1) The salesman, Kenny Musselman, came to our home on April 4, 2012. He showed us two brands of laminate flooring - and only two. Our German Shepherd and two elementary aged children were present during the "sales pitch."
2) We needed a laminate flooring able to stand up to the wear and tear of a large dog and family of 4, and Kenny told us the Estate living was "scratch proof." 5 people heard him say this and my husband asked him to clarify upon hearing this. Kenny Musselman told us that the flooring we were choosing would hold up to its 30 year warranty with our dog and children, and that it again was "scratch proof."
3) Kenny would not provide us with a breakdown of pricing as he said it was "all inclusive" even though we had called based on the premise of "buy one room and get two free." I also had $350 worth of internet coupons. Nevertheless, we were assured we were getting all of the discounts. [continued below]....
4) Despite worrying about the price because we were on a budget, we went chose to go with Empire because of the guarantee of the 30 year free replacement warranty and the fact that this particular laminate was "scratch proof."
5) The flooring was installed 3 days later. I immediately noticed small scratches on the floor once the installers left so I called Kenny. He told me the installers must have scratched it and to call corporate. I did just that and Jeff Emanuel (the installation supervisor) came to our house. His camera was broken so I took pictures with him standing there and then emailed them to him.
6) Upon receiving the pictures, a floor inspector (of their choice) was called out to "investigate." Not surprisingly, the investigator found nothing wrong with the flooring and stated it was normal wear and tear. (Mind you, we had had the floors for 3 weeks at this point). He stated "the scratches do not penetrate beyond the first layer of flooring, so the floor is working properly." Huh? Who sees the second layer of flooring? We see the first layer and all the scratches are present in this layer
7) After this, Andrea Plants from the local customer service branch contacted me. She remains the sole person to be friendly and understanding from Empire. We had several calls and emails back and forth, and then Tim Sherwin called me. He was supposedly from corporate headquarters, but he was obviously calling me from his house because he asked if he could put me hold because his dogs were howling so loudly in the background. Once the dogs were put outside, he continued his rude and hostile comments toward me and my family. He blamed us for the scratches (well yes, they were from my dog, my high heels, etc.) and took no ownership for the company installing a substandard product in our home and being lied to by the salesman, Kenny Musselman. Tim Sherwin is obviously Empire's "heavy hand" so to speak because he was very skilled at saying it wasn't their fault and he looked forward to seeing me in court and meeting my lawyer. Very condescending.
8) I called Andrea Plants and told her to have someone else call as I would no longer accept phone calls from Tim Sherwin anymore.
9) I got in contact with a lawyer who advised us on small claims court - but you can only get up to $5,000 there. That amount did not even begin to scratch the surface of what we paid in full (pun intended). Our Lawyer advised us to get in touch with the BBB at this point.
10) I also contacted the Better Business Bureau, which resulted in going back and forth over the entire summer with someone else from corporate. Every time I requested a name and number of a supervisor or a "higher up" I was told no. I was also told that they would replace our flooring - but we would have to pay for it. I told them this was unacceptable because we had already invented a lot of money in the floors, taken 4 days off work to accommodate the installation and inspectors, and the numerous products we purchased to try and clean the scratches off the floors. Needless to say we said no to all these offers because every one of them involved us paying more money.
11) Andrea then arranged for the installers to come and repair the boards that had scratches on them. It would have been my entire kitchen, but we only have 10 boards left over from the installation, so that's all that was repaired.
12) We had to take off work again to have the installers come, and they repaired the boards and the molding that was turning gray (it was not from Empire, it was purchased from Home Depot on the morning of the install).
13) Andrea remained in contact with me and got a $350 credit to our financing company approved. While we appreciated the gesture, it was a very very minimal amount compared to what we paid.
14) The floors continue to get more scratches on them every day. This amazing "30 year guarantee" we were promised is a manufacturer guarantee and Empire will not replace the flooring for us because the scratches are not penetrating to the second layer (according to the inspector they hired). We also discovered that the flooring is now made in China, whereas it was made in America before. This is perhaps the scariest fact - and we did not find this out until 2 months after the flooring was installed.
15) Since April 2012 (it is now Sept 2nd), I have been in contact with over 10 different Empire employees on countless occasions. The time, effort, money, and despair and disappointment we have had to incur is sickening. We have "been had" by Empire, and assume they have moved on to more and more victims/customers. As far as Empire is concerned, their $350 ended the dispute. I assure you, this dispute is not over because I will not be taken advantage of and lied to for profit.