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The ruling in Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co should be in favor of Williams.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/8/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 305 times Debate No: 54279
Debate Rounds (4)
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1. Walker-Thomas Furniture Store sold furniture on a Lease to Own basis in the District of Columbia. (511.1.1)
2. Williams a regular customer for the past 5 years purchased a number of items from Walker-Thomas Furniture store. (511.3.3)
3. The furniture company has full knowledge that Williams, had 7 children, was was also receiving government assistance. (512.1.8)
4. A monthly public assistance stipend was given to Williams in the amount of $218.00 (513.1.7)
5. The furniture store took advantage of Williams conditions with their store policy that indicates that if she defaulted then all items purchased can be repossessed . (511.1.5)
6. Bargaining Power was always in favor to the Furniture Store because Williams always had an open balance to to high interest rates and service fees. (511.2.2)
7. Prior to Williams purchasing the stereo she had a balance of $164.00 (512.1.3)
8. Williams purchased a stereo set valued at $514.95 and defaulted on payments and store owner sought to repossess all items bought since 1957, that is 5 years earlier which is grossly unfair and unconscionable. (511.3.4)
9. The furniture store policy were not fair and took advantage of general public who cannot afford items they cannot afford to pay cash. (512.4.1)
10 Due to the fact that the contract was one sided and Williams did not understand that if she defaulted she stands to loose all items purchased from beginning date, the element of Unconscionability is present at the time the contract was made. (512.4.2)
11. Therefore the contract that was made between Williams and Walker-Thomas Furniture Store was unconscionable and not in good standing. Williams had a balance of $164.00 before purchasing the stereo and all her purchases add up to only $1800.00 The amount to be collected in total by the Furniture company was $14,0000.00 How can one say that this is a fair bargain and that both parties were benefited equally. (153.Notes.1)

Unconscionable contract should not be enforced because these contracts are not created to serve both parties equally. As shown above, only the Furniture store have profited from having this contract. How can taking advantage of those who are on Relief Income, have no credit and are on Public assistance helping those of lesser means. It seems that the Furniture Store portrait that they are helping those of lesser means however, when it comes down to the facts they are actually manipulating the general public and taking advantage on them. For the reason listed above unconscionable contract should not be enforced.


1. Walker Thomas Furniture Company operates a retail furniture store in the District of Columbia (511.1.1)
2. During the period from 1957 to 1962 Williams purchased a number of household items from Walker Thomas Furniture Co. (511.1.2).
3. Upon purchasing these items, Williams entered a contract.
4. The contract stated that title of the items would remain in Walker-Thomas until the total of all monthly payments made equaled the stated value of the item (511.1.4)
5. The contract then continues to state that in any event of a default in payment of any monthly installment, Walker Thomas has the right to repossess the item (511.1.5)
6. Williams did not complete her payment of her previous purchase therefore Williams was still entitled to repossess the item that were under her contract even if meant taking items purchased five years ago because they still weren't paid off (511.1.1 & 512.2.2)
7. As a result, the debt incurred at the time of purchase of each item was secured by the right to repossess all the items previously purchased by the same purchaser and each new item purchased automatically became subject to a security interest arising out of the previous dealings. (511.2.3)
8.Williams was aware of the contracts and her responsibility to support, feed and clothe seven children and herself on a government stipend of $218.
C. Therefore, the agreement made between Walker-Thomas and Williams was not unconscionable and Williams was aware of the contract she was entering and the conditions they were under (513.5). The court should uphold the contract.

Williams was well aware of her debt and chose to buy a stereo that was not an essential item to her everyday living. Walker Thomas should not be held accountable for Williams's decision to buy a stereo that was well far from her financial resources. Williams did not enter this contract under any duress or coercion. It was on her own will. Williams was well aware of her contract and knew the consequences that follow. She knew she was responsible to feed, clothe and support seven children and herself and only depended on government assistance. Williams had a prior relationship with the company when she bought an item in 1957 , this would have been her second time purchasing with the same agreements. How is that unfair? If she knew in details what the contract consisted of. Williams was customer for five years which can presumably mean she knew what the contract covered and what will happen if she failed to make her monthly installment payment. Walker Thomas Furniture Co. was questioned by his decision of selling the stereo to Williams, whom had knowledge that Williams was solely dependent on a government stipend of $218 but they did question her necessity to buy the stereo?
Although, Walker-Thomas knew her financial income, it was not their job to turn down a client who wanted to purchase a stereo. It's their job to sell. Would you expect a sales person to automatically turn you down if you were willing to buy an item from them?
The contract specifically stated that at any event of default payment Walker- Thomas had the right to repossess the items back. So, how is the company taking advantage of Williams by repossessing the items that she defaulted to pay?
You say the contract was unconscionable. What do you define unconscionable as? Both parties had knowledge of the contract. How was it a one-sided contract? Was it unconscionable because Williams lost everything she didn't pay for? Was unconscionable because Walker-Thomas followed what the contract stated he was entitled to do?
Debate Round No. 1


