Customers left holding the bag after RoomStore files for bankruptcy
Posted July 12, 2012 6:16 p.m. EDT
RoomStore is now officially out of business, and under the control of a liquidator.
A shock to customers - some who ordered and paid for furniture just days before the doors shut.
"Today I was coming to get my stuff and everything," customer Kennedy Kibe said. "Pay the last balance and get my stuff, but I did not."
Kibe ordered new living room furniture in May. He planned to make his final payment and take his furniture home
"I paid them – this is $300, that's $300 – then I came back and paid $400. So that's $1,000," he said. "I work very hard for that money."
Antoine Pope e-mailed, angry about the $1,600 he paid RoomStore for a new bedroom set that was supposed to be delivered late last month.
Karen Timkey was "flabbergasted that they allowed her to place an order for $1,250" in June. She said they "likely never had any intention of delivering the product."
Anna Bray ordered $2,500 worth of furniture she didn't get. They "took my hard earned money," she wrote. "I saved up for this for over a year."
Pope, Timkey and Bray are only three of dozens and dozens of RoomStore customers who will likely never see the furniture or their money.
And making it all worse, customers can only watch as furniture they bought is resold by a completely separate company as part of the bankruptcy liquidation.
It's perfectly legal, said attorney James Vann.
Vann handles a lot of bankruptcy cases. He says under the law when a company files bankruptcy, all assets are liquidated and that money then goes to the bankruptcy court-- ideally to be divied up between all of the people the company owes,
"The theory is if one person gets a benefit, then all the creditors should get a benefit," he said. "So it's very difficult to say, 'Oh by the way, you're the one who gets the greatest benefit.'"
That means, for example, the court can't just pick the one customer who gets the floor model couch.
And even though owed customers should submit a claim form to the bankruptcy court, Vann says it's not likely they'll get their money back because of the totem pole of payout priorities.
"You have administrative claims, you have secure claims, then you have everybody else," he said. "As a consumer in that claim, more than likely, you are going to be an unsecured creditor, which is very low on the totem pole.
So how can you help protect yourself from a bankruptcy bust?
Paying with a credit card offers some protection. But perhaps the best way: Go online and research a company prior to a big purchase. In this case, customers probably would have seen that RoomStore had filed for bankruptcy.
Something Kibe wishes he had done
"It's like stealing," he said. "It's like stealing money from me."