Can you trust ‘lay-byes’?

2014-01-11 00:00

LONDIWE Madlala built the house of her dreams and bought a R25 000 lounge suite. It was to be the centrepiece that was to set the theme for her interior decor.

Everything was going according to plan until she stepped into Trend Designs International in Pietermaritzburg at the end of November. She was there to pay the final instalment and collect the suite she had placed on lay-bye in August. Madlala’s carefully constructed plans came crashing down when she was nonchalantly told that there was no suite — it had been sold to another customer.

She said she was especially upset by the staff’s “don’t-care attitude”.

“They carried on as if it was an every­day occurrence. It made me wonder whether they lay-bye items to more than one customer and then give it to whoever goes in first,” Madlala said.

“I told them I was going to the Consumer Commission and to the media, and they said I could do as I pleased,” she said.

The commission has undertaken to help her.

Trend Design customer care manager Nazia Juthan said the Pietermaritzburg branch held a “scratch and dent” sale in August, when Madlala had chosen a lounge suite.

“She paid her deposit and was assisted by our sales lady, Mala. In that month, Mala went off on leave and the manager was not aware that the lounge suite was sold to Ms Madlala. Another customer, Mrs Zondi, liked the same item and put a deposit on the item and paid in full the following week, and we delivered the item to her,” Juthan said.

She apologised, saying it was the company’s first such incident.

“We would like the opportunity to rectify the fault by offering Ms Madlala to go into the store and see if she would like another lounge suite. We received beautiful lounge suites for the festive season and would like her to have a look,” Juthan said.

Having taken up the offer, Madlala said she ran into further problems. She chose a suite, but was told it cost R35 000. She was told the price would be reduced to R30 000 and she would have to pay the R5 000 difference.

“My budget is R25 000 — that was what I paid for the couch. If I choose something, then no matter what it costs, it must be given to me for R25 000. If this is not acceptable, then they must get the item back from Mrs Zondi and make her choose from the floor,” Madlala said.

Juthan responded that this could not be done. “We are compensating for the incident that occurred with the original lounge suite. This is unfortunately our best offer on a brand new lounge suite.”

Consumer lawyer Roy Hsiao, of Goldman Judin Incorporated, said that Madlala could end up getting double what she had paid. According to the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), if there appeared to be a deliberate breach of contract, then Madlala was entitled to get double her money back or an item of double the value. Magugu Ngwenya of the KZN Consumer Commission said he was working on the matter.

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