I do understand that Furniture company is there to make a profit, and they are supplying the general public with items they may want and need. The way the Furniture chooses to operate his business is a bit shady and the company's policy is set up to manipulate the customers into thinking that the Store is working to help them acquire said items but in the end the Store is really scamming customers out of whatever little money that they may have and also to repossess the items should they default.
The store made its policy on the fact that the customers do not understand, or that they lack education, monetary means and also knew that Williams was a customer on a low budget. The Store chose to service customer on low budget for a number of reasons:
1. The Store portrait itself as a Vendor that is trying to work with its customers who are having difficult;ties purchasing items for cash.
2. They established their business to target low income clients who will default of items and they can both collect the money and reposes items.
3. Williams total value for items purchased was $1800 however the total amount to be paid was $14,000 how can this practice be fair.


According to you, the way Walker-Thomas Co. make contract is "shady"? Define shady. What makes it shady to you? You also state that the company's policy is set up to manipulate people. How? How the company policy is is set up to manipulate their clients? What exactly in this policy or contract makes it manipulative?

As I stated before, these clients are not first time buyers. For instance, Williams knew what the contract entitled, there was no manipulation there nor a gray area for Williams to misunderstand what she was entering herself into. You may believe that Walker-Thomas is taking advantage of his clients with his contracts but in reality he is giving them a way to get the items they desire at a reasonable proposition that will help both parties. Walker-Thomas gave them the option to enter the contract, pay their monthly payment AND take the item they wish home the same day they entered the contract. Where have you seen a person that wants to take advantage of others do that? Walker- Thomas could've demanded for Williams to pay her items on the day she picked them out. He had many options as on how to run his business and how he"ll like to structure his payment plans.

You said scamming their customers. Define scamming for me, what it means to you? How is the Walker-Thomas Co. scamming their customers when they initially benefited from this contract? Williams had immediate access to the items of her choice and Walker-Thomas gained some type of monetary resource from this contract. That is how contract works, correct?

To my understanding what you're stating is that the company is deceiving their clients to believe they are there to help them with their needs but in reality they're taking the small amount of money they have left and repossess items they've defaulted on. These clients that you believe are being deceived were given a contract. In this contract it goes in detail that any item that has not been paid in full, it is still in Walker-Thomas name (511.1.4).

In your argument you mentioned that Walker- Thomas Co. makes their policy difficult for their customers to understand, that they lack education and or have low monetary means. How would you know that? What makes you believe Williams or any other client was unable to understand the contract or policy that are to be followed by them or that they lack education? Are you stating they are not fit to do any contract due to no education background? That alone would be unfair for anybody to be turned down. What are you trying to implying by monetary means? The contract is made for those who lack monetary means? Or that the contract is made to confuse those with low monetary means? If so, how is that relevant? How is their monetary means a responsibility to Walker-Thomas Co.? The contract is not made specifically for one client, is a general contract. However, if you are trying to imply that the contract is made for those with low monetary means, you"re right. It may not be specifically for them but they are the ones who can benefit the most from it. A contract in this case is like what we now call "Lay " Away" or "Rent-a- center". Depending on each stores conditions, you are able to pick the items you desire and make a monthly or weekly payment until the items are paid off. Walker- Thomas are helping those with low monetary means be able to buy what they want at a reasonable condition.
The fact that the Walker-Thomas Co. knew Williams had low income is not his responsibility. If that"s the case he would have to turn down a lot of his clients because we can"t presume that Williams is the only client they have with low monetary means. Let"s say, for example if Walker-Thomas Co. was to turned down Williams because her low monetary means that would"ve created another issue and probably would"ve been taken to court for not being fair and discriminatory. Don"t you think?

The reasons you gave for why does the company service "low budget people" are a bit vague. We can only assume Walker-Thomas Co. only offers customer service and sales to low budget people.
1.However, you"re correct they do work with customers and help them come into an agreement on how to pay their items. Of course these items are going to be paid in cash. How else would you expect them to pay for their items? With other used items? How is that going to work for both parties?
2.How they target low income clients? According to you how does Walker-Thomas Co. know who will default in making their payment? How would he know who to target to repossess his items that are already being used and probably looked worn out ?
3.Williams total value was $1800 however, the interest on her items rose up to $14,000. Similar to a credit card, you make a purchase, you don"t pay the amount right away so you end up paying a certain percent of interest on the balanced owed. Is fair because she was aware of this.
Debate Round No. 2


According to your argument, Williams signed a contract and that's the end of it. She should be faced with the consequences if she failed to make her payments. The contract that only benefits one party is very one sided and unconscionable. Such contracts must not be enforced. As stated before Williams only had a balance of $164, she was in good standing with her payments and when she purchased the stereo, she defaulted. The contract stated that because she had a balance of $164 from her beginning purchased and defaulted then all of the items purchased can be repossessed. This is not acceptable.

