February 16, 2009

When lawyers shop...

... and try to return things, ketchup-stained things that they took to a crap dry cleaner....


Seven Machos said...

Well, obviously, if Trooper is telling the truth, and I'm sure he is, this woman should not try to return the coat.

As an aside, I would wager that 97.4 percent of all clothing returns are made by females.

Trooper York said...

Thanks for the link professor.

And it is just the way I have laid it out.

It's just a bad situation all the way around. My wife is sick about it.

Original Mike said...

I've always been amazed at how freely merchants take things back. My sense of responsibilty has always told me, once I buy it, it's mine (barring defect, etc.) The sense of entitlement of Trooper's customer takes things to a whole 'nother level, however.

The Drill SGT said...

1. The title should be:

kvetching about Ketchup

2. Clearly in my mind there are several issues, all of them seemto align with Trooper.

a. it was a special order accepted and used.
b. it wa damaged during normal ue through the fault of the owner, not the seller
c. it was further damaged by th owner, not the seller.

I agree with Darcy, get the names of the witnesses. get statements now from those who it does not hassle.

Original Mike said...

My wife is sick about it.

She shouldn't be. This customer is way out of line. And she shouldn't fret about losing her, either. She's never coming back in any case.

Trooper York said...

I know but we treat our customers like family. I will give you an example. Three girls came in to shop on Sunday and had a great day at the store. They got a lot of great clothes and had a lot of laughs and I opened a bottle of champagne at the end of the day for everyone. Then they went to one of the restuarants for dinner on Smith St. and the wife and I joined them and we had a lot of fun. That is how we roll. So when someone in your family goes bad, you get sick about it. Or at least my wife does. She has a sweet soul. Me not so much.

traditionalguy said...

Trooper will hold his own on this one. The lawyers and judges I know would hate any such misuse of the courts. Not all lawyers get insider treatment. You have to earn it. This one reminds me of the new home buyers who make a complaint on their builder's warranty for leaves in their gutter 9 months after closing. The implicaton that they will tell lies to all of their friends is pure extortion. Maybe they saw Lawrence Summers gutted by the Women "victims" at Harvard and think they deserve a piece of the action. Free money always attracts a crowd.

Original Mike said...

I'd get mad about it. Sometimes anger is the proper resonse. But then, no one has ever accused me of having a sweet soul.

Dennis said...

As long as it remains in salable condition, I'm okay with returning items within the time frame specified by the merchant. Sometimes you just change your mind about wanting to own something, and it's not clear until after the purchase has been made.

This situation, however, is ridiculous. What kind of moral cretin thinks it's okay to damage something and then wash your hands of the responsibility?

Oh, right: lawyers. :)

john said...


I can think of only one possible position she could have been in to get ketchup spilled on her neck. Perhaps you should check for other stains of a different color somewhere on the front of the jacket.

john said...

Oh boy, slow day at work, and a lawyer-trashing thread. I see 200+ comments.

Trooper York said...

Trust me dude, Jesus will come again before that would happen.

So to speak.

Original Mike said...

As long as it remains in salable condition, I'm okay with returning items within the time frame specified by the merchant.

I appreciate the opportunity when extended, but I don't feel like it's owed to me.

EDH said...

Feeling your frustration about the system as well as the coat, I say the next time you see your (former) customer, give her this rant about ketchup.

Tibore said...

Wait... what?? The customer wore the article, got it stained, took it somewhere else where a third party messed it up, and she wants a refund from you, Trooper?

How the hell does that logic work? Since when should the reparation come from you? WTF is she thinking?? Not ony has she used the item, but a different party induced wear onto it. I'm stuck trying to figure out how she's able to stick any of that responsibility onto your store.

If you end up on the short end of this, Trooper, you ought to do what a computing business I used to work for did: Charge a "restocking" fee. It's used to be common and prevalent in electronics, and many smaller stores still follow the practice. It's a message that there's a price to be paid for not thinking returns through.

Darcy said...

Trooper, no wonder the ladies love your store! And champagne, too.

