Chesterton Tribune

BBB: Be careful paying cash for big ticket items

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Some consumers in Northwest Indiana are facing a unique challenge: What to do after pre-paying cash for a large item, only to discover the business is closed leaving consumers without the merchandise?

A bridal shop Valparaiso and an appliance store in Highland have consumers holding paid-in-full receipts but no items, the Better Business Bureau of Northwest Indiana (BBB) said.

Consumers trying to confirm a delivery date of appliances or a pick-up for their wedding dress are finding full voicemail boxes, locked doors, and no response from business owners, the BBB said.

“BBB staff gets calls from consumers who discover a local business has closed its doors without any notice to consumers,” said Gail Zurek, area director of BBB Serving Northern Indiana. “It is heartbreaking to see consumers in this position. Since the business has closed and the owner may have packed up and left town, there may not be much you can do. Unfortunately consumers have to take additional steps to receive some type of compensation.”

Here are some suggestions for those who face this dilemma:

•Call the Bankruptcy Court, to determine if the company is bankrupt. If not and owner is unwilling to provide a refund, contact the Attorney General's office or seek legal help. If they are bankrupt, register a complaint.

•If you paid by credit card, contact your credit card company within 90 days and dispute the charge. If paid for by any other means, your dispute must be filed with the Bankruptcy Court.

•Try and find out who is in charge of the building and ask them for a contact.

•The post office may be able to provide a forwarding address.

•Ask the city/county clerk for assistance in finding the owner. A fee may be charged if they need to visit the site.

Here are ways to protect yourself from a company’s closure:

•Think carefully before deciding to pay in advance for goods.

•Only offer to pay a small deposit.

•Before placing a deposit, check with the seller on how long it will take before your goods will be delivered.

•If there is a long delivery period, don’t pay in full.

•If possible, pay by credit card as all credit cards provide some rights, so you can get your money back if the items are not delivered. Some debit cards may provide some flexibility but find out first.

•Use gift cards, vouchers, certificates as quickly as possible. Gift cards have been a hot item for birthday and holidays gifts, but place the card where it is visible and use it as soon as possible.

If you have any questions or need any assistance, please call your Better Business Bureau at (800) 552-4631.


Posted 8/7/2012