Furniture store complaints keep rising

April 22, 2008 11:12:24 AM PDT
Levitz, Wickes and Bellach Leather are just three prominent furniture companies that have either closed or filed for bankruptcy in recent months. It's a sign of the times for a troubled industry.

Whether it's a coincidence or there's a direct connection, this we know for sure is true: The number of complaints received by 7 On Your Side against furniture companies has increased, while furniture sales continue to decline.

A small group of disgruntled Black Sea Gallery customers gathered for an interview across the street from the furniture retailer in Burlingame.

"We all don't have our stuff. They took our money but never delivered," says Kevin Dong of San Francisco.

At this time in late February, they had been waiting for months to get the furniture they paid up to $2,000 to order.

"I think it's unethical and it's criminal to take people's money like that," says Lorenzo Adamson of San Francisco.

Some had been waiting so long they asked for refunds instead. Black Sea Gallery agreed, but Wendi Grasteit says she'd been waiting for her refund since December.

"We keep checking to see if the money's there, and it is not," says Grasteit.

In all, 7 On Your Side received seven complaints against four Black Sea Gallery locations in about a months time. The store declined an on camera interview, but co-owner Tony Bader said Black Sea Gallery has filled 60,000 orders in six years and that the company runs a reputable business, despite its unsatisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau. He promised to take care of all complaints brought to his attention.

Marketing professor Kit Yarrow of Golden Gate University in San Francisco is writing a book about how the furniture industry and other retailers are changing because of a new generation of consumers.

"Sales in the furniture industry, in general, have gone down about five percent every year for the past three to four years and it'll go down even more this year," says Yarrow.

She says today's younger consumers are not interested in buying furniture that lasts a life time.

"They want to have the ability to customize and redecorate more frequently."

That's why, she says, superstores like Ikea are cutting into sales of traditional furniture stores. And that, at least in part, may explain why Levitz filed for bankruptcy and why stores like Bay Area Sofa on the Peninsula and People's Furniture in Milpitas suddenly shut their doors.

Now add Black Sea Gallery to the casualties. Its Oakland and Burlingame stores have closed in recent weeks and its San Francisco store closed last year. A San Jose location remains open.

Despite the closings, the seven complaints we originally brought to Black Sea Gallery have been resolved. The customers have gotten either their furniture or a refund. Since then, we've brought the store an additional complaint. We'll let you know what happens with that one.


Load Comments