Teresa McUsic

When company didn’t deliver, customers turned to social media

Consumers have a new tool to use when a Groupon, Living Social, Amazon or Itsy deal goes awry: social media.

One hundred and forty unhappy customers of Grapevine’s Tees Into Treasures by Mominizer have found each other on a Facebook group page and are in the process of sharing information to try and get their money and beloved T-shirts returned.

“The Facebook site definitely helped,” said Monica Hawkins, a Benbrook resident who last June sent the company 25 T-shirts from fire departments across the country collected by her husband, a Fort Worth firefighter. She paid $75 for the T-shirts to be made into a quilt and said the company offered her a deal after Living Social and Groupon offers from last spring expired.

Tees Into Treasures told her she would receive the quilt within 12-14 weeks. By October, Hawkins had not seen the quilt and began contacting the company, hoping to get it by her husband’s birthday that month. Tees Into Treasures responded that the quilt wasn’t ready yet, but the company told her that she would definitely have it by Christmas.

In December, Hawkins again contacted the company only to be told there were “weather delays” and was given a certificate to print out for putting under the tree. She was told the quilt was in step two of a three-step process.

By early February, Hawkins still had not seen the quilt, and contacted the company again, only to receive an automated response. So she turned to Facebook to see if the company might have a company site with more information.

Instead she found a Facebook group page full of Tees Into Treasure customers with similar problems of unfulfilled orders.

“I was shocked,” she said. “I couldn’t believe there were so many other people that had the same issues with this company.”

The Facebook page also had something vital to Hawkins’ search — new contact information for the shop owner Beverly Pennington and her husband, Bryan. Beverly has opened a new store, Art of Handmade Gifts, with a website and new phone and email. A phone number and email was also posted for Bryan Pennington.

Hawkins emailed Beverly Pennington and told her if she didn’t hear back on how to get her T-shirts, she would contact the police. She said Beverly responded via email within a few hours that her box had been found and she would return it by mail.

Several days went by without receiving the box, so Hawkins told her she would drive to Grapevine to pick it up. Beverly left the box with a receptionist at an unrelated office building and Hawkins was able to pick it up on Feb. 20.

“The package was there,” she said. “It was the box I had sent her still unopened, so we never got to step 2 out of three like she had said.”

Hawkins said she never would have gotten her shirts back without the contact information on the Facebook page.

“Their phone number didn’t work, email was not being responded to. My next step was to go to their shop address,” she said.

Hawkins doesn’t think she’ll get her money back, however.

“It’s probably not worth my time and court fees,” she said. “And I’m not sure there is any money for them to return.”

Bryan Pennington told me that the company is financially insolvent and is working with Living Social to get T-shirts back to clients who had paid for the quilts.

“We started small and got big and couldn’t handle it,” Pennington said. “Now we are unwinding the company.”

Pennington said the company delivered thousands of quilts in its history and that approximately 80 people needed shirts returned to them through the Living Social offer. But he could not discuss others who had deals through Groupon or who paid for quilts directly to the company. He said the corporation, 4DUXLLC, which was formed in January 2012, owns other companies not affected by the Tees Into Treasures insolvency, including the Art of Handmade Gifts.

Spokesmen for Living Social and Groupon say they have agreed to refund the entire amount lost by customers, along with shipping fees, customers said. Living Social said it is “in active conversations about how to retrieve and ship all the personal items back to our customers.”

Groupon customers are asked to contact customer support at www.groupon.com/customer_support to request a refund.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net