Neiman Marcus settles contentious lawsuit from high-dollar customer over saleswoman’s affair with her husband

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A Highland Park customer sought to return $1.4 million in merchandise because her husband was sleeping with the sales associate. A deal has been reached — but its terms are secret

 

by CHRISTOPHER WYNN

A portion of the clothing intended to be returned to Neiman Marcus by Patricia Walker, photographed by FD Luxe at the offices of Mark Ticer, Walker's attorney, June 25, 2012.

Neiman Marcus has settled a high-profile lawsuit that tested its reputation for graciously taking back almost anything customers would want to return. Details of the agreement are sealed, according to documents filed in Dallas County state district court, and final disposition of the case is scheduled for Thursday.

The resolution comes after the judge in the case said Neiman Marcus provided a “totally incredible” answer to a key question.

Highland Park heiress Patricia Walker sued the fabled Dallas-based retailer in September 2010 after unsuccessfully trying to return $1.4 million in clothing, shoes, handbags and jewelry purchased over several years. FD Luxe, the luxury lifestyle magazine of The Dallas Morning News, chronicled the story in a 12-page feature in its September 2012 issue.

A portion of the baubles, bracelets, and watches — including Harry Winston and Chanel — that are part of customer Patricia Walker's lawsuit against Neiman Marcus

Walker alleged that her then-husband used a joint account during their marriage to buy much of the merchandise — while she was convalescing from a car crash and he was having an affair with their longtime Neiman Marcus NorthPark Center saleswoman.

There was no dispute that the affair occurred, but Walker’s husband Robert Tennison — he had filed for divorce in March 2010; they eventually ended their marriage — insisted that it had begun only recently. Neiman’s said it didn’t know of the liaison and had no obligation to take back the goods. In an early court filing, it called Walker’s claims “nothing more than the ventings of a woman scorned by the infidelity of her former husband that have spilled over from her highly contentious divorce.”

A major sticking point in the case was the company’s policy governing returns of in-store purchases and purchases made from its premier catalog, called The Book. During a November 2012 hearing, Neiman Marcus attorney Walter Herring argued that no written policy existed when Walker’s purchases were made and that return decisions were made by individual store managers.

Judge Ken Molberg asked, “How does the manager find out about this unwritten policy if it’s not somewhere? Is it just kind of word of mouth?”

Herring’s response: “I believe that must be, Your Honor, because they say there is no written policy.”

“Boy,” replied Molberg, “I find that totally incredible.”

Walker’s lawyer, Mark Ticer, produced a printout from Neiman’s website that addressed returns of store and The Book purchases. It began: “You may return for credit, at any time, merchandise with which you are not completely satisfied.”

Herring said Neiman’s didn’t know why that language was on the website. He told the judge it was online “for about five to six months” and has since been taken down.

About a week after the hearing, Neiman’s parted ways with Herring for undisclosed reasons and hired new counsel.

Ticer soon took the deposition of Randy Vines, a Neiman Marcus loss-prevention official who helped write employee training manuals. “The company will accept returns for virtually any reason,” Vines testified in describing one manual’s content. “That’s been our global store policy, again, since Stanley Marcus was around.”

Vines said the online language came to his attention when an Atlanta customer cited it — and presented a printout of it, from the company’s website — while trying to return a “four- or five-year-old pair of shoes.” The customer said, according to Vines, “I want to return these old shoes; I don’t like them anymore.” Neiman’s accepted the return, he said.

From Manolo Blahnik to Michael Kors, some of Patricia Walker's shoes — most with no signs of wear — declined for return by Neiman Marcus

The lawsuit also named as a defendant Favi Lo, the saleswoman who had the affair with Walker’s ex, Tennison, and still works at the NorthPark store. She and other Neiman’s representatives met with Walker for mediation in April, court records show. They signed a four-page, handwritten agreement and canceled this month’s pending jury trial.

Afterward, however, a new dispute arose over a formalized version of the deal. According to a Neiman’s court filing: “Walker has refused to sign the agreement — a document she last edited and approved — and she has not explained why.”

This matter sent the parties back to court June 20. No one involved will say what happened or discuss anything else related to the case, and the transcript is sealed.

Dallas Morning News staff writer Brooks Egerton contributed to this report

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38 Comments

  1. Oh, First World problems are tough. “You won’t take back the $1.4 million in designer clothing and jewelry that my husband bought and gave to me? I’M SUING!!!”

  2. It is way messier than that…The saleslady was making a commission on the sales, essentially prostituting for sales. I think, I read in previous article, that the money was the wife’s. He was using her funds to buy love.
    Either way, N-M should have fired the saleslady. Don’ know why the wife did not make the husband reimburse her. Anger and hurt do not make for clear reasoning.

  3. NM has never been the same since Stanley passed on. This is an interesting story but returning things bought months earlier, the store does NOT need to accept a return them,…my opinion.

