WRAL Investigates

Small business owner says advertiser never delivered

Small businesses don't usually have much of a budget for advertising. That's the case with business owners who have complaints about a company called Hometown Designs.

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CARY, N.C. — Small businesses don't usually have much of a budget for advertising. That's the case with business owners who have complaints about Morganton-based Hometown Designs.

The company has an "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau, and Leslie Purcell, owner of Les Do Hair in Cary, said she learned why in her interactions with the firm.

Hometown Design's idea of literally putting her business on a map sounded great, and in March 2009, a salesman from Hometown Designs showed up to make the pitch.

"(He) told me that he could add me to (a) picture map, put the name of the business, do the store front outside, the door ... and then me as the owner, and then he would list the stylists as well," Purcell said.

The maps would then be distributed around town. Purcell would get 50 maps to hand out. The total cost was $224.

She said it seemed to be "an excellent way to advertise and get more business."

Her maps were supposed to be ready by July 2009. When they weren't ready in January, Purcell called company owner Chuck Cook.

"He told me they were being printed and that they would be ready in a couple of weeks," she said.

After repeated promises that the maps would be delivered weren't fulfilled, Purcell asked for her money back. Cook eventually agreed, but Purcell never received the money, so she complained to the North Carolina State Attorney General's Office.

Cook's response was to tell "them his mom had been sick for three weeks, and he had just been out of the office and got a little behind, but he would be hand-delivering the maps in the couple days," Purcell said. "It never happened."

Cook did not return phone calls from WRAL's 5 on Your Side.

The Hometown Designs salesman who made the pitch to Purcell, however, says he quit when he realized the company's problems.

The former salesman said that 85 Cary businesses together paid $30,000 on advertising with Hometown Designs. He said that about 55 businesses bought space for a map in Fuquay-Varina and that maps were sold in seven other North Carolina towns and in two South Carolina towns.

WRAL's 5 on Your Side found out that in 2006, Cook pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges, was put on probation and ordered to pay nearly $28,000 in restitution. He faces another fraud charge in Burke County.

As for the Cary map, the salesman e-mailed a copy of the completed version that he says was ready in October. He said he doesn't know why Cook didn't have it printed.

A Cary police spokesman said that since only one business has complained about Hometown Designs, the district attorney decided not to prosecute.

However, he said that if they hear from more companies, police could reopen the investigation.

Purcell said she just wants her money back.

"It makes you mad," she said. "Somebody comes in your business and just takes your money like that, just takes your money and promises you something and doesn't deliver."


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