Neiman Marcus has settled a lawsuit with an angry customer who wanted to return $1.4 million in merchandise that she says was purchased by her husband while he carried on an affair with a Neiman Marcus saleswoman.
Yes, this was a messy one.
As the Dallas Morning News reported last September, it all started when Patricia Walker (above, during a taped deposition) suffered numerous injuries in a serious car crash in April 2007. While she convalesced, she says, her husband, Robert Tennison, began spending more than usual on their joint account at Neiman Marcus. While they usually spent around $100,000 a year at the luxury retailer, spending tripled the year she was injured. It grew to nearly half a million the next year -- all during a time when she would have had little use for the store's handbags and jewelry.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of this spending spree was Favi Lo, a Neiman Marcus saleswoman with whom the couple had worked closely in the past. Now she was racking up commissions, helping to make her one of the store's top-producing associates.
Walker contends that reason for the sudden spike in spending -- and Lo's surging fortunes -- was clear: Lo and Tennison were carrying on an affair while Walker lay injured, with Tennison racking up big bills at the store to help out his lover.
The two don't deny having an affair, but say it didn't start until late 2009; Walker's lawyer insists it started earlier.
When the couple eventually filed for divorce and Walker discovered her husband's affair, she noted the huge increase in spending and put two and two together. She then went to Neiman Marcus and put its famously permissive return policy to the test, asking it to take back $1.4 million in merchandise. When it refused, she filed a lawsuit. The retailer at one point called the suit ""nothing more than the ventings of a woman scorned by the infidelity of her former husband that have spilled over from her highly contentious divorce."
Well, the long, strange tale is now at an end: The two parties settled their suit this week. While the details of that settlement are sealed, it sounds like the suit wasn't going the retailer's way. The Dallas Morning News notes that one of the key questions revolved around Neiman Marcus' policy allowing you to "return for credit, at any time, merchandise with which you are not completely satisfied." That policy was at one point available on the Neiman Marcus website, though its attorneys argued that there was no formal, written return policy -- rather, that it was an unwritten policy left to the discretion of store managers and spread by word of mouth.
"Boy, I find that totally incredible," the judge reportedly responded.
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.