Handling Storage and Damage Issues
By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
We all know stuff happens. From time to time some item we’ve purchased for a client gets marred or damaged. Whether the liability falls on you or someone else depends on the circumstances and what measures you’ve taken in advance to protect yourself.
Three things you should do before purchasing products for a client are (1) investigate and be sure you understand the vendor’s policy regarding shipping and handling, damages, and repairs, returns or replacements; (2) purchase insurance to cover any liability you have; and (3) stipulate clearly in your contract or letter of agreement what liability you have, up until the time the client takes possession of the goods, and what liability the client has upon acceptance of the goods. Most vendors ship F.O.B. (free on board), which means that their liability ends once the shipper or carrier receives the goods. For that reason, you need to carry your own insurance. In addition, it is crucial that designers carry an Inland Marine insurance rider on their Business Owner Package Policy so that items that are on approval or in transit are covered for their value rather than their weight.
To avoid frustrations with product deliveries, you or your representative should inspect all items when they are received at the warehouse, to verify they are in good condition and, if necessary, handle any claims with the vendor or shipper, before the goods are delivered to the client. For the same reason, someone from your firm should meet any deliveries at the project site, preferably in the presence of the client or their representative, to inspect the items and verify they have been received in good condition. You should have in place a process for documenting any damage so it is clear who is responsible for the repair or replacement. Handling claims promptly and professionally will help allay any concerns the client may have.
Care should be taken during the installation process to protect exposed surfaces from scratches, tears, stains, etc. for which you or the installer could be held liable. Also, before the end of the project, provide the client with care and maintenance instructions to protect against future damage, and let them know they can contact you if problems do arise. Regardless of who is at fault, it’s important that you stand behind the products you recommend to your clients.