Thursday, May 7, 2009

Custom Canvas Writes a Manifesto

A couple of weeks ago I wrote the Better Business Bureau about the Bimini that Custom Canvas of Charleston installed on Southern Comfort.

As I expected Jim, who is one of those angry Yankee transplants got completely whacked and wrote the following unreadable response to my complaint.

My gripe is and has been since he installed the bimini is that it is not the right color and doesn't fit.

In my letter to the BBB I simply asked that he either fix it, replace it of refund 50% of what I paid him.

What I've learned is Stamoid is a great product with many uses. A open bimini is not one of them, because it stretches.

You have to dig through Jim's reply, but buried in there is his statement that "the bimini should not be subjected to steady winds of more than 30 mph (26 knots)" and there dear readers is my case.

Southern Comfort is a Motoryacht that routinely travels at speeds of 18 knots or better. So according to Jim I'll need to take the Bimini down anytime the wind blew across the bow at more than 8 knots and we were underway. Sometimes we are underway for 29 hours or more depending on where we are relocating the boat.

Custom Canvas was hired to replace the worn bimini not to get all creative, change the fabric and the color. Now confronted with his product not preforming he wants to blame the boat owner.

What do you think?

Does Southern Comfort have a case?

Looks like small claims is my next stop.

But what do you think is fair?


On May 06, 2009, the business provided the following information:
Contact Name and Title: Jim Perillo
Contact Phone: 843-767-1573
Contact Email:
Custom Canvas of Charleston
7187 Bryhawke Circle
Suite 100
North Charleston,SC 29418

May 5, 2009
Better Business Bureau
Re: Case # 34018898 Chris McIntire

In responding to this complaint, I will provide some background information as well as copies of 2006 and 2008 invoices. On April 2,2006 we provided Mr. McIntire a quote for a new bimini top for a price of $1100.00. He told us he didn't want to spend that amount of money at the time, and proceeded to hire another canvas fabricator to do the same job for about $600.00. (This is according to Mr. McIntire). A copy of that quote is enclosed. After some time, that bimini top had stretched and thread had rotted out and Mr. McIntire asked us to restitch it so that he could get some more life from it. That fabricator had stopped returning Mr. McIntire's phone calls, according to him.
In September of 2008 Mr. McIntire wanted to replace his bimini. We agreed to use the same rate we had quoted in 2006, $1118.50. We advised the customer that our materials were better than those used by the previous fabricator. Our thread does not rot, and the Stamoid material is considered the industry standard for this type of vinyl-coated product. This is all dependent upon the proper care being given to these materials. The old canvas was so dirty and gray, that we could not make an exact match of it with any shade of white. We then brought all of our samples to the boat and matched the canvas to the color of the boat itself. ''White'' is the actual color name, as opposed to ''Snow White'', ''Cream'' or ''Ivory''. We then gave the customer a written quote specifically stating the name of the material and the color to be used for his approval. At the same time, we pointed out that his framework was bent, the bows were too far apart, it was not adjusted properly and in fact had garden hose clamps holding parts of it in place. The customer told us that he really couldn't afford to buy a new frame and asked us to do the best we could with what he had. We told him that we couldn't be sure of how things would turn out, but we would give it a try. The first thing we had to do was spend about 2 hours trying to straighten out his frame and make it as symmetric as we could. We only charged him for the replacement of the garden hose clamps using stainless steel marine fittings. Even with that amount of work, it still wasn't up to our standards, but that is what the customer wanted.
When we installed the canvas itself, it was the same color as the boat, and it was tight in all directions. Upon final payment we instructed the owner on the proper care of the canvas. The physical properties of a bimini are such that while it is fine and sturdy on its' own, wind can still get underneath it and push it up like a sail, unless it is held down by an enclosure of some type, which the customer did not have. An enclosure will not only help secure the top on all four sides, if it is closed up, it will also prevent the wind from getting underneath the top. As a matter of instruction, we tell all of our customers who have biminis with no enclosures, that the bimini should not be subjected to steady winds of more than 30 mph or so. We tell them that if the wind is forecast to be more than that, or gusts of more than 35 mph are predicted, they should take the bimini down. Our bimini tops are specifically designed with zippers at various places that make this removal a process that should not take more than 10 minutes at most. We have had an extremely windy winter and there have been days with steady 30 mph winds at the harbor and gusts of over 45 mph. At no time that I have been at the marina have I seen the bimini down. Since the area of complaint is on the far side of the top, I did not see it whenever I walked passed the boat. I had no idea that there was a problem until a few weeks ago when the customer called and told me of it. I then took notice, and it is indeed stretched, but I determined that this didn't happen all of a sudden. It appears that the frame was not correct at some point. I am not sure if it happened because the frame was bent to start with, or if sometime after we installed the canvas, the frame was moved or incorrectly adjusted. That would be a customer related problem. When the canvas got loose due to the wind at the marina, it was not taken down in a timely manner. Again, a customer related issue. If the customer had tightened the canvas at the first sign that it was loose, it wouldn't have gotten stretched out of shape. Under normal circumstances and with proper care the material we use does not stretch. In this case proper care was not taken.
In summary, we stand behind our work, which is reflected in the numerous National and International awards that we have received over the years, and our high standing in the Marine Fabricators Association and the Virginia-Carolina Canvas Products Association. We do not however, give a guarantee because we have no control over what happens after we install a product. In this case we used the best materials available after the customer approved a written quote. We educated him that his framework was not very good and it eventually might affect the finished product and we told him how to care for it. It appears that the frame did cause problems, and when those problems weren't corrected in a timely manner, things got worse. We do not feel that we are responsible for any of this.

As a side note, the customer complained a number of times about the cost of the project, even though he agreed to it at the same price that is was over 2 years earlier. Our policy is to get a deposit up front with the balance due upon completion. As I have noted on the final copy of the paid invoice dated 9/17/08, the customer did not pay us until 10/20/08. He did not return phone calls or emails and said that he had been out of town. At the time, to my understanding, his business required that he be accessible to his customer all of the time, so I find it hard to believe that he never got a message, or ever thought of calling to see what the progress was, which he had done on a routine basis until then. That is why we have a note in his file, as marked on the invoice of '' DO NOT WORK FOR''. I could be wrong, but it appears that the customer has never accepted the fact that this job cost him money he didn't want to spend ( he had already purchased another bimini that didn't work out). When the job was finished, he waited a month to pay the balance, and I am sure that he looked the finished project over completely before he did pay. He then neglected to care for his bimini properly and wants to recoup some of his money. Even the amount that he states he paid for the job is inflated by $500.00. Therefore we will not refund any monies, not replace any materials nor work for him again. This is not an easy decision for us, since we try to be fair to all of our customers. In fact, I am not aware of any other complaints made about us to your organization. That would be for a time period of 10 years, with approximately 300 jobs a year, resulting in very satisfied customers who become repeat customers, and continue to refer us to other boat owners along the South East coast. We have done everything we could to deliver a good product at a fair price, but it appears that this might not be enough for this customer.
Yours Truly,

Jim Perillo,V.P.
Custom Canvas of Charleston


  1. what a bunch of whiners.

  2. I think if you can't get the jerk to fix it then he owes you! Tell the moron to pay up!

    If he doesn't sue his ass! Custom Canvas won't ever work on my boat that is for damn sure and you know I'll spread the word. Boating is expensive enough without getting riped off!

  3. Carolina Canvas Hitlon HeadMay 10, 2009 at 2:08 AM

    Funny as hell! Jim's long letter is sad but he screws himself with all the talk.

    Good luck!