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$1000 more than estimate

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I was planning to purchase carpet over the internet. I called a local carpet company and asked their charges for laying carpet. The owner stated that they passed on savings to the consumer, so I decided to go there and check it out. I was concerned about price from the beginning.

When inquiring about the total cost of the carpet, I was not given a written estimate. Instead I was told to take the total square yardage of the areas and add 10%. The owner indicated that there may be some extra for matching patterns, but references to this were minimized. She said the cost per square yard was $18.

In estimating the total cost, I took the total square yards – 65 – added 10%, and multiplied by $18. This gave me an estimate of $1,389.96, an amount which was within our budget.

When I returned home on the day the carpet was laid, I was shocked to learn that the total paid was $2,300. The total square yardage used to calculate the total was 108.5. The price was $18.95.

When I called the owner the next day I was told that I didn’t understand how carpet was measured. She faxed me the document used and had me talk to one of the workers who explained that the difference was due to the 12 foot width of the carpet. She denied telling me how to estimate the cost, saying that “adding 10%” was not even in her vocabulary.

I called the Carpet and Rug Institute and was told that I had reason to be concerned since the actual was so much different from the amount used to calculate the cost and that matching patterns would not explain the difference. At that time I called my bank and told them that the check used to pay for the carpet was in dispute and to put a hold on it.

I then sent the owners a check for the estimated amount + tax and stated that I would be willing to pay a reasonable amount for matching. I also told them they were free to pick up the extraordinary amount of carpet that was left over.

A few days later I received the letter and check in the mail. I returned it to them - expect to receive it again any day.

Does anyone have any advice? If they return the check I expect to be taken to court. Should I file in small claims court in order to pre-empt them? Will I be at a disadvantage as the defendent?



Plaintiff has the advantage in small claims court. P gets to talk first! File a small claims suit alleging overcharging, unfair consumer practices (lowballing), & fraud. Ask to have the bill reduced by $1,000. Ask the clerk if you can pay the undisputed amount to the court to hold in trust. Doing so shows the court that you aren't trying to get out of your obligations entirely - you're just disputing the extra $1000. Even if the clerk won't let you pay them, get his/her refusal in writing to show the judge, & open a special savings account for the undisputed money.

If you win, you get your costs paid by the carpet company. If the company sue you and wins, you end up paying the costs. A win for you is any reduction in contract price. A win for the company is any difference between the amount you offered to pay & what the judge awards them. Chances are, whoever sues first will be the "winner."

Nolo Press publishes a good book on how to win in small claims court. www.nolo.com

This is not legal advice and you are not my client. Double check everything with your own attorney and your state's laws.

[This message has been edited by Tracey (edited June 20, 2000).]

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