I'll be stopping by. ;-)

X said...

I've seen this type of behavior before from...lawyers. That's why I charge them an assholery premium. And the funny part, they usually tell me right up front that they are an attorney. OK Holmes, let me see what that comes to....

Original Mike said...

I had a dry cleaner ruin a down sleeping bag once. I ate the cost and chalked it up to experience (I clean them myself, now).

Trooper York said...

If you check out the coat you will see that it is 100% Angora wool and a silk lining. You just don't put it in a bag and hang it on the door knob of your room. You have to investigate how to clean it and make sure that they follow the cleaning instruction which are clearly posted on the garment. If you simply put spot cleaner on it and rub away with a toothbrush you will damage the angora hairs. The fun part is that it is on the inside of the top collar which is not visible when you were the coat.
To qoute her "The coat is wearable, but I just don't want it anymore."

Pogo said...

Trooper describes this very, very well: 'So when someone in your family goes bad, you get sick about it."

Well said.

The important thing about this customer is
1) if she gets her way, she'll never return to your store (too embarrassed)
2) if she doesn't get her way, she'll never return to your store (too angry)

In neither case is a refund going to change the outcome.

Palladian said...

"I know but we treat our customers like family..."

See, this incident would totally be in character if you were treating customers like my family treats each other... Threats, extortion, guilt, recrimination, lawsuits, counter-suits, hate, bitterness... If we open champagne it's either to celebrate when one of us dies or the bottle is cracked over someone's head to finish them off. That's how we operate.

Darcy said...

LOL, Palladian.

Theo Boehm said...

We have this kind of problem occasionally at the Famous Flute Company where I work (can't tell you the real name; non-disclosure agreements).

$15,000 flute goes to Famous Artist on a trial. Comes back with dent. Famous Artist says, "I don't know! It just came that way!" What to do? Iron the dent out and eat the cost, but never leave flute alone with Famous Artist again. Keep everything nicey and pleasant and professional and don't offend Famous Artist. We'll even take Famous Artist out and open a bottle of champagne.

You won't get the same treatment, however, if you're Buffy, and whack your new $3,500 flute on a music stand in the band room, and then try to send it back.

Oh, no you won't.

If you're in the business of selling things to people, the art is knowing when to fold 'em.

If your margins suck as much as most do these days, you can be sure there's going to be a lot less folding going on.

AJ Lynch said...

That explains why Palladian comes here. He is out of reach of the business end of a champagne bottle.

Trooper York said...

If the sleeve fell off or the lining fell our or the collar came off there would be no question. But what if you spill salad dressing on a silk shirt? The shirt is drycleanable but the stains won't come out. What if she got paint on it? Ketchup is an acid and does damage when you spill it on an expensive garment. Of course the question is why are you wearing an expensive jacket where you can get ketchup on it? They have a coat check in Vegas you know.

traditionalguy said...

Thanks palladian. Your family can keep several attorneys employed. The old joke is very true: One lawyer in a small town is poor, until the second lawyer comes to town, and then both get rich.

Trooper York said...

I agree with you Theo, but sometimes you have to realize that the ship has sailed. You can't compromise your principles and do something that isn't right just in the hope that you won't lose one persons business. We eat a lot of garments when something goes wrong and we have to fight with the manufacturers. But this is definitely the fault of the customer and no one else. I don't think I can give in on this one.

Theo Boehm said...

AJ, I recommend Gewurtztraminer bottles instead of Champagne. They have a nice long reach and break with much better edges.
But Palladian didn't go that far, did he?

Theo Boehm said...

The problem we have, Trooper, is that Famous Artist invariably has students, who represent many potential future sales, not to mention the influence said Famous Artist might have in the Byzantine musical world. So, in our case, we do a LOT more eating of returns than would be normal as a percentage of sales revenue in most other businesses.

What we have do for nicey nicey.

Freeman Hunt said...

So... the ketchup was on the back of her neck, under the collar?

Was someone seasoning her?

Pogo said...

That's a helluva nice coat to wear for a hot dog eatin' contest.

