The Brick reviews its furniture warranties: Roseman
By: Ellen Roseman On Your Side, Published on Fri May 10 2013
Bonded leather tends to crack and peel. The Brick's warranty covers new
furniture buyers, but previous buyers were excluded until we intervened.
The Brick is known
for selling low-priced furniture in about 200 stores across Canada. Its
salespeople vigorously promote a “blanket” warranty that covers everything that
can go wrong for five years.
But there are many
holes in the blanket warranty, especially when it comes to bonded leather. This
synthetic material, prone to cracking and peeling, can be less durable than
genuine leather when used in sofas and chairs.
The Brick refused
to cover bonded leather furniture until last November, when it changed its
extended warranty. Still, it turned away customers whose problems predated the
change — a state of affairs that was confusing at best, infuriating at worst.
After fielding a
bunch of complaints, I wrote an April 27 column about a customer’s victory in
small claims court. Hira Aggarwal won $1,500 spent on a bonded leather sofa
that was peeling on the headrest after three years.
I later heard from
others who had been fighting with the Brick for reimbursement.
Here are a few of
· Nancy Rondeau in Halifax bought a
bonded leather sofa, chair and loveseat. She didn’t want to get genuine leather
because she had a cat.
“Go forward three
years into the $350 warranty and the sofa began to peel. They said the damage
was because of cat scratches, which it wasn’t.
“I wanted to have
the $350 credited back to me if I purchased a new suite, but they said no. They
were friendly and helpful when they sold us the furniture and useless warranty,
but that only lasted until we left the store.”
· Tony Cammalleri noticed peeling and
cracking on his bonded leather sofa three and half years into his warranty, but
was turned down for coverage.
matching loveseat was perfectly fine, they insinuated the damage was something
we did and could have been prevented,” he said.
The Brick resolved
his complaint within a week. He now has a credit for both the sofa and
loveseat, which he can use to buy sturdier furniture.
· Pauline Sennett had been fighting
with The Brick since 2011 to cover rips, tears and surface peeling to a sofa
she bought in 2007.
“They agreed to
repair the problem,” she said, “but everything went quiet for a few months. They
were supposed to be ordering leather pieces from the manufacturer.
“When I didn’t
receive further communication, I wrote back and was told The Brick had
unilaterally decided to cancel the repair.”
She, too, was
offered a credit for the full purchase price. She was happy because her sofa
was part of a set — and her warranty ran out last year.
Arv Gupta, The
Brick’s new vice-president of customer service, has worked in similar jobs at
Sears and Canadian Tire. He said the decision to expand the blanket warranty
was a gamble.
“I’m not aware of
anyone in the industry that covers bonded leather. We said we’d cover it for
new purchases, but I’m a little concerned about that because I’m not sure if it
lasts for five years or not,” he told me.
The Brick has
grown so quickly that it hasn’t invested in a customer service infrastructure.
Each store handles its own complaints, he added.
“We’re trying to
set up a central call centre, but we’re right in the middle of everything,”
Gupta said. “The hand-offs are still manual because the system isn’t fully
process is too slow. We get 1,500 furniture warranty claims a week and we
aren’t fast enough,” he said. “But if older bonded leather complaints are
escalated to us, we’ll err on the side of taking care of customers.”
While impressed by
his honesty, I’m worried about a system that rewards salespeople for pushing
warranties while it’s difficult for customers to get compensated for their
As I said before,
always ask about the leatherlike fabric in furniture stores. Read the labels.
These items look like real leather, but the wear isn’t there.