Undercover Answers: What Retailers Are Doing About the Peeling Furniture Problem – NBC Chicago

What one suburban woman didn’t know about her living room furniture nearly cost her $2,500 – and she wasn’t alone.

Batavia mother Kelly Lotriet bought two bonded leather couches and a chair from Ashley Furniture, and said her salesperson never told her the couches weren’t real leather. Her first clue: the day they started peeling. Had she known, Lotriet said she may have made a different choice

“If they were to inform me ahead of time that it wasn’t leather or if it was a different material, then I would think twice about purchasing it,” she said.

Her story echoes what hundreds of consumers from across the Chicago area told us: they’d never heard the term “bonded leather” before ending up with it in their homes. The furniture covering is made up of only a small percentage of leather, mixed with fibers and plastic.

Back in June, The Leather Industries of America told NBC 5 Responds retailers often don’t share with consumers that bonded leather isn’t real leather. But federal guidelines say that information is supposed to be stamped on or attached by label. So we went shopping to find out if stores are following that rule and if the customer experience has changed since our reports first aired.

We took our cameras to the retailers NBC 5 Responds viewers shared the most complaints about: The RoomPlace, Ashley Furniture, Value City and Darvin. In total, 11 undercover trips were made.

Here’s what we found:

Entering the RoomPlace, large signs explaining the different types of leather scattered throughout the store.

All four retailers also had disclosure labels or tags attached to bonded leather furniture.

When asked about the product and whether it peels, most salespersons answered the question head on. Only one salesperson at Ashley downplayed the likelihood, saying “if you don’t put it in direct sunlight, next to a fireplace, or right under a heat vent, it should be ok.” When asked if Ashley Furniture stood behind that statement, a spokesperson said “while the salesperson was providing their common sense advice, our warranty does exclude damages from exposure to sunlight and humidity, which can be affected by heat sources such as fireplaces and heat vents.”

One RoomPlace sales rep offered up an interesting prevention technique.

“So just once in a while, put lotion (on it) and that’s it. And get the warranty and you’re good,” the salesperson said.

The RoomPlace didn’t answer NBC5 Responds’ question regarding that advice.

Warranties were a major sore spot for some customers. When asked if peeling furniture is covered, Darvin and Value City said yes, but The RoomPlace and Ashley said no.

Since NBC 5 Responds’ first report aired in April, viewers sent in more than 700 peeling furniture complaints. Since then, nearly $200,000 have been recovered for those viewers, including Lotriet.

After NBC 5 Responds called Ashley Furniture, the Lotriets received two new replacement couches, valued at about $2,500.

“So if it wasn’t for them, NBC 5 Responds, we would have been stuck with the peeling couches,” Lotriet said.

Below are the statements the four retailers sent to NBC5 Responds in response to our findings:

The RoomPlace statement:

One of our primary focuses has been to re-educate our Sales team and Customers on the differentiators of “genuine” vs. “faux” leather products and the care and maintenance of all our furniture. We know buying any piece of furniture is a big commitment: one The RoomPlace and our customers want to feel good about. This is why we are determined to provide our Customers with important information prior to making a purchasing decision. In addition to talking with our customers about the differences between genuine leather and faux-leather alternatives, we have signage in all our stores that distinctly identifies the differences and all of our merchandise is clearly tagged.

The RoomPlace’s one (1) year manufacturer’s warranty covers defects resulting from material and or workmanship which includes cracking and peeling. We also offer optional extended protection plans (Accidental and Structural) on our furniture, which is not inclusive of the cracking and peeling. We encourage our customers to review the warranty coverage and optional protection plans available online or in our stores and welcome any questions prior to making a decision as to what furniture and protection plans best meets with their specific budget and needs.

Darvin statement:

Thank you for contacting us prior to airing your follow up segment on peeling furniture. As you know, we have been working hard to reach out to each and every customer who has contacted us concerning the quality of their pieces. This email should clarify what is covered. Please see the attached link that states what is covered under the scope of our “Darvin Limited Warranty” – http://www.darvin.com/current/warranty_info.aspx We offer either a 6 month or 1 year warranty.

The peeling leather story you have been covering is a manufacturers defect issue and not a protection plan issue.

We do offer each customer the option of purchasing a 5 year Protection Plan at the time of original purchase. This protection plan covers cracking and peeling in isolated areas. Peeling that has accumulated over time would not be covered. It covers any accidental damages including the following for A&P Leather or Vinyl, which includes bonded leather.

On A&P Leather or Vinyl

 

  • Household Food and Beverage Stains
  • Stains from Human and Pet Saliva, Urine, Stomach Fluid, or Blood
  • Accidental Burn or Singe Marks Caused by Brief Contact with Flame or Heat, from a single incident
  • Accidental BallPoint Pen Ink, Wax Crayon, Facial Cosmetics or Nail Polish from a single incident
  • Color Transfer from Denim Jeans or Newspaper
  • Cracking or Peeling of Top Grain Leather in Seating Areas
  • Cracking or Peeling of All Leather and Vinyl in Non-Seating Areas
  • Accidental puncture, cut, tear or rip from a single incident

 

Value City statement:

Confirming the response you received from Value City Furniture/American Signature Inc’s salespeople, VCF/ASI — based on the Company’s commitment to provide its customers with a well-furnished life — does provide its customers with an opportunity to select new furniture, on a sliding scale, if they experience cracking and peeling on their bonded and/or polyurethane furniture.

Ashley Furniture statement:

While the salesperson was providing their common sense advice, our warranty does exclude damages from exposure to sunlight and humidity, which can be affected by heat sources such as fireplaces and heat vents. We encourage any customers who are experiencing problems with our products to work with the store where they purchased the product or to contact Ashley’s customer care team (consumeraffairs@ashleyfurniture.com). They will work closely with the customer to better understand the problem they are experiencing, and where appropriate, explore possible solutions.

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