TACOMA, Washington - UPDATE: Since this report, Attorney General Rob McKenna has sued Gill’s Furniture.
There’s outrage in Pierce County, where people have spent thousands of dollars on furniture at a store on Portland Avenue East, yet the furniture hasn’t always been delivered.
The owners of the store, Loren and Joe Gill, haven’t always given refunds either, even after being ordered by the courts to pay.
Tacoma’s Bonnie Rezendes shared her debit card receipts with KIRO 7 Consumer Investigators. According to a complaint she filed with the Washington State Attorney General's office, she spent $4,859.84 at Gill’s Furniture last fall, yet her home is still nearly empty.
Rezendes has not received the dining room, living room or bedroom furniture she ordered, despite the money she handed over, in installments, to Gill’s.
“They keep telling me, it’s ordered, it’s on the truck,” she said. “And it’s like, where is that truck coming from?”
Similar accounts are detailed in more than 300 pages worth of multiple complaints filed in recent years with the Washington State Attorney General's office.
Shane Dowtin of Tacoma only received half of his paid-in-full order from Gill’s last summer. He said when he went to the store to find out why, he refused to leave until he had answers.
“I was like, I’m going nowhere until I see the owner,” he said.
Still, Dowtin eventually left empty-handed.
Clara and Clarence Morris, also of Tacoma, only received half of their paid-in-full order, too.
“He did this to me three times, promised to be bringing it, and never did,” Clara said.
“I felt like somebody just came into my house and stole from me,” Clarence said.
Despite multiple calls, emails and visits to the store, none of the consumers KIRO 7 interviewed received all of their furniture or a refund, even though two of them, and others, have taken the company to small claims court and received judgments in their favor ordering the owners to pay.
“They’re crooks,” Dowtin said. “They shouldn’t have a license to do business. They should understand that having a business is a privilege, not a right. Especially when you do people like this.”
Part of the problem, it seems, is due to a technicality. Gill’s Furniture changed its name to MFC earlier this year. According to documents uncovered by Consumer Investigators, Gill’s was owned by Loren Gill. MFC is owned by his brother, Joe Gill. Both businesses occupy the same space on Portland Avenue East.
On the multiple days KIRO 7 sat outside the store, both Loren and Joe Gill were working there. They were both also there when we took a hidden camera inside the store. However, when consumers asked for either their furniture or for refunds they were told, in person and in emails, that Loren's company "Gill’s Furniture is not affiliated with MFC Furniture in any manner" and thus the new business "has no responsibility."
Yet just this week, Loren Gill tried to sell a KIRO 7 producer a sofa at MFC.
When KIRO 7’s Amy Clancy interviewed Rezendes, Clancy asked, "Who have you seen at this new business?"
"Joe Gill,” Rezendes replied. “And Loren Gill is sitting right behind the glass in his office.”
Clara Morris said she just wants her money back.
“I’m just asking for what we paid for it back, and he (Joe Gill) goes, ‘Well that’s too bad. No,’” she said. “He said our money was tied up with Gill’s Furniture, not MFC.”
Consumer Investigators took this issue to the Washington State Department of Revenue, which oversees business licenses. Its spokesman, Mike Gowrylow, told KIRO 7 the license of Gill’s Furniture has been revoked, and a warrant for $71,915 in unpaid taxes has been filed against Gill’s.
But Gowrylow said his agency can't do anything about Gill’s successor, MFC, because a business has to purchase a majority of the company to be liable for its debts.
“The owner of a prior company working at the new company is not a factor,” Gowrylow said.
That’s why the consumers Clancy interviewed are trying to warn others themselves.
“Stay away from MFC Furniture’ without a doubt is what I would tell anyone,” Clarence Morris said. “I have never had anyone -- anyone -- steal from me like that, ever.”
Clancy called the Gill brothers at MFC and left multiple messages, asking for an interview so they can explain the court judgments, the Attorney General complaints, and their side of the story. So far, she has received no response.
The whole situation is another example why paying with a credit card might have given consumers more protection.
The Morrises paid cash for their furniture. Shane Dowtin and Bonnie Rezendes paid with debit cards. Dowtin has not pursued a reimbursement from his bank. But when Rezendes tried, she was told by JP Morgan Chase that too much time had elapsed. A Chase spokesperson said the company allows consumers 120 days to dispute debit card charges, and that Rezendes waited too long.
- For the statement from Chase: www.kirotv.com/news/news/chase-bank-statement-gills-furnituremfc/nRJTx/
- To file a complaint with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office: www.atg.wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx
- To see the statement from the Department of Revenue: www.kirotv.com/news/news/statement-washington-department-revenue-gills-furn/nRJMn/
- To see the Washington Administrative Code regarding business and successors : apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=458-20-216