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Art Van customers who feel 'robbed' may now find help

Nancy Blondale-Wagner of Novi visited the former Art Van Furniture store in Bloomfield Township last Wednesday to see whether it would honor her $688.99 purchase of a recliner in February that was nev er delivered. She was told no, but the store changed its policy later that day to honor such requests. (Photo: Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press)

Four months since Art Van Furniture declared bankruptcy and abruptly closed all its nearly 170 stores by March 22 because of the coronavirus pandemic, some customers are still awaiting refunds for items that they paid for â€" yet never received.

Many customers who used credit cards to make their purchase did eventually succeed in disputing the charges for the non-delivered furniture with their bank. But others who paid in cash have yet to be made whole.

"It’s like robbery," said Robert Kemp, 59, of Toledo, who said he paid more than $3,000 cash for a dinette set, couch and a love seat that never arrived. Art Van staff did give him "store credit," but since the stores closed, he has yet to find a way to use that credit. 

Some of the former Art Van locations temporarily reopened this summer to hold last-chance liquidation sales, but those stores aren't actual Art Van Furniture stores and, until several days ago, might have turned away Art Van customers showing receipts for undelivered furniture and unpaid refunds.

The liquidation sales were authorized by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and are put on by American Signature, the parent company of Value City Furniture, which bought some of Art Van's inventory.

However, there is new recourse for some frustrated Art Van customers who feel swindled and are down hundreds or thousands of dollars.

American Signature's Chief Operating Officer Patrick Sanderson told the Free Press that, starting last Wednesday, it is working with Art Van customers who bought furniture from the retailer between March 9 and April 6, but never received it.

Sale signs at the Art Van Pure Sleep store near the main store on 14 Mile Road in Warren, Michigan on Saturday, March 7, 2020. This Art Van shut down early due to long lines, people fighting and a traffic jam. Customers showed up for everything from looking for sales to some wanting their money back from layaway.  (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)

Such customers who paid with cash or a debit card can bring their original receipt to any of four former Art Van Detroit area stores. The stores will honor receipts for products bought at any Detroit area Art Van store within the date range, he said.

"Once their purchase is corroborated, we will provide the product they purchased, if available, or they will be able to select product of equal or lesser retail value that will suit their needs," he said in a statement.

The four stores are:

  • 2300 Telegraph Road in Bloomfield Township
  • 15701 Market Drive in Dearborn
  • 6500 E 14 Mile Road in Warren
  • 27775 Novi Road in Novi
  • Customers who paid via credit card are asked to contact their card company to dispute the charges.

    More: Art Van Furniture to close its stores, begin liquidation sales

    More: Art Van Furniture files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, could still face liquidation

    This new policy began Wednesday afternoon following inquiries by the Free Press.

    Turned away

    Earlier Wednesday morning, Nancy Blondale-Wagner, 66, of Novi, visited the Art Van liquidation sale at the former Bloomfield Township store.

    She brought her Art Van receipt showing her $688.99 purchase in February of a recliner that was never delivered. Although she normally makes big purchases using her American Express card, which gives airline mileage points, Art Van Furniture wouldn't take American Express, so she paid in cash.

    "Why I did that, God only knows. But live and learn I guess," Blondale-Wagner said.

    After failing to receive the recliner, she visited the Art Van store in Novi in early March and was told that a refund check would be sent. But that didn't happen. 

    “Then, within a week, I went back in and was talking to a manager, and they weren’t giving out any refund checks at all," she recalled. “He said you could use it as an in-store credit. And the next day, my husband and I were going to go to see if we could find anything to buy, and that’s the day they closed because of COVID.”

    She shared her story and receipt Wednesday morning with staff at the Bloomfield Township liquidation sale. But she was told that because the event wasn't a true Art Van Furniture sale but rather a third-party liquidation of Art Van merchandise, they couldn't help, she said.

    “Nothing. They just gave us a ‘so sorry, we understand,' " she recalled.

    Later, a spokesperson for American Signature and Value City Furniture told the Free Pres the policy honoring Art Van receipts did not take effect until later Wednesday afternoon but is now in place.

    Claim deadline passed

    Aggrieved Art Van customers had the option to file a "proof of claim" with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware through the court's website.

    However, the June 16 filing deadline has passed. The deadline was disclosed on the website, but wasn't widely reported, and the trustee in Art Van's Chapter 7 case, accountant Alfred T. Giuliano of New Jersey-based Giuliano Miller & Co., did not respond to media inquiries about what Art Van customers who are owed money or merchandise should do.

    Una O’Boyle, clerk of the Delaware bankruptcy court, said her office has been deluged with calls from angry Art Van customers looking to file claims.

    "My staff talked to a lot of people who are very upset because they put down deposits, but didn't get their furniture," she said.

    Contact JC Reindlat 313-222-6631 or Follow him on Twitter@jcreindl. Read more on business and sign up for our business newsletter.

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