KOKOMO — For six months, Michael Smith has dealt with Lowe's over a shed he bought from them.
Smith spent $2,543.39 on the shed and $600 more to have it built in his backyard. That's where he said the problems started.
"There were a bunch of missed deadlines," Smith said. "I was told someone would be by on a certain weekend but not given a specific time. I had to change my whole schedule for them."
When the shed was first built, he said it was done poorly.
"A lot of cut corners, improper structure," Smith said. "The roof wasn't lined up, other things like that. Pieces weren't nailed together properly. It leaked."
He took pictures showing all of the problems. Then, he contacted Lowe's again detailing all the issues.
Even after the shed was built a second time, he wasn't happy with the work. At least one of the shelves could be ripped out of the wall. He asked Lowe's for a refund on the installation work amounting to $600.
"They said compensation could be given. They sent me an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to sign stating I will not talk about any of the issues on social media, news media, or publish on any third-party website," Smith said.
Below is the document that was sent to him.
The document is a release of claims form regarding issues with the shed, but it goes deeper than that with a confidentiality/nondisparagement agreement.
Judith K. Wright, a clinical professor of business law at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, said it's normal for a company to send customers agreements like this, but they are typically over larger amounts of money.
"I was a little surprised by that for a fairly small transaction. I was just a little surprised the company has adopted this. I'm guessing it's standard practice they're doing in consumer claims," Wright said.
For consumers in situations like Smith, Wright says they have a choice: they can sign the offer and take the money or count it as a loss to be able to speak freely about their experience with a company.
"People are free to decide what they're willing to agree to and once they do, they're going to live with what they agreed to," Wright said.
Smith told WRTV he will not sign the document because he wants to warn others about what happened to him.
"It's not something that's ethical of a company to try and cover up such small things," Smith said. "What bigger has happened to people with this kind of thing?"
WRTV contacted Lowe's last week about this story. Despite initial communications, they did not answer any questions regarding this matter and about if it's standard practice for them to try and get customers to sign a form like they sent Smith.