Art Van warranty buyers out of luck amid liquidation
Dearborn — Signs at the Art Van Furniture still offered warranties Friday, but if you wanted one?
And if you'd already bought one?
The liquidation sale began Friday for the 61-year-old company, which announced Thursday that it was going under. Brothers Juwan and Rhazay Smith, 22 and 20, had purchased a $2,200 leather living room set a few months ago, and now they were in the market for reassurance — which they didn't get.
"We bought the Gold warranty," said Juwan, of Melvindale. In Art Van's three-tiered system, that was supposed to offer six years of coverage.
Instead, like thousands of other customers, they apparently have been left with nothing to protect them from the ravages of stains and broken springs.The same cashier who'd rung up their sale at the Fairlane Meadows store in December told them they had wasted $350.
"You got nothing," she said, "and I'm out of a job."
Spokespersons for Art Van and the private equity group that owns the company, Thomas H. Lee Partners, did not respond to questions about warranties. Repeated calls found only a busy signal at the warranty line, (888) 427-8826. And all day Friday at Art Van’s website, www.artvan.com, visitors got the message: “Our site is temporary offline for maintenance. Thank you for your patience.”
Attorney Doug Bernstein, director of the business department at Plunkett Cooney in Bloomfield Hills, had predicted the Smiths' predicament when he heard about the closing of Art Van's 190 furniture and mattress stores.
"The company won’t assume the guarantees because the company won’t have any assets to honor them,” he said, and even if pieces of the corporation are sold for scrap, “nobody is going to pay Art Van for the privilege of assuming liability.”
Bernstein said the liquidation announcement seemed both premature and peculiar. Typically, he said, a company would acknowledge problems, then seek buyers for its more inviting pieces before pulling the plug.
“Here, they destroyed the value,” he said. “You mean to tell me there’s not a single location turning a profit?”
The company had sold warranties of two, four and six years for furniture, marketed as bronze, silver and gold. The lesser protection cost $50 to $475 and covered “common accidental stains and damage.”
The middle level, $70 to $600, covered “all stains and a more comprehensive list of damages.”
The six-year package was priced at $90 to $800 and added “coverage for the structural integrity of your furniture.”
Each came with a lengthy list of exclusions and a furniture care kit, “a $79.99 value,” composed of an all-purpose cleaner, wood polish, leather conditioner, soy sponge and cloth.
Art Van promised to exchange all empty bottles for fresh ones, and Facebook poster Lynn Bahr asked, “How is this going to affect the free lifetime replacement of furniture oil and leather kits now?”
“You’ll have to buy Pledge,” responded customer Faris Qussar. “I’m in the same boat.”
“Gee where is our class action lawyer: so we can get the money for the pledge,” Bahr wrote. “I mean a promise is a promise for a lifetime. But Art Van’s Private Equity firm doesn’t know what a life time means!”
Art Van offered warranties on mattress protectors in 5- and 10-year increments at prices from $49 to $209.
Some furniture and mattresses come with factory warranties, and those should remain in force. Beneath a sign at the Dearborn store that said "All sales final" at the top of the escalator to the second floor was another placard that trumpeted, "All manufacturers warranties are in full effect."
As Bernstein noted, however, one of the economic problems the company blamed for its failure was tariffs on Chinese imports, “and good luck having a warranty honored on those.”