The sale at Duxiana, the Rolls Royce of bed stores at 235 East 58th Street, seemed to be proceeding apace and in evident good cheer on May 12-until the saleswoman suggested that Terry Heaton check out the duvet cover on the display bed in the window.
“She said, ‘See if you like the duvet cover; it matches your espresso headboard,’” recalled Ms. Heaton, who had already spent more than $6,000 on the headboard and a queen-size mattress, charging it to her credit card. “The charge went right through. She said, ‘Your credit must be terrific.’ She was extremely nice to me-until the curtain rod fell on me.”
Ms. Heaton is a 54-year-old part-time yoga instructor and former health-club manager who took early retirement and just moved into an East End Avenue apartment. She decided to splurge on bedding but, according to Ms. Heaton, calamity ensued after she accepted the saleswoman’s offer to luxuriate in the display bed’s comfort. “I sat on the display bed and said, ‘This really feels nice.’ It had a valence, or canopy, around it. It came crashing down and hit me on the head. I have this huge bump over the eye.”
Pamela Scheirman, the store’s manager, denied she ever suggested the customer take the bed for a test drive. “She stepped up into a display bed in the window,” she said. “She was somewhere she shouldn’t have been. She wanted to buy the duvet cover that was in the window, but I never told her to sit on it. I would never tell a customer, ‘Please sit on a display bed so you could break it and possibly get hurt.’”
After the accident, Ms. Heaton acknowledges that Ms. Scheirman offered to call her an ambulance, which she declined. Their relationship started to sour after the customer asked to be supplied with a statement on company letterhead documenting the incident, and the two began to argue about what had actually transpired and who was to blame.
“She said, ‘You must have pulled it down. How come you sat on the bed?’” Ms. Heaton contends. “I said, ‘You asked me to. I didn’t pull anything. You were looking right at me, Pamela.’
“She said, ‘We are not responsible for accidents that are caused by customers.’ She said, ‘I refuse to write or sign anything about this incident, and I’d like you to leave the store.’ She went from Pollyanna into a Nurse Ratchet.
“I said, ‘Can I make a phone call?’ She said, ‘There’s a phone booth outside.’”
Ms. Scheirman has a somewhat different recollection of events. “She sat down and I got her some cold paper towels,” she said. “I asked her whether she needed an ambulance, and she said no. I didn’t even see so much as a red dot or a lump or anything.
“So it’s closing time,” she continued. “We’re getting ready to leave, and she stands up and says to me, ‘I need you to document that I was hurt here.’ I was going to write her, ‘Customer was in a display area. Broke display,’ but she said, ‘No, let me write it on your letterhead.’ I was not about to let her write something on blank letterhead. Unfortunately, I had to call the police to get her out of there.”
“Pamela said, ‘We may need to call the police to have you taken out,” recalled Ms. Heaton, adding that Ms. Scheirman by now was on the phone with her district manager. “She said, ‘This lady is making a scene. I’m going to have to push the panic button because she won’t leave.’”
Ms. Scheirman did indeed push the panic button. When the NYPD didn’t respond promptly enough, she also called 911. “Five police officers came because she pushed the panic button so many times,” Ms. Heaton said. “Three police cars with sirens.”
Ms. Scheirman said it was actually two police cars responding, with a total of four officers.
One of the responding officers offered to call Ms. Heaton an ambulance, which never came; she eventually went to New York–Presbyterian Hospital on her own, where she was treated and released-but, she said, still suffers from headaches. The officer, she added, shared her chagrin at the rough treatment she received. “He said, ‘You spent $6,000 on a mattress and they were throwing you out of the store?’”
On May 15, Ms. Scheirman called to apologize, Ms. Heaton said, but with some surprising news. “She said, ‘For the best interest of the store, we need to cancel your order.’”
“She’s more than welcome to place the order at any other Duxiana store,” Ms. Scheirman explained. “But as far as this store, it seemed like she had a lot of hostility, and we didn’t want to proceed with the order. Someone who’s behaving in that manner is just going to be problems down the line. So it’s in our best interests not to proceed, honestly.”
At the moment, Ms. Heaton is sleeping on the floor of her new apartment, still pining away for the bed of her dreams. “I’ve never bought such an expensive item,” she stated. “I said, ‘For the first time in my life, I want the best.’ It was the best I was dying for, and I almost did.”