The ruling in Williams v. Walker Thomas Furniture Co should be in favor of Williams
Debate Rounds (4)
Williams had been purchasing items from the Walker-Thomas furniture company from 1957 to 1962. Upon defaulting on a payment for a stereo set in 1962 the appellee sought to replevy all of the items that Williams had ever purchased from the company (511.3.4). In the following month, the practice recurred when appellant Thorne's items where repossessed for defaulting on payments (511.3.2). Thorne had been a client of the Walker-Thomas Furniture Co since 1958.
My argument for Williams is that the contracts made between the appellant and the appellee are unconscionable, and therefore unenforceable.
1. Williams depended on a $218 monthly stipend to help feed, clothe, and support herself and seven children.
2. The Walker Thomas Furniture Co knew that given 1, Williams was in no financial position to keep up with her monthly installments if she had purchased the stereo set but still permitted her to make such a disadvantageous agreement (512.1).
3. By the time Williams' items had been replevied she had already paid $14,000 since her first transaction, far exceeding the initial total sum of purchases that was only $1800 (513.footnote 1).
4. A reasonable contract would have allowed her to keep the items that were fully paid for.
5. Points 3 and 4 prove that this contract was unreasonably favorable to the Walker-Thomas Furniture Company.
6. Point 1 suggests that Williams had limited means, thus, little bargaining power, and hence little real choice in deciding the terms of the contract (513.1.1).
7. It is unconscionable for a company to exploit a person's financial condition (Point 2) through a bargain that grants the company unreasonably favorable profits (point 3).
8. Therefore, the ruling in Williams v. Walker Thomas Furniture Co should be in favor of Williams because the agreement was unconscionable.
(1.)It shows proof that she has conducted business with the Walker-Thomas Furniture Company in the past because it says that she has purchased items since December of 1957. (511.3.4)
(2.)For each and every item Williams purchased there was suppose to be a payment due every month. (511.1.3)
(3.)Even though she purchased the items, the contract specifically says the title of the items will still be in the Walker-Thomas Furniture Company name until all the payments for the item is paid off. (511.1.4)
(4.)Williams defaulted on a payment for a stereo on April 17, 1962 (511.3.4)
(5.)Therefore, the Walker-Thomas Furniture Company should legally be able to repossess their items from the defendant, and this ruling should go in their favor.
Furthermore, even if this predatory sales tactic was agreed upon, it was still unconscionable because lend-lease was the only method that Williams could use acquire the desired products. Being that Williams lacked the capital to pay the full sale price of the items it was unlikely that she could receive a loan for the items she needed. Thus, she was coaxed into an arrangement of debt that she could never truly escape because she lacked any real bargaining power to receive the items through alternative means.
The timing of the replevy is also indicative of unconscionable sales practices. The company allowed her to raise her rates to levels that clearly exceeded her means and replevied the items when it became apparent that they could no longer profit off of her outstanding debts. Walker-Thomas could have chose to replevy the items the first time Williams had defaulted on payments but instead reserved the privilege for when it was most advantageous for the Company and most detrimental for the client. The wording of the replevy clause is unconscionable because it grants an unreasonable amount of power to the contract giver in a scenario where the contract signer already has virtually no bargaining power.
So far you have dodged my original conclusion that the contract was unconscionable and have done little to disprove any of the original premises of my argument.
Con says: "It is not the Furniture Company's fault that she could not fully comprehend the contract."
I would argue that it is in fact a contract writer's responsibility to ensure that a willing party comprehends the terms of a contract, on the basis that if not, there was never truly consent in the first place. How could any contract be enforceable if one of the involved parties lacks sufficient understanding what he or she is liable for?
Unconscionability refers to the contract giver's responsibility to create reasonable terms for the contract signer. Though it may be reasonable for a company to reclaim their leased possessions when a client has defaulted in payment it is not acceptable for a company to exploit a client's existing debt to collect obscenely higher profits than the original stated value of the items.
Con says: "In no way was Williams threatened or forced into signing those contracts."
One could argue that she was forced into signing the contract by her own financial situation. If a person believes that they need an appliance but lacks the money to purchase the item, it is likely that they will agree to a lease on the agreement, especially if they do not understand the full consequences of accepting that contract. This freedom and choice you speak of implies that other furniture stores where willing to make their prices more affordable to her. If better offers were actually available it is doubtful that Williams would have agreed to her contract with the Walker-Thomas Furniture Co.
