The need to stand up for ourselves... Carolina Farmhouse - Lynn Fern

The need to stand up for ourselves... Carolina Farmhouse


Frustration.  My husband & I have been discussing if I should or shouldn't write this post.  You see I now have been called out by Carolina Farmhouse specifically Kelly Utt-Grubb.  Please see the below that the co-owner had written as a comment on my blog post.  My comments & response is in RED.  Please know that I would never feel the need to respond to this, but we feel that if we are going to be called out then we have a right to “stand up for ourselves” as Kelly Utt-Grubb explained in her blog that they were doing with all of the bad press about them.


Hi Lynn,

I'm sorry to see that you've chosen to discuss this matter publicly, but I do understand your feelings about this being part of your journey since your house fire.   I did write about this because it is a part of our journey..we've been through a lot over the last year.  

Over the past six-months, we have experienced a sudden increase in demand for our products that we had not expected or predicted.  We were not told about the sudden increase in the demand that would impact our furniture being delayed by you, Kelly Utt-Grubb or by Dan Utt, or even by Sam Utt-Grubb.  We have done our utmost to ensure as little a delay as possible to our customers, and we have taken a number of steps to streamline production as we learn and grow. I want to sincerely apologize for this inconvenience. I know you were very excited to receive furniture from us, and I hate that things have not worked out as we all had hoped.  Your apology, Kelly Utt-Grubb, is accepted, however we were never communicated to that there was production growth 6 months ago (which is when we placed our order) that would impact a delay.  On our invoice it says February 2013 completion (that is approximately 14 – 16 weeks lead time..depending on what week you deliver).

I am, however, disappointed to see you repeatedly (to the BBB and here) stating that you hadn't heard from us for months.  I hadn’t heard from anyone, including yourself, Kelly Utt-Grubb or by Dan Utt, or even by Sam Utt-Grubb from October 26, 2012 when I paid for our items until February 9 after I had sent an email asking about delivery.  I had actually sent an email on January 23 asking about our status & that we’d be moving in mid-February.  So actually that is months.  In that email from Dan dated February 9, it was that a piece of equipment fail  and things would be delayed for a couple of weeks.  

EMAIL FROM DAN UTT “I apologize it took me a couple of days to write back. It has been like a mad house around here. We are a little bit behind in our workshop schedule. We had a piece of equipment fail (our lathe that we use to create turned pieces like your table legs) and have not yet been able to replace it yet. We should have this remedied in the next couple of weeks, we're needing a specific new part, and then will be able to complete your pieces and have them out to deliver. I will be in touch letting you know more specifics as they become available to me.”  I never heard back from him until I then emailed him on March 15 to again check on status.  

More than a month had past.  Finally 5 days later I get an email from Dan Utt stating “I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. With recent growth and changes, Sam has taken over all of customer service. He is in our shop during the day so he takes care of that at night. I just spoke with him and he will be writing to you guys by tomorrow night. I just wanted to let you know :-).”  

March 21 came & went & we never heard from Sam.  I promptly followed up with an email basically begging for a status update. 

After this I had asked my husband to make an attempt to give you guys a call because by this point I was feeling bummed & frankly worried.  He called on Tuesday, April 2 and left voice messages on Dan’s phone.  You guys state to give 24 – 48 hours to respond.  My husband then called again on Friday, April 5 and left messages on Dan, Kelly, and the sales team voice mail boxes.  No one returned our calls.  He went ahead and followed up on the same day with an email.  His email was simply asking for an order update.  We again heard nothing. 

I followed up on Monday, Apr 8 with an email…the context of the email.

 “Hi guys, 
We've been trying to get an idea on a time frame for our furniture to be delivered.  I know my husband has called several times & has left messages on multiple voicemails.  This is after I have numerous times myself (this includes emails I've sent that have gone without a response for weeks at a time).

We've been pretty patient as far as this goes.  We paid for items on October 26 and I was clear that we'd be moving into the house in the middle of February.  That is a little over 3 months to get furniture completed.  We are now going on 5 months plus. 

