Bad experience, your thoughts?

Hello,
I would like to relay a recent experience that I had at a local model
train shop in Hightstown, New Jersey. I am curious as to how the
members of this group would have handled the situation both had they
been in my shoes and also had they been in the shoes of the store
owner.
Back in February of this year I went into DK&B Railway Supplies in
Hightstown, New Jersey with the intent of purchasing a Lionel train
set for my 3 year-old son. The owner, Keith Bergmann steered me away
from Lionel and towards an MTH set. While we were looking at the many
sets he had on his floor the topic of ebay came up. I had mentioned
that with the lower pricing generally available on ebay, why would a
consumer pay more to shop in a store like his. He got a bit defensive
but went on about the superior service and support one could enjoy
from a store should any problem ever crop up. It seemed like a
reasonable enough arguement to me. Paying a bit more for additional
support seemed to me like taking out an insurance policy of sorts so I
figured it would be worth it.
When I found the set that I wanted the owner, prior to ringing it up
decided to open it up and just check to make sure everything was in
order. Even though the box was shrinkwrapped the set was far from in
order. There was no Track! At this point I should have demanded an
entirely different set, but he instead went around the store to
collect whatever was missing to create a complete set. I assummed
that the problems with the set only went as far as the track so it
didn't seem like a big deal. Anyway, when I got home, my son and I
set it all up but much to our great disappointment, the engine did not
work. It was completely dead. It became clear at this point that the
problems with the set did not end with the track. I immediately
brought the set back to the store figuring that he would either refund
my money or at the very least exchange it for a different set.
Despite the fact that we both viewed the flawwed set while we were in
his store, he claimed that all warranty work was the responsibility of
the customer and proceeded to show me a sign by the register that
explained as such. "To be nice" to use his words, he said he would
send the item out for warranty work himself but there would be no
refund or exchange. He also loaned me a diesel engine to use in the
meantime. I wasn't thrilled with this option as I had got this for my
kid and if we were dealing with a loaner I knew that he would
basically have to watch while I used it.
Despite our very careful use of the engine, it died on us after just a
few days of use. While extremely disappointed, I wasn't all that
surprised as it was being used with this set that had all the
problems. I speculated that perhaps the problems went as far as the
transformer and that maybe affected this engine. I couldn't think of
anything else as you could not have been anymore careful with the
engine than I had been.
When I brought it back to the store, the owner was obviously annoyed,
yet he still would not consider giving us a refund or exchange. He
also indicated that it would be many months before I'd get my train
back. What was I suppossed to do in the meantime? Where was this
supposed extra service that one was to receive by going to a store
like this? I was hoping that at the very least he would loan us
another engine but he must have also assumed the set had a problem
with the transformer as he was unwilling to do so. After much arm
twisting he finally capitulated and gave me an old engine that
couldn't have been worth more than $20. No sounds, no smoke, and it
barely stayed on the track. This engine provided such little
enjoyment that we essentially stopped using the trains altogether. My
son, much to my disappointment seems to have lost interest in the
hobby altogether.
Am I wrong to have expected that at the very least the store owner
should have exchanged the set, not to mention refunded my money? It
wasn't as if I had the engine for a few weeks and then it went bad.
This was obviously bad while it was still in his store. We opened the
box together and saw that there were problems. It has been just about
half a year now since I've been without the engine and there is no
indication that it will be repaired anytime soon. The reality is that
had I taken my $250 and spent it on ebay or at the mall or at any
other hobby shop for that matter I would, in all probability, be
enjoying the set with my son.
If you are about to pay more at a store in the expectation of receving
extra service you might want to check with the owner to see how they
would handle a situation such as this. More importantly, if you are
considering making any sort of purchase from Keith Bergmann at DK&B
Railway Supplies in Hightstown, New Jersey, you might want to think
twice.
I did purchase the set on my Visa card. As far as anyone knows, do I
have any recourse at this point?
Reply to
Mike
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Shrink wrap is no longer an indication that an item wasn't opened. You can get equipment to shrink-wrap almost anything. Don't you find it suspicious that the owner decided to open it up to make sure everything was in order?
He had no legal obligation to refund your money based upon what you know. However, a reasonable business practice would be to substitute an identical set for you and let him fix the messed up set.
There are some trustworthy hobby shops in your area. I will email you separately with a suggestion but I don't want to start a hobby shop war over this newsgroup.
Ebay isn't always cheaper than retail, after shipping costs, and you don't always get what you think you are getting. I buy on ebay and from a retail shop that I like and trust.
