Latest update: July 16th, 2014
“Our nephew Yoni is getting married in two weeks,” Mr. Schwartz said to his wife. “What should we get the couple for their wedding?”
“I’d like to get them a nice artwork,” replied Mrs. Schwartz. “Our neighbor, Mrs. Glazer, handcrafts beautiful gifts in her basement gallery.”
“Great idea!” Mr. Schwartz concurred.
Mrs. Schwartz contacted Mrs. Glazer. “I’d like an artwork for my nephew who’s getting married,” she said.
“You’re welcome to come to the gallery,” replied Mrs. Glazer. “I can show you the various works I do.”
Mrs. Schwartz went over to the gallery. “Would you like something made of silver?” Mrs. Glazer asked. “Or a painting? Glasswork?”
“I’d like something painted on glass, with the artwork expressing their names, Shoshana and Yehonasan,” she said. “You can have flowers expressing Shoshana and a something else expressing Yehonasan. Any ideas?”
“Maybe a bow,” suggested Mrs. Glazer. “It relates to the haftarah of Machar Chodesh; I can color it like a rainbow”
“Sound fine,” said Mrs. Schwartz. “In the middle, paint their names, Shoshana and Yehonasan. He spells his name Yehonasan with a hei and is very particular about it!”
“Thank you for letting me know,” said Mrs. Glazer. “I’ll write it down.”
“How long will it take to prepare?” asked Mrs. Schwartz.
“A week plus,” said Mrs. Glazer. “When is the wedding?”
“It’s in two weeks,” said Mrs. Schwartz, “so that’s fine.”
The following week, Mrs. Glazer called. “Your artwork is ready,” she said. “You can come pick it up.”
“Thank you very much,” said Mrs. Schwartz. “How did it come out?”
“Absolutely gorgeous,” said Mrs. Glazer. “It will suit the new couple just perfectly!”
Mrs. Schwarz turned to her husband. “Please pick up the gift from Mrs. Glazer; it’s ready.”
Mr. Schwartz went to the gallery. “It’s beautiful,” he said. He paid Mrs. Glazer and brought the gift home.
When he came home, Mr. Schwartz showed his wife the artwork. “What do you think of it?” he asked.
“It’s just unbelievable!” she exclaimed.
Suddenly she gasped. “Oh, no! I don’t believe it!” she cried out.
“What’s the matter?” Mrs. Glazer asked with concern.
“I told her clearly that our nephew spells his name Yehonasan, with a hei,” she said. “She wrote Yonasan, without a hei!”
Mrs. Schwartz went immediately to the gallery and showed Mrs. Glazer the problem. “You’re right,” Mrs. Glazer apologized. “I wrote it down, but forgot to check when I painted their names.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t give the gift with a misspelled name,” said Mrs. Schwartz. “Can you somehow add the hei?”
Mrs. Glazer considered for a moment. “I’m afraid not,” she said. “Hei is a big letter. I could squeeze a yud in, but hei is a big letter. It will ruin the whole effect.”
“I simply can’t take it as is,” said Mrs. Schwartz. “Either make a new one or I’ll have to get another gift.”
“I already invested much time and effort,” Mrs. Glazer tried to sooth her. “It’s unbelievably beautiful. People won’t even notice the misspelling!”
“Yehonasan will, though,” said Mrs. Schwartz.
“I can’t do anything with the artwork if you don’t take it,” said Mrs. Glazer. “It was a custom order for you. I’m willing to refund you 50 percent”
“I don’t want it at all, not even for 10 percent” insisted Mrs. Schwartz. “I want the gift in perfect condition or my money back!”
“I’d like to consult with Rabbi Dayan,” Mrs. Glazer said. “You realize it’s a total loss for me.”
“That’s fine,” said Mrs. Schwartz. “Go ahead.”
Mrs. Glazer called Rabbi Dayan. “I crafted a custom wedding gift, but wrote Yonasan instead of Yehonasan,” she said. “Personally, I don’t think it’s such a problem and I’m even willing to refund 50 percent, but the customer wants it redone completely or a full refund. What’s the halacha?”
“The definition of defective merchandise depends on what is considered defective in that time and place,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Misspelling the chassan‘s name in an artwork meant for display would seem defective. The customer has the right to return the defective item for a full refund. You cannot insist that the sale be upheld and refund the difference in value.” (C.M. 232:4,6)
What about the reverse case?” asked Mrs. Schwartz. “Let’s say the customer wanted to keep the gift but pay only half, whereas I wanted her to let me redo it at full price.”
“The same halacha applies, ” answered Rabbi Dayan. “The customer cannot force the seller to reduce the amount. His only legal recourse is to invalidate the sale, if he wants to.”
“If the item can be fixed fully, though,” concluded Rabbi Dayan, “then the seller can fix the item without annulling the sale.” (SM”A 232:14)Rabbi Meir Orlian
About the Author: Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to email@example.com. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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