State investigating Ashley Furniture
The Office of Consumer Protection has initiated an inquiry into the Waikele store's sudden closure
The state Office of Consumer Protection has opened an investigation into the closure of Ashley Furniture last Friday, the agency's executive director said yesterday.
Steve Levins said his office received about 20 calls from Ashley customers Monday and yesterday, mostly seeking complaint forms.
The store closed suddenly, leaving only a note posted on its doors and a recorded greeting on its phone line indicating it was closing due to "unfortunate economic circumstances."
However, customers and creditors are now encountering full mailboxes at the phone numbers the store offers on its recorded greeting, so they unable to leave messages as directed.
The store was operated by a licensee, Hawaii-based A Furniture Homestore LLC, whose principals have been unavailable for comment.
According to the recording, the store will reopen within two weeks for a liquidation sale and subsequent auction.
Levins said yesterday his agency's investigation is still in its initial stages.
"It would be extremely serious if the company knew it was going out of business and continued to take consumers' money, knowing they were going out of business and not having any expectation that they would be able to provide the merchandise," Levins said. "That ratchets it up to a whole other level."
Levins suggests customers call 587-3222 to request a complaint form, and mail the form back with copies of receipts and other documentation.
Local resident Tammie Sills and her husband initially got the run-around from Ashley last week after some of their furniture was never delivered.
The Sills say they were told on Nov. 7 that they had to make full payment to receive delivery of some of the furniture they had ordered in August. On Nov. 8, they paid the store in cash the $1,700 balance on a $3,700 purchase of a dining room set and several other pieces of furniture.
The couple made several visits to the store between August and Nov. 8. Each time, Sills said, they were never told the store would be closing.
A few items were scheduled for delivery to the Sills' home between 1 and 5 p.m. last Friday. At 4:55 p.m. that day, the partial shipment still had not been delivered, so the Sills called the store to inquire. Instead, they heard the recording that announced the closure of the store. "My husband immediately drove to the store in Waikele. Meanwhile the delivery truck called and said they were running late," Sills said.
At 5:20 p.m. a TV stand and corner piers were delivered but another piece that was damaged was left at the warehouse. The Sills signed delivery paperwork to reflect non-delivery of the bridge piece, but "the delivery men would not give us a copy of that paperwork," Sills said.
Her call to Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. in Wisconsin, the furniture's manufacturer, proved a dead end.
Sills said she was told that all Ashley stores are independent and that they should wait for the letter the local operator would be sending to customers, which is to arrive no later than Nov. 20.
Sills got her letter yesterday evening, saying the store will give the Sills a $2,000 store credit and the opportunity to make an appointment to choose something else from the showroom before the public liquidation sale.
That sale will begin at noon on Nov. 24, according to Martin McClain, president of McClain Auctions, which is serving as a liquidation consultant and auctioneer.
McClain recommended that the attorney for A Furniture Homestore LLC contact the state Office of Consumer Protection to inform the agency of the situation and the steps that were being taken.
Ashley licensee Michael Cutler issued a statement yesterday, which, according to McClain, indicates that customers who made purchases after Nov. 3 "will receive a cash refund or return of their check."
While McClain has had nothing to do with Ashley's business operations, he said, "We feel sorry for the people who are left out in the cold."
The inventory remaining in the Ashley store belongs to a creditor who financed it, GE Capital, "and the proceeds (of the liquidation sale) belong to that creditor," McClain said.
McClain said he welcomes e-mails at email@example.com, and he will try to help resolve issues.
"I'm thinking in a day or two, we'll have some better information," McClain said. He will post information for customers and creditors on his company Web site, www.mcclainauctions.com.