There’s a funny smell coming from my new La-Z-Boy sofa — can I get a refund?

Sofa, reinterpreted. / Photo by A. Golden – Flickr Creative Commons
Question: We recently bought at Gavin La-Z-Time reclining sofa in performance leather from the La-Z-Boy furniture galleries in Greenfield, Wis. The sofa looked great when they delivered it.

But within a few hours we noticed a putrid odor. The best way to describe it is a rotten dead animal smell with toxic undertones. My husband and I developed terrible headaches for the next few days and started developing sinus problems. I also have a serious concern as I have cancer in my sinuses, head, and lung and was afraid the fumes would irritate the cancer even more.

About a week later, I called the store and asked about the odor and if there was anything we could do about it and a representative said the smell should go away in a few days. We could no longer tolerate the odor so we moved the sofa into a different room to let it air out. That didn’t work.

A few days later, I emailed La-Z-Boy customer care and told them about the problem. Someone left us a phone message the next day, but did not leave a phone number and their name was not audible on voicemail, so my husband called customer care back. They told him that they would send a person out to our house to evaluate the problem.

The next week, a representative visited us, told us to fill out a bunch of paperwork and asked us a few questions. He said all he could smell was baking soda. We found that odd because baking soda does not have an odor. We have had several people in our home and they all can smell the odor. Our small four- and seven-year-old grandchildren don’t even want to go out in the room because it smells “yucky” in there.

La-Z-Boy has offered us store credit for the sofa, but they don’t have anything else that we want in the story. Can you help us get a refund? — Vicki Olszewski, New Berlin, Wis.

Answer: La-Z-Boy should have either quickly replaced your foul-smelling sofa or offered you a full refund. Instead, you seem to have gotten the runaround from the company.

La-Z-Boy doesn’t have a company-wide refund policy. Instead, its refund rules are set by each dealership. So it would have been up to the Greenfield store to decide when and how to replace your sofa.

The part of your story that troubles me the most is the exchange between you and the representative who visited your home. If I had a buck for every time an employee told me there was “nothing wrong” with a product I believed to be faulty, I’d be part of the 1 percent. And if I had a dollar for every time something turned out to be wrong with said product — I’d still be rich enough to quit this journalism racket.

Even if your furniture dealership has a strict no-refunds policy, it should stand behind its products instead of telling you something is wrong with your sense of smell. To me, that’s not good customer service. It’s more like bullying you into keeping a flawed product.

If you were as unhappy with that resolution as I am, you could have contacted someone higher up at La-Z-Boy. If you’re not getting anywhere through the “contact us” feature on the website, try someone higher up. Email addresses at La-Z-Boy are [email protected]

I contacted La-Z-Boy on your behalf. It offered you a full refund for the sofa, minus $262, which covered the delivery fee, the Guardsman fee and applicable taxes (the delivery and Guardsman fees are paid to third parties). La-Z-Boy is also waiving the restocking fee.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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