Honestly I am a bit worried now because the communication has pretty much ceased & the reviews I've started reading online & on BBB is to say the least concerning.  Listen I am trying to keep things nice because while we've gone through a lot over the last year, we also appreciate without saying what you guys are providing to us, but that does not in anyway excuse anyone from keeping us up to date, and to provide our furniture in a timely manner.  Had I known that it was going to take so long to receive the paid for items, I would have simply looked elsewhere.  I just felt at the time very confident...not so much anymore. 

Our goal here is to keep things cordial.  I am asking as polite & nicely for a solution as soon as possible, if I do not receive a timely response I expect for this to be resolved by refunding our money.  I don't want to have to spread the word that the company that choose us as the July Farmhouse family hasn't followed through in an appropriate business manner.  I am sad & disappointed because I wanted nothing more than to see you be a big part of our story of a rebuilding success!”

Prior to this email being sent I had been reading reviews of what others had experienced is exactly what we have experienced. 

Dan Utt emailed me back that same day (Apr 8) to say this – “Hi Lynn,
I'm sorry for the delay getting back in touch. We were out of the office for the last five days. I have taken on some new projects, and as a result, I don't have enough time in my schedule to help manage building projects so Sam has taken over handling customer service. He works in the shop during the day and takes care of customer service questions and issues at night. I have asked him to get back in touch with you guys. He will be back in touch with an update by tomorrow night.”  The remainder of the email was defending you guys in what I was reading all over the internet. Plus don't you think if everyone is out of the office for 5 days voice messages on your phones should be changed not to say to give you 24 - 48 hours to respond, and an out of office reply for emails?  Otherwise I am expecting to hear back within 24 - 48 hours.  

Apr. 9 came & went and we did not hear from Sam Utt-Grubb. 
Apr. 10 I emailed stating we had no idea where we stood with our furniture order.  And, once again no response.
Apr. 12 I emailed – “I am reaching out to get a status on our request for our order to be canceled and to have our money refunded. 

I am beyond myself trying to figure out what to do to receive some sort of communication from someone at Carolina Farmhouse.  I keep getting the same give us 24-48 hours or that Sam will be in touch with us only to receive nothing. 

After going through the devastating fire, we've had to spend lots of our own money to replace & rebuild our lives.  We don't have the money to just be dishing out.  We need to move forward on getting a dining room table & an island specifically and because we paid you up front for items over 5 months ago we continue to have to wait to put this part of lives back. 

I am asking kindly to refund our money as soon as possible.  This will be my last correspondence to ask for the refund as we can't wait any longer.  My biggest question is how would you feel if you put yourself in our situation? 

Kind regards,
Lynn”

No one responded to my email.  At this point we felt that our only option was to pursue other avenues.  So, on Monday I filed a complaint with BBB as did many other people prior to me with basically the exact same issues.

I get a call from Dan Utt on Tuesday once the BBB complaint is received by you guys.  That was the first phone call I have received from him since October prior to us placing our order.  The voice message also stated that with the growth spurt from last year & then scaling down from all difficulties you’ve had getting in touch right away.  And the time you guys spent with us on the customer service side & all the stuff that Rob did for us that you guys had to pay him for (he was your employee at that time...not sure if he still is) and that you could longer to do the Farmhouse Families for us.  Let’s clarify this…. Rob put together a cabinet estimate for us.  This by no means obligates us to buy cabinets from you.   Dan also stated you’d be happy to fulfill our order but it would take some time to figure when that would be done.  

So if you have to figure out when our order would be filled, does this mean it was never started or now because we did file a complaint we go on the back burner?

I sent 2 separate emails – 1 on Tuesday evening after listening to the voice message and the other this morning asking for a status on our refund.   I finally after all this time get an email from Sam. 
“Hi Lynn,

Dan asked me to get in touch with you regarding your order. We do our very best to let customers know on the front end about the lead time uncertainty associated with handcrafting furniture. We even go as far as making detailed notations and terms on our order summaries regarding our no return policy and lead time estimates. That said, if you truly feel that you cannot wait on your order to be completed, we will accept a chargeback from your credit card company as full and final refund, however we cannot provide a refund any other way at this time. I hope that you will reconsider as the final product is well worth the wait, but if not then good luck finding pieces to meet your family's needs.

