FOX 8 Defenders: Missing floors in home renovation

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE-TV) -- Metairie resident Jackie Cawthon and her sister started renovating a house in their hometown of New Albany in North Mississippi last year.  "We've got a brand new bathroom, brand new kitchen, brand new walls.  I mean everything is brand new, and we ordered a brand new floor," said Cawthon.

That was in October.  Four months later, the floors still had not arrived.  "We ordered some hardwood for the floors, and that's what we have not received," explained Cawthon.

The sisters thought they found a good deal on Craigslist.  D's hardwood flooring, which advertised its location in downtown New Orleans, offered them 850-square feet of hardwood floors for $1700 in an online ad to be delivered to their Mississippi home.  The Cawthons' contractor planned to do the actual installation.

"They were supposed to be oak floors, which that's what we were looking for anyway, so we sent the money to them right away," said Cawthon.

They first paid for the floors using a charge card online, on October 16th, but shortly after, Cawthon says D's Hardwood Flooring notified her of a 'processing problem.'  She says she was told if she simply wired the funds to them, she'd get a discount.  On October 31st, Cawthon wired $1,615 for the hardwood floors, but instead of wiring the money to D's Hardwood Flooring, she was instructed to wire the money to another company, 3C Millworks, out of Ville Platte, LA.

Fast forward to December, and still, no sign of the wood floors.  On December 16th, someone with D's Hardwood Flooring emailed Cawthon that the company was 'experiencing delays due to workload and machinery.'  The email mentioned the company was 'working with a five week backup.'

"I guess since the first of the year they keep telling us.. well, we've mailed the check, we've mailed the check, we've returned your money.  You're getting a refund.. So, we wait 30 days.. 30 days have passed.. we have not received our refund," explained Cawthon.

Frustated she hadn't received the floors or a refund, Cawthon turned to the FOX 8 Defenders for help.

Our first contact with D's Hardwood Flooring started in January when a Defenders Volunteer with the National Council of Jewish Women tried reaching out to the company about Cawthon's complaint by phone, but got no answer.  Then in mid February, the Defenders office got in an email exchange with an employee who told us a "refund was mailed out 3 times and all three times she claims not to receive it... we are closing the business due to illness."

We wanted to check out the address D's Hardwood Flooring advertised online as its New Orleans location, downtown at Gravier and O'Keefe Streets.  A receptionist told us, D's Hardwood Flooring only rents a mailbox at the Gravier location.  She also showed us a stack of mail for the company and mentioned no one's ever been there to pick it up.

We also tried calling the number listed on D's website and asked for Dereck Dorsey, the name registered with the company on the LA Secretary of State's website.  We left two messages for Mr. Dorsey with a receptionist about our story and were told he had no comment.

In searching the City of New Orleans' One Stop Shop online link to business permits and licenses we also found no record of D's Hardwood Flooring.  A mayor's spokesperson confirmed D's is not registered with the city at that Gravier street location and does not have an occupational license, something that's required by any business that's advertising it's located in New Orleans whether it has a store or is just online.

We then traced where the Cawthon's floor payment went.  Remember that wire transfer?  Instead of D's Hardwood Flooring, an email from D's instructed them to wire the money to 3C Millworks in Ville Platte, 150 miles Northwest of New Orleans.

An employee tells FOX 8, 3C manufactures the wood on a small scale and sells to businesses like D's.  In response to the Cawthon's situation, 3C owner James Deville said, "they (D's Hardwood Flooring) asked if we could process the payment for them and we agreed to proceed by wire, because at that time we felt no risk."   Deville went on to say, "I wish I had not now, however what is done is done."

Deville mentioned in an email statement, that order was processed in October, but said D's later canceled, saying the customer no longer wanted the floors.

Within days of us making calls to both companies this month, five months after the Cawthons' purchase in October, the consumer received a full refund of $1,615.  "We know that y'all do a good job of helping folks get their money back or get get the goods that they paid for so we decided to contact you to see if you could help us," said Cawthon.

The owner of 3C Millworks told FOX 8, after this situation, it will no longer do business with D's Hardwood Flooring.  Also, the Cawthon's received an email from D's Hardwood Flooring, which mentioned the business was closing.  The company website also states D's is 'in dissolve' and that all accounts will be cleared and closed.  However, when we call the company, the person who answers the phone seems unaware of that and continues to make appointments with consumers.

If you have a consumer complaint, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women at 1-877-670-6397.

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