Page 19 of the judgment states:
The plaintiff’s claims regarding the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign are premised on his interpretation that the sign is an unconditional and unlimited warranty of satisfaction to the customer, as determined solely by the customer, without regard to the facts or to any notion of reasonableness. The plaintiff confirmed at trial that in his view, if a customer brings in an item of clothing to be dry cleaned, and the dry cleaner remembers the item, and the customer then claims that the item is not his when the dry cleaner presents it back to the customer after it has been cleaned, the cleaner must pay the customer whatever the customer claims the item is worth if there is a “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign in the store, even if the dry cleaner knows the customer is mistaken or lying.
The judgment continues on pages 19 – 20:
A reasonable consumer would not interpret “Satisfaction Guaranteed” to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer’s unreasonable demands or to accede to demands that the merchant has reasonable grounds to dispute. To the extent that the plaintiff’s claims of unfair trade practices are based on his contention that the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” sign required the defendants to accede to his demands regarding his allegedly missing pants, despite the defendants’ reasonable belief that they had produced the same pants that he had brought in for alterations, those claims must fail.
Similarly, the defendants’ acknowledgement that they did not interpret “Satisfaction Guaranteed” to require them to meet any customer’s unreasonable demand does not constitute an unfair trade practice under any of the provisions of the CPPA invoked by the plaintiff.
Naturally, the defendants were entitled to costs, and have also filed an application seeking sanctions, including attorney’s fees, pursuant to Rule 11 of the Supreme Court Rules of Civil Procedure, which will be heard after the trial.
All’s well that end’s well, then? Not quite, suggests Olu Oguibe in an interesting post on his site, Frankly Speaking. He notes that the judge did not specify what about Pearson’s conduct was unreasonable, and suggests that the judgment is bad for customers and consumers. He argues that it was reasonable for Pearson to expect his pants back by the due date, and to get compensation for those pants if they were in fact lost. I think this is a good point.
As Oguibe notes, there was a kernel of a reasonable complaint in there somewhere, but it got lost because Pearson made his claims in such an unattractive, aggressive and totally over-the-top manner. It is irritating if something isn’t ready by the time specified. I drove to pick up some shoes the other Friday. The shoe repairer is about a half an hour drive away from my house, and not in the vicinity of anywhere I would ordinarily visit. With a small child in tow, it’s an expedition. Although they’d told me the shoes would be ready by the Thursday, they were not ready by then, or the day after. I was irritated at making the drive out there. But I’m not about to file a claim for $64M against them. It would be nice if they acknowledged the inconvenience, or even took a few bucks off the repair fee for all the petrol I’ve used getting there and back again, but that’s about all I’d expect.
Obviously, Pearson’s subsequent actions were unreasonable in the extreme, including the extraordinarily exorbitant damages claims, the claims for emotional distress and suffering and the car hire fees. But Oguibe is right: I think the judgment should perhaps have drawn the distinction between Pearson’s initial legitimate complaint and his subsequent extremely unreasonable complaints.
It’s a bit of a sad case. It must have been awful for the Chungs to have to go through the ordeal of a trial with very little merit. On the other hand, Pearson seems to be a bit of a sad character, who has become obsessed with his legal action and turned into a vexatious litigant (a la Bleak House). Pearson has already indicated he will appeal, of course. It’s a lose-lose situation, really.