Showroom Samples and Contract Terms

Woodworkers debate whether showing a customer your showroom samples is enough to make clear what exactly you have promised to provide as your installed product. November 15, 2010

I sold and installed an enterior door and the color is coffee bean or espresso. Inside the cabs is finished maple color. The exterior door has two glass cabinets with a finished interior (same color as doors). Now the client says he thought all the cabinets would have the same color interior as doors. I told them cabinets come with maple interior unless you buy finished interior.

He came to my showroom and saw cabinets that I carry. Why would he assume that the inside should be the same color? I sold him a kitchen and they were maple interiors also. He says when you open the exterior units the doorsí inside color does not match the outside and it does not look right. These are not custom cabinets. They are from a big cabinet company and thatís how they make it. He wants me to take cabinets out or paint the inside the cabinets and he wants me to pay for it. I walked out of the job and he still owes me $2000. Any advice is appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor M:
Your customer has no right to expect you to do your cabinets in any other than your customary way if he has not specified a different way before signing the contract. This is normal business practice for all businesses. You cannot be held liable for whatever fantasy a customer has in his head about how his project should be done. You have covered yourself well by the fact that you showed him examples of your method of construction before the contract was done, that is, by showing him your showroom. All these facts will stand up well in court. Your first course of action is to explain all this to him and to say that you will file a lien on his property if he doesn't pay.

From contributor P:
I went through the same thing once with drawer boxes. I explained my position that natural maple is the industry standard, that I've never done matching drawer boxes, etc., etc. The project was for the customer of a designer who gives me tons of work. I bought new boxes and finished them to match the piece at my expense. I still get lots of work from that designer.

From the original questioner:
I would like to paint inside the cabinets but I will lose money.

From contributor T:
I have to disagree. It's not enough to walk someone through a showroom, and assume they know what you plan to use for materials and finish. These are basic features of every project that should be carefully specified in the contract. You've just the learned the hard way.

From contributor K:
I always specify in my contract the interior color because I give interior options that cost more than the standard. Learn to give options, how to up-sell and specify everything in your contracts. Then some nut customer doesn't have a leg to stand on.

From contributor N:
The best place to have the discussion with the client is in your showroom. You have to talk with him and get him to explain to you why he feels the unseen interior should be the same as the outside when all of your demo models aren't. What lead him to that belief?

You should be able to easily show him all of the examples in your showroom that support your side of the argument. Point out to him that if it was that important then he should have mentioned it prior to signing the contract. If it's not in your contract he should have still mentioned it. Really it's a case of him not being clear in his expectations and you not being clear in yours. If its not clearly stated then it's open to interpretation. A judge will side with you if you are responsible and give the client the most opportunity to meet you half way. Explain to him why painting is going to be ugly. Change your contract.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
As a preventive measure for such problems I have long added the following statement just above the customer signature line on our drawings: "any detail not specified in the drawings will be left to the sole discretion of (cabinet company name)".