January 3, 2013

Customers seek refunds as Portland flooring store shutters

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – At least three customers of a flooring company are trying to get back thousands of dollars they paid for goods and services that they say the business never delivered.

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The Floor Covering Superstore on Warren Ave. in Portland has closed leaving customers without purchased products. Seen here on Wednesday, January 2, 2013.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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Joan Mercier, owner of the Freeport Cafe, is one of numerous customers jilted by a flooring store that went out of business. Mercier, left, and her assistant manager, Pam Bird, stand in the doorway of a recently built addition to the restaurant, which is currently without carpet.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

A hand-lettered sign on the door of the Floor Covering Superstore at 659 Warren Ave. says the store has closed. The owner of the business could not be reached Wednesday.

Among the customers looking for answers and refunds is Joan Mercier. Mercier, who owns the Freeport Cafe with her husband, Jack, said she waited weeks for a $1,204 carpet she ordered on Dec. 14.

The rug was one piece of an ongoing renovation of her restaurant that, when completed in March, will double its size. The project is now weeks behind schedule, and Mercier had to buy carpet from another vendor, more than doubling her costs.

"I should have followed my instinct," said Mercier, 65, who said the store seemed quiet and empty when she placed the order. Now she is haggling with her credit card company to refund the charge, and angry that a flagging business would apparently take orders it could not fill.

"If you're going to fall, fall on your own," she said.

It's unclear how many customers stand to lose money. Three who were interviewed Wednesday said the Floor Covering Superstore asked for upfront payments, delayed responding to repeated inquiries, then shut its doors.

Randall Akers, who owns the parent company, AHJ Marketing Inc., did not respond to a voicemail message Wednesday evening.

The parent company is registered to do business under 15 other names, all of which are related to carpet and flooring sales, according to the Maine Bureau of Corporations.

Coleen Stuart of Naples said she gave up hope on the granite countertop she ordered from the Portland store in September after waiting for Akers and others to respond for more than two months.

When Stuart and her husband began planning to remodel their kitchen in September, they went to the store on Warren Avenue for flooring, and eventually ordered granite countertop as well.

Stuart said she lost count of how many times she called to inquire about her $3,200 order from about Dec. 3 to last week -- but she has the phone number to the showroom memorized.

She said she consistently got the runaround.

"I still don't have a kitchen, no water, no sink, no nothing," said Stuart, who hoped to complete the remodeling of her kitchen by mid-December. "I would never pay for something upfront like that, and sure enough, I had paid them."

Chuck Mowatt of Windham said he was in a similar situation when his elderly mother wanted to shop for carpet. A saleswoman helped them select a carpet that cost $1,875.64.

"They asked for the full payment," said Mowatt. "I said no."

So Mowatt's mother wrote a check for $1,250 and agreed to pay the balance when the rug arrived. After the check was cashed, employees of the store told Mowatt to expect delivery within three to four weeks.

"It sounded a little long," said Mowatt, who hung on for weeks, until he drove to the showroom and found the hand-lettered sign bearing the bad news.

Now Mowatt is considering suing in small claims court. But like the other customers, he said that suing could be too costly and difficult for what he stands to gain.

Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

mbyrne@pressherald.com

 

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