3.16.2006

Confluence

When I met Kristin she had a beautiful purple couch. And I was impressed, because I (and all of my friends) had only ever had $12 thrift store couches with authentic 70's velvet upholstery. I walked into her condo and sat on her Real Couch and thought to myself, "this one's a keeper, look she even has real furniture!"

Unfortunately the purple couch didn't hold up well to the Evil that was Oscar as a puppy. It was looking quite shabby by the time we bought our house. And by the time we repainted and got our house looking pretty darn snazzy, the couch was downright disreputable. In fact there were only some big, orange, velvet flowers between it and thrift store splendor. While we had removed asbestos ceiling popcorn and redid the floors and painted we had moved the couch into our sunroom. Afterward we couldn't bear to move it into the house proper. We had no furniture in our huge living room for months.

We decided that the only kind of couch that would work with our lifestyle was a leather couch. Because we're not happy unless animals have to die for our comfort. Or something like that. Actually, though most people thought we were crazy to want to spend the money on a leather couch when we have dogs and cats, leather really is one of the best options for a pet and child-filled household: if it's good quality, then it's too tough for most dog claws and kid's toys to pierce; it's durable; it's comfortable; and, most importantly since I'm allergic to dogs and Kristin is allergic to cats, all the fur and dander and kid slobber just wipe right off.

After months of searching, we found a set that we liked at Granite Furniture. Granite was going out of business and so this set was steeply discounted to a little over 2K. Still, we wanted to try one more place. So we decided to try this new store Civilizzation (misspelling theirs). The owner greeted us himself and was so nice and courteous, that even they were closing for the day when we got there, we decided to go back and take a longer look before committing to the leather set at Granite, even though we could have lost the set at Granite to another buyer in the meantime. And even though we had really liked the salesperson at Granite.

Well, we did go back, and there were 2 sets we liked there. One set was 1500 and one set was 3000. The salesman at Civilizzation (not the owner) told us that the set that was 3k had a lifetime guarantee on the leather and was top notch blah blah blah. So we decided to go for the expensive set -- instead of going back to Granite and getting the set on clearance. And that's where the troubles began. We had already signed all the papers for the financing when the salesman informed us that though he had TOLD US the set was in stock, they really only had the couch in stock. They'd have to order the chair, ottoman, and loveseat in from Italy. We asked him: does that mean we need to pay a second delivery fee? No, he said, just the one fee because this is our fault blah blah blah.

2 months go by. 2 months during which we learn that the leather really ISN'T guaranteed for life. 2 months during which we learn that though he told us we had signed up for a no interest no payments plan there really were payments to be made. 2 months at the end of which we learn that the salesman NEVER ORDERED the rest of our set. Finally, another two months go by and after much telephoning and much stress and many harsh words (but never actually managing to speak with the owner again -- he was always on "vacation") we were told that the rest of the set had arrived, it would only be $150 to deliver it. Now I dealt with this call. In fact I called our original salesperson to find out why they wanted us to pay for a SECOND delivery fee after being assured that since he had sold us a set that wasn't in stock we wouldn't have to pay a second fee. He told me that the delivery guy they had been using at the time was now out of business and so they had to use a new guy blah blah blah, I interrupted him to ask him what he was going to do about this problem and he told me that if I had a truck I could come pick up the set myself. I told him that if I had to get a truck I'd be taking it to another furniture store, and that's when he told me that I couldn't return the set I had never actually received and get my money back, and THAT's when I told HIM that there was no way I was going to be picking up that set myself and that there was no way that I was going to pay a second delivery fee and that if that set wasn't in my house immediately that not only was I going to be getting my money for the set AND the delivery fee back, but I was going to make certain that EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD knew that Civilizzation was full of crooks.

Still, it took more harsh words from Kristin on a separate call to get anywhere.

The set was delivered that afternoon. By the oldest, most wizened, little man possible. In fact, Kristin and I needed to help him get the set off his truck and into our house because he was so frail. And once in our house we realized that the entire set had the wrong legs. They didn't match the sofa we had already bought. And when we called Civilizzation back, they told us that the only thing they could do for us was order another set. Oh yeah, and this time we'd have to pay not only for them to pick the old set up, but also for delivery of the new set. Halfway through that phone call Kristin and I were in the car and on the way to the store. Where we sat talking very, very loudly in front of people who were trying to decide to buy expensive furniture, about our problems and how unhelpful Civilizzation was (do you see how many times I'm using their name, that's cause I'm STILL mad and I STILL want everyone to know) in correcting their own mistakes. Finally, they managed to find the owner who was supposedly "on vacation". He was actually in the basement.

