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Responding to a Collection Agency

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I asked a local jeweler who came highly recommended to fix a broken prong on my 100-year-old family heirloom diamond and gold wedding ring and replace six small emerald chips with 6 small diamond chips. The ring had been my grandmother’s and then my mother’s. I inherited when my mother passed and gave it to my wife as her wedding ring. When I took the ring in to the jeweler I told him how much sentimental value it had. We stressed that we wanted to retain its look and feel & style. Since their business relies on creating heirloom pieces we felt safe leaving it. We also showed them a 1980’s appraisal we had. They told me that they needed to replace all the stone settings which would be expensive. They never said they would change the style of the ring. They charged me $3,100, which I paid with two credit cards, one was $400 and the other was $2,700.

By reiterating the sentimental value that this ring held for my wife and I we fully expected that the jeweler would do their work with care and respect to preserve the integrity of the vintage aspects of the ring we had entrusted to them. When we got it back we were shocked. It was a brand new ring designed to look like the one I took there but it was done very poorly and cheap! On top of that they dipped the whole thing in rhodium so we have no way of knowing if there is any of the original gold either. They even remade the band too. 
 

We talked with the manager and explained that we didn’t like nor want the ring, we wanted it to be what it was and that we never would have agreed to what they had done. We asked him to remake it so that it was like the ring we brought to them.  He said that couldn’t be done and there was nothing they could or would do to fix it. Period.

We took the ring to another jeweler who had actually given my family an appraisal of it over 30 years ago and they said that of course they could have and should have retained the vintage look, or returned it to that condition on our request after we had paid for the work. They suggested that we do a chargeback with my credit card company, which I did. We didn’t do a chargeback for the $400 because we felt that it was the payment for the diamond chips that we still had. We did the chargeback for the $2,700. Eventually the credit card company agreed with me and returned my funds.

Now, we just got a collection agency demand letter to pay the $2,700 our credit card company returned to us. We have no intention of paying for work that destroyed the vintage nature and sentimental value of our ring. We do not dispute that we asked the jeweler to repair and make minor changes to our ring, but the work destroyed the vintage nature and sentimental value of the ring and the jeweler is unwilling to repair the damage, so we have no intention of paying for the work, other for the small diamonds they gave us, which we did pay for.

My questions now are:

1.   Should we send a validation letter to the collection agency as soon as possible? If so what should it contain and why?

2.   Should we tell the collection agency anything about the circumstances above that led us to do the credit card chargeback, or will that make no difference? In its letter to me the collection agency said that “this is an attempt to collect a debt, any information obtained will be used for that purpose.”

3.   Should we include in our letter to the collection agency language suggested by the Attorney General of our state to the effect that we want the agency to stop contacting us and that we are not going to pay the debt? According to the Attorney General, this request in writing should stop the collection agency from contacting us except to notify us of potential legal action to collect the debt, or that the agency will no longer be trying to collect the debt.

4.   Do we need to retain a lawyer and if so what type and when?

 

Thank you for any advice on these matters, Steve

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How much of the specific nature of the work was actually reduced to writing in the form of a contract and, OF THAT CONTRACT, what was performed? 

 

There are really two issues here and they need to be kept separate.  Any claim you have for damage will be one claim that will likely need to be resolved via litigation using competent counsel (in other words...don't try to go to Judge Judy or any other kangaroo JP court).  The other issue is the collections-related issue, which will rest ultimately on what was placed in writing. 

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Thanks. Nothing was placed in writing. The jeweler gave me a receipt for my ring, but everything else was done over the telephone. Should I simply respond to the collection agency that I have no intention of paying for the work and then contact a lawyer if and when they threaten legal action?

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