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Old 01-17-2009
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Need advice regarding compensation for stained sails

Hey folks.

(sorry if this seems a bit off-topic, not sure where better to post this)

I'm looking for advice on how to resolve being trapped between three companies, all of whom deny any liability or responsibility for damage to my sails, yet the bottom line is that my sails were stained by some recent covers I purchased, and I am of the strong opinion that one or more of the parties involved should reimburse me for the replacement of my sails (professional cleaning them has proven unsuccessful).

At this point, I prefer not to name names, as I'm hoping for an amicable resolution without having to "shame them in public" to do the right thing. I'm hoping someone might have some ideas how to break through the apparent deadlock that I find myself in and get one or more of the companies involved to "do the right thing".

In a nutshell, I purchased sail covers from a fairly well respected and successful sailboat retailer. The covers themselves were made by another company, who also seems fairly well respected, and makes lots of canvas goods for boats, and seems to have a pretty healthy volume of business. The fabric itself used in the covers is one of the most popular brands used for that purpose.

The construction of the covers themselves was first rate. I was initially very happy with the quality of the covers. All of the canvas was a deep forest green, not their most common color, which may or may not be relevant, and special ordered (my understanding is that they were all made from the same batch of material). Unfortunately, after only just a couple of months, my sails were stained green from the covers, one mainsail one genoa (stored on roller furler). Obviously, I was not very happy about this, especially since the genoa was brand new, purchased at the same time as the covers, and from the same retailer.

(for those who may wonder, no, the staining was not mildew or anything organic, but some kind of transfer of the actual color from the covers)

I contacted the original retailer, from whom I purchased the covers (and genoa), and they instructed me to return the covers, along with the stained sails, and gave me the impression that they would compensate me for the damages. I was about to move to Finland at the time, and the boat was being shipped, so in order to ensure it left with sails, we agreed to have two new sails shipped overnight via FedEX so that they would get to me before the boat shipped, and my credit card would be charged temporarily, as a security deposit, until they received the damaged sails and defective covers. Unfortunately, after receiving the covers and stained sails (and having my $$ for the replacement sails) they claimed they made no such promise and said all they would do was pass the issue on to the manufacturer of the covers, to whom they sent the defective covers and my stained sails, and that if I liked, I could return the recently ordered replacement sails for a refund, if unpacked from their original sail bags.

Since I (like most sailors) take pride in the appearance and polish of my boat, and I didn't want stained sails, and as I felt confident that the parties involved would be fair and do the right thing, I decided to wait and see how things played out. The replacement sails are still new, unpacked, in their original sail bags.

The manufacturer of the covers sent the defective covers and stained sails onward to the fabric manufacturer for tests (which took forever) and the fabric manufacturer concluded that the staining was due to abrasion, leaving green micro-fibers embedded in the sail material, and that their fabric was not defective and that the manufacturer of the covers should have included a barrier fabric to guard against such abrasion. Whether or not that is true, and no dye transfer of any kind occurred, is beyond my abilities (and finances) to verify, so I have no choice but to take the fabric manufacturer's word for it (noting that they are hardly an objective party insofar as the results of those tests are concerned).

So back the issue goes to the manufacturer of the covers, who firmly asserts that there was nothing wrong with their construction and that they sell hundreds of those covers and never have had any problems before. The manufacturer of the covers negotiated with the fabric manufacturer to have the fabric manufacturer attempt to professionally clean the sails. Although I've asked for details of what kind of cleaning techniques were applied, no information has been forthcoming, other than the assertion that cleaning was attempted. Unfortunately, there was no reduction of any amount to the staining. They did, however, return the stained sails to me at their cost, which was commendable (though hardly fair compensation for the damaged sails).

So now I'm stuck between these three companies, all refusing to take any responsibility for the staining of my sails, nor provide any compensation for the cost of the replacement sails.

The bottom line, however, is that somehow, somewhere, something went wrong with these covers and my sails are stained green. This is a fact acknowledged by all three parties.

I've argued to all three companies that it is unacceptable for an innocent customer such as myself to be trapped between their three companies in this manner and that the cost of the replacement sails, if split three ways (or however they want to slice it) would be far less a loss for each of their companies than the full cost of replacing the sails would be for me, yet I've had no further reply from any of them.

FWIW, although I am presently in Finland, all three companies are US companies, and the damage occurred while I was living in the US (Texas), and I am a US citizen, so I presume that US/Texas law would apply, should it come to that.

What should I do?
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Last edited by patrickstickler; 01-17-2009 at 03:01 PM.
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