Maybe Troop can hand out giant paper lobster bibs with every coat.

Or maybe do like us Midwesterners do for our couches: plastic slipcovers!

Trooper York said...

Now I could be very mean, you know I could Freeman. But it was sad really. It's like what one of the other girls who witnessed the whole thing said afterward "Who get's all dressed up to go demand a refund with their girlfriend in tow on Valentines day before they hit the early bird special at Dennys."

Good guestion. It is all very sad.

Darcy said...

Was someone seasoning her?

Hee. Oh, what I'd give to overhear Trooper asking her that! LOL!

Pogo said...


In my line of work a dented flute is a very different thing. Even Presidents can get one.

The repairs are much more expensive, too.

Zeb Quinn said...

As long as it remains in salable condition, I'm okay with returning items within the time frame specified by the merchant.

What about clothing articles purchased to be worn on a special occasion which are then returned the following morning?

As for the ketchup, doesn't it make sense that someone had it on their fingers when they grabbed the garment by the collar?

Freeman Hunt said...

Oh, what I'd give to overhear Trooper asking her that!

Or, "Ma'am, I have figured out the problem here. You may not know this, but when consuming ketchup, you need only apply it directly to the food you are going to eat. Contrary to what you may have heard, applying the ketchup to the base of your neck will not enhance the flavor."

TMink said...

I can relate I think Trooper. I am a therapist because I like people and really want to help them get better. But some people are not along with that agenda. They want to complain about someone else and never do anything different, or they want to tell people they are in therapy but never come to appointments, or something like that.

I fire them.

It works great, they never come back! Two have complained to the insurance company who gave me a courtesy call and I explain what happened and they say "We figured as much. You are the 7th therapist she has seen, but you are the first to fire her! SHe usually fires them."

For me to run my work with compassion, I have to have people who will actually work and can join me in the deal. If they are not going to work, they need to give someone else their money.

You guys want to be close and comfortable with your customers so you are kind and supportive and honest with them. You share their joy. This only works with healthy (enough) people. Lose this lady, she will poison your business if she stays around. Some people cannot do business in an open and friendly manner. They do not belong at either of our businesses.


Trooper York said...

Well you see she said that she had stained other garments but didn't try to return them. She had let a black pen run in a shirt she was wearing and told me she didn't try to return that. I guess to impress me or something. You can see where she is coming from though.

Harsh Pencil said...


You are my favorite commenter, so, in the vein of no good deed goes unpunished, here is some unsolicited and hard to take advice:

Fight it, but do everything in your power not to get emotionally involved. That is, hand the entire thing over to a lawyer and then convince yourself (if you can) that what happens, happens. Life goes on. Either way, you are good and happy and she is neither. But don't obsess about it. Make statements when you have to, show up when you have to, but otherwise try to treat the whole thing like it was happening to someone else you really didn't care that much about.

Again, I know this is hard to follow advice. It was given to me after I was sued (I countersued and won fees) but I spent way too much energy involved with the lawsuit. I don't know if I could have followed this advice if it had been given to me before, but I know for a fact that I would have been better off if I had followed it.

Trooper York said...

Thanks Trey. That is my position as well. It just brought a real bad energy to the store. On Valentines Day no less when were trying to help the customers get ready for a nice night out even if they didn't have anybody. It so happened that two of the girls in the store at the time are a couple and they wanted to rip her a new one but we chilled the situation down.

Sometimes when I am behind the counter I kinda get a taste of what a pyschologist might go through in a small way. Man I don't evny you Trey.

Theo Boehm said...


Everything in medicine is too damned expensive!
Our new National Health Service should solve that.
But will they fix dented flutes??

O/T for Pogo: Speaking of NHS, I'm reading Austerity Britain, 1945-1951, by David Kynaston. Absolutely fascinating stuff, including much about the origins of the NHS. Very sobering, depressing stuff, all the worse because it's written from a basically sympathetic perspective.

Trooper York said...