Contracts are essential in our every day dealings however there must be a balance between both parties. Though the Furniture store is providing a service where, they offer their customers a rent to own because they do not have the funds to buy product in full, or they lack credit to purchase other items. The discretion that the Furniture store is offering to the customers, is a bit manipulative. And I know, you will say how is this so? Their sole discretion is taking advantage of a situation that is already set up for the customer defaulting. At the time the customers thinking that this is a good deal because this is all that they can afford. However it is a system that is made to trip them and make them default thus loosing all their money and items paid for.

This contract is not unconscionable and therefore must not be enforced. You argue that this is the same scenario with individuals with credit card. I do not see that. Credit Cards Bank do not issue cards to anyone. You must have a Job and reasonable income and also a good credit. None of these criteria are available to the clients that support Furniture store. The furniture store charges a high and obscene interest rate. Hence we can see from the $1800 total value of items purchase and the total amount to be paid was $14,000.00

Based on that amount how can you claim that this contract was not unconscionable? From our readings on Formalism we can see that though some judges will stick to the law and uphold the contract. As they did. When the case was appealed, the ruling in favor of Willaims showed that other factors must be taken into consideration and companies taking advantage of those who do not understand contracts must be stopped.


I'm not saying Williams signed a contract and that should be the end of it. What I'm saying is that Williams signed that contract on her own will and was not under no duress or coercion during the time she signed it. She had the option of not signing the contract and not getting the stereo until she paid her other item in which she owed $164. You say the contract is one sided because Walker-Thomas Co. had the legal right to gain what was rightfully theirs because Williams defaulted in her payments. Rights that she knew through the contract. She has made purchases with him before. You state that this should be unacceptable but why should it be acceptable for her to buy an item she couldn't afford? Why should it be acceptable for her to purchase an item she didn't need? Why should it be acceptable for her to buy an item she couldn't afford? As Posner would say, Williams is a rational maximizers of her satisfaction (129.2.1). What Posner considers a rational maximizers would be someone who satisfies their every need/ desires in all of their choices, with the exception small children and profoundly retarded (129.2.1). Why isn't Williams questioned for actions, if she's rational and has conscious on what she is doing.

Once again you claim that the Walker-Thomas Co. sets up the customer. Walker- Thomas Co. sets up a situation in which the customer is set up to default. How is that possible? How can he categorized or imagine who is going to default? There is no way in finding that out. He can set up contracts with people who can afford the items right away but rather set up a payment plan, how would that be setting them up if they have the financial sources? I don't see how the company itself is deceiving its customer to repossess items that are already used. Who is to know that Walker-Thomas Co. had contracts with people whom had the financial resources to pay their debt right away but instead selected a payment plan. How is it a system that makes them "trip" and default? I would agree with you if Walker-Thomas Co. had no contract and were only following a verbal agreement and later switched the agreement because it is not written and it would be the word of the company against the customer, but that is not the case. Williams like every other customer whom entered a contract, voluntarily, are given the contract with details on how it is going to work until the items are paid off and under their name. If the customers lost their money and items it should be their responsibility because they should be aware of their financial resources. People know what they can afford and what they can't. Why would you buy something that is not essential for you or your immediate family? So, in your perspective Walker-Thomas Co. should be held responsible for the customers irresponsibility of making their payments?

You're right, credit cards are issued by banks. Banks that have far more sources than Walker-Thomas Co. does. Banks have sources that are able to tell the smallest yet most important detail of your life before handing you a credit card. However, Walker-Thomas Co. doesn't and therefore he can't be able to tell who will default in payments , what are their financial sources throughout the year or employment history. Do you expect for the company to interrogate every customer that comes in about their personal information? Some customers like sharing their personal information but others don't and may find it disrespectful or out of line.

