Better Business Bureau, Magistrate or Small Claimes Court

  1. Hi ya everyone,

    I was writing to see if anyone has had experience in dealing with a matter in Small Claims Court, a local Magistrate or the Better Business Bureau. I'm not looking for legal advice but perhaps any experience you guys have had with any of these offices and if there were benefits or draw backs to any specific one.

    My best friend got married last May '02. She ordered her wedding dress from a "Wedding World" in April of 2001. She paid in full and put in a complete order for dress, veil, etc. Well, the dress was supposed to be in within a few months and it never came in and despite our phone calls to the store and management they kept telling us "it will be in in time". The dress never showed up and the store never even told her that it wouldn't be in in time for the wedding. Now it's 9 months later and the dress never did show up and the store will not refund her money. Although she paid with a credit card in full the card company could not help her because they have a 3 month period after purchases to assist you with complaints. After that 3 months they can't really help you.

    10 weeks before the wedding my friend went to a national bridal dress chain and got a "try on" dress off the rack, had it altered and dry cleaned so that she could wear it for the wedding. All the while the 1st store said her dress would be in.

    My friend even hired a lawyer back in September who sent the store a letter detailing the events and how much money my friend expected back. The store had 30 days to give a refund or respond but they never did and the lawyer never followed up.

    Now, my friend is out the dress money and a hundred bucks for the lawyer and still doesn't have a refund. And she's now due with her first child in May and could certainly use the money.

    My friend is now consumed with getting ready for the baby and worrying about other money issues and says that maybe she should just forget the whole thing but me and her dad keep telling her to do something. Even if she has to spend some money on court fees or what have you it's still better than being out about $900.00 dollars for the first dress. Plus, the lawyer told her that she should be reimbursed for the second dress, alterations and dry cleaning.

    So, as the Maid of Honor, I can't let this drop and I can't let the store continue to do this. If I lived in the town where the store is located I would set up a tent and a picket line. Plus, she is not the first person they have done this to and I told her that she should try to get whatever money she can out of them before they close down or go out of business.

    I am trying to convince her to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or go to small claims court, etc.

    If you have any advice I would appreciate your insights.

  2. 16 Comments

  3. by   emily_mom
    The same thing happened to my mom when she and my dad got married. She went to the Cities, picked out this extravagently expensive dress, paid for it with all accessories and the store went out of business. She went to pick it up and a dry cleaning store was there.

    She ended up buying something off the rack and didn't care what it looked like. She was so heartbroken.

    Start with the BBB, but also file claim with Small Claims. It's only $60 (here) to pursue it. You can also file for that to be paid for also (which it is always judgemented for if asked).

    Did she keep all paperwork?

  4. by   Rustyhammer
    Isn't the mother of the bride suppose to MAKE the wedding dress? Or something like that?
  5. by   RNonsense
    I'd go with the BBB first...they may save alot in legal fees. Negative press is always good too! Letters to the editor...word of mouth...Good luck!
  6. by   kavi
    I had a very bad experience with Small Claims Court. I would never 'accept' using one again.
    Last edit by kavi on Apr 20, '03
  7. by   EmeraldNYL
    Stuff like this scares the beejebus out of me, since I'm getting married soon! Does anyone have advice on how to avoid situations like this? Definitely report the store to the Better Business Bureau Colleen-- you are a good friend to fight for the new bride like this.
  8. by   emily_mom
    Originally posted by Rustyhammer
    Isn't the mother of the bride suppose to MAKE the wedding dress? Or something like that?
    Oh kill me.....
  9. by   MelRN13
    Originally posted by EmeraldNYL
    Stuff like this scares the beejebus out of me, since I'm getting married soon! Does anyone have advice on how to avoid situations like this? Definitely report the store to the Better Business Bureau Colleen-- you are a good friend to fight for the new bride like this.
    :kiss Good luck to you emerald! The best bet is to check and see if any bridal shops are affiliated with your local Chamber of Commerce, or shop a national chain (I happen to love David's Bridal, a few of my friends have got their dresses there.)

    Or, you can go by word of mouth from other recent brides.
  10. by   Nurse Ratched
    Colleen - first of all, is "Wedding World" a made up name for the real store? If so, would you care to share the real name (might as well start the bad word of mouth rolling - I HATE getting ripped off and will talk up a storm about any place that does.)