Best, 

Sam”

I replied asking what is the lead time? 

Sam’s response -

“Hi Lynn,

Dan did not give a date range on your order summary from us but did detail the lead time uncertainty in the stated terms. I am attaching a copy of that here. We have all met and discussed your order. We are all very surprised about what you wrote in your official complaint to the BBB about having had no contact after Dan had sent you a detailed explanation via email on April 8th. At this point, we believe that a business relationship with you all is not in the best interest of either party. Please file a chargeback with your credit card company and we will accept that as a full and final refund. We are good people working hard to make beautiful products for our customers. We explain ahead of time that sometimes things can take longer than expected with handcrafting furniture. We also were very happy to include you guys in our Farmhouse Families program. We are just shocked, that out of all of our customers, you guys would publish a false statement about us as part of a permanent public record.

At the end of the day, we always wish our customers well and we hope you guys are able to find furniture to meet your needs. Best of luck in your future endeavors. Again, please file a chargeback with your credit card company and we will accept it as a full and final refund of your order.

Best,

Sam”

On this PDF it clearly states February 2013 completion.  Hey that’s doable…I have been contacting you guys since January asking for a status, not one time did anyone say when delivery could be EXCEPT in the email from Dan on February 9 stating that in a couple of weeks when the equipment would be working, that our order would be out for delivery. 

You were contacted by us prior to publication of these blog posts and the filing of your BBB report, and your accounting of our business changes in your April 15 blog entry proves that fact because otherwise you would have had no other way of knowing some of the specific details you mention.  I think the above clarifies that communication was lacking. I am not sure of the accounting of your business changes in my April 15 blog would show that we were contacted by you.  I knew you were out of the office since Feb 25 working on outside projects due to the out of office email that was sent back to me when trying to contact you.  All of the other things listed are the excuses I was getting in the above emails I stated that I got from Dan each time I emailed asking about the status of our order.  You can see each time he responded there was always a reason/excuse as to the delay in him getting back to me.  And, each time we were contacted as stated in previous blog posts - our simple question "can you give us a status update as to when we can expect delivery" was never answered.  Not one email coming back to me has any estimated time frames, no one pick up the phone to call us to let us know what was going on...period...simple as that.  


I know you've told us that our responses did not satisfy you because we could not provide a firm delivery date, but that is a very different situation that what you describe.  I didn’t say that your responses did not satisfy me because you couldn’t provide a firm delivery date.  We had an issue because we couldn’t get anyone to give us an answer as to a status on our furniture...had it been started, can you give us an estimated time, or do you have a status update....a far cry from "a firm delivery date"...in fact we never once asked for a firm delivery date.  Had you simply picked up the phone & communicated with us that there is a delay….things would have remained good.  I even said that in an email – that I was trying to keep things cordial & that we were just trying to get an idea of a time frame.
I too hope the karma gods are looking down on this situation.

There are multiple other inaccuracies-- no one who ordered after you received a table before you, Maybe I am mistaken…I see a post on CF Facebook that a client purchase the Gathering Together Table in November 2012…we purchased our items in October.  I was under the impression that is when our order went in.
o     Here is the post - ***** removing the name of client…My Gathering Together Table that I purchased from Carolina Farmhouse in November 2012! I Love It!  Carolina Farmhouse response - https://fbcdn-profile-a.akamaihd.net/hprofile-ak-ash4/s32x32/373204_116874711714967_1328171854_q.jpg
Carolina Farmhouse Oh wow, ******, it looks gorgeous in your home! Thanks for sharing!
 and I have not taken a position at another company. Sorry I was told by the officer that you had & he hoped that this would help with the business aspect of things.   I won't point out all of the inaccuracies as I don't find it productive to engage in a back and forth exchange in this type of forum,  Oh please do point them out.  I’d like to hear them.  but I do want to direct your readers to our published policies which explain our business model and the lead time uncertainty that goes along with building furniture from scratch. Please visit http://www.carolinafarmhouse.com and navigate to both the Purchasing and FAQ pages from the footer menu located at the bottom of the page. There you will find the following:

