Gone cuckoo: The case of the missing clock

It seemed like serendipity when Katherine Russo saw the ad for cuckoo clocks; she knew that her youngest– of 10– grandchildren wanted one. And this one sounded perfect: "Authentic looking reproduction at a fraction of the price!" the ad boasted. "On the hour the two doors open up and the birdie comes out to sing!" All for only $12.95, the "lowest price ever offered."

Russo ordered two, and sent her check for $29.95 to J.D. Marvel Products Inc. of Champlain, New York, on March 3. The check was cashed– but no cuckoo clocks arrived. A friend emailed Marvel on May 29 to explain the situation and ask for a shipping date, but got no reply.

In August, Russo received a postcard that said, "Should your recent order have been delayed, please accept our apologies. We changed our fulfillment operations so as to serve you better,." But by then Russo had lost interest in being served at all.

She claims that she called the company on August 25 to ask for a refund and was told that checks were written on the 15th and 30th of every month; she would receive hers around September 5. But she didn't.

She tried again on September 9, and this time, she says, she was told that the check would be written on the 30th. The employee, Russo claims, promised to call on October 1 to tell her "the status of the transaction," but she didn't. When Russo called on October 7, there was no answer.

The friend who'd sent the email showed Russo what she'd found on badbusinessbureau.com, which is the same story I ran across on complaints.com– namely, tale after tale about products ordered from J.D. Marvel that never materialized.

I emailed the company on October 17 and asked for information about Russo's refund, but got no reply. I did manage to speak to an employee on October 23, however, who stated that she had just learned from the accounting department that all refund checks would be mailed by the end of the month. If Russo doesn't receive hers, I'll let you know.


The burst balloon ride

 When last we heard about Robin Warner, she and her daughter were looking forward to a belated Mother's Day celebration in the form of a free flight from Boar's Head Ballooning ["Missing Ride," July 24, 2003]. Owner Rick Behr had extended the offer because the original flight, which would have cost $330, had never take place– due, by Behr's admission, to his misreading of the date on the reservation.

Behr had told me at the time that he was eager to resolve the problem. But according to an email I received from Warner on September 10, when she called Behr to schedule the flight, "He seemed a bit annoyed." The next time she called, she claims, he was "outright belligerent" and demanded that all communications be in writing.

"Breaking his own rule," Warner continued, "he called me back about two hours later. He was very solicitous. He said he'd been looking over his documentation, and there was something strange about it. He then insinuated that my daughter [who had arranged for the original flight] had lied about everything. He also told me The Hook article was very damaging and actionable, but said he still planned to give us the ride."

In response, Warner and her daughter mailed Behr their version of events– and theirs, not surprisingly, didn't jibe with his.

When I spoke with Behr last week, he said that his offer still stands. Warner, however, has lost interest in going aloft with Behr, and says that if her daughter tries again next year, she'll call one of Behr's competitors.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer, write her at 100 Second Street NW, 22902, or call 295-8700 ext. 406.