Can mom keep wedding dress deposit?

Question (from anonymous in Colorado):

“Can a retail store legally keep my deposit that I paid over the phone for a wedding dress?: My daughter chose a wedding dress in CO. She changed her mind after I put a $200 deposit down on the dress. They have nothing in writing from me and they are refusing to return my money until or when the dress sells. How do I get my money back without waiting 6 months or longer for the dress to sell?”

Response (from Attorney Rob):

I assume that your daughter was actually present in the store in CO for the selection, fitting, and alterations of the dress. Although they have “nothing in writing” with you, I presume that your daughter signed a ‘terms and conditions of sale’ for the dress when she made her selection and prompted you to pay the deposit. This document will outline the store’s policies regarding the return of deposits, as well as the obligations for your daughter in order to effectuate that return.

When your daughter directed you to make payment on her behalf, this made your role simply “the money person.” In other words, the agreement regarding the dress and payment for the dress were between the store and your daughter. The store had no obligation to you personally under the agreement between them and your daughter (although their return policy may be to credit the same card used in the transaction).

Some states have a statutes governing deposits (aka liquidated damages). Generally, these statutes dictate the reasonableness of liquidated damages. These may govern this situation. I am not licensed in Colorado or Utah.

In absence of such statute, and without seeing the wording of the agreement (if there is one), I think that the store is in a good position to keep the money, particularly if they have altered the dress, or took it off the showroom for a certain amount of time.

Good Luck!

Moral of the Story: Again, whether a wedding business professional is obligated to a non-party can be tricky. When a parent signs the contract on behalf of a bride/groom, this creates what the law refers to as a “Third Party Beneficiary” situation between the wedding business professional and the bride/groom.