Customers confront furniture store owner

February 15, 2008 7:48:18 PM PST
A Bay Area furniture store shut its doors last month, leaving dozens of people without the furniture that they had already paid for. Some of those frustrated customers had a chance encounter with the store's co-owner.

Google "People's Furniture" and you'll find dozens of complaints about the store in Dublin and Milpitas. 7 On Your Side has also received many complaints from consumers. We were there Friday when some of those consumers met with the unexpected.

Frustrated consumers slowly began gathering in front of People's Furniture for an interview we had arranged in front of its Milpitas store. Some of them had been out in previous weeks, only to find the store shut down and employees no where to be found.

"I came out here about three weeks ago and I ran into about four other people like myself," says Merrilen Taylor of Oakland.

So when the doors to the warehouse slowly began to open, they jumped at the chance to find out what happened to their money and their furniture.

Jacquelynn Skinner: "Hi, do you work here?"

Anton Vassiliev (People's Furniture Co-Owner): "Yeah."

Skinner: "I've been trying to get in touch with someone in this company."

That person who opened the door turned out to be one of the owners. He told whoever was there to grab whatever furniture he had left.

Merrilen Taylor: "Actually, I don't want to just choose something. I want the furniture that I ordered or I want a refund."

Vassiliev: "The thing is the company is going through bankruptcy and the best thing we can do for our customers -- we tell them to come and just take whatever is left off the floor."

We checked court documents and could not find any record of People's Furniture or its owners filing for bankruptcy. He says his lawyers are working on it.

We asked him what he would do for his customers.

"Tell them to come. Tell them to come tomorrow. Tell them to come the day after and then we're willing to give whatever we have left on the floor," said Vassiliev.

Both Merrilen Taylor and Jacquelyn Skinner weren't happy with the offer, but it may be the lesser of two evils. If People's Furniture does actually file for bankruptcy, the court will most likely give creditors first shot at whatever money and furniture is left.

"I'll take what I can get at this point," said Nicolette Flores of Livermore.

Gilbert Gonzalez of Brentwood was one of the lucky ones. He got his furniture a few weeks back.

"I figured I better get something. I just didn't want to be without," said Gonzalez.

Barbara Townley paid with her credit card, so her bank was able to reverse the charges.

"A lot of the people were out because of cash or ATMs and they just wanted something," said Townley of Pleasanton.

Paying with a credit card under federal banking regulations offers you a lot more consumer protection than paying with a debit card or by check. If you have a choice, for all major purchases, pay with a credit card.