Commentary

Saunders: The case of the furniture store and its disappearing salesman

bsaunders@newsobserver.comNovember 6, 2013 

Hey, wait a minute. Wasn’t this a “Twilight Zone” episode?

A woman walks into a department store, buys a gift and returns it the next day because it has a scratch. She tells the leery salesman she purchased it on the eighth floor, only to be told, “We have no eighth floor.”

It gets weirder and weirder from there.

So does the case of Muriel Dorvilier, a Raleigh woman who said she went into the Aaron’s furniture store in Knightdale and handed over $2,400 cash to a salesman for some furniture for her new house, only to be told when she went to inquire about the furniture that the salesman doesn’t work there.

‘What it feels like’

Oh, he used to be in their employ, the manager said, but no longer. He is gone. So is any record of Dorvilier spending any money in the store, the manager said.

“That’s what it feels like, like ‘The Twilight Zone,’” Dorvilier told me Wednesday when I told her about the classic TV episode, “or that I’m being ‘punked.’”

Dorvilier, a 30-year-old researcher at an area hospital, said she had just signed a contract to purchase her first home in May when she e-mailed Aaron’s to get a quote on a couch she’d seen online.

In a letter to Aaron’s CEO in Atlanta and in an interview Wednesday near her job, Dorvilier said a salesman who said his name was “Timothy Padrick” – Knightdale police say he also goes by Timothy Patrick: a bad sign for a salesman, no? – “called me back and informed me they were having an amazing Memorial Day sale and that I should stop by the store. He promised me they could hold the furniture for me” until she was ready to have it delivered.

She gave him cash, she said, and he gave her a large envelope containing printed-out pictures of her selected furniture and receipts. She strolled out, blissfully looking forward to the day she moved into her fully furnished first house. “I worked my butt off” to be able to afford that, she said.

No record of purchase

When she returned to the store in September to find out why her furniture hadn’t been delivered, she said, she was told there was no record of her purchase and that Padrick – or Patrick – was history there.

Dorvilier looked up the name online and found that “Timothy Patrick” is wanted elsewhere for swindling customers. It took me – snap – that long to find his mugshot and to see that he’s a fugitive from another state.

There are at least two other cases involving customers at the Knightdale Aaron’s and at least one in Georgia, detective Orlando Soto of the Knightdale Police Department told me.

David Perry, general manager at the Knightdale store, said whatever transaction Dorvilier made with Patrick, “It wasn’t anything in the store. She didn’t make a purchase with my company.”

She didn’t pay for anything in the store?

“No,” he said. “It was all outside the store. She has no receipts for me to look at or anything. ... None of them even say ‘Aaron’s’ on them. She came in to talk to me, but I have nothing to show that she even paid any kind of money, so ...”

So, she’s up the creek without a sofa.

Dorvilier was incensed when told what Perry said. “That’s the first I’ve heard that I wasn’t in the store,” she said.

The two sales receipts Dorvilier showed me do not have the store’s name on them, but they do have the store’s I.D. number (C-1595) and a name stamp for Padrick and a signature for sales totaling $2,469.35.

I asked why she paid cash. “I had the money, and I didn’t see any reason to use a credit card,” she said. “I’m not dumb. I just never thought something like this could happen with a reputable store.”

Who would, especially with one that has 1,800 stores and is publicly traded on the N.Y. Stock Exchange?

My efforts to get someone from Aaron’s corporate office in Atlanta to comment were unsuccessful.

Soto, who said it isn’t unusual for customers to pay cash in such a transaction, said Aaron’s general manager told him the store conducted a background check prior to hiring the apparently felonious furniture hawker, but the worker may have provided a phony Social Security number. If so, Soto said, he could be charged with impersonation as well as obtaining property by false pretenses. Knightdale police are trying to find him.

You’ve got to hand it to Patrick/Padrick for his ability to make people hand over their money. Soto said he apparently promised some of the customers that he could get them an employee discount if they paid him in cash. Dorvilier swore he made her no such offer.

Since no one knows what his real name is, let’s just call him “Casper,” because whatever else he is, he’s a ghost now. Whatever name he is going by, he ought to be ashamed of himself for ripping off hardworking people who are trying to make a comfortable home for their families and themselves.

You’d think Aaron’s, upon realizing it had unwittingly let in a wolf to pluck unsuspecting sheep who walk through its doors, would make things right by the victimized customers. Wouldn’t you?

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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