Oh I am ok with it Harsh Pencil. It is my wife who is really upset. She treated this lady great, giving her little gifts and discounts and listening to her screwed up personal life. So she is really hurt. Me not so much. I just have to take the bullets for her so I will be fighting it out in court. But I will be a happy warrior, let me assure you.

fivewheels said...

Ketchup on the fingers makes sense. I also thought she might have laid the coat next to her in a booth and then spilled some.

John Stodder said...

Is there any way you can spread the word among other retailers not to sell clothes to this person? I would think it would save a lot of money and time for shopowners like you to have a password-protected site where you could log the names of customers who pull this kind of crap, so that before you take their money, you could quickly enter the name and find out whether they've engaged in behavior like this in past. "I'm sorry ma'am, I can't sell you this coat. You're on the 'no sale' list. Perhaps you will find what you're looking for at Target."

Another alternative, for products made from finicky fabrics like angora: Force the customer to read a copy of the laundering instructions and sign them in your presence before you let them have the garment. Perhaps include on this document a list of items that will permanently stain such fabric, and require them to attest that if they are wearing this garment while consuming ketchup, mustard, red wine, etc. they are doing so at their own risk.

Trooper York said...

All good suggestions John but not really realistic. No one who buys an expensive item would want to be lectured like that. Buying a great coat should be a fun and exciting experiance. You should be very happy as she was when she had this specailly ordered coat to wear on her vacation in Vegas.

I mean say you bought a really expensive computer. Would want to sign a notice that you would not drink coffee or other beverages near the computer? And let's say you spilled wine on the keyboard and it is not under warrenty. Would you take it apart and try to fix it and when you screw it up ask for a refund. You don't sell clothes with a warrenty. I think it is kinda of your responsiblity. And the more expensive the garment the more responsible you should be. You shouldn't wear you $5,000
Armani suit to the ball game. And if someone gets ketchup on it , well that's on you. In every sense of the word.

Trooper York said...

Plus this woman is on the very low end of our sizing. That's one reason we had to do a lot of special ordering for her. Uniformily everyone else we have dealt with are not like this at all. They are just so happy to get stylish trendy clothes in their size that actually fit that they would never intimate that they would take their business elsewhere. That's why I had to calm down the villagers before they got the pitchforks and the torches and stuff.

TMink said...

Trooper, the worst part of the job is the mind numbing paperwork. The second worst part of the job is when you have to watch while the courts allow children to be damaged.

Ok, I am in the middle of paperwork, I think I got those backwards.


JohnAnnArbor said...


Instruments are expensive. Take digital photos of ones you lend out. If the artist tries to claim a dent was pre-existing, you have time-stamped photos that show otherwise.

John Stodder said...

Would want to sign a notice that you would not drink coffee or other beverages near the computer?

No, but unless my warranty was of the "no questions asked" variety, I also wouldn't demand a new computer to replace the one I carelessly ruined.

Actually, on the few occasions when I buy an expensive item of clothing, I ask the salesperson a lot of questions about how to take care of it. If they handed me a booklet with my purchase that outlined everything I need to do to make sure my garment lasts as long as possible, I would feel cared for. It wouldn't occur to me til later, if ever, that the sellers were just protecting themselves in case I turned out to be a vexatious litigant.

Anyway, I like my "don't sell to this person" list idea better. It would be great if this woman found out there wasn't a boutique in Manhattan that would sell her a bobby pin, owing to her behavior.

Pogo said...

No one seems to like my idea, but I say wrap it in plastic!

Wait; that's for the sexting thread.

JohnAnnArbor said...

I would think it would save a lot of money and time for shopowners like you to have a password-protected site where you could log the names of customers who pull this kind of crap, so that before you take their money, you could quickly enter the name and find out whether they've engaged in behavior like this in past.

Maybe a CraigsList forum?

Trooper York said...

I don't know guys, she's a lawyer and would sue my ass.

Palladian said...

"Well you see she said that she had stained other garments but didn't try to return them. She had let a black pen run in a shirt she was wearing and told me she didn't try to return that. I guess to impress me or something."

So this woman is basically a complete slob

Greg said...

