Missing rugs: Eways slips away

"They must have known they were in trouble," Marie Deans said when I told her Eways Carpet One had closed its doors. I'd been thinking the same thing– in fact, when she called, I'd been imagining a kind of financial mood ring that businesses could be made to display. If Eways had been equipped with such a warning device, Deans never would have entrusted her heirloom rug to the care of this business near Antiquer's Mall.

My column about Deans' debacle ["Pulled rug," March 4, 2004] closed with her intention to take Eways to court– and no one could accuse her of being impulsive.

Her story began in October 2002, when she took her rug, which was almost 60 years old and had been handmade by her great-aunt, to Eways and left it to be hand-cleaned and the edges repaired. She paid a 50 percent deposit of $111, and claims the salesman said they would try to have the rug ready by Christmas.

Beginning just before Christmas and continuing for the next year, Deans claims, she called the store numerous times and was repeatedly assured that the rug would be found and that someone would call her. But they didn't. Last June– eight months after she'd left the rug at Eways– she was startled to receive a bill for the second half of the deposit. Again, she called the store.

"When the woman asked if I hadn't picked up the rug," she says, "I explained that I'd been calling since December and had been told either that it wasn't ready or that someone would return my call." That call, she claims, was as nonproductive as all the others. She contacted me in late January for an investigation.

On the eve of my column's March 4 publication, Eways employee Vanessa Robertson called me to say that she thought she'd located the rug at a shop in Richmond, where it had supposedly been sent for repair, and that she intended to drive there the following day and retrieve it. Deans says that Robertson also called her to say that the rug had been found.

But when Deans went to Eways on Saturday, April 3, she got a surprise: The rug was indeed there– but it had been neither cleaned nor repaired. According to Deans, Robertson promised to mail her a check for her $111 deposit on April 5. It never arrived.

"When you have a business and treat people that way," Deans remarks, "no wonder you close your doors."

Deans wasn't the only unhappy customer left in Eways' wake. Rochelle Garwood and her husband say they ordered carpeting for their family room last November– when the brand they wanted was on sale– and arranged to have it installed on March 11. Garwood emailed me what happened next.

"We had all our furniture moved out," she claims, "and March 11 came, and half of March 11 went, and no carpet installers. My husband called and was at first told that our salesman had retired and they couldn't find our paperwork. That was resolved, but then we were told they still hadn't ordered the carpet."

Garwood claims that Robertson and owner Bob Dumitru "stalled" them for a few days and declined to return their calls. Finally, Garwood went to the store, where, allegedly, Robertson told her that Dumitru had "messed up" Eways' account with the manufacturer, Mohawk. The situation, Robertson allegedly said, needed to be straightened out before Mohawk would release the carpet.

A few days later, she claims, Robertson told her that she "was investigating the possibility of obtaining the carpet from another source." The last update they got from Robertson, according to Garwood, was on April 1, when she stated that "a sample was on the way" and would arrive in a day or two. By the time Garwood emailed me on April 8, however, the store had closed down.

The good news for the Garwoods is that they hadn't paid any money yet; the bad news is that their family room's been in an upheaval for more than a month now, and they're back to square one with carpet.

Robertson declined to return my call, and Dumitru's voice mailbox is full. Deans, although she's lost countless hours and $111, has at least emerged with her rug intact– if still a bit unraveled.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer or write her at Box 4553, Charlottesville 22905.