to replace or repair a matching dining room suite chair, when one of the legs unexpectedly gave way and snapped off due to a manufacturing defect.

The 74-year old Gosport pensioner bought the suite on impulse just three-and-a-half years ago, and paid just over £600 for it. She reasonably expected it would see her out, and because she didn’t need all six chairs she put two of them out of the way in her bedroom where they had little use.

She said: ‘I sat on one of the chairs I kept in the bedroom when it suddenly lurched forward. The leg had snapped clean off where there was a knot in the wood. I was lucky I was close to the bed otherwise there could have been a nasty accident.’

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But when Judith went to the Gosport store with the broken leg to explain what had happened and ask for help she was promptly given short shrift.

She reasonably presumed after paying £600 the chair should have been manufactured to quality standards sufficient to withstand normal use, but her expectation cut very little ice with the store staff.

Despite the law being on her side she was met with a wall of indifference and promptly found herself up against the firm’s ‘out of guarantee, out of mind’ customer service culture.

First she was asked to provide a receipt, which was a bit of a tall order, given it was three-and-a-half years down the line.

Customer services at The Range Plymouth head office point-blank refused to entertain her complaint without it.

Determined not to put up with the doormat routine, she produced written confirmation of when she bought the suite and when it was delivered, but the firm still blanked her request to fix or replace the chair.

Finally, after a fruitless exchange of emails with The Range customer service, Judith was told her complaint was unsubstantiated because in their opinion if the chair was faulty the defect would have come to light much sooner.

As if to add insult to injury they hoped she would continue to shop with them in future.

Judith’s story rang a number of Streetwise warning bells and was a carbon copy of previous reader complaints about product durability and the company’s policy towards customers attempting to obtain redress by asserting their statutory rights.

When 83-year-old Fareham reader Fred Green took a nasty tumble after the bottom fell out of a conservatory settee only 13 months after he bought it, he was promptly given the familiar blanking treatment.

An inspection revealed it was of flimsy construction and the base was only supported on four wooden blocks glued and stapled to the frame.

The law says buyers have a claim against retailers for faulty products for up to six years after purchase.

But despite it not being fit for purpose the store staff said they couldn’t help because they’d been told not to exchange or give refunds for goods that were out of warranty.

Head office first tried to ignore him then insisted the problem was all down to wear and tear. Our attempt to speak to The Range boss and owner Chris Dawson was similarly rebuffed.

Another Gosport loyal Range customer, William High, wasn’t prepared to take his complaint sitting down when the leather on a £300 rise-and-recline chair started to disintegrate after only 15 months use.

Despite enduring a three months run-around, The Range finally relented after Streetwise got on the case but true to form, refused to respond to all our requests for a comment.

We got blanked again when another sticky situation with The Range was finally sorted. Reader Kerry Hammond’s new bathroom floor was badly damaged by adhesive mirror tiles that spontaneously fell off the wall and splintered into lethal projectiles.

The Portsmouth store went through the receipt routine, then gave her a hard time for weeks after they alleged she must have bought them from rival store. They refused to accept they were a potential safety hazard. The Range head office only relented after Streetwise got on the case and they subsequently sent her a £200 compensation cheque.

Instore quibbling and prevarication about faulty cushions that were coming apart at the seams quickly unravelled when Anne Garvock from Gosport got in touch. The Range backed down but refused to comment after she explained she’d bought two lots of three dodgy cushions from the store, but staff would only refund her for three of them because she’d lost the receipt for the second purchase.

The Range discount store chain has proved to be a spectacular success story for Mr Dawson, a canny former real-life Del Boy trader turned billionaire.

The 65-year-old’s spectacular retail success boils down to well-placed stores stocked with a range of diverse and attractive competitively- priced products.

But despite its undoubted attraction, aftersales service is clearly the company’s Achilles heel.

The internet is awash with scathing customer reviews and complaints about rude indifferent staff and abysmal after sales service.

The firm has no dedicated customer care or complaints department.

Unhappy shoppers are either ignored, or left to battle it out with indifferent managers, if they persist in raising legitimate concerns about the quality of products that don’t stand the test of time.

Judith wasn’t surprised when we intervened on her behalf with The Range head office, then got shunted back to the Gosport store by a mystery contact centre supervisor who twice declined our request to comment.

‘I think they’re a terrible company,’ she said. ‘When I had a problem with a shattering glass TV stand shelf I got on to Currys and they immediately agreed to replace it with a new one.’

‘The Range has no idea how to care for unhappy customers, and the management take no responsibility for people left with products that should last a lifetime but aren’t pleased with.

‘I’ll never shop with them again.’