Call her bluff. Explain politely that you didn't stain the coat or bollix up the cleaning. Remind her that she placed a special order for it, and tell her that her present dissatisfaction is her problem, not yours.

If she reacts with another threat to sue, you might remind her of the lawyer/hearing examiner who recently tried to sue a dry cleaner for millions of dollars after claiming they lost his pants. He lost in court, eventually lost his job, and was humiliated in the media.


Trooper York said...

That's about the size of it Palladian. But what are you gonna do? You can't follow people around with bibs and stuff.

john said...


You might also want to find out if she is related to This guy. Could be a team.

john said...

Oops, sorry, Greg beat me to it.

Curtiss said...

Will all these comments be discoverable in the coming Angora Top Coat Trial?

Will some of the commenters be deposed?


I'm seeing Greta Van Susteren in your future, Trooper York. This story has all the right ingredients:

A Red Angora Coat.
A lawyer.
A judge.
A dry cleaner.
Vegas and Catsup. (think about it)
A stalwart shop owner fond of comfort food.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

For me to run my work with compassion, I have to have people who will actually work and can join me in the deal. If they are not going to work, they need to give someone else their money.

Same thing in my business. If people want me to manage their portfolios they need to listen to my advice. I also need to listen to what they want and need too. It goes both ways.

If they want to manage their own portfolios, I suggest an on line brokerage. I've fired several clients, even some with very substantial accounts because it was apparent that they would not cooperate. They were shocked that I turned them away.

Some people are just trouble and need to find another advisor, therapist, boutique.

Pogo said...

Some people are just trouble and need to find another advisor, therapist, boutique.

Holy cow!

Are we all seeing the exact same clients?!?

Pogo said...

A lawyer.
A red angora coat.
A black pen running in a shirt.

Shoot, a fella' could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.

Michael H said...

Trooper - It sounds like you've done everything correctly. It also sounds like someone with a law degree might give you some grief. Or might not, having put on the show she wanted to put on for the gentleman who accompanied her. Things sometimes fade away.

Even assholes need nice clothes.

In Milwaukee, near where I live, the City is hassling shop owners who serve champagne. The City's theory is that the shopkeepers aren't licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages. It's a big mess now, but everyone knows that the mess will go away as soon as the City gets a little taste by collecting a fee from the shops, then allowing them to pop the cork.

Keep doing things the right way, the way you have been, and don't lose sleep over the one percenters. Sometimes it's better to stand firm.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Or might not, having put on the show she wanted to put on for the gentleman who accompanied her.

Who should run, not walk, away after seeing a performance like THAT.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Are we all seeing the exact same clients?!?

Seems like. But I think you see different parts :-)

I once had a mentor when I was starting in the investment business and he gave some great advice(that can also apply to life in general):

There are 3 types of people in this world.

1. Those you would like to help, but you can't. They don't have the means($$). Maybe they are on a fixed income. They know they need help, you WANT to help them,but you won't be able to really do much. Do your best and sadly, move along because your time (my time) is too valuable to waste.

2. Those who have means ($$) know they need help and are willing to listen to you. Treasure these clients and try to find more of them.

3. Those who have means (sometimes a lot of money), but they won't listen. They argue and go against your advice and end up harming themselves. They waste your time. They will blame you for their own stubborn mistakes. These people are too stupid to help. Run away from them.

Learn to quickly size people up and figure out which ones you are dealing with.

RLB_IV said...

Dust Bunny Queen hit the nail on the head. This definitely applies to sales,forensic engineering and product vendors.

Idea: if she tries to drag you into court, summon Sir Archy to pay her a visit. I would like to be a roach on the wall when that occurs....

John Burgess said...

JohnAnnArbor: The legal consequences of a blacklist as you suggest are significant. All you need is one pissy salesperson enter defamatory material, naming names, and your business is now belonging to the defamed customer.

Major retail stores in any given city do share that kind of information, but they do it informally, without leaving records. It doesn't do much good at the point of sale, but it does when corporate legal gets involved to file a suit against a customer.

