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MANDEL: Brampton furniture store guilty of ‘unfair practices’

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Almost five years ago, Goutham Nagolu saw a dining room set for sale on a Facebook Marketplace ad and went with his wife to Maple Furniture in Brampton to check it out.

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They liked what they saw and agreed to buy that specific set on display at the Torbram Rd. store, including six chairs with brass lion chair-back pulls and brass rivets. But when it was delivered, he said the dining room chairs had cheaper stainless steel instead of brass and the table had one leg two inches shorter than the others. 

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He said he was told they would be replaced — but then, radio silence.

“They didn’t even make an attempt to contact me,” recalls Nagolu, a real estate broker.

Nagolu said after countless unanswered calls, emails and a contentious confrontation at the store, they turned to Peel Regional Police, who advised them to make a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act.

“They always say nobody can do anything but we wanted to take our chances,” Nagolu says.

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Goutham Nagolu.
Goutham Nagolu.

It was a long wait, but this week Maple Furniture and its owners Kulwinder Singh and Harminder Singh Sandhu were found guilty of eight charges brought by the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery.

“In order to build the goodwill for a retail business, the business generally needs to keep its customers happy,” wrote Justice of the Peace Richard Quon in his ruling. “In order to keep a customer happy, most of us would expect that a retail business that sells furniture would deliver the correct item of furniture that had been ordered by a customer and that when the wrong item had been delivered, that the furniture store would then take back the incorrect item and replace it with the correct piece of furniture.”

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But according to the decision, that didn’t happen.

Another dissatisfied customer of Maple Furniture also lodged a complaint. On Jan. 1, 2017, Dahlia White bought a $700 bed for her son and a $2,800 bedroom set for herself on separate lay-away plans. 

“We would expect that when the customer completes paying the full amount for that item, that the store would fulfill its promise to deliver that item to the customer, as had been agreed upon,” Quon noted.

That didn’t happen, either, he said.

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After White had paid the full $700 for her son’s bed, she arranged for its delivery and took a day off work to wait for it. But according to the decision, it never arrived and she was told she’d have to pay more toward her own bedroom set. So she did and another delivery date was set. Once again, her son’s bed was a no-show, according to the decision.

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White testified that she was told she’d have to pay still more toward her own set before her son’s bed would be delivered, which she did. No delivery. She testified that now they wanted another $500. When she asked to speak to the manager, she was given an email address.

White said when her September 2018 email went unanswered, she turned to Consumer Services and filed a complaint. According to the ruling, Maple Furniture then called to offer a deal — she’d get a store credit for the $400 she overpaid for her son’s bed if she signed documents that her complaint had been resolved. She told them she wasn’t signing anything until the bed was delivered.

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Not surprisingly, White said it didn’t arrive so in January 2020, White emailed Maple Furniture, cancelled both furniture orders and requested her money back. According to the decision, she never got it.

After an investigation, the ministry laid charges under the Consumer Protection Act and a trial was scheduled for last October. White and Nagolu testified; no one from Maple Furniture showed up.

The owners weren’t available to comment but a store salesman named “Gary” said they didn’t know anything about the court case. “Maybe we missed the date, that might be the reason against us, for default against us,” he said. “We don’t have any notice of this going on.”

The justice of the peace found the company and its owners guilty of unfair practices and of failing to refund White’s $1,100. According to the ministry website, they face a maximum fine of $50,000 as individuals and $250,000 for their corporation.

It was a decision welcomed by Nagolu. “Finally,” he says. “It’s definitely good news.”

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