THE FEARLESS CONSUMER- Swell solution: Counter claim gets results

When she decided to replace her kitchen countertops, Denise Benson chose Hicky's Woodworking Shop because her brother-in-law, who's in construction, recommended Hicky's "very highly." That was early April. Now, almost six months later, she still doesn't have what she ordered. 

Both sides agree that the employee in charge of the job incorrectly measured Benson's counter. He arrived with the countertop– which was in two pieces due to the counter's shape– on May 11 and had installed the first piece before he realized that the other wasn't going to fit. At that point he removed the first piece and reattached the original countertop. 

Both sides also agree that a correctly sized piece was ordered and that Hicky's agreed to lower the price. The employee returned with the new section on June 6, according to Benson's records, and everything seemed to be fine. 

"About two weeks after that," Benson claims, "I noticed the seam where the two pieces met was swollen and buckling up." She had to call Hicky's several times, she says, before one of her calls was returned, and she talked to John Wood. (John's wife, Cornelia Wood, is Hicky's owner.) 

Benson claims John said he'd "send someone out," but that "weeks went by" and no one came. Finally, in the third week of July, the employee who had installed the countertop came to look at it and said he "would tell the boss." Instead of hearing from anyone at Hicky's, however, Benson says she had to call "at least three" times before reaching John on August 10. 

By Benson's account, John said they'd contacted the manufacturer, who was on vacation and would return the following week. Once again, she was told someone from Hicky's would call her; once again, she says, no one did. 

Finally, she contacted me. I spoke with Cornelia on September 26, who emailed me a statement of Hicky's position the next day. "We do not feel that we are responsible for the problem," she wrote, "but would like to please this customer." 

Cornelia claims the damage was due to water, and says Benson had stated that "she did not clean her tops, but left that job to her children." The apparent suggestion was that Benson's children– who are 13, 16, and 17 – had caused "water saturation" in the seam. 

Benson adamantly rejects Cornelia's diagnosis, asking how wiping a countertop across the seam with a wet rag could cause swelling and buckling if the seam had been properly sealed. The seam is properly sealed along about half of its length, she says, and that section has not been damaged. Along the other half, however, she claims that she can fit a fingernail into the gap. 

Cornelia says that new tops were ordered in mid-September, which will be delivered and installed sometime during the week of October 10. Benson is cautiously optimistic that her long and frustrating saga may finally be nearing an end. 

Nurse-in won't happen

Two weeks ago I reported on Kristin and Brian Bell's dispute with the Regal Cinema on the Downtown Mall ["Let Down," September 21], which has stimulated spirited discussion on the "Discuss It" link to the story at

In the column I reported that the Charlottesville La Leche League (a breastfeeding support and advocacy group) was considering staging a "nurse-in" outside the theater in reaction to the theater management's nonresponse to the Bells' complaints. 

I'm happy to report that the Bells ultimately got calls of apology from both the local theater and the corporate office, and the nurse-in idea has been dropped. 

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer or write her at 100 Second Street NW, Charlottesville 22902.