    Second, this might be a bit unconventional, but have you ever listened to the Clark Howard radio program? He is a consuner advocate and he eats this stuff up. He often gets results for people, PLUS, if he doesn't get the results he wants, he'll warn people about the place. has a toll-free number you can call. He is nationally syndicated. Worth a try (and if I was in your or your friend's position, I'd squawk til I got some justice, too! )

    Good luck!
  11. by   kaycee
    Also along the same line as Nurse Ratched is suggesting, alot of local news stations have someone who is a consumer advocate. You tell them your story and they decide whether or not to pursue it. They put the story on the news and make calls in your behalf. Alot of people have gotten things resolved doing that.
    Just a thought. Good luck in helping your friend.
  12. by   fab4fan
    Originally posted by Rustyhammer
    Isn't the mother of the bride suppose to MAKE the wedding dress? Or something like that?
    Why sure...and the father of the bride brings the moonshine for the bar!
  13. by   BellaTerra2002
    I've gone to Small Claims before and found it a positive experience. Also, in CA there is an appeals process -- but that's it. The intial court hearing and the appeal and no more. But if there is a receipt and the dress didn't come, your friend will win at the first hearing. In fact, just serving the bridal shop should bring your friend a refund. But I'd also try Clark Howard first. He'd probably LOVE this one, and he gets results -- and the bad publicity for the dress shop will be ALL OVER THE PLACE.
  14. by   colleen10
    Thanks everybody,

    I have never heard of Clark but will check him out.

    The name of the store is "Kaufmann's Wedding World of State College". It is near Penn State University here in PA.

    Here in Pittsburgh the big newspaper is the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. We have two "Consumer Reports" writers. One of them posted a letter exactly one month before my friends wedding. It started out "Dear Yvonne, The wedding is in one week and the bridesmaid dresses are not in. Kaufmann's Wedding World of State College....."

    When I read it I was floored because I knew of the problems my friend was having. The Consumer Reporter just wrote back "if I had a nickel for every time a bride has a problem with...." All the reporter said was that the owner knew of the problem and was doing their best to get the dresses in and everything would work out. Which, I highly doubt it ever did.

    I wrote the reporter an email yesterday and asked if she had an update on the situation and if she would mine sharing and then I told her of my friend's experience.

    She seems to have a laize faire attitude about wedding related problems because I'm sure she gets a ton of those so I'm not sure if I'll hear back from her.

    I have heard of stores going out of business at the drop of the hat and lots of Brides left without their dresses or their money so that's why I'm so eager for my friend to get the ball rolling on this.

    My friend really had no idea that she would have all of these problems until she was at another person's bridal shower about 9 months after she ordered her first dress. She was talking with a group of women at the shower about weddings and her wedding, etc. and a woman at the table asked about her dress. My friend told her when she ordered it, when it was supposed to be in and that it hadn't arrived yet. The woman actually worked for another local Bridal store and told my friend that the situation did not sound good and that this sort of thing happens a lot more often than people think. That tipped my friend off and she started calling the store asking where it was. The store was not very helpful at all and blew her off every time she called. They also couldn't give her any "back up information" about the order, like the date it was ordered, a confirmation number, etc.

    Somehow, either from the store or via her receipt she found out the name of the company that was making the dress and the style number. She called information and got the number of the manufacturerer in New York City and called them directly. They could not confirm an order for her because she had no confirmation # but they did tell her that they "discontinued" making that dress about two months after she ordered it from Kaufmann's Wedding World.

    This was all about 10 weeks before the wedding she tried to cancel the order because there was no guarantee that it would be in on time to even get it fitted. They would not cancel the order and said even if they did they would not refund her money. That's when she went to David's Bridal and found another dress of the rack. That's also where we got our Bridesmaid dresses and we didn't have any problems with them at all. They were always very helpful.

    When I got married I went to a privately owned store but it is one of the, if not the oldest Bridal Store in the nation so I knew they weren't going anywhere.

    I guess my advice is to ask around and unless you have heard really great things about one particular store you may want to stay away from the smaller private stores, especially if they haven't been around for a long period of time.

    I think I am going to suggest to her to go to the BBB but I saw on the website that you cannot use their "arbitration" services if you are allready seeking legal action, which I think her hiring the lawyer might be considered.
    Last edit by colleen10 on Feb 5, '03