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Advice on an early charge


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Hey all! Well I have a situation. A friend of mine works at a bridal shop and found out the owner has been doing something that may be illegal. Basically, what happens is the bride comes in, picks out a dress and pays 1/2 down. The owner tells them that they don't pay the balance until they pick up the dress. The bride decides she doesn't want that dress or doesn't pick up the dress (whatever the situation may be) and the owner charges the balance due on the credit card that was originally used for 1/2 down. My friend wants to confront her boss and tell her this is illegal. Where does she start? Also- nothing was ever signed as far as payment agreements or anything like that... anyone with some words of wisdom? Thanks in advance! -Jenn

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I'm not sure that it is illegal. It does sound like it at first glance, but certainly the action of paying the first half (which I am assuming the buyer was fully aware was being charged immediately and did sign for it) for a product that must be ordered does commit the buyer to paying the balance when the product is ready. The exception might be if the order was explicitly cancelled, in which case I would assume the buyer would still be liable for whatever additional costs were incurred by the merchant from the manufacturer in getting the order cancelled.

I'm not a lawyer, but I'd say your friend's boss is simply being practical. He's not deliberately misleading customers into thinking they have the option of simply ignoring their order and not having to pay the remaining balance. Do you think that should be an option for them? To fix his statement you'd only have to add the words "or it sits unclaimed for [time period.]"

This isn't necessary because the law itself establishes the notion of reasonable performance. If the buyer doesn't pick up the merchandise after a "reasonable" period that is legally equivalent to accepting the product in whatever condition it is in. I'm very curious about why you might think this is unfair.

I'm confused by this comment:

Also- nothing was ever signed as far as payment agreements or anything like that...

Did the buyer agree to buy the dress?

Did the buyer offer a credit card to pay the deposit and sign some form of reciept at that time?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then that's enough of a contract all by itself. You don't need a lawyer and signed contract to buy a custom made dress.

If the merchant provides the opportunity (notification, a reasonable time period, access, etc.) for a buyer to come in, inspect the dress, have a fitting, make changes and all of that before being charged the final payment then what's the problem? He/She sounds quite responsible to me. I'm curious about one more thing. How long do you think the merchant should warehouse the dress for free waiting for such a buyer to show up before somehow disposing of it? (This is of course after he's already charged them the balance due on "pickup.")

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