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Doug MacDonald lives alone in a small Cape-style house in the Higgins Beach neighborhood of Scarborough, Maine. He found it last fall through a rental agency and had never met or talked with the property owner or his family. All he knew was that the house was owned by the O’Connors.

So MacDonald, 52, a technician in the emergency room at Maine Medical Center, said he was a little startled when two men came to the house with new appliances on Feb. 22.

“That’s strange. I wasn’t notified of any delivery,” he told them.

The delivery men showed him paperwork. The address listed was the house he was renting. The order was made by a Mary O’Connor.

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The delivery men seemed anxious to get on with the delivery, so MacDonald let them in to deliver a washer and dryer. They took away the old ones.

Several hours later, Home Depot called and said they had made a mistake and needed to retrieve the appliances, he said. (Mary O’Connor lives elsewhere on the same street).

“Will you bring back the appliances you took out?” MacDonald asked.

MacDonald said the Home Depot manager seemed surprised to learn appliances had been taken away.

“We’ll have to look into that,” MacDonald recalled him saying.

Even though Home Depot quickly realized the mistake and picked up the misdelivered appliances the next day, they claimed they couldn’t bring back the old ones; they apparently had already been reduced to scrap metal. Really? Within 24 hours?

When MacDonald called the Home Depot in South Portland, “Tracy” offered him this deal: Pay $600 toward a new washer and dryer, since the company felt he was partly responsible for the delivery mixup.

“She’s the one who started to play hardball,” MacDonald said. “She said I bear responsibility for accepting merchandise that wasn’t mine. I was shocked she was trying to pin some of the blame on me.”

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“She said I bear responsibility for accepting merchandise that wasn’t mine. I was shocked she was trying to pin some of the blame on me.”
“She said I bear responsibility for accepting merchandise that wasn’t mine. I was shocked she was trying to pin some of the blame on me.”Yoon S. Byun for The Boston Globe

MacDonald asked Tracy why Home Depot hadn’t called ahead to confirm its delivery. Tracy said they had. But MacDonald said he never got a call.

And if the crew had called Mary O’Connor and asked to confirm the address, wouldn’t she have told them they were heading to the wrong house?

Kevin O’Connor, who owns the house, sent a family member who is a lawyer to talk to Tracy. The lawyer later described her as “curt, dismissive and [making] it clear she was not interested in talking.”

Home Depot sells $100 billion in goods and services every year. Delivery is a core part of its business. You would expect it to absorb a hit of a few hundred dollars without pointing accusing fingers at others.

But that’s not what happened — at least for several weeks.

A new appliance in the home that Doug MacDonald rents in Maine.
A new appliance in the home that Doug MacDonald rents in Maine.Yoon S. Byun for The Boston Globe

By the time I arrived at the South Portland store late last month, it had been 2½ months since Home Depot took its hard line, with no resolution in sight. Tracy declined to talk to me.

But when word of the controversy bubbled up to the corporate level, things changed quickly. Home Depot promised to install new appliances at no cost, though it brushed aside my detailed questions about exactly how the delivery and followup had gone awry and what management would do to prevent such mistakes.

“We are truly sorry for the confusion as well as the inconvenience,” Home Depot said in a two-sentence e-mail to me. “We appreciate the opportunity to make it right.”

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A taxing dispute is resolved

Michael Coomey, who was hit with a sky-high sales tax bill when he tried to register a Triumph sports car he had built in his garage from parts purchased more than 35 years ago, will pay no sales tax at all.

Coomey was featured last month in this column regarding his bewildering experience with the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Revenue.

The RMV tried to charge Coomey more than $12,000 in past-due sales tax, penalties, and interest.

After I got involved, the state agreed to the lower the amount owed to about $1,000. But then one of Coomey’s relative caught wind of the wrangle and did a little research. (He’s a retired corporate lawyer.)

The state ultimately agreed that Coomey’s purchase of automobile parts in the early 1980s was “casual and isolated,” and therefore not subject to a sales tax.

So Coomey owes nothing.

Pothole photo packs value

Kudos to reader Phil Rosen. Last winter, he told me about damage to his car caused by a pothole in Worcester. We looked at the law together and figured he was unlikely to succeed in persuading the city to reimburse him $450 for repairs, so I didn’t write about it.

The law holds a municipality liable for pothole damage only when it’s proven the city or town had prior notice of the hazard and did nothing. A city attorney wrote to Rosen that no such record existed.

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Curious about the process, Rosen plunged ahead. And at a hearing on Apr. 22, Rosen made a good argument: Photos he took on the day of the mishap showed fresh-looking asphalt at the bottom of the pothole, meaning a city crew had recently taken notice of it.

The city will pay for the damage.

Good job, Phil.


Sean P. Murphy can be reached at smurphy@globe.com.