Reply to
Ccutler0
I've never shopped at DK&B -- account of distance -- though I do know some people who have. However, I can sympathize with your predicament.
It's been a while since I dealt with credit cards and such, so forgive me if I'm a bit fuzzy on certain elements. Having said that, let me proceed.
Generally, you're in good shape because you used a credit card. (Does the issuer have some kind of buyer protection?)
First, document everything that happened between you and the merchant. Figure that the more comprehensive th documentation, the stronger your case.
Second, contact the card issuer and explain that you'd like to file a complaint against the merchant (i.e., dispute the charge). I've never had to do this myself, so I cannot advise you how it proceeds, but asking how is a good and logical first step. If you can, get an address to which you can mail copies of your documentation.
Third, once an amount is "in dispute," it activates a part of the Fair Credit Billing Act governing disputed charges. You are not responsible for paying that amount until the matter is resolved, but you continue to remain liable for other charges incurred: e.g., your bill is $1,000, but with a $250 dispute, you'd be responsible for the remaining $750.
Depending on the way the dispute goes, you may also want to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, and/or the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (877-322-5323). Another option would be small claims court, if you want to go that far.
I realize the options in the last paragraph represent an escalation of the situation. Judging by what you've said, you've made all REASONABLE efforts under the law, and it appears the shop has, too.
Also, another option is to contact the consumer reporter of a local paper. Here in Washington, NJ, I get the Express-Times
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, based in Easton, and they have a consumer column called "Action Express" which works on behalf of readers to resolve disputes. Perhaps you have something similar?
Good luck.
Dieter Zakas
Reply to
Hzakas
You should have demanded a different set or walked.
There should be a toll free phone number on the back of your credit card, call them on what to do next. LTG :)
Reply to
Lloyd Olson
The shop should have swapped out the set for another in total if you brought it back on the day you bought it, period.
As for recourse, if I understand you message correctly, you have let this go on for six months so I suspect that you can not do anything with the credit card company as they typically have a limit of 90 days or less but it would not hurt to call them and ask.
I have had to resort to this on a couple of occasions, not with hobby shops, and my credit card company was always VERY responsive. The key is to do this quickly when a problem develops and they will advise you on how to document in writing. Some charge a nominal fee to process a complaint and some do not.
I ALWAYS use my CREDIT CARD to purchase items. NEVER use your DEBIT CARD as you have less protection once the funds come out of your bank account. My VISA works as a CREDIT and DEBIT card and I have to tell the cashier to ring it up as a CREDIT purchase. The funds still come out of my bank account so there is no interest penalty to me to do it this way. Have you ever noticed that the cashier ALWAYS asked if this is DEBIT first because they are trained to do this. I suspect that it is a lower fee to the store and they know that you have less protection.
Your time limit may have expired but you can learn from the experience going forward.
Now, get your son a new engine ASAP and I suspect that he will rekindle his interests. Even if you have to start over to get him interested DO IT! Time slips away much too quickly with children (I speak from experience).
Allen Cain
Reply to
Allen Cain
Assuming that all you posted is accurate, had you "contested" the charge to your credit card statement, in writing, pursuant to the instructions on the statement, within sixty (60) days of the charge first appearing you would have received a full credit for your purchase. You would have had to return the "set".
Letting 60 days lapse after the charge first appeared on your credit card statement you are SOL.
You have less "guarantee" in dealing with an E Bay seller than with the shop you described. IMHO E bay sales are a significant risk.
YMMV.
You might, or might not, have received better quality product and better service from an "on-line" retailer.
Bottom line, you did not protect yourself in a timely fashion in the matter allowed by law.
Foolish on your part.
Reply to
Jim McLaughlin
"Jim McLaughlin" wrote
How does one prove to the Credit card issuer that they returned the defective merchandise?
Reply to
Curious
Stories like yours are heard often enough to indicate large problems with quality control and also enough to explain why store shops worldwide seem to be closing.
This owner acted as a very bad one I believe. I am sorry for your troubles.
Reply to
oztrainman
These ideas all seem like sound ones. Credit card challenging is definitely worthwhile.
