Question: Last March, my wife and I purchased and paid for a refrigerator, washer and dryer at the cost of $1,396 from the newly opened, Jack Nicklaus-fronted Golden Bear Appliance and Sports Center in El Segundo, one of 18 such outlets in the Southland. At that time we planned to buy a condominium but asked that the store hold off on delivery until we had made a definite decision, which the store promised to do.
In November, we did purchase a condo in Long Beach, where we now live, but the unit has facilities for a piggyback washer-dryer but not the side-by-side units we had ordered. I called the store, canceled the order and requested a refund, which they promised to send.
At that time, though, I read in The Times that Golden Bear had closed its stores here and, sure enough, when I called the El Segundo number, it had been disconnected. I got the same recorded message at all of their stores but finally connected with its distribution center in the City of Commerce, where I was given the "your check is in the mail" routine.
I kept calling the number until, finally, it was disconnected too.
I then drove 30 miles to the center only to find it padlocked and then went to the post office where the center's mail was processed, only to find that they had left no forwarding address.
I have contacted the sheriff's office, the county and state district attorneys' offices and finally the U.S. Attorney General's office, none of whom could help, although the latter suggested that I contact the U.S. bankruptcy court. I did, but found that they hadn't filed for bankruptcy. What now?
I've written to friends all over the country asking for help in locating Golden Bear's corporate offices but with no luck.--E.G.
Answer: No one, certainly, can fault you on your tirelessness--I'd hate to have you tracking me down.
The Golden Bear Home and Sports Centers were originally called the ATA Superstores and represented the parent company's attempt to crack the hotly competitive Southern California electronic retailing field.
However, despite First Family Group's success in operating 26 similar retail stores in Ohio, California proved to be a back breaker and, last November, it quietly closed its 13 locations here (not 18, although it probably seemed like 18 to your telephone-dialing finger) and sent everything back home to Akron.
No, it didn't file for bankruptcy--it's still a viable, if slightly bloodied, company. A spokesperson for First Family in Akron concedes that the speed of the close-down resulted in some mix-ups, which certainly comes as no news to you, and the lady in charge of unraveling them is Sherri Rosche, First Family Group, 3081 Gilchrist Road, Akron, Ohio 44305.
It's suggested that you send her a copy of all the pertinent papers--the order, your receipt and a copy of both sides of your canceled check and any other correspondence--and she'll take it from there.
Q: Because we discovered something very strange going on with our Visa account, we decided it would be necessary to go back and review every check that had cleared our account over a two-month period.
One big trouble: Our account is with Bank of America, and some time ago we had agreed to go along with its Time Saver/Space Saver plan. This is a deal where we agreed to let the bank hold our canceled checks instead of mailing them to us every month. It was obviously to the bank's advantage in saving all that postage, but we were assured that we could get copies of our canceled checks "at any time without any problem."
I don't remember ever being told, though, that there was a $1.50 charge per check for this little "no problem" service. When you're digging out two months' worth of checks, it seems to me that this is a pretty stiff price to pay for being a nice guy and letting B of A save all that money in postage. Right?--R.R.
A: Nice guys finish last, remember. Rick Beebe, a spokesman for Bank of America in San Francisco, concedes that it's a little stiff and that the $1.50-per-check charge was never meant to be inflexible. The Time Saver/Space Saver plan was put into effect a little more than two years ago and, until last summer, sure enough, there was no charge at all for getting copies of canceled checks.
Apparently, however, a significant number of customers got into the habit of requesting check copies on an almost daily basis, and so a limitation was put on the number.
"It was optional, though," Beebe adds, "in that we reserved the right to levy the $1.50 charge if the customer requested more than 12 copies in any calendar year--but the 'no charge' rule still prevails for any number of canceled checks needed for a tax audit or in cases where forgery is suspected.
"And, in this case, the charge probably shouldn't be made since the Visa account being studied is with B of A."
In other words, he suggests that "something can probably be worked out" with you, if you'll give him the name of the branch involved and your account number.