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  5. Kaitlyn. even though Eddie`s st0rry is amazing… on friday I got a top of the range Alfa Romeo after having made $9613 this-last/month and in excess of 10/k this past-munth. this is certainly the most financially rewarding I have ever had. I started this seven months/ago and straight away began to bring in minimum $81.. per hour. I went to this web-site,………. Yad7.com

  6. NM shares part of the blame for employing such a conniving sales person. You can almost bet as long as her sales numbers were good her actions were usually overlooked on purpose.

  7. When Stanley Marcus and Sears had “no questions” return policies, our society was very different than it is today, and people were more honest, more ethical, and had enough personal integrity and self-respect not to try and cheat a reputable retailer for what was often a customer mistake.

    This appears to be a case more in the category of a scorned woman trying to blame on Neiman-Marcus the unsettling behavior and bad judgment of her own spouse. But, because Neimans has deep pockets, and the spouse did not, she decided to sue the retailer for what appears to be pure jealous revenge and money grabbing.

    Neimans cannot resell most of the merchandise that was returned in the area of soft goods. Most of the hard goods can be recycled and sold. But, it’s still an expensive penalty for a respected retailer who did nothing wrong.

    There is not a more reputable, fair, and attentive retail store in Dallas — or much of the country – than Neiman-Marcus. Why Patricia Walker may need the money this badly is her affair. But, attacking Neimans has not been a successful social strategy in this town, and this is no different.

    I’m curious why Favi Lo is still working for Neimans, but that’s up to the store. Maybe the likelihood of Patricia Walker never darkening the doors of the store again is worth it.

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  9. I doubt the spouse had the funds to reimburse her. He paid for the items out of their joint account….which obviously was her money, not his.

  10. Pretty tired of people invoking the “first world problems” thing.

    Yes. We have running water. Get over it.

  11. And people think Marriage is going into the tank if the LBGT are able to marry……….

  12. @Russ, Neiman’s has been very much the same since Mr. Stanley passed on in 2002. Indeed, he didn’t run the stores for the final quarter-century of his life, since ’75, although he held the ceremonial title “Chairman Emeritus.” His son Richard succeeded him as Chairman/CEO but left in ’88, so no family member has helmed the operation since then. Having shopped there since childhood, and now in my mid 50s, I take a back seat to no one when it comes to knowledge of the store. My own mother shopped there for over 60 years until last Fall, and her perspective was the same. The place has carried on quite well as the years have gone by.

  13. You think NM should fire her for having an affair? I think the wife must have known something was up when, uncharacteristically her husband started showering her with 1.4million in gifts! Obviously she wasnt refusing the gifts. I bet she wore the stuff and returned it after the divorce when she was pissed. oh yes thats exactly what happened.

  14. People aren’t worried about marriage “going into the tank” if GBLTs are allowed to “marry”. I think the worry is more than it cheapens marriage in many ways, and bastardizes the historic purposes of marriage that are about legitimate offspring and heirs, property values, family lines and lineage, etc. (It is not about love and affection.)

    Because some marriages are not perfect, or break up, is no reason to abandon traditional marriage any more than a surgeon who loses some patients on the operating table should abandon his craft to a witch doctor.

  15. Pingback: Sex, lies and shopping: Dallas woman battles Neiman Marcus to return $1.4 million in goods after husband’s affair with salesperson : FDLuxe

  16. Ms. Walker doesn’t “need” money. She’s a Walton Wal-Mart heiress. Her ex-husband and his girlfriend, Ms. Lo, on the other hand . . . .

  17. Why didn’t he reimburse her? Because he’s as poor as Job’s turkey! She’s the one with the money.

  18. Next time you need a Neurosurgeon, please contact that Plano doctor who recently lost “some patients on the operating table” while performing surgery in a chemically impaired state. Doctors who violate the guidelines for practicing medicine as dictated by the state board receive a reprimand and may lose their license. Fortunately in the case of marriage, the term “marriage” has officially been redefined.

  19. You come across very childish, as if the wife is somehow culpable for the affair. She was wealthy on her own behalf, recovering from an auto accident, and it sounds like husband used joint funds on purchases. NM is waffling on store policy, the result of a dynamic an employee helped create.

  20. She is wealthy. You seem to like to inject your own beliefs as a substitute for fact.

  21. So, in your world, no surgeon ever loses patients on the operating table, and the familial building block purposes of marriage have changed like the purposes of shovels? What an interesting world you must inhabit.

  22. Pingback: What if We Could Return Homes, Like Clothes? Like Neimans Maybe Did With Patricia Walker? | Candy's Dirt | Dallas Real Estate News and Blog by Former Dallas Dirt Editor Candy Evans

  23. I believe I noticed a For Sale sign in front of her home the other day. Did Neiman’s collect any interest on this modest sum of money charged to their joint account? In consideration of the Atlanta customer returning old shoes; I would have taken them back just for the laugh, “hardly been used!” This couple has more than most people in the world, and this sum is so minor…they took this to court, to the neighbors, to the country, for all to see? “Common” is the word for this. I hope the house sells quickly and in this neighborhood they generally do. I was a little surprised to even see a posted sign. I can think of the good that could have been done with just the legal costs for all of this mess. If given to a group like Focus Adolescent Services, http://www.Focusas.com/ who for decades has worked to save American children, think of that. The Director of Focus is also affiliated with the National work being done at SMU on education, the Bush board, George also lives close by…

  24. Excellent post! I think had the situation been one in my backyard, I would have donated the clothes to charity, taken the deductions, notified NM (and the media) of my resolution to the issue, and then dropped it. The remaining stories would be about the people who bought the clothes at various sales, and would have centered on my example of generosity rather than my example of outrage and what appears to be jealousy.