That rarely happens, though, as stores will eat losses in the name of 'customer relations'. Small companies can't do that as well.

I guess that's why they invented small claims court.

Sir Archy said...

To Mr. RLB IVth


As the Ghost of a Gentleman dead these 260 Years and more, I may tell you that I compleatly abjure ectoplasmick Haunts.  I had only attempted these when I was a fresh Ghost, newly dead, and then only to obtain Satisfaction in a private Matter.  As much as I feel all the Ill-Use Trooper York hath suffer'd, I fear I am in no Condition to avenge any Wrong done to him.

You may know that I have not yet favour'd the Audience here at Professor Althouse's Theatre of Topicks (as I call it) with a proper account of my unfortunate Death, which gave Occasion to my first and only ectoplasmick Hauntings.

Here, briefly, are how things fell out, viz.:—

I died of an Apoplexy nearly on the Streets of London in the Year 1747, in my Fifty-Sixth Year.  I was walking in the Strand, when I felt very ill.  I just gain'd the Steps to the familiar shop of Mr. Cruikshank, Bookseller & Stationer, when Cruikshank & his 'Prentice carried me to a wing Chair in his Office.  He gave every Appearance of great Solicitude, bringing me Liquors & enquiring earnestly if there was anything he could do.  'Twas all to no Avail; I found myself looking down upon the Scene of my own Death, and wondering how such a Thing were possible.

I was further astonish'd to see Cruikshank's sluttish Jade of a Daughter relieve my Corpse, under her Father's Direction, of six Guineas and a Gold Watch, a treasur'd Gift from my late Lord, the Duke of O——, before either my Chirurgeon, my Attorney Mr. Farrell, a Coroner, or, even a Constable could come, despite their having been summon'd by Mr. Cruikshank.  Nay, I look'd on in Horrour, as the larcenous Father & Daughter made Sport of me, and plott'd to further unburthen my Body of every Piece of Money I had. Only the arrival of a Constable prevented further Outrage; but, the previous Robbery went undiscovered.

Despite my having cross'd into a Realm where I had no further Use for Money, or, such Baubles as a Watch (fac'd as I was with an Infinitude of Time), I determin'd to avenge myself; and, so endeavour'd to discourage Custom by laying ghostly Hands and breathing a cold Breath on Any who would enter Cruikshank's Premises.  These Actions quickly had the intended Effect: Custom fell away; and Curikshank found he could scarce give his Stock to the Poor, much less sell it to the Rich, as he had previously done.

I also took much ghostly Pleasure in playing a Jest upon the Daughter: Whilst she was engag'd in Assignations with her Sweet-Heart, a likely 'prentice Engraver, I would tickle her Arse with a ghostly Finger, such that 'twould send her into Paroxysyms of Itches that no Scratching could relieve.  Her Lover very prudently thought her distemper'd with the dread Disease, and so drop't her.

Within a Twelvemonth, Cruikshank was in Prison for Debts exceeding 200l., where he died soon after.  His Daughter, dispairing of ever finding a genteel Husband, became the Whore of a notorious Highway-Robber, and was hang'd at Tyburn in the Year 1756.

Thus 'tis that you should not rob a dead Man; for you cannot say with any certainty what his Ghost would do.  But I must assure you that, however a Ghost may act for himself, 'tis a very hazardous Occupation to engage him to act for Another.  Once I had taken my Revenge upon those who had wrong'd me, I became compleatly detach'd from Earthly squabbles, and thus very unlikely to give Satisfaction to any Employer in the Haunting Line.

Unwilling as I am to engage in petty Squabbles, much as they may mean to the Parties involv'd, I assure you that I am,


Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

Nichevo said...


Funny, I would expect the finger deal to work out the other way...what say you, Ann?

Nichevo said...

BTW why can't they just make garments more durable, washable, stain-resistant? Anybody can catch a stain. Pity to craft a garment so frail.

Not a patch on Troop - I guess for a $5K garment you should look for a first-rate cleaner. Me, I would probably lick the ketchup till I couldn't see it anymore...

mmm, ketchup.