The last thing anyone should worry about with newly installed carpeting is premature baldness. Susan Stern never suspected it even after her rug starting shedding the day after the Lowe's installers left.
"I noticed tufts of fiber sprouting up all over the carpet, which I clipped," she says, "thinking it was a fluke of new installation. The sprouting tufts continued, however, on a daily basis."
That was more than a year ago, mid-September 2011. Stern, who lives in New Hartford, purchased the Canyon Road carpeting by Gulistan Carpet from the Lowe's in Torrington. (To settle the raging rug vs. carpet debate, one industry standard considers anything smaller than 40 square feet a rug, anything larger is a carpet.)
Stern immediately called Lowe's, which sent out the carpeting manager for an inspection. The manager's reaction (we're paraphrasing): Omigod, the carpet is going bald!
Lowe's emailed the manufacturer pictures of the stray tufts. The manufacturer then sent out a tester, who determined the carpet, in fact, was not going bald. A year later. . . .
"Every day," says Stern, "I'm clipping fibers, and I'm not that fastidious. I'm afraid the whole thing will be bald very shortly."
After the no-baldness diagnosis, Lowe's offered a free installation if Stern wanted to replace the carpet. Stern, who paid close to $2,200 for the new carpet and installation during preparation for hosting her father's 90th-birthday celebration, passed.
"Big deal," Stern says. "Having already spent over $2,000, we decided to live with the tufts, hoping they would subside."
When they didn't, Stern had two apparent choices: a carpet combover or contact The Bottom Line.
"Almost a year later," she says, "I was vacuuming and realized I had left a pair of scissors on the counter especially for trimming the sprouts. I realized that for the price we had paid, and the quality we had expected, we had been duped. I knew that to a huge corporation like Lowe's, I am just one customer, but I felt violated."
Lowe's did offer its sympathy and a free installation of a replacement carpet, but Stern wanted more. After The Bottom Line contacted Lowe's, she got it.
Two members of Lowe's management contacted Stern, sounding "deeply contrite and concerned," she said. Lowe's also offered a full refund, both the carpet and installation costs, which is what Stern had wanted for more than a year.
"Lowe's stands behind the products and service we offer," says Lowe's spokeswoman Karen Cobb, "and, in the interest of good customer service, we've offered to resolve the issue for the customer."
Rewind a year and Lowe's appeared to be standing behind its carpet supplier, not its products. The manufacturer, Gulistan Carpet, says its carpets are " engineered with the strongest, most resilient fibers."
Bob Manuel, Gulistan Carpet's director of quality control, faults the inspection.
"The inspector said it was OK?" says Manual. "First of all, he probably didn't have the proper equipment. He probably just looked at it and did a visual inspection."
Manuel say a proper inspection would have included a sample of the carpet returned for testing in Gulistan's laboratories. Yes, Gulistan has laboratories at its Aberdeen, N.C., factory.
"We have an instrument," says Manuel, "that we can hook a little clip onto the end of one of the tufts and we fold the carpet over and put the ends into a clamp. Then, it's almost like a fish hook, we hook one of the tufts and then we turn this machine on and it pulls that tuft. It gives you so many pounds per inch of pull on that."
Manuel says Gulistan Carpet worked with Lowe's on the refund finally offered to Stern. Even so, Stern is more likely to shop at Lowe's, less likely to buy Canyon Road carpeting.
"I feel that the manufacturer of the carpet is at fault," says Stern, "but Lowe's has taken full responsibility, and I commend them for that. I will continue to shop at Lowe's with great pleasure."
Lowe's, in fact, recently installed another carpet, which so far has shown no signs of premature baldness.
"I am very pleased," she says. "I can't thank you enough for your swift intervention and solution to my 'carpet whisker' issue."