Things to do when a retailer won’t exchange defective merchandise

I was happy to see the new GenX store openning in the old Aldi location at 1315 Aubert Ave, St. Louis, MO 63113. My son has made many purchases from GenX Clothing over the past few years. However, my happiness soon turned to disappointment because of two negative experiences. I decided to use experience number two as a teachable moment to help others who may experience similar issues with this or other retailers.

  1. On May 31, 2016, I took my son to GenX at 7:40 pm, the store's posted closing hours was 8 pm. The guard was outside as I entered the store and immediately informed me they were closing in five minutes and that I would be the last customer to enter. While my son was making his selections, the guard approached rather rudely at 7:46 to announce the store was closed. My son made his purchase, but did not get everything he came for and we left. There were two young ladies knocking on the door as we exited. Understandably they were both upset that the store was closed 10 minutes earlier than the posted hours. A gentleman who was parked next to my vehicle  made a negative comment about the store closing early. As far as I know there is no law that requires a merchant to honor their posted store hours. However, one of the easiest parts of operating a business is operating during posted business hours. If you can't do that, you're doing it wrong. I had to go out of my way to visit this store that day and I'm certain other customers did too. The grand openning banner was still posted outside and it's sad that they were already providing sub-par customer service. I took my son to a different store the next day. 
  2. My wife purchased a pair of jeans and other items for my son at the GenX in WestFall Plaza, 8035 W Florissant Ave, St. Louis, MO 63136. The metal fastner button came off while my son was wearing them and later the zipper broke. On Saturday, June 25, 2016, I went to the Aubert GenX and explained I wanted to exchange a pair of defective jeans purchased at the West Florissant location. When I mentioned the defective jeans were purchased a few weeks ago, I was told they had a 14-day return policy. I explained I didn't want a refund, but simply wanted to exchange. I was told the jeans could not be exchanged. I asked to speak to the manager, who was not in, but they called him. I was told to see the manager the next day and that he would be in the next morning. Coincidentally, later that same day, I ended up in WestFall Plaza with my wife and since I still had the jeans in the car, I figured I would try to exchange them there; since that was where they were purchased. I was basically told the same thing, that merchandise purchased more than 14 days ago could not be returned. This time, I actually spoke with the manager and after debating for a few moments, I asked; so GenX doesn't stand behind the merchandise they sell? I was told matter of factly, "no they don't." This is a violation of Missouri warranty law.

Under Missouri law, there's no right to cancel contracts or purchase agreements. Therefore, whether you can receive a refund is dependent on the retailer's return and refund policies. See Missouri Merchandising Practices RSMO Chapter 407. Retailers are however, still bound by Missouri's implied warranty statute.

I returned to the Aubert store about 12:30 Sunday afternoon to meet the manager I was told wanted to speak with me, but I was told that the manager had just left. I left a note and a copy of relevant Missouri State Law. 

The law recognizes two basic kinds of warranties— implied warranties and express warranties.  Section 2-314 of the Uniform Commercial Code, which is law in every state but Louisiana, covers the implied warranty of merchantability. Missouri Revised Statutes 400.2-314 states, "a warranty that the goods shall be merchantable is implied in a contract for their sale if the seller is a merchant with respect to goods of that kind." See "Understanding Warranties" for more details.

A contract consist of three elements; (1) an offer is made, (2) the offer is accepted and (3) consideration (something of value is exchanged). In a retail environment, a merchant displays merchandise with a price (offer), a purchaser decides to buy (acceptance) and then pays for the item (consideration).

Implied warranties are unspoken, unwritten promises, created by state law, that go from the seller or merchant to their customers. Implied warranties are based upon the common law principle of "fair value for money spent"

GenX is a retailer in the clothing business, therefore the garments they sell are subject to the statute and come with an implied warranty. The statute does not provide a time frame for how long garments should last. The standard is ordinary or reasonable expectation which may be affected by the type of garment, the material and the price. It is reasonable to expect that the buttons and zippers even on cheap jeans will last more than a couple of weeks. When garments don't meet minimum or reasonable expectations they are defective and it is the responsibility of the merchant to replace or repair them. In fact, I purchased a pair of $11 jeans years ago from Kmart that I do yard work in and the button and zipper still work properly.

If you have a problem with a product that you think is the result of an defect, let the manufacturer or retailer (preferably a manager) know that you'll take failure to resolve your complaint as a breach of the implied warranty. If you don't get satisfaction, you may be able to assert your rights through a credit-card chargeback. Some credit cards have refund assistance programs:  American Express Return ProtectionDiscover Return Guarantee and MasterCard Satisfaction Guarantee are all return assistance programs, though they are not available to everyone. The card issuer decides which cards get the benefit. If that doesn't work, send a letter threatening legal action. You might need to file a small-claims-court action or consult a lawyer.

How credit-card chargebacks work

If you used a credit card for a purchase and have a problem with the retailer, you may be able to obtain a chargeback from the card issuer. Federal law grants this right under two scenarios: 

Billing errors

These apply to charges you didn't authorize; that are the wrong amount; for goods that were never delivered or delivered late; and for delivered items that were misrepresented or in the wrong quantity. To make a claim, write to your issuer within 60 days of the issuing date on the statement in which the charge first appeared. State the specific reasons you think there was an error on your bill. Some issuers extend this period, but don't count on it.

Claims and defenses rule

You can request a chargeback under the claims and defenses provision for any legal reason you have to cancel a sale directly with the seller, including if there's a problem with the quality of the merchandise (implied warranty). See: 12 CFR 226.12 – Special credit card provisions. You have up to one year from the statement date to make a claim. You must meet four requirements:

  1. The disputed amount must be over $50;
  2. you must be able to prove that you made a good-faith effort to obtain a refund or credit directly from the seller;
  3. you can dispute only up to the outstanding balance on your card (if your balance is zero, you can't use this provision); and
  4. the merchant must be within 100 miles of your home and in your home state.

While you're disputing charges, you can withhold payment for the amount at issue, but you must pay the undisputed portions of your credit-card bill to avoid late fees and finance charges. A successful chargeback won't prevent the merchant from pursuing you directly for payment, including in court, if it feels the chargeback was unwarranted. However, a claim of breach of implied warranty is a valid defense.