Bamboozled: Fighting for refunds

Kristina Ricicki wanted in on the refinance boom.BB branding

She bought her Summit condo in 2004 with a 5.375 percent five-year adjustable-rate mortgage. When fixed-rate mortgage rates dropped below 5 percent, she contacted Chase — the bank that held her loan, checking and savings accounts — about a refinance.

“I locked in at 4.8 percent on a 30-year fixed rate,” said Ricicki, 61. “My loan officer assured me that with my financials and excellent credit rating, we should be able to close in 60 days.”

That was in the spring of 2009. Ricicki said the loan officer promised if the process took longer, the bank would still honor the rate at its own expense.

“I was also assured that should the loan not go through, I would have my $750 deposit — which was half the closing costs — returned to me,” she said.

51810The process was slow. Painfully slow, Ricicki said. She submitted the required documentation and an appraiser came in May. After that, she waited.

By the end of June, with no news on a closing, Ricicki left a message for the loan officer, who didn’t return her call. She waited. She sent e-mails. As time passed, she tried to get information, but her communications were not returned.

Ricicki started to get nervous about Chase’s lack of response. The refinance would save her $300 a month, and with every passing month, she felt she was losing money.

Midsummer, Chase requested some of the same documentation Ricicki already had provided. She complied. September came, and Chase said it needed a new appraisal of the property.

She continued to try to get updates from Chase reps, but her follow-up calls and e-mails were ignored.

In October, Ricicki finally reached the loan officer, who said the underwriters were working on it. But then, no follow-up.

Then came December, when she sent another e-mail, and this time was told her condominium’s homeowners association did not have adequate insurance coverage.

“I was furious! If I hadn’t kept bombarding Chase with my e-mails, how long would it have taken them to provide that nugget of information, and why is there an issue?” she said, noting that Chase held her mortgage, and during that time she’d watched condos in her development be bought and sold without a hitch and seen neighbors refinance.

The loan officer’s assistant said they’d file for an exemption.

January. February. More e-mails from Ricicki. No responses from Chase.

“Finally, on February 19, I sent an e-mail expressing my extreme frustration with Chase and telling them if they have no intention of moving with this refinance, then they were to forward a check for my $750,” she said.

The loan officer e-mailed back immediately, telling Ricicki they could restart the refinance process or put in for the $750 refund. She left a message asking what it would mean to restart the loan, and she got no response.

On March 3, nearly one full year later, Ricicki told Chase she wanted her money back.

No response.

In April, she contacted Bamboozled. We asked Chase to take a look at Ricicki’s experience.

Within a week, Ricicki had good news.

“I’m getting my money back! All $750 dollars,” she said. “Chase wasn’t very contrite, but considering this journey, I’m happy to have come out a winner.”

She has since received the check.

We asked Chase to explain what went wrong, but spokesman Mike Fusco said it couldn’t discuss specific customer issues for privacy reasons. “We apologize for the delay and are working hard to better serve our customers,” he said.

For the record, you might be wondering if the “inadequate insurance coverage” of the condo complex was the reason for the delay. We’re guessing it’s not, because after Ricicki gave up on Chase, she quickly refinanced her mortgage with another lender — without delay and without complication.


Peter and Susan Mayo of Randolph were looking forward to their daughter Dana’s bat mitzvah, scheduled for March 2011.

They visited halls and listened to DJs. They checked out caterers and photographers. They picked their vendors, signed contracts and waited for the big day.

A year later, in February, Peter Mayo got a surprise. His company was transferring his job to North Carolina, effective April. Carefully crafted bat mitzvah plans were dashed.

The Mayos contacted their vendors to cancel, explaining the job move. The caterer immediately refunded the couple’s deposit. The hall and the entertainment company promised to return deposits once the date was rebooked.

They expected a similar response from the photography company, Jamie K Photography of Livingston.

“We were told the deposit, as per contract, is nonrefundable,” Peter Mayo said. “It’s not like we are using a different photographer or that we are cutting her loose close to the date. A situation out of our control has us relocating. With over a year to the date of the planned event, I feel it’s unreasonable to not refund our money.”

Or at least agree to return the deposit if the date could be rebooked, as did the other vendors.

But she didn’t, Mayo said, and things got heated. Attorneys for both sides started sending strongly worded letters. The Mayos said they offered Jamie Karlin $250 for the cancellation, asking her to return $750 of the deposit.

The photographer’s attorney didn’t respond, Mayo said, so he contacted Bamboozled.

The contract clearly states the deposit is nonrefundable. While Karlin potentially loses business for that day because of the Mayos’ cancellation, it seems unreasonable the photographer wouldn’t offer to return the deposit if she could rebook the date.

We called Karlin, and her attorney, H. Jonathan Rubinstein, with the Feinsilver Law Group in Milburn, returned the call.

“When Mr. Mayo booked the date, my client turned down multiple bookings for that date,” he said. “Now he’s canceling and she’s losing all the business for that date, which is why the deposit is nonrefundable.”

Rubenstein said while 13 months sounds like a lot of time to rebook, events like this customarily are booked two years in advance.

We asked why Karlin didn’t offer to refund the deposit if she could rebook the date. She was always willing to do that, Rubenstein said, but she never offered because discussions turned nasty.

“If she’s made whole for that date, he will be made whole for that date,” he said. “The contract was for $5,000. It’s not worth it to her not to book the date and lose $4,000 just to spite Mr. Mayo.”

Sounds fair to Bamboozled.

But not to the Mayos.

“Had they made that offer from the get-go without telling me there was no flexibility, I probably would have accepted it,” Mayo said.

Mayo offered Karlin $500, but she didn’t respond.

Now in North Carolina, Mayo said his New Jersey small-claims court paperwork is ready to go. We’ll let you know what happens.