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Problems in Graduation Gowns Rental: Wrong Design & Delay in Deposit Refund

  • 2018.09.18

Graduation is an important milestone in one’s academic pursuit.  Prospective graduates can either rent or buy an academic gown for graduation ceremony, or photo taking with friends and relatives.  But, sadly, complaints to the Consumer Council have indicated malpractices by some traders deliberately holding off the refund of rental deposits or supplying graduation gowns that didn’t meet the school requirements.  Some even deducted and withheld part of the deposit payment purportedly for damage to the gowns.

As some of the traders involved in the complaints are on the school recommended lists of suppliers, the Council is calling on the school authorities to monitor the services of the recommended traders closely to ensure they are providing good services to safeguard the rights and interests of the graduates.  Further, students are reminded that if they are shopping for rental or purchase of graduation gowns, they should first research well in advance to ensure design of the gown is in accordance with school requirement prior to transaction.  Furthermore, read carefully the rental terms and conditions and when collecting the goods, consumers are advised to inspect thoroughly if any stain or defect is detected, ask that they are recorded in the sales memos to avoid unnecessary disputes afterwards.  

Case 1: Delay in refund of rental deposit

In March last year, the complainant rented a graduation gown from Company A at its Causeway Bay branch, and paid $188 and $600 as rental fee and deposit which the shop agreed as stated in the receipt that the deposit would be refunded on or before April 7 this year. Earlier this year, the complainant learned that the Causeway Bay shop had closed for business.  When the complainant returned the graduation gown to its Tsuen Wan shop in latter half of March, she was told the shop had not enough cash and promised in writing in the receipt that the deposit would be paid back in direct fund transfer to her bank account within one week. 

Despite her repeated calls, there still was no refund a month later.  The company was deploying delaying tactics to evade payment. She considered the delay to be unreasonable, and when she found that some of the fellow students in the same university had also encountered similar experience, she suspected the company had deliberately withheld the deposit with no intention to refund.  Upon conciliation of the Council, the complainant was able to secure refund of her $600 deposit in settlement of the case.

Case 2: Wrong design from school requirements

The complainant was enticed by the promotional materials of Company B which used wording and photos, giving an impression that the company was one of the school’s recommended suppliers.  He placed a purchase order for $369 for a graduation gown but later he found from a school notice that the appointed manufacturer was another company.  Furthermore, the colour of the hood and the folded collar were different from the school design, thus he asked for alteration.

 Although he was told that his request would be sent to the factory, there was no follow-up at all.  The complainant finally had to rent one from a supplier on the school’s recommended list to avoid possible embarrassment.  As Company B had all along failed to deliver the gown, the complainant sought help of the Council for a refund.  The company later agreed to contact the complainant directly in settlement of the case. 

Case 3: Deducting part of deposit for purported damage to the gown

The complainant rented a graduation gown from Company C, a supplier on the school’s recommended list, and duly paid a deposit of $700.  When she returned the gown after use she was shocked to be told by the company staff that there were signs of pin holes caused by the use of safety pins on the shoulders and the inside of both arms, and demanded $200 compensation to be deducted from the deposit for the alleged damage.  The complainant immediately protested pointing out that she had worn the gown with the utmost care and had caused no damage as claimed.  The company, however, persisted for damage compensation and as it was the last day for the return of the gown the complainant had no choice but to sign and retrieve the remaining deposit balance of $500. 

The complainant later learned that other students had suffered similar experience, and sought further explanation from Company C which maintained that graduation gowns supplied to the university were all brand new; graduates in collecting the gowns should therefore inspect with care otherwise any damage found would be charged in accordance with the rental terms and conditions.  The complainant, however, contended that Company C had not allowed sufficient time to the students in the first place for a thorough inspection of the gowns but turned extremely harsh and critical in finding faults with the gowns when returned.  This was clearly a tactic in order to withhold part of the deposit refund as damage charges, utterly unfair to the unwary students.  The complainant asked the Council to record such practice of the company on file.

Prospective graduates when renting or purchasing graduation gowns are reminded of the following:

  • Carefully inspect the graduation gown upon collection for size and measurements, for instance, the collar, the shoulders, the brim of the mortarboard, the colour of the hood, etc. to ensure they are in order;
  • If anything questionable is found of the gown, immediately notify the supplier for an exchange, and retain properly the deposit receipt. During the rental period, keep safe custody of the graduation gown and its accessories, to avoid loss or forgetting to return on time resulting in partial deposit loss;
  • If you have not secured the release of the deposit but already returned the gown, ask the shop to state on the receipt wordings to the effect that the gown “is duly returned but the deposit is still being held by the shop”.  Safe keep the receipt as proof for redress in future;
  • If you choose to purchase on your own, obtain beforehand a sample design of the graduation gown to ensure that the shop will supply one fully in compliance of the school requirements.   

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