Expensive Carpet Disaster
There’s only one type of email I hate receiving from my readers: a plea for help when it’s too late. Last Sunday I received that type of email. A lady was emailing me because her new (1-year-old) wool Berber carpet looked terrible—a carpet in which she invested over $10,000. After exchanging emails, I realized there was little I could do to help at this point. The carpet was damaged and getting her money back was unlikely. The only value out of this story is I can share it with you as a lesson that even expensive carpets can be junk if you don’t pay attention to the details.
The email came from Australia. Here’s a copy:
Keep in mind, this was the original email. I asked her some questions to help her further, and she gave me her best answers. I’ll summarize these answers as necessary below. One important clarification is the carpet is a 100% wool, not a blend. At the end of the day, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do. So let’s check out what happened and what went wrong:
A lack of information and carpet education
This lady was the first to admit she didn’t have a clue. She went into the store expecting to get help and when she arrived, one of the employees was friendly and happy to “help” her. She was sold on an oatmeal-colored wool Berber—a very high-end and elegant carpet. Since the carpet had one of the highest price tags in the store, she believed the salesman when he assured her it would last her well over a decade.
As I emailed the lady back and forth, it became clear that a major source of her headaches with this carpet is she knew very little about it. I asked her questions ranging from specifics about the carpet to information about the warranty, trying to get a feel if this was a carpet defect or what her next step should be to solve her problem. Here are a few examples of questions I asked: Do you know the face weight or density of the carpet? Was it a BCF or staple fiber carpet? What type of padding? Is there a warranty? How long, and did you read the fine print?
She couldn’t give me any specifics on the carpet other than it was expensive, she was ensured it was one of the highest quality carpets on the market, it was made of wool, and it was a Berber. She didn’t know any of the details about the carpet quality regarding the questions above. And to be fair, at this point these questions probably didn’t matter much. I was trying to get to the root of the problem, but the problem was clear: she didn’t know anything about her carpet, and the retailer was fine taking her money and running with it.
It was clear that the carpet was damaged, so I asked about a carpet warranty. This brought up two issues. The first is the lady had no details about the warranty. She remembered one being mentioned but did not know who to contact. Typically warranties are through the carpet manufacturers, but sometimes it helps to approach the store from which you bought it first. I was able to help her here.
The second issue is the bigger concern; the warranty is likely already void. She explained that she thought it was for 12 or 15 years, and many wool carpets will have a warranty this long. But the time of the warranty isn’t the problem. Her problem is that these warranties also have detailed instructions on how the carpet must be cared for, what padding to use, etc. The store should have warned her of this, but it apparently did not happen.
A few notes on wool Berber carpet
The point of this case study is to show that paying a lot for a carpet doesn’t guarantee good results. but since we’re talking about wool Berber carpet, I also want to take the time to talk a little bit about this specific type of carpet (feel free to skip this paragraph if you’re not interested).
Berber carpets are woven in a very durable way. They are similar to a high twist carpet in that they don’t fray very easily. Despite this durability, Berber carpets are not recommended for those with pets or children. Claws and toys can snag the loops, and this can prematurely ruin the carpet. Similar, the rotating brush on a vacuum can catch and tear the looped threads. Berber carpets also usually require a specific type of padding to perform to their maximum potential. You can see why there is a lot of confusion on whether or not Berber carpet is durable; It is one of the most durable carpets in the right conditions, but it can be a disaster in the wrong situations.
The other aspect of the carpet is it is made of wool. Wool is the luxury of carpet fibers. It is very durable, and it is naturally hypoallergenic and stain-resistant. Wool requires special care. Harsh cleaning chemicals will destroy the natural properties of wool fiber, sunlight will fade it, and wool carpets absorb water so it must be cleaned with a low-moisture method.
What exactly went wrong
The lady’s lack of knowledge made it impossible for me to determine exactly what happened to the carpet, but I do have a couple of guesses. She said the store kept telling her it will go away in a couple of months. They were probably insinuating it is a staple fiber carpet; these tend to shed. The problem with this theory is that the shedding is something they should warn you about when you buy, and it should not last longer than 2 weeks; this lady has had her carpet for well over 60 weeks. In other words, this is improbable and most likely an excuse for the store to blow her off.
My next theory is that the brush on the vacuum tore some of the fiber on the looped carpet. It’s better not to vacuum looped carpets with a rotating brush. The retailer should have warned her of this. Unfortunately, “the retailer didn’t tell me how to care for it” isn’t going to work as a reason she should receive her warranty.
Captain’s parting words!
I received a different email about 6 months ago from a gentleman who was replacing a wool Berber carpet that lasted over half a century—that’s right, more than 50 years! The point I’m making here is that this lady from Australia’s carpet wasn’t a disaster because it was a wool Berber carpet—the devil was in the details. She did what 80% of other carpet shoppers do: went into the store hoping to find something she liked and assumed the store would be honest and educated about how long it should last, how to care for it, and give a fair warranty should any problems arise. Sometimes this passive approach works out. Many times it doesn’t. And unfortunately, here you’ve seen the bad end of the spectrum: $10,000 of carpet trashed in less than 2 years.
How do you avoid situations like this yourself? The Carpet Captain’s guide on carpet 101 is a good place to start.