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Hunter’s Carpet Out of Business,Leaves Customer Out of Cash
(4/1/13) By allappearances, Hunter’s Carpet and Tile on Olton Road in Plainview has gone outof business. The actual event took place some time in January, but a few customers with pending orders are just realizing that the company has shut down. The phone number associated with the business has been disconnected and a new tenant has occupied the space. Noone quite knows what happened to Bill Hunter, the owner.
“No one likes to see a business close,” says Bob Manista, Office Manager of the BBB outpost in Plainview. “It’s bad for the owner, employees, suppliers and -- at least most ofthe time -- bad for the community. It may be worse for former customers of that business who find themselves without their favorite store, but worst of all if the company closes owing clients product that the well-meaning customer has paid for in advance.” While Manista admits that in some cases, a business shutdown might end years of bad selling practices and shoddy customer service that all too often are signs of a company in trouble, he adds that “former customers are always hurt when a business shuts down overnight and leaves town owing folks refunds or shipments.”
Such will be the case where Hunter’s Carpet is concerned. The Plainview Better Business Bureau received a call from one customer who claims to have paid $2,400 in cashfor a special order of carpet in the Autumn and was notified that it was in the shop and ready for delivery some time around Christmas. “The customer said that a home improvement project was not yet completed and that Mr. Hunter had told her that she was welcome to delay pick-up or delivery until the remodeling was completed. Shortly after that, it appears that the business closed up and the space was rented to a completely different business.” The new occupant of the business space says that Hunter offered to sell him store displays, tile, and carpet remnants. Much of the stock was left behind after Hunter moved out. It is unknown whether or not the pre-ordered carpet was resold or abandoned and discarded.
A customer who pays cash for such a transaction is at a disadvantage when the business closes before delivery. Where a credit card offers protection for major purchases, other forms of payment (especially cash, checks or debit cards) do not. “A credit card company would generally reverse the charges when a business does not deliver. That means the cost of appliances, carpet or health club memberships could be rescinded if the shop closes without providing the products or a refund. In this case, the customer had the cash on hand to pay for the project and wanted to put the purchase behind her. That’s unfortunate, because short of filing in small claims court, she may be out of luck.”
The BBB adds the following tips for dealing with a company that has gone Out of Business:
- Know the exact status of the closing. Did the business close its doors altogether, or are there other locations of the same company in operation? Did it file for some form of bankruptcy protection, and if so, what are your rights as a customer under those rules? Can you file against the business to collect any portion of a refund for undelivered items?
- If you’re shopping a liquidation sale, nearly all of the items are sold with no applicable refunds or return policies. If it’s an electronic item, don’t buy it until you’re sure it works. If it’s clothing, try it on before you buy. Make certain that the “deep discounts” are a real deal, not a steal (some unscrupulous managers have been known to boost the ticket price of items, then list 50 or 70% discounts that may leave you paying the same costs as the original, real selling price). Short of those limitations, shopping a Going Out of Business Sale can yield real bargains and help the shop owner get ahead of creditors.
- If you’ve purchased major appliances or other warranty items from a store that goes out of business, note whether the warranty is from the manufacturer or the shop. The store’s closing will not affect a manufacturer’s warranty. The significant warranty covering a washer, dryer, or other big appliance will come from the manufacturer. You’re in luck!
- Whenever you’re buying so-called “big box” items, appliances, furniture or custom-order items for future delivery, pay with a credit card whenever possible. Thousands of consumers lose millions of dollars in company shutdowns every year. Cash assets are usually considered part of the company’s value (even if that cash was supposed to go for layaways, custom orders, or pre-purchase items) and the physical properties or liability are on a completely different page as a separate consideration. In the event of a bankruptcy, sale of the business, or a forced liquidation, the court or potential buyers are mainly concerned about the available, liquid cash associated with the business and not with making deliveries of owed items. In most cases, business investors and creditors come first. Employees and customers are at the end of the line and are not likely to see repayment. Credit card payments are a bit different, because a credit card issuer has a right to reverse the charge even if a company has closed. Each issuer’s policy may be a bit different – one might limit the length of time a customer can claim that a company is guilty of a failure to deliver, for instance, while another may have a limit on the dollar amount that can be refunded -- but whenever there’s a possibility that a purchase is going south on you, contact your credit card company and ask what can be done to get your money back.
- Each business closing is unique, but there are more similarities than differences. For every company that shuts down to avoid paying its bills or scam its way out of a financial shortfall, there are dozens of business owners who did their best to keep the doors open and, for whatever reason, failed to succeed. Intentions count for something. Many reputable businesses will try to sell out to new owners who will honor the original company’s policies or extend special services to previous customers. Others don’t. Some try to contact their clients to express their deep regret for having to close and make some sort of arrangement for those who are owed something, while others post a sign on the door and run for cover. As a consumer, no matter what’s owed, you shouldn’t make any assumptions about why the company closed or what the management’s position will be. In some cases, a company closes overnight, in desperation, and considerations and alternatives present themselves only days after the fact. Be as patient as possible and reasonable.
- The business owes you something? Try to contact the owner or manager to learn what arrangements can be made to get your items. It may not always be possible, and your level of commitment may vary with the amount of money you stand to lose, but driving to the location to check for signs of life, maybe talking to neighboring businesses or even calling a landlord for more information may help put you ahead of the crowd and minimize your losses. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes or James Bond to pick up a phone or knock on some doors, and a little effort may bring important answers to your questions.