Complaints lead to investigation of Raleigh Geeks
Posted October 31, 2013
Updated November 1, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — When you take your phone or computer to a repair shop, you don't expect to get it back in pieces, or to get someone else's equipment. Yet, those are among the 18 complaints to 5 On Your Side from customers of a group of local computer repair shops called Raleigh Geeks.
There are four locations in Wake County: Raleigh, Apex, Garner and Fuquay-Varina. Our investigation found the business is also known as Fuquay Computer Center, ProTech, Garner Geeks Computers and operated previously as Foster Computers, and Caveman computers. It also has connections to the now-closed Sunshine Computers. We have viewer complaints against each Raleigh Geeks store.
The most serious involves a customer who says she went in for a computer repair, and ended up being sold a stolen computer.
"You can't make out anything on this one," Kathy Russell told us as she looked at the blacked-out serial numbers on computers she bought from the Raleigh Geeks store in Fuquay-Varina.
Russell ordered three new HP computers. When they arrived, none came with paperwork. She says she spoke with a clerk named Steve.
"He said that somebody else opened up the box and he couldn't find the spec sheet and he couldn't find the box."
The computers were not what Russell ordered. Two were manufactured in 2012, had half the RAM and a slower processor.
"They're like don't worry about that ... that processor number is just a number," she told us.
The third computer, made in 2010, was a Toshiba, not HP. Russell later found out it was registered to someone else.
Caitlin Boyce took her MacBook Pro to Raleigh Geeks store on Glenwood Ave in Raleigh in February. She was charged $325 for repairs after spilling water on the keyboard. When she got the computer back, she says not only did it not work, it had a different case and different keyboard.
After some back and forth with unsuccessful, questionable repairs, she wanted a refund. She says they told her to provide a receipt. "So, I handed over that receipt and I haven't seen my laptop or the receipt or any refund since then," she told us.
"They have fought me or just ignored me for the most part every step of the way trying to get that back."
"They give you fake names, they change up the names," Boyce added. "They tell you, 'Oh, you're talking with the regional manager' and then the regional manager, you ask for him by name next time, and they say no one by that name works here."
We went to the Fuquay-Varina store to ask about complaints involving that location. 5 On Your Side's Monica Laliberte talked with Tim Staie, who identified himself as the store manager. "I mean you're going to have the occasional complaint every now and then when it comes to computers," Staie said. "I mean it is a product that people don't understand."
We asked him about customer Tim Castellana, who told 5 On Your Side he ended up with someone else's iPod Touch. Staie told us, "That's not true whatsoever."
Heather Burckhardt brought in a cracked iPhone and sent us a picture of the pieces she says she got back! Staie's response: "No, we wouldn't do something like that."
Joseph Pender has the same complaint about a phone he took in. Staie told us he'd "never even heard of that person." He also didn't recall Quenton Linyear, who wanted a refund when his iPod Touch wasn't fixed. Nor Jonathan Pierce, who says his computer was returned with someone else's hard drive. "Does that ring a bell to you? Jonathan Pierce?" Monica asked. Staie said, "Nope."
As for Kathy Russell not getting the new computers with the specs she says she ordered, Staie offered this explanation: "Say you bought a Ford Taurus and you were looking for a V-6 with cruise control, and maybe you got one that didn't have cruise control but had climate control instead."
Russell ultimately contacted law enforcement. Wake County Sheriff's deputies confirmed one of the computers she bought was stolen. That's now part of what Wake County First Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings calls a "multi-faceted" investigation involving at least three law enforcement agencies and North Carolina's Attorney General.
Cummings says anyone who has had serious issues with Raleigh Geeks should contact law enforcement in the city in which they did business.
Raleigh Geeks has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau. We couldn't find any current registration for Raleigh Geeks with the Secretary of State's office. Our investigation also found Tim Staie was the focus of similar complaints in Myrtle Beach.
Since our visit to Raleigh Geeks, Kathy Russell's credit card company reversed the charges for the three computers she bought. Caitlin Boyce is still out the $260 she paid for the repair and did not get any compensation for the Macbook Pro laptop that was never returned to her.
Russell, Boyce and the other customers we heard from just want to get the word out about their experiences.
"I think that something needs to change here," Caitlin Boyce told us. "I'd really like it if they were held accountable in some way.
"If you go into a jewelry store and you order a 1 carat diamond, and they give you a 1 carat cubic zirconia, that's fraud," added Kathy Russell. "You took my money, you promised something, and you gave me something else."