Ashley hit with more than 100 complaints
The Waikele store abruptly closed its doors in November
AT LEAST 100 customers of the shuttered Ashley Furniture store in Waikele have filed a complaint with the state Office of Consumer Protection, and with the last of its inventory sold at an auction over the weekend, there may be more coming.
Ernest Taniguchi is one frustrated customer who was left in the lurch, and who intends to file a complaint. It's very detailed, he said, because he also paid for an extended warranty for the furniture set he ordered.
HOW TO COMPLAIN
Customers can contact the company at:
A Furniture Home Store LLC
P.O. Box 1275
Kaneohe, HI 96744
Complaint forms can be obtained by calling 587-3222 or visiting www.hawaii.gov/ dcca/areas/ocp/
Taniguchi paid $2,200 on a sofa, love seat and recliner set from Ashley Furniture Home Store back in August with his credit card.
He hasn't gotten either his furniture or his credit back.
Taniguchi was promised delivery of his furniture within six to eight weeks, but that dragged on. Then he got the news, along with everyone else, that the store was closing its doors on Nov. 10.
"They never gave me the option to cancel," he said. "If you cancel the order, they charge you a 20 percent freight fee. ... So I was forced to accept their terms."
He also says he can't get the money back from his credit card company because he missed the deadline for disputing the purchase.
Customers were given the option of trading in cash and credit for inventory from Ashley's store worth close to $3 million at liquidation sales held in late November and early December.
But Taniguchi did not want anything from the liquidation. He says he just wants his furniture. So far, he said he's received no assurance from the store that his dilemma would be resolved.
Ashley Furniture Home Store has been cleaned out since last Saturday. Every fixture and item in the store, including rugs, faux plants and trees, computers, security cameras, even pallet jacks, was sold at a final auction on Saturday, according to Marty McClain of McClain Auctions.
About 500 people attended, he said, with all items selling within three hours.
McClain Auctions spent yesterday cleaning out the 50,000-square-foot space to hand back to the landlord, the Sullivan Family of Cos.
Sullivan did not return calls.
Ted Pettit, an attorney representing A Furniture Home Store LLC, said the company is requesting assistance from the manufacturer of Ashley, Ashley Furniture Industries of Wisconsin, to assist in completing the deliveries of purchased furniture.
"We expect a positive response some time this week," he said.
Before the liquidation sales in late November and early December, more than 60 checks reimbursing all-cash customers were sent out, he said, while those with cash deposits were allowed to go to the store and exchange the credit for furniture on the floor.
Pettit said customer complaints could be addressed by the managers of the company via a post office box. The local franchise was launched four years ago by Michael Cutler and George Norcross.
Meanwhile, the number of customers who have filed complaints with the state has grown to 102, according to Jeff Brunton, attorney at the Office of Consumer Protection.
"We are investigating the matter fully," Brunton said. "We want everyone who paid money to get reimbursed. If the outcome of our investigation indicates that there were unfair or deceptive trade practices conducted by the company or individuals on behalf of the company, there are penalties."
Those penalties, he said, range from $500 to $10,000 per violation.
"In my view, if you knew a company was going out of business, and you knew you were unable to perform your end of the contract, and you still took the consumer's money, that would be unfair or deceptive," Brunton said.
He estimated that money owed to customers who paid in credit card and cash could amount to a ballpark estimate of about $25 million, but said it's too early to tell. The state's investigation will likely continue for several more months, he said.
The state will be gathering information from both A Furniture Home Store LLC and Ashley Furniture Industries.
A call to the store's number is answered by a recording that refers customers to a letter sent out on Nov. 11. Customers are also referred to a series of other numbers, which essentially repeat the same message.