>>>>>When you place your order, we'd love to be able to tell you the exact date and time your furniture will be delivered to your home, but the truth is we can't. Instead, we try to provide you with a reasonable estimated date range of when your furniture will be ready for delivery. We base this estimate on the total amount of furniture already on order with us and the current rate at which we're delivering furniture each week. February 2013 that was given to us in October was fine with us, but the truth is that if it is delayed beyond we had a right as a customer to know that which we were never told.

>>>>>Our furniture is not factory made: additional time is required to build and finish each piece to meet the high standards expected of custom made furniture. The estimated completion date range is the approximate date range during which the order is expected. We will do everything we can to get your order in a timely manner, however, we do not rush the build and finish process. This assures that your furniture will be built with the highest possible craftsmanship available. When all is said and done, we hope you believe as we do that the trade off for lead-time uncertainty will be more than compensated for on the day your furniture arrives and for every day after that. Again February 2013 was a reasonable time frame – that was 16 weeks from when we placed & paid for the order.  But, now we are 6 – 8 weeks past that without being told.

Information about lead time uncertainty was provided to you at the time of your order both verbally Dan never said to me that it could take up to 6 months to get furniture out to us.  He only mentioned that you guys are a small family business & in fact I specifically asked him about lead time.  Back on May 10 I have an email directly from Dan stating that “One thing to know is that, due to our made to order model, our lead time from purchase to completion is normally ten to sixteen weeks”.  With that being said, 4 months at the longest which would put us in the February 26 date, and if there was a delay that we should’ve been told about in February – that would’ve given us the option under the FTC to either continue on or request for a prompt refund! Let me just point my readers to the website - http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0244-shopping-phone-or-mail
and in the terms on the invoice that you clicked through to submit payment. Which just tonight I realized that you can click onto the PDF tab and it says FEBRUARY 2013 completion date…we are 6 – 8 weeks past, which again under FTC being that you had gone past our completion date, we should’ve been given the option to move forward or have a prompt refund made to us.   You were also made aware that we are a very small family business and that customer service response times would not be like that of a large established company.  If response times are not going to be like that of a large established company, why are you giving those calling in a 24 - 48 hour response time?  And, not to mention your out of office reply that came back to us states "He will do his best to respond to all inquiries within 1-business day", this is speaking about Sam handling customer service. And, I do understand but prior to me paying for our order I spoke to Dan often either by phone or email...from June 23 until October 26 there were some days we spoke either via email or by phone multiple times in a day, some weeks 2 or 3 times, and then it stopped as soon as I paid.  So, customer service response times where pretty high.  I still have all of the emails.  Purchasing from us is more like commissioning a work of art than it is like the traditional furniture buying experience.

I'd like to also point out the large number of very happy customers we have. You may find a collection of testimonials on our website under the Say-So tab at the top of the page.  That is excellent & I am very happy for you guys & I also stated that I believe there are happy customers out there, but you also have a lot of unhappy customers on BBB - http://www.bbb.org/raleigh-durham/business-reviews/furniture-manufacturers/carolina-farmhouse-in-cary-nc-90208871
And, with speaking to the officer in your town many people from all over the US have contacted them trying to get help. Oh and not to mention all of the complaints that were posted on your Facebook page that you promptly deleted.  You have control over allowing who & what to say things...especially if they are negative. 

All of that said, I wish you and your family nothing but the best in the future. I'm sorry that we were not able to meet your needs. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to respond here.  You are very welcome.


Kelly Utt-Grubb
Co-Owner, Carolina Farmhouse
kelly@carolinafarmhouse.com



On a good note my friends…It is Friday tomorrow!  I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend.  I have lots coming your way.  I built our headboard for our bed & it is ready to make its appearance.  I also finished the curtains & space so I can show those off as well.  I did no sew curtains & it was super simple.  
~Lynn

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