Bamboozled: At last, a refund

Earlier this month, Bamboozled shared the story of Rose and Lawrence O’Connor, the East Hanover couple who had some troubleBB branding with a handyman company.

The trouble is over.

The O’Connors hired E-Z Does It Home Maintenance of Lake Hiawatha to do some work in their home, including replacing two interior doors. The doors were installed and the O’Connors paid $400 cash for the job, but after the workers left, the couple saw the doors were warped and didn’t close properly.

The O’Connors were unsuccessful in getting E-Z Does It to repair the job, so they filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. A mediator got involved, and E-Z agreed to return $200 to the couple.

But it never did.

The story got the attention of Thomas R. Calcagni, acting director of Consumer Affairs. After he read our accounting of the O’Connors’ experience, he instructed the division to follow up.

62210“That really stuck in my craw,’’ Calcagni said. ‘‘This home improvement company had agreed to mediation and agreed to be bound by the mediator’s decision, and then took off and decided not to pay. From a pure fairness perspective they should be paying this money.’’

Consumer Affairs sent an investigator to speak with the folks at E-Z Does It, letting the company know the division was very interested in a resolution. Again the company promised to pay, and this time it did, handing over a $200 money order to the investigator, and Consumer Affairs delivered it to the O’Connors.

Rose O’Connor said the couple received a personal apology from Calcagni for the delay in having their case resolved, and they were delighted to receive the money order.

Bamboozled is glad the agency stepped in and the O’Connors got what was promised to them.

This is a good reminder that to get action, we need to voice our complaints.

Consumers often don’t bother filing a complaint with Consumer Affairs (or the Better Business Bureau, for that matter) because they don’t think their case is big enough, or important enough or that it will get any attention.

That may be true. But there is power in numbers.

If you have a bad experience with a company and you’re unable to resolve it, you may not get relief by reporting it, but you will still be doing good.

If enough consumers have similar experiences with the same company, and Consumer Affairs has a lot of complaints, it’s more likely to act. By listing your complaint with the Better Business Bureau, other consumers can learn about how the company does business with its customers.

For Consumer Affairs, you can file a complaint online at, or write to P.O. Box 45025, Newark, N.J. 07101. You can also call (800) 242-5846 within New Jersey. For the Better Business Bureau, go to


Bill Speenburgh tried to do something nice for his daughter. In return, he got her gratitude, but then he also got mired in red tape.

The Sparta man loaned Amy Speenburgh, 28, approximately $6,100 in April 2007 to pay off high-interest credit card debt and some other bills, and he used his low-interest-rate Citibank credit card as funding for the loan. It was a simple deal: She would make payments directly to her dad’s credit card to pay off the loan.

That’s how it worked. Amy Speenburgh made timely $50 monthly payments through automatic debits from her checking account.

But in November 2008, Amy lost her job. Her dad didn’t expect her to continue making payments during this economically challenging time.

So when Citibank sold the credit card account to Chase, Speenburgh didn’t think to inform Amy.

Amy kept paying Citibank $50 a month, and the electronic payments were processed by Citibank each month, so no one knew anything was amiss.

Finally in December 2009, the Speenburghs discussed the loan and they realized what had been happening. Seven of Amy’s $50 payments were never credited to the account.

Bill Speenburgh tried contacting the lenders, and that’s when the headaches started.

He started with Citibank customer service. He described the problem to the rep, who then transferred him to Chase because Chase now owned the account.

‘‘Chase had no record of receiving these payments so they sent me back to Citibank,’’ Bill Speenburgh said.

On Dec. 11, 2009, Amy’s bank sent Citibank a summary of the payments made on the account, but there was no response from Citi.

Nothing was resolved, so Speenburgh would call again. And again. And again. No one seemed to take the initiative to locate the payments. In fact, Speenburgh said, while he would explain to Citibank reps that Citi was the one who had accepted the payments, Citi would consistently shove the calls over to Chase.

On Feb. 2, Speenburgh sent a certified letter to Citibank, but that didn’t seem to help either.

‘‘I would say I have spent 20-plus hours trying to resolve this,’’ he said.

Speenburgh admits the initial mistake — his daughter sending the payments to the wrong account — was his fault for not communicating the change to his daughter, but he said it’s been impossible to get help from the lenders.

He finally contacted Bamboozled.

We asked Citibank and Chase to put on their collective problem-solving hats to track down these missing payments.

It took about 24 hours.

‘‘Citibank contacted me and they have miraculously found $300 in their system and will transfer it to my checking account,’’ Speenburgh said in an e-mail.

Citibank also said the remaining $50 payment had already been sent over to Chase.

‘‘Why it took less than one day for Citibank to find the money where I was unsuccessful for nine months is beyond my belief,’’ he said.

Speenburgh has already received the missing funds and he’s sent the money in as payment to the correct account.

Thanks to Citibank and Chase for straightening this out.

We asked Citibank why all of Speenburgh’s communications to the bank yielded zilch. The bank said it could not comment because of “privacy reasons.”

Why do some companies find it so hard to say, simply, “We made a mistake?”