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Thieves given cash refund without receipt

July 14, 2008 9:04:50 PM PDT
What if you ordered an appliance from a store but a thief managed to return it before it was ever delivered to you? It actually happened to a Bay Area woman.

A consumer ordered some appliances from a major retailer, never got them, and was more than a bit surprised when the store said it was her problem.

Sheila Jackson bought a new washer and dryer at the Lowe's store in Antioch. She thought it was a good deal until delivery day. She called Lowe's and got a very surprising answer.

"Two women had gone into Lowes, without the receipt or anything, canceled the washer, canceled the pedestals, canceled the power cord and Lowe's refunded them over $1,200 in cash."

The surveillance video shows what happened. Antioch police said the two women wearing dark glasses came to the store, one of them claiming to be Sheila. They canceled her order, and took the refund in cash. Sheila's dryer was not canceled only because it had been on special order.

Lowe's acknowledged the women did not present a receipt or a valid id. Instead, Lowe's said the women provided detailed personal information that only the customer should know. Lowe's would not reveal what that information was.

"I don't see why you would count out that much cash and just hand it over to people without a receipt or anything," says Sheila.

And the kicker for Sheila? She says Lowe's would not provide her a washing machine or a refund.

"Lowe's informed me, 'you have a case of identity theft and that's not our problem you need to make a report to Antioch police.'"

Sheila did file a police report. She also called 7 On Your Side. A Lowe's spokesperson told us the store had "acted appropriately in this situation.''

A Lowe's statement said:
"We encouraged Ms. Jackson to contact law enforcement. This appeared to be a case of identity theft. In the event Ms. Jackson decides to pursue the matter with law enforcement, we're offering her an opportunity to review a copy of the surveillance video.''

"It's nothing I've seen in my years of doing consumer fraud cases that a store would have that policy," says Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Steve Bolen.

Bolen says under state law, Lowe's owed Sheila the appliances she paid for.

"The way they're dealing with it though, by putting the blame on Ms. Jackson, in a way for their negligence, is surprising to me."

He was also surprised Lowes didn't require a receipt.when the store said it was her problem.

"In my experience, no other major retailer would follow that course of action. They'd want to see some sort of id, see a receipt."

Meanwhile, police are looking for the two women.

"I have no idea who they could've been or how they knew I'd made this purchase," says Sheila.

Lowe's said it has ruled out any employee involvement. But, police told us they have not eliminated any possibilities. Lowe's would not explain why it provided a refund without a receipt or identification.

Customers without valid receipts can only get merchandise credit for store returns, and only with a valid id such as a driver's license.

After 7 On Your Side got involved, Lowe's did agree to refund Sheila's money, saying "we don't feel Ms. Jackson should be inconvenienced" and "our customers are always our main concern.''

"Since you were all so kind to get involved and make the calls to them, and it was very effective," says Sheila.

And we were there when she came out of Lowe's, with her refund, given to her in cash.

Lowes also told us it is reviewing its return policies but just as a matter of routine. It also says this was an isolated incident. We'll be following up this investigation.

Anyone with information on the case can contact Antioch police at 925-779-6900.


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