Reply to
oztrainman
If you returned the set within a few hours or a day or two maybe even a week, I think your should have been offered a refund. The crap about no refunds and you need to fix it your self are the reason why these shops are going out. Allied Hobbies in NJ is good for that, they have even had stickers made to place on there boxes saying if it breaks its your problem(not in those exact words but close). Service is the rason that people go to these shops, if you don't get service you might as well shop at Tower Hobbies or some other web retailer. Now this guy lost a customer and is getting bad press to boot.
oztra> Stories like yours are heard often enough to indicate large problems
Reply to
Big Joe
Ask your credit card issuer what suffices for them.
Most credit card issuers will take your word for it. If you are paranoid, take the stuff back to the store, putting it in its box on the counter along with a copy of the day's newspaper and snapping a digital photo of the box and the paper and walking out.
Reply to
Jim McLaughlin
There are a number of stores (not hobby stores) in my area, that have this type of 'no refund only a store credit for exchanges' policy. It is far less hassle to not have any dealings with them, than it is to grace their locations with your business.
Reply to
Brian Smith
Not necessarily. I bought a laptop computer from Dell and tried for roughly 9 months to get some defect problems solved without success. I finally asked for a refund through VISA and got it. But, since the cost was over $1,000 I had to wait until after Dell repeatedly stalled on the refund process. Then they stiffed me on insurance and shipping to send the crap back to them.
I originally contacted Dell within a fairly short time after I got the computer (probably within 60 days) and had decent documentation for my continuing efforts to solve the problems. The initial contacts were by phone, though, so I have no records for these but VISA apparently accepted my word for it.
If I compare it to my experience, I think the key for the guy who bought the train set is that it was defective, and brought to the attention of the store, at the outset. If he simply documents each step to resolve the issue, even if he has no proof, the time should not be a problem. My guess is, he collects the money from VISA.
Paul Welsh
Reply to
Paul Welsh
VISA or whoever a card issuer might be can always choose to give away money to a cardholder. If the cardholder has been a long term good customer, it may be more likely that the card issuer will choose to do so.
However, if you do the "contest" procedure in writing within 60 days in accordance with the federal statute, the card issuer has no choice in the matter. You get your money back.
Reply to
Jim McLaughlin
It's hard to believe the lengths some businesses will go to loose customers. Obviously, a simple exchange that day would have resulted in a happy, repeat customer.
Occasionally I'll get an email that one of my FX boards isn't working. Usually it's a power supply problem or wiring, but If I can't solve the problem, the solution is obvious - I exchange the old board for a new one. Problem solved, customer happy.
Mike Tennent "IronPenguin" Operating Traffic Lights Crossbucks Special Effects Lighting
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Reply to
Mike Tennent
[snip] In a somewhat related story, one of the LHS here north of Houston refuses credit cards.
Reply to
Greg Forestieri
Along with all the good advice about credit charges and good customer relations, I'm curious about the technical details. I've gotten back into "O Gauge" in recent years and realize that the electronics on the engines are quite something. The MTH engines can go dead in storage because the batteries lose charge and it takes replacing the battery or charging for a significant amount of time on the tracks before they will run correctly. Two other questions spring to mind - was the engine set up with Locosounds, Protosounds 1.0 or Protosounds 2.0? and can you tell the year that it was manufactured? (in other words which catalog did it appear in?). Overall it sounds like your hobby dealer may be one of those that is getting marginalized by the ability of customers to go direct to manufacturers and out-of-state web retailers. This happened in the mid-80's to some of the local computer stores when mass marketing happened there. We're all confronted with decisions about how to best support our local retailers and still keep the hobby within our personal economy.
I hope you are able to find a good solution to this problem and are able to make it an enjoyable for your son.
Mike wrote:
Reply to
RRGrandad
Without hearing the other side of the story, it sounds like this dealer is being marginalized by poor service.
I'm not an o-scale guy (not even close!) but our little town has a dealer who specializes in that kind of thing, and makes a business out of it by having a retail store, mail-order service, and a presence at shows all around the eastern US. What sets him apart is service...his prices aren't as cheap as some, but you ~know~ he will stand behind what he sells. Plus, he;s a Lionel Service Center - no sending something back and waiting a year to get it repaired...
I think that's the necessary ingredint missing from the O.P.'s experience...has nothing to do with mail-order or web-only retailers.
Jeff Sc. Shop Name Available By Request, Ga.
Don't bother to reply via email...I've been JoeJobbed.
Reply to
Jeff Sc.
You mention that the store owner made sure everything was in order before ringing it up. Did that include testing the engine on a test track before ringing it up? From what you wrote, it seems the owner just made sure everything was inside the box. You could have saved time. If the owner does not have a test track, walk out without buying.
Reply to
Chris

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