EVALUATING THE RIGHTS OF A CONSUMER Last month, a follow-up man of the Del Portrait Studio delivered to Mrs. Ethel Agnew of Springfield, Massachusetts, a picture of her little girl. The picture was presented in an unusual convex frame, and the salesman informed her that the price of the frame was $20. Mrs. Agnew had taken advantage of an attractive offer made to her several weeks before, and was quite shocked to learn that she was supposed to purchase a frame. The offer that she had accepted was written in the following manner: Del Portrait Studio Chicago, Illinois By paying our representative $2.95 for this Certificate, the undersigned will receive one of our $20 HIGH-GRADE PAINTINGS in the most pleasing size and in the NEWEST DESIGN, same as painting shown. This extraordinary offer is made for advertising purposes only, to introduce paintings of a higher grade, hand-finished by a talented artist; therefore, to assure us of a lasting advertisement, this offer is conditional in that the painting must be framed within a reasonable length of time. Our field artist will call on you with a sketch of your photograph to get full particulars for finishing; at that time, Del's mountings of the newest design will be submitted for your selection. In the event a mounting is not selected, the sketch will be left with you until you select a mounting elsewhere; then the painting will be finished at no additional cost. Countermands not accepted. Verbal agreements not recognized. ALL PHOTOGRAPHS RETURNED WITH FINISHED PAINTING ALL WORK STRICTLY GUARANTEED THIS OFFER CANNOT BE EXTENDED FUTURE PRICE $20 AND UP FORM OF CERTIFICATE To introduce Del portraiture. This certificate entitles M to one Del portrait, 10 by 16 inches, finished in color. This offer is conditional in that a certificate holder must purchase from us the frame for this portrait. Our representative will visit you shortly to demonstrate the black and white outline that is used as a base for the portrait. He will also show a finished Del portrait and a very fine assortment of appropriate frames for your selection. A deposit of aproximately one-half of the purchase price will be required at that time, the balance to be paid on delivery of frame and portrait. Your original photograph will be carefully handled and returned to you When Mrs. Agnew insisted that she had not ordered a frame, the salesman showed her the above contract that stated, "This offer is conditional in that a certificate holder must purchase from us the frame for this portrait." He went on to explain that this oil portrait of her daughter would not hold -its colors nor would it be of any value unless it was framed. She had agreed to protect and exhibit the portrait, and consequently under the agreement was obligated to purchase a frame. Mrs. Agnew still hesitated to give the salesman the money. However, when he told her that the frame was gold-plated and contained an unbreakable imported glass front that would make the portrait of her daughter moisture proof, she gave him the $20. In the evening, she and her husband examined the portrait very carefully; both of them were disappointed with it and with the frame and decided to ask one of their photographer friends to look at it. After careful examination, he informed them that the frame was not gold-plated, but was made of wood colored with a yellowish substance that gave the appearance of gold; the glass front was not unbreakable and, in his opinion, was of domestic origin. Furthermore, it was not moisture proof. He said that the portrait was not produced by hand in oil colors. Rather, it was a quickly made photographic reproduction, colored by powdered pigments that were sprayed on through the use of a mechanical airbrush and compressed air. He estimated that the tinted photograph probably cost the Del Portrait Studio about $1.30 to make and that the frame was worth about $1.25. QUESTIONS 1. What action should Mr. and Mrs. Agnew take? Should they report this situation to Del Portrait Studio in Chicago, the Better Business Bureau, or some other agency? 2. Is there any way in which the consumer can protect herself from situations of this nature? 3. Under terms of the contract was Mrs. Agnew obligated to buy a frame from the Del Portrait Studio? Does the fact that the statements in the advertising literature differ from the terms of the contract have any effect upon her obligation to purchase a frame? 4. What could the Federal Trade Commission do in this case?
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