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The legal ruling on which this is based was originally published at and is currently available at
In March of 2000, the Bulchers signed up to be members of UCC Total Home, which is the company now known as DirectBuy. These facts, taken from the court's opinion, indicate that DirectBuy repeatedly makes statements that either hide or conflict with the facts of this case, as determined by the judges who heard the testimony of all parties to the case. In spite of this, DirectBuy continues in operation.

The opinion is issued by an appellate court, and as such, it contains a summary of the facts of the case.

Item 1: membership fee

The membership fee charged by this particular franchisee, at the time the Bulchers joined, was $2490. This covered the first 2 years of membership. Under the terms of their agreement, they were allowed to renew for each of the next 8 years at a price of $159 per year. Renewals beyond that period of time would be at the prevailing renewal rate.

Based on the court's understanding of the evidence, UCC Total Home does not receive a percentage of costs consumers pay for products, and makes money only from the membership fees. (Whatever may have been the arrangement at the time, DirectBuy franchisees now charge a percentage of the purchase price as a handling fee.)

Item 2: operational procedures

As members, the Bulchers were allowed to come to the showroom, look through manufacturer's catalogs, and order products at the wholesale price. The products would be shipped to the showroom's shipping dock, and after inspection, the products could be picked up by members or members could arrange for delivery to their homes.

Item 3: the promised savings

The Bulchers were told that they could save "at least" a couple of thousand dollars on some kitchen cabinets they were interested in. They were told that they would not be allowed to join later if they did not sign on that day.

item 4: the actual savings

Subsequently, the Bulchers made an appointment with the cabinet specialist who had promised them the $2000+ savings. But the actual quote was only a $700-$800 savings from the retail quote that they had previously obtained.

item 5: the exaggerated savings

The cabinet specialist proposed a different line of cabinets, which, for the cabinets that the Bulchers ordered for their entire home, represented a 64% savings from the list price. Since, as the court pointed out, retailers may sell products for less than list price, these numbers cannot be directly translated into actual savings.

item 6: service after the sale

The specifications in the layout that the Bulchers had provided indicated that all the cabinets were to be 36 inches tall, but 2 of the cabinets were only 30 inches tall. While the dimensions are incorporated into the product codes, and those who are familiar with such codes would recognize this, the Bulchers did not have such a degree of familiarity with these codes.

UCC denied responsibility for the mistake of ordering the 30-inch cabinets, claiming that they had told the Bulchers that obtaining such cabinets in a 36-inch height would require the cabinets to be custom-ordered. And besides, said the UCC, it was not required to provide assistance to customers in placing orders.

item 7: the people

The court noted that the Bulchers were introduced to the "cabinet specialist" before they signed up, who was supposed to produce a quote from the layout the Bulchers would provide. Also, the membership booklet indicated that member service representatives keep current and knowledgeable on the products and services available, allowing members to "take full advantage of [their] shopping power."

However, the local UCC owner insisted that the only role of the member service reps was data entry, and did not include any actual advice to customers.

item 8: responsibility

The court found, UCC's statements to the contrary notwithstanding, it was UCC's error in ordering the wrong cabinets, and they were liable for the resultant damages.

item 9: decision

The lower court ruled in favor of the Bulchers in the amount of $2293. Not willing to let that settle the matter, the local UCC owner appealed. Although the appellate court ruled that the amount of the award had been calculated incorrectly, it upheld the trial court's ruling that UCC was liable for the ordering errors, for which UCC had attempted to disclaim all responsibility.


When the Bulchers signed on, they relied on the representations made to them about the savings they could obtain from a specific purchase. They must have been anguished to discover that their actual savings would be just a fraction of what they had been promised, and that they really had no recourse.

One can imagine that they at least hoped to make the best of the situation, but when the problem with the cabinet size arose and UCC would not take any responsibility, that was just too much.

Why else would the Bulchers have taken legal action that, even without having gone to appeal, would certainly cost substantially more than the alleged damages?

Therein lies the lesson of the Bulchers' tale. These people not only got stuck with the hefty membership fee, that offset some or possibly all of their actual savings, in the end, UCC chose to disclaim liability for any problems with the merchandise ordered, turning their experience into a nightmare.

So sometimes, you get what you pay for... and sometimes, you get a nightmare.

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Revision r1.2 - 01 Apr 2009 - 13:36 by EliMantel web search for EliMantel
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