BBB rings warning bells about Bel Furniture
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Better Business Bureau
March 14, 2012 | 23,285 views | 1 comment
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Ron Poole no longer expects to get the television stand he paid for in July. He has also accepted that his brand new sofa is going to be damaged. But, he said, he should have known there were going to be problems as soon as he walked into Bel Furniture in San Antonio to take advantage of the free high-definition television the store had advertised.
“We went there, looked around,” he said. “I’m like ‘Oh, by the way, which one of these TVs do you get?’ and the salesman said ‘free HD TV?’”
Poole was understandably confused, as the store had advertised the offer in the newspaper and had a banner hanging outside its door with the same offer. But he accepted the store’s reasoning that it was an expired promotion.
So, he and his wife paid $1,600 for a television in addition to $1,100 for their furniture purchase and received a voucher. They were told they could take the voucher to Best Buy, who would provide the actual television set.
When he brought the voucher to Best Buy, he said, “Best Buy didn’t have any idea what I was talking about.” Then the Best Buy salesman showed him the same television, for $999.
“So, I called the manager of (Bel Furniture), and I was like ‘we have a problem here,’” he said.
Poole got a refund for the television, but it was only the beginning of his problems.
More than one consumer has complained to Better Business Bureau about Bel Furniture’s advertising, poor customer services and delivery issues. The company, which started in Houston, has multiple locations around the state.
BBB received 46 complaints about the San Antonio and Del Rio locations, 22 of which were either never addressed by the company or BBB felt the company did not make a good-faith effort to resolve the issue.
BBB contacted Bel Furniture about the pattern of complaints and its advertising issues -- including offering discounts without clearly disclosing that a minimum purchase is required and making unsubstantiated claims about the company’s growth -- but never received a response.
Eric Coffey went to Bel Furniture in Del Rio for the same reason Poole did; he wanted a free television. He got the same response to his original inquiries, but eventually convinced the employees to honor the advertised deal. So, he bought a bed.
“They said it would take a week or two to come in, and the TV would take a week after that,” he said.
A month later, he started calling. After calling two or three times a week for several weeks, he finally got his furniture and his television -- which had a crack across the screen. Customer service representatives said he would get a replacement in two weeks.
After another month of calling, leaving messages and not hearing back, he turned to BBB. Finally, Bel Furniture contacted him to let him know his television was ready.
Though the experience was frustrating and Coffey said he would never shop at Bel Furniture again, the resolution was more than other customers received.
When Poole went to Bel Furniture in July for the free television he never received, it was just the start of his troubles. He also bought $1,100 worth of furniture, some of which was damaged when Bel Furniture finally delivered it -- several weeks after the promised date.
“We bought a sectional with a chaise and ottoman. It’s supposed to be leather,” he said. “We also bought a bedroom set, with a dresser, mirror and night stand. And we bought a TV chest, which we still don’t have to this day. We’ve been paying on it since August.”
The store promised a four-to six-week delivery window. When the furniture arrived eight weeks later, the television stand was missing and the couch was damaged.
“There’s some scuffs on it,” he said. “There’s actually a couple of deep scratches on it, (that someone had tried to cover up.) ... It looks like someone just threw some nail polish on it. The feet are damaged. They brought us one ottoman and it sunk in one day.”
A couple of weeks later, the television stand arrived and was so poorly assembled, Poole simply refused delivery. Four delivery attempts later, the company still has not brought an acceptable television stand, and has attempted to replace his damaged sofa with a different, smaller model.
Poole said the worst part of the entire experience has been talking to the store’s customer service department.
“At this point, I’m just furious,” he said. “The people were just rude, no customer service whatsoever. I actually had the phone hung up on me by a regional manager.”
Coffey echoed the sentiment.
“Where I work at, we get a new person or two every three months. I already told them, if you need furniture, don’t go there,” he said. “They could be having free giveaways on the sidewalk, I would pass.”
When shopping for furniture, BBB offers the following tips:
- Read the fine print. Many stores offer discounts or give-a-ways with purchase, but make sure you know the terms of any deals before committing to a purchase.
- Start with trust. Check the company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org before making a purchase to see its BBB rating, complaint history and more.
- Get it in writing. Ask about the company’s return policy and who to contact if your merchandise is delivered late or damaged. Make sure those details and any guarantees are in the paperwork.
- Ask about refunds. Before making a purchase, know the company’s policy on refunds. If you are dissatisfied with the furniture once it arrives or have other issues, you can save a lot of frustration by knowing where to turn.
- Understand the terms of financing. It’s best to pay upfront with a credit card that offers purchase protections. However, if the store offers a special financing deal or you are forced to finance for other reasons, read the contract carefully. Know how long special interest rates last, what happens if you miss a payment and what to do if you are unhappy with the purchase once it arrives.
To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.