Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Is It Ever Too Late To Pick Up A Special Order?

Dear Tazi:

Almost three years ago, I put some decorative hardware on order at a local, family owned hardware store. Because the items were a special order, I had to put down a deposit of 50% of the total cost of the merchandise. At the time I was making good money and had decided to extravagantly redecorate my entire home, so even though the hardware was rather pricey I did not blink at the cost. The items were backordered from the supplier for three months, but I felt the items were worth the wait.

During the three months I was waiting for my order to arrive, I was unexpectedly laid off from my high-paying job and my mother got sick and I had to use my savings to assist with her medical expenses. It was a rough three months. When I received the call that my decorative hardware had arrived, I was too embarrassed to tell them I did not have the money so I told them I would be in shortly to pick up my items, figuring I would save up for the balance owed and complete my redecorating project since the hardware I ordered was the finishing touch. 

It took me almost six months, but between what was left of my savings, my unemployment benefits, and a reimbursement check from the health insurance I did manage to save the $1500 dollars still owing. Then my car dropped its transmission and I had to use the money to pay for repairs. Fast forward through my long stretch of unemployment and low paying temp jobs until I finally got a job that comes close to (but does not match) my former salary and here we are today – three years later!

Tazi, I am very embarrassed about this whole situation, but would like to pick up my decorative hardware just the same. Do you think the store would still have it? I did make a rather large deposit on it. If the store sold or returned my special order, do they owe me a merchandise credit for the money I put down on the order? For the first few months they made several phone calls to let me know my order was waiting, but they never told me what would happen if I did not pick it up within a certain amount of time. You seem to be a knowledgeable kitty; do you know if it’s too late to pick up my decorative hardware or to get a merchandise credit equal to my deposit?

To Heck and Back

Dear To Heck and Back:

It does sound like you have been through quite an ordeal! You must also be in love with this decorative hardware to be willing to pay the $1,500 balance owing on it! Laws differ from state to state, with property being considered abandoned from anywhere between 30 days and one year, depending on the item. It has been my experience, though, that most businesses will not just take your money and run. They will hold onto the item for as long as possible, if storage space allows for it; try to sell the item, if there is interest in it; or return it to the manufacturer, often paying the cost of return shipping and a 10% - 25% restocking fee, all of which could eat up your 50% deposit.

I ran your letter by John M., an employee a local family-owned hardware store that has been in business for over 90 years (so they have seen EVERYTHING!). I was told that when a customer special orders something they do their best to honor that order. If the item was to be paid for in advance, they will hold onto it “forever” because the customer owns it, and they will do their best to make sure the customer is aware that it is still there, often calling months or sometimes years after the item has been ordered. John added that a 50% down payment is significant, and they will usually hold the item until it is picked up. As a hypothetical, he added that if the item was sold to another person for full cost, the original deposit should be honored if the customer wishes to reorder; however, if the price of the item has increased the customer will be responsible for paying the price difference.

It looks as though your chances are pretty good that your decorative hardware is still waiting for you! In talking with John, he reassured me that you should not feel embarrassed about your situation that these things happen. You will not be required to give a reason why you are so late in picking it up, so you need not fear anything. Personally, I think the store would be grateful that you have finally come to retrieve your order – in addition to the balance of the sale they will be getting back some very valuable storage space.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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