5 On Your Side

Going, going, gown! Bridal dresses auctioned to pay back taxes

Posted October 4, 2010 5:24 a.m. EDT
Updated October 4, 2010 6:02 p.m. EDT

— Brides to be – along with some future grooms – crowded into a defunct north Raleigh bridal shop Monday in search of wedding bargains.

The North Carolina Department of Revenue seized Diamond's Bridal in August because of delinquent taxes. After some customers picked up dresses they had ordered, the remaining inventory, including dresses and accessories, was auctioned off Monday to help the state recover the taxes owed by the store owner Sharon Hipps.

"I honestly didn't look at any beforehand. I just grabbed it," Jessica Tennant said of buying her wedding gown at auction.

"I got it for $600," Courtney Jones said of her dress, which normally would have cost $1,300. "I feel really good about it. That's $700 I can spend somewhere else."

Hipps said she bought Diamond's Bridal "on a whim" last year and got in over her head by growing too fast and offering too many discounts.

Instead of ordering dresses for brides, she used deposits from new customers to pay the previous owners for the business and to pay off other brides who didn't get their dresses.

During a 5 on Your Side investigation last month, Hipps said hundreds of orders were still outstanding.

Some brides eventually got refunds from Hipps, while others got their dresses directly from manufacturers. Some had to pay another shop to get their dresses, losing the deposits they had already paid Hipps.

Zack Rogge said he heard about the auction Monday morning and told his fiancee to meet him at the store.

"It's awesome, sweet," Rogge said, noting the couple is paying for their wedding themselves and reveled in a chance to save money.

Four days after she got engaged, Meredith Schwane said she was excited about getting a $1,300 wedding gown for half price.

"It's kind of exciting because you don't get to try it on," Schwane said, referring to the rules of the auction. "I get to put it on for the first time (Monday) afternoon and see what it looks like for the first time. It's as big of a surprise to me as everyone else."

While plenty of people walked away with deals, some bargain hunters left empty-handed and disappointed, saying the auction took too long.

If the auction ends up bringing in more money than Hipps owes in taxes, the state will pay the additional amount back to her corporation.