I try not to revisit the same consumer complaint, because I hope I've solved the problem.
But from time to time, I still get e-mails about two computer stores I wrote about in August. So I'm throwing out the rules to write about Jeff Draper's experience with Sunshine Computers in Fuquay-Varina. It's a way to remind folks to research whom you do business with, particularly when it comes to computers.
In August, I wrote about Anthony Christo, 17, who bought what he thought was a new laptop at Caveman Computers in Apex, which appears to have ties to Sunshine. Christo called Hewlett Packard tech support and was told the computer had been refurbished. It was not new. The store's owner, Tim Staie, said Christo's claim was false and refused to give Christo his money back until Anthony's mother, Beth, discovered Staie was on probation for conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and contacted his probation officer. The probation officer met them at the store, and Staie returned Christo's money.
In October 2008, Draper hired Sunshine Computers to solve issues he was having with his home computers and wireless network, he said.
Two employees from Sunshine came to Draper's home in Knightdale and sold him two wireless receivers for $49.99 each, telling him the ones he was using were incompatible with his router. He also purchased a three-year service package for $149.99. Sunshine also charged Draper $110 for the one-hour visit, he said.
The workers took one of Draper's laptops, an IBM ThinkPad A21 worth about $1,500, and the new receivers they just sold him to work on in the shop, Draper said.
"That was the last we ever heard from them," Draper said. "My wife called them relentlessly throughout 2009 to claim our computer and have them make good on the service contract."
No one called her back, Draper said. He e-mailed Pete McAllister, the store's owner, but received no reply.
Draper said he didn't call police because he doesn't have the original receipt for the computer or any paperwork from Sunshine saying they took it for repair.
I called McAllister to ask where Draper's computer and receivers were. A man named "Garrett" told me McAllister was out and that he could not give me McAllister's cell number. I left a message but heard nothing back.
In August, I wrote that several agencies were involved in investigating both Caveman and Sunshine, including Apex and Fuquay police, as well as the Better Business Bureau of North Carolina. Fuquay-Varina police have been called to Sunshine at least eight times since 2008 to deal with irate customers, Police Chief Larry Smith said. It's the only computer store in Fuquay the police get calls from, the chief said at the time.
The BBB warned people about Caveman and Sunshine Computers in its June 2009 newsletter. The bureau has received numerous complaints about both stores, whose websites - www.raleighpcrepair.com and www.sunshinecomputers.biz - are nearly identical. And according to Wake County land records, the companies' building owners have different names but list the same post office box in Garner.
I called Beverly Baskin, BBB president, this week to get an update. She says complaints still come in for both stores but the owners are responding to the complaints.
She also said the BBB's website, easternnc.bbb.org, shows there have been 187 inquiries into Sunshine and 95 into Caveman just this year. Both have an F rating with the BBB.
Baskin warned folks to research companies on BBB's website, especially when it comes to computer repair, because of the expense.
Don't worry. I will keep reminding you.