Commentary

Saunders: A scammed shopper gets her money back

bsaunders@newsobserver.comNovember 24, 2013 

And now, the exciting conclusion of ( cue the spooky music) “The Case of the Missing Furniture Salesman. And the Moolah He Went Missing With.”

When last we tuned in, your faithful correspondent here, Sherlock Homeslice, had met with Raleigh resident Muriel Dorvilier, a 30-year-old hospital researcher who was engaged in a theretofore futile battle with a giant furniture store chain to recoup more than $2,400 she had paid for some furniture that never arrived at her house.

Police say the salesman, a light-fingered, fleet-footed scalawag who went by Timothy Patrick or Padrick, absconded with money from Dorvilier and other customers of the Aaron’s furniture store in Knightdale. He left them up the creek without a sofa. Or end table. Or reading lamp. Or even a bean bag chair.

The store’s general manager, David Perry, said Dorvilier was S.O.L. – that’s sure out of luck – because whatever transaction she made with the salesman who wasn’t, “It wasn’t anything in the store. She didn’t make a purchase with my company.”

That turned out to be false.

The surprising part

No one who knows human nature should be surprised that a con man plucked unsuspecting customers. Nor should we be surprised that a background check failed to discover that the salesman’s past was checkered. Is anyone really surprised that the store’s general manager would try to wriggle out of refunding a plucked customer’s money if her paperwork was not in order?

What was baffling, though, was how many people sided with the giant corporation in its battle against Dorvilier and the other two customers who were bamboozled. Many readers were angry at the store and vowed never to set foot in one again until it made things right by its customers – but just as many readers blamed the victims.

“That’s what she gets for trying to ‘get over,’” a reader named Dave wrote, although he never explained how Dorvilier was trying to get over or scam the store.

No crime to pay with cash

Perhaps he meant the way another Dave – actually, David – thought.

“As bad as it is,” David wrote, “Muriel is mostly at fault here. Who in the world pays cash for an amount that big? ... I guess the company has SOME obligation to cut her a deal on some stuff, in the name of customer satisfaction since the scammer was an employee. But I’d still make her pay.”

Another reader, Lynn, was even less magnanimous. “You seemed to feel that Aaron’s somehow ‘cheated’ this lady,” she wrote. “But look at the facts as you presented them ... The lady happened to be carrying $2400 in CASH? In this day and time, this is stupid!”

Say what? So now it’s a crime to pay with cash?

Anticipating that some people would think that fishy, I asked Knightdale Police Detective Orlando Soto before I wrote the original story if it was unusual: It was not, he said.

So here’s what happened: After the story appeared earlier this month, a spokeswoman from the Aaron’s corporate offices in Atlanta called and said they’d investigate the case to see whether Dorvilier had a claim.

It was hard to figure out how she wouldn’t have one, seeing as how the store’s background check before hiring Patrick/Padrick failed to turn up what my sleuthing discovered in five seconds: that he was shady.

Dorvilier called me Friday to say that Aaron’s has refunded her $2,469.35.

In a statement from Aaron’s, spokeswoman Garet Hayes said: “Aaron’s Inc. cares about our customers and for 58 years has been building solid relationships with our customers and communities. Mr. Patrick acted without authority from Aaron’s and without our knowledge. This is a criminal matter and we are working with the local authorities to assist in the investigation. We worked with Ms. Dorvilier to resolve this matter to her benefit.”

Patrick/Padrick had not been captured when last I talked to Knightdale police. He is wanted on charges of obtaining property by false pretenses there. There is a warrant out for him in Georgia, too.

Do you reckon Patrick/Padrick is somewhere selling furniture again to unsuspecting customers?

You bet your beanbag, he is, old bean.

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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