W hen Fareham pensioners Pat and Fred Green decided their conservatory suite had seen better days, they made straight for The Range, Gosport.
As loyal customers of the homeware superstore, it was their first port of call.
Pat, 79, was attracted to a £399.99 ‘eastern suite’ which was a little smaller than the old one, making it ideal for their conservatory.
‘We often pop into The Range,’ said Pat. ‘We’ve had quite a lot of stuff from them. We were just going round as usual, when I saw the settee and chairs and thought ‘I do like that,’ so we agreed to buy it.’
But just one month out of guarantee, husband Fred, 83, took an unexpected backward tumble in the conservatory when without warning the bottom fell out of the settee.
He discovered that the seat base was resting on wooden blocks which had simply been stapled to the main frame, and inadequately secured by one small screw.
The Greens went straight back to the Gosport store to complain.
They took the duff retaining blocks and screws with them, and spoke to a manager who was sympathetic, but said he could do nothing until head office was contacted.
‘He rang head office while we were there and they asked him to take photographs,’ Pat added.
‘He said he would send them on, but was doubtful it would do any good because staff had been told they must not exchange anything or give refunds if goods were out of warranty.’
A few days later the couple went back to the store to hear the outcome of their complaint, and were dumbstruck when they were told there was nothing that could be done.
The Greens’ son John, 60, was convinced by just looking at the flimsy seat retention design and construction, that the company’s head office had made a mistake.
He said: ‘The suite had hardly been used over the 13 months. Then dad went to sit on it one day and it collapsed from under him completely. It was clearly very poor value for money and not fit for purpose.’
He put a letter together with all the facts, explaining the situation. To ensure it reached the MD of The Range, Chris Dawson, he checked him out on the internet and sent it off recorded delivery.
Almost by return he received a reply from their customer services team claiming the fault was all down to wear and tear. They maintained that if there was a manufacturing fault it would have come to light sooner, and would not have occurred through standard use of the product – in other words, a diplomatic way of saying the suite must have been misused.
Streetwise attempted over several weeks to contact Mr Dawson to discuss the Green’s complaint.
By law goods have to be of satisfactory quality, and durable.
The self-made multi-millionaire, who likes to style himself as the barrow boy entrepreneur made good, did not respond to our initial e-mails, nor did the customer services team.
We eventually tracked down marketing manager Alice Duxbury who was sticking to the official company line. She said they had tried to be reasonable about the Greens’ complaint, but would prefer not to talk about current customer issues.
‘All I would say we have sold an awful lot of these products, and as yet we’ve had absolutely no complaints about them,’ she said.
The Greens said as far as they were concerned The Range had treated them shabbily.
They said as the suite lasted only 13 months it wasn’t remotely value for money and they wouldn’t be shopping at The Range again.