We told him that we had originally come back because he was so nice, how we had enthusiastically recommended Civilizzation to everyone we knew, how bitterly disappointed we were with the sales person's lies. And now this problem. Finally he came up with the solution to switch the wrong legs on our set with the correct legs from another set. We were still disgruntled, but grimly satisfied as we drove back home, a man with a screwgun and the correct legs in his truck following behind.

But once we got home and finished unwrapping the set, we discovered that the loveseat arm had a tear in the leather, and the whole process of bitching and waiting and threatening started all over again.

We ended up filing two Better Business Bureau complaints against the company and waiting nearly another 4 months before the loveseat was replaced. And though our furniture is beautiful, a certain part of the joy and excitement and feeling of success that comes with buying your first set of "adult furniture" was stolen from us.

We hate Civilizzation. And we think the owner is liar and a crook.

*****

20 years ago my family lived in a little neighborhood. The neighborhood, in fact, that I talked about in It's Just a Jump to the Left. At the top of the street was a man who owned an upholstery shop. He always threw the best sample books away. My Barbie had velvets and satins and tapestries for her clothes. She had pigskin and leather furnitures. I made them from the sample books this man threw away. This man was also the first person in our neighborhood to put in a double driveway. It was so smooth. So it became our neighborhood skating rink. He used to get upset because our skate wheels were hell on the recycled brick walkway leading from the driveway to the sidewalk (but it was just so fun and bumpy to skate on!)

This man, Bob C., asked my father to install some cabinets for him (my father, at the time, was a cabinet installer). My dad sold him the cabinets and did a beautiful job installing them. Bob said it looked perfect. He paid with a credit card. A week or so later the credit card company informed my father that the purchaser had requested that payment be withdrawn because he was unhappy with the job. But, when you do this, the seller has the right to make things right with the purchaser. So my father called up Bob C. and asked him what he could do to make it right. Bob said that he had decided just to live with the imperfection but that he wasn't going to pay for it. When my father explained that that wasn't an option -- he would either be allowed to fix it or Bob C. would tell the credit card company that he had lied and it was fine, but either way Bob C., not my father, would be paying for the job.

Eventually Bob C. stopped trying to withdraw payment. See, there was nothing for my father to fix, the cabinets and installation were perfect and exactly as requested.

***
My parents make it a point to try to visit with us and Julia at least once a week. So nearly every weekend I get a call from them wanting to know if we're home and able to have visitors. We usually are. It's nice to see them and consequently we've been able to do a lot more talking than we have for the last several years.

When my parents were over this weekend visiting they told me that they had received a telephone message from good old Bob C. Seems he tracked my father down because he needs some cabinets installed and he wanted to know if my dad was still in the business because he did the best work. He mentioned in his message that he owns a furniture store now. A furniture store called...

wait for it...

Civilizzation.

My parents didn't call him back, aren't about to work with that man again. But they wanted to know if I had realized that I had bought my furniture from this old neighbor who had tried to cheat my father so many years ago.

"No," I said. "But the sensibility fits."

"Well, maybe he just bought it," they replied. "What was the name of Civilizzation's owner when you were struggling with him?"

"He was from Europe somewhere, we thought, cause he had a foreign name. Robert..." (pronounced Ro-bear) my voice trailed away.

Kristin and I looked at each other and then started laughing.

"Robert C"

Yup. Good old Bob C.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted by Trista @ 4:01 PM

Read or Post a Comment

I just searched civilizzation online and ended up at your blog. I am dying of laughter at this post. I had an equally horrible experience with Bob C. I started to call him that after I read your blog. It is awesome to call Civilizzation and ask for Bob Carter. The receptionist gets very nosy about who is calling. Anyway. Just wanted to let you know that I know what you went through with your furniture tragedy, and sympathize with you!!

Posted by Blogger Ann's ART @ 9:42 PM #
 

I just read your post and can totally sympathize. In less than thirty days as an employee at Civilizzation, I witnessed sexually harrassing and belittling treatment of both employees and customers. The owner does not stand behind his merchandise. He threatens customers who were unhappy, falsifies legal and tax documents and refuses to pay employees their wages. He has been sued by multiple customers and employees. For your reference (and for anyone else who stumbles across this site): The owner’s full name is Robert Warren Carter but he calls himself Robert’ (say: row-bear) and NO he is not French. He claims to only be the purchaser (and sometimes a sales person) for Civilizzation but that is a a lie. The company is actually called “Gladys Stirn” but they DBA Civilizzation. Robert is probably the most disgusting human being I have actually met. He’s a moron who thinks he's better than everyone else and enjoys screwing people over.

Posted by Anonymous Heather @ 4:52 PM #
 
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