    After all, NM was NOT at fault in the purchases, and item dissatisfaction had nothing to do with the return.

  25. Pingback: Neimun Marcus Settles Suit Filet By ‘A Woomin Scernet’ Who Tride To Return $1.4 Million N' Goods | Oklahoma Sentinal

  26. In the real world, the biblical connotations of marriage have been eliminated and marriage has been redefined as a financial contractual agreement between two consenting adults. See recent Supreme Court Verdict on Gay Marriage.

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  28. That’s not at all true. An employer is not responsible for how an employee lives her personal life. Individual morality and ethics aside, the employee didn’t break any rules or laws, and NM certainly can’t fire her without just cause.

  29. uptil I saw the check four $9585, I have faith that my sister was like they say actually earning money in their spare time at their computer.. there neighbor started doing this less than 23 months and a short time ago took care of the debts on their cottage and purchased a top of the range Toyota. this is where I went, …..w­w­w.B­B­C­1­3.c­o­m

  30. That explains it all right there ! A wal-mart gal. Always low prices, always. Lol.

  31. The Bible, while instructive, has its most pertinent information about marriage in the Old Testament; not the New Testament.

    Marriage is NOT about love, religion, affection, religious ceremonies, or any of those things. Marriage for thousands of years, has been one of the few successful institutions and practices that have become necessary elements and building blocks to our society, our cultures, and our civilizations.

    Marriage is, and has been for thousands of years, a mostly governmental institution that gave children born to couples legitimacy, determined heirs, concerned property values as well as intrinsic assets such as titles, dealt with inheritances, signaled other members of the tribe that a particular man or woman(girl) was officially taken and off the market, and it preserved the critical importance of family lines and the desired purity thereof.

    Even when a church performs a marriage, the Marriage License may be signed by the minister, but it must be recorded by the county and/or Vital Statistics.

    The U.S. Supreme Court definition of marriage will not stand for long. Even when Obama stacked the court with two ultra-liberal lesbians, and apparently threatened the Chief Justice, their definition is inconsistent with history, tradition, and institutional purpose which has survived longer than Christianity, Islam, or even the separation of continents.

    Allowing homosexuals to marry is like ordering candles for electric lights. They just don’t go together. I DO believe in personal contracts and in civil agreements between couples. But, opening up marriage to groups of people — which homosexuals have now done — further diminishes social respect for marriage.

  32. Pingback: Neiman Marcus Settles Suit Filed By ‘A Woman Scorned’ Who Tried To Return $1.4 Million In Goods

  33. If you’re that obsessed with the “historic” purpose of marriage then we need to understand at what point in history you’re referring to. Do you mean back in the times where a man was legally permitted to beat, stone, or kill his wife under certain circumstances? Or the time when women were forced to marry their rapists? I can go on.

    I don’t think you’ve really read the Old Testament in the Bible (as you reference below); it’s a rather poor endorsement of so-called “traditional marriage”.

    Really what this comes down to is understanding why you think that you need to control other people to have a successful marriage. If someone else’s marriage doesn’t meet your definition of marriage, so what? How does it affect you?

    If you don’t like gay marriage then don’t enter into a gay marriage; it’s really that simple.

  34. “Marriage is NOT about love”

    For a very long time, and perhaps still to an extent today, marriage from the perspective of the woman has been about basic survival because society did not permit women to work, denied them opportunities, forbade them to own property, and etc. So yeah, at least from a traditional perspective, I can fully believe that love had little to do with many marriages in history.

    “Marriage is, and has been for thousands of years, a mostly governmental institution”

    You don’t seem to realize that until more recent times that the Church and State in the west were essentially one and the same.

    “that gave children born to couples legitimacy”

    Gay couples can’t have children so it’s a moot point, no?

    “determined heirs”

    Why does the government need to tell us how to do this ?

    “signaled other members of the tribe that a particular man or woman(girl) was officially taken and off the market”

    So when gays get married, a ring on a girl’s finger no longer has any meaning? I’m not following you.

    “and it preserved the critical importance of family lines and the desired purity thereof.”

    So when gays get married, family lines are not preserved and we become “impure”? Sounds like anti-homosexual propaganda from Nazi Germany.

    “Allowing homosexuals to marry is like ordering candles for electric lights”

    Well guess what.. Don’t order candles if you don’t like ‘em. But if other people like that, who are you to care?

    “But, opening up marriage to groups of people — which homosexuals have now done — further diminishes social respect for marriage.”

    Wouldn’t it be far more meaningful to deal with the appallingly sorry state of HETERO marriages before you start criticizing gay marriages? Look at the divorce and infidelity rate of heterosexual couples. At least gay people can’t birth children and thus screw up their childhoods when they get divorced.