Zakrzewski’s daughter Lily, 3, had received a gift: the Caring Corners Happy Camper Talking RV. She already had one. She returned to Toys “R” Us with a receipt.
“I tried to return it and buy something else for my daughter but was told that I could not,” she said. “The product was not opened, not used and I had the receipt.”
The salesperson told her the gift had been bought more than 90 days ago, so the store couldn’t accept the return, Zakrzewski said. The mom was further frustrated because the store was still selling the item.
“Their return policy used to be very lax, and now it’s on the completely opposite end of the spectrum,” she said. “They don’t make an exceptions for any instance, so how do they expect consumers to not be up in arms about their policies? It’s bad business.”
She e-mailed a complaint to corporate and then to Bamