Local News

Hot Tub Dispute Cools Off With Refund Payment

Posted September 19, 2002

— A big dispute over a hot tub has finally cooled off.

Last month, Five On Your Side shared the story of Buddy Lemons, an Orange County man who bought a hot tub from Merritt Spa and Pool, which is owned by his neighbor.

Lemons never received the spa or the refund he was promised. Since Five On Your Side became involved, store owner Brian Merritt has made several promises to refund Lemons' money. As of Tuesday morning, Lemons still did not have a check.

Last December, Lemons paid Merritt $4,850 up front for a spa. Lemons said Merritt, who lives next door, told him the spa would be delivered in two to four weeks.

After almost 10 months, dozens of phone calls and visits to his store, Lemons said Merritt has had nothing but excuses.

Lemons said his request is not unreasonable.

"If you can't deliver the tub like you promised, all I want is my money back," he said.

When Five On Your Side first called Merritt, he promised a full refund within a week. The week passed, and then Merritt promised Lemons would have his $4,850 within a few days. Still, no refund. That is when WRAL's Monica Laliberte decided it was time to talk with Merritt in person.

Laliberte caught up with Merritt in the parking lot of his Durham business Tuesday. At first, he did not want to talk.

Laliberte: "What did you do with his money?" Merritt: "I told you I sent his money." Laliberte: "It's been almost a month since you first told me that."

Merritt claimed his first check got "lost in the mail." He claimed he sent a second check and does not know why Lemons has not received it.

Laliberte: "But you live right next door. This whole thing could be resolved if you would just take him his money." Merritt: "I send everything in the mail. (Why?) Because that's the way I work."

Then Merritt made another promise.

"I'll walk a check over there today. I will walk it over there, but he needs to tear up the one I sent last Wednesday," he said.

Hours later, Merritt put a $4,850 check in Lemons' door.

"I was really surprised," Lemons said. "I'm really happy now. I can go on with my business, Brian can go on with his business. It's a good ending for me and that's what I was after."

Lemons said the one thing he has learned from this experience is that other than not mixing friendship and business, it is a good idea not to pay in full, up front. He said from now on he will make a downpayment first.

As for the two checks that Merritt claims he sent, as of Wednesday evening, Lemons said he has not received either one.

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