Con says: "I am sure that even if the contract may even seemed to be unconscionable, it was not intentional."
Of course this contract was intended to be unconscionable. No contract maker would write a contract so unfairly favorable to themselves accidentally. The furniture retailer made $14000 dollars off of $1800 worth of product specifically to capitalize on the debt of a client who was stripped of the means to ever fully pay it off. This process was repeated again with another client a month later (511.3.2). If there was not intention to extort the client, Walker-Thomas would have repossessed their items much sooner.
Con says: "The Walker-Thomas furniture company is a business, and in no way should they want to deprive their customers of purchasing what they truly desire, the only thing that the Walker-Thomas Company asked is that their customers comply with each guideline of the contract."
The problem here is that the guidelines were too unreasonable for the client. Once again, being that the company knew of Williams' financial condition they also must have known that the added debt to her balance it would make it impossible for Williams to keep up with her monthly installments. Any responsible business owner would have notified Williams that making this additional purchase would be unfeasible. Instead, the Walker-Thomas Furniture Company allowed their client to saddle herself with debt so that they could reclaim their products and sell them to their next victim.
Pro says: "I would argue that it is in fact a contract writer's responsibility to ensure that a willing party comprehends the terms of a contract, on the basis that if not, there was never truly consent in the first place. How could any contract be enforceable if one of the involved parties lacks sufficient understanding what he or she is liable for?" I would argue this by saying indeed she had to understand the contract if she had to sign the contract. By signing a contract you are telling the other party or parties involved that you agree or you understand the guidelines to the contract. If he or she does not sufficiently understand a contract, they should have never signed the contract to begin with. Since she has been purchasing items since December 1957, it is just difficult just to believe that this woman lack sufficient understanding.(511.3.3)
Pro says: "Once again, being that the company knew of Williams' financial condition they also must have known that the added debt to her balance it would make it impossible for Williams to keep up with her monthly installments." I would argue this by saying that even though the furniture company did know about William"s living situation they are still a business. In this situation they have to do what is best for business. In most companies if someone is offering you money that is difficult to refuse. The furniture company has employees and those employees have families just like William"s does and they need a way to making a living and provide for their families. So of course in this situation the furniture company is going to take the money. If William"s knew that she was in a financial hole and she knew that there was a probability that she would not be able to keep up with her monthly installments, she should of have never purchased that stereo set for $514(512.1.6). She is an adult and should be able to understand her priorities. In that situation that is nobody but William"s fault that she is in the financial situation that she is in.
Could you imagine a world where every minute detail agreed upon was actually enforceable by law? The reason that such a world does not coincide with reality is that there are cases such as these where one party's demands exceed the boundaries of reason. This is why we have laws that protect us from crude business practices. Contracts do not come with tests verifying your knowledge of the contents, they merely leave a line(s) that require a signature and assume that the person has read all of the pertinent articles.
For example, whenever certain internet products have software updates they ask their clients to sign a contract. Beneath an obscenely long wall of text are two boxes, one says I agree with the terms of conditions, the other says the opposite. You may think you have a choice of options but if you choose the negative box then the service is withheld. Your only remaining option is to comply with the terms and conditions because you need the service. Now imagine, that within that box of text was fine print stating that if you accept the terms and conditions the service provider can repossess your computer whenever they chose to. Though you agreed to those terms you may not have understood what you've initially signed. The reason companies are not allowed to do that is because such demands are unreasonable and more importantly, unconscionable.
Furthermore, the problem with your "business argument" is that such a practice of abusing clients does not truly benefit a business. Preying on the financially destitute does not benefit the store any more that the customer. Sure the store might make a profit over the five years of payments but do you think that disenfranchised clients such as Williams or Thorne are going to recommend the business to prospective clients, or instead tell tales of their hardships with the company?
Lastly, with regards to your point about priorities I would quote the dissenting Judge Danaher in saying that "what is a luxury to some may be an outright necessity to others (513.6.3). Necessities are subjective to any client but there still should have been a warning or at least a reminder to the client of her balance with the retailer. Such careless behavior on the store's part was harmful to their client. Selling more credit to a debtor would be like a bar selling drinks to an alcoholic only because it was good for business.
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