Trouble with a Company? Turn to Social Media for Answers
The Savvy Consumer

By Teresa McUsic,

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, banded together, and are in the process of sharing information for getting both their money and their beloved T-shirts returned.

“The Facebook site definitely helped,” said Monica Hawkins, a Benbrook resident who last June had 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. The company offered her a deal it had on Living Social and Groupon last year that Hawkins said had since 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 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.

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 Feb. 20.

“The package was there,” she said. “It was the box I had sent her still unopened, so we never got to step two 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 original 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.”

After posting a request for similar stories on the Facebook page, I received a dozen calls from Tees Into Treasures customers across the country. Only one received her quilt, after waiting months. But according to the Facebook page, most are now receiving their shirts back.

“Some of these are one-of-a-kind momentos from kids,” said Paul Alderucci, who sent in his children’s t-shirts for a quilt using the Living Social deal. “Some are the only things left of family members that have passed away. This is a widespread problem.”

Both Living Social and Groupon spokespeople say they have agreed to refund the entire amount lost by the customers, along with shipping fees, some customers said. Both companies said they are working on the problem of getting the shirts returned.

Meanwhile, a former quilter for Tees into Treasures has been on the Facebook page and gathered 40 names and order numbers and said she will go to the store and try to get their packages of shirts and ship them back. Another former quilter said she has some of the finished quilts and will post her list on the Facebook page and make arrangements to get the quilts sent to the right owners.

So the next time you are faced with a difficult problem with a retailer, consider searching the Internet for others. There is strength in numbers.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.