The $500 Chair

March 05, 2010

A little story of two companies, one chair, and a clerical error…

The company that I work for has a lot of temporary project sites, for which we establish mobile offices. We often furnish our mobile offices with rented furniture.

This past month, we closed up one of our mobile offices, and called the furniture rental company to come pick up their desks and chairs.  Well, when they came to pick up the rented chairs, they had a surprise in store: an extra chair.  A few days later my boss received the following message:

"During our scheduled pickup, we retreived 5 chairs from your location.  Since our records had only indicated that your company was renting 4 chairs, we have submitted the following invoice for the rental fees for the 5th chair, dating back to the start of the rental contract...."
The rental fee, back-dated two years, came out to slightly more than $500.  Now, let's just take a moment to reflect on this:

a) we weren't actively trying to cheat the system.  It's a big enough company we honestly didn't realize they should have been billing us for 5 chairs.

b) had we not done the right thing by returning the chair and, instead, just kept it -- not only would they not have been able to try and bill us for the rental but they would have been out a chair, too.

c) we rented a lot of stuff.  In the grand scheme of things, they shouldn't jeopardize their business reputation and the loss of a client over one chair.

d) that chair is not worth anywhere near $500.  At this point we've more than bought the darn thing.  Twice.

With these things in mind, my boss responded in kind:
"Although we regret that a clerical error on your part has resulted in the loss of rental income for this one chair, we feel that the good faith effort of returning your chair should suffice as payment in full."
There was a bit of haggling back and forth after this.  They countered and said, "How about half the cost of the back rental fees?" To which we responded, "No thanks.  You can still have your chair back though."  This went on for a few emails and phone calls until finally, they said, "Okay, when can we pick up the chair?"

At this point, you would think that's the end of the story.  Oh, no, it couldn't be that simple.  Because as it turns out, when the rental company came to pick up the extra chair (which we have now dubbed, "the five-hundred dollar chair") they couldn't find it.  We had set it aside so it wouldn't be mixed in with the regular office furniture, and when a different moving company came to pick up our mobile office they took everything - including the five-hundred dollar chair which had been carefully positioned inside that office.

After many phone calls and much disbelief on the part of the mobile office movers ("We always make sure the offices are empty before we move them") we managed to retreive the chair.  Only now we have to figure out how to deliver it to the rental company, becuase they won't come out again to pick it up.  (Of course, they won't just let us keep it, either).  So it sits in our main office, hanging out with a sign on it that essentially reads, "DO NOT SIT on the $500 chair."


Cathy said...

That's seems really ridiculous. All that for a stupid chair.

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

How maddening! Glad you can find some humor in that silly, strange experience.

I have had some AWFUL experiences with furniture rental places. While I know they can't ALL be bad, this doesn't restore my faith in them at all...