The court of Appeals may have agreed with you and ruled in favor of Williams. However, the circuit judge agreed with me and stated that his view was thus summed up by an able court which made no finding that there had actually been sharp practice and Williams seems to have known precisely where she stood (513.4). Court of Appeals had no precedent to compare and contrast with this case. There are have never been a case like this before and presumably the judge just has the same perspective as you and made a decision.
Debate Round No. 3


Walker-Thomas Furniture Store and Williams entered a contract where Williams would purchase items and would pay in installments. They entered an agreement and from the text within the contract there are phrases that one cannot understand. The contract says that "the periodic payments made by purchaser to the Company under this present lease shall be inclusive of and not in addition to the amount of each installment payment to be made by purchaser under such prior lease, bills or account and all payments shall be credited pro rata on all outstanding leases, bills and accounts due" (511.2.1) What does that mean? The text and content within the contract was written to mislead the customers. If a customer does not understand the contract, how can the contract then benefit both parties? This contract was unconscionable because as stated before it only favored the Furniture Company.

Another factor that makes this contract unconscionable would be the fact that Williams on Government assistances programs and the Furniture company having full knowledge of this, and the amount she receives a mere $218.00 and that she had 7 children to support. The Furniture store still lease her the stereo. The Furniture in good sense knew that she would default of the contract. The main point that they knew her background and her financial situation made it an unconscionable act on the Furniture Company.

From the reading Unconscionability and Contracts, it clearly states that the inequality of Bargaining Power in contract is unconscionable and therefore must not be enforce. (495.3.1) The actions of the Furniture Store proved and they showed that even though they knew that Williams could not afford the Stereo they still sold her the item, that had a $164 balance. If the Furniture Store was a good business, why not wait until Williams paid up her $164 balance and asked her to come again to purchase the stereo. Walker-Thomas Furniture Store knew the customer background and still sold her the item knowing that she will default because she was currently on Government assistance and that he had 7 children to support. Wioth any other company they would have refused her the sale of item and asked that she return when she is a bit more financially stable.


You assume Williams did not understand the contract, however she still had the ability of adding her social worker on the contract. For what purpose? If she didn't understand it, she had two options. One would be to come back with her social worker since she added her on the contract to explain to her what is being said in the contract. Her second option would've been for her to not enter a contract she was not "understanding". How can you possibly say the contract was created and set up for customers to be misled? In other words because Williams failed to do her own due diligence and find out what the contract entitled and you assume everyone who buys in Walker-Thomas Co. does not understand the contract? As I stated in my previous arguments, the contract was conscionable because the contract is not made for anyone to default, doesn't matter their financial resources, their employment, etc., is a general contract to keep everything in black and white. Walker-Thomas Co. nor any other company have the time to profile every single one of their customers. They could ask questions to uncover their initial need but that does not mean they are supposed to turn down anyone or change their contract for a specific person.
Your second argument is that Walker-Thomas Co. is unconscionable for making a contract with a person whom was dependent of a government stipend of $218. Aside of being a government dependent citizen, she had to support, clothe and feed seven children and herself. According to you this is unconscionable because Walker-Thomas Co. knew this and her financial situation. But what I don"t seem to understand is, why buy a new stereo when she only owed $164? You questioned Walker-Thomas Co. conscious but do you question Williams? It is not the company responsibility to feed and support those seven children, is hers. Do you really expect for any company to turn down a client who is willing to exchange their money for an item they desire? You question the company"s good sense, but where is Williams good sense then? Williams had a number of options to choose from instead of getting herself into a binding contract agreement, which had consequences if broken. To summarize my point for your argument is that the company shouldn't be held responsible for something Williams should"ve considered before entering a contract. She was aware of the contract, even her social worker name was added somewhere into the agreement. Walker-Thomas Co. was handling a business not a financial counseling center for his clients.
You are repeatedly saying is unconscious. But why? Besides the fact that Walker-Thomas Co. knew Williams financial situation and the fact she only owed $164 in her previous purchase and they let her buy a stereo of her choice. What else is there? I wouldn't"t consider it unconscionable because as I said before, the company are there for their reasons. They do not have to do anything besides keep business running and provide customer service. Williams on the other hand could"ve paid her $164 balance and wait until she was stable enough to buy her stereo. Was her stereo a necessity? Would you like to enter to a store you've purchased before and have the owner tell you "Can you back later when you have your financial situation stable and pay us our money back." yea. I don"t think so. Besides the fact that it sounds rude, it sounds unprofessional and that would just create bad reputation against the company. I have yet to see a store in which they turned down a customer that is willing to enter a contract for the item they desire.
Williams is a well aware women that could asked for her social workers opinion or even a sales associate before entering a contract. If she felt she wasn't sure enough with the contract she could' ve walked away and wait until she had somebody, a third party explain the contract for her. Walker- Thomas Co. stated in his contract that all items would be under his name until the items are fully paid off by the purchaser therefore I believe the court should uphold the contract in which Williams voluntarily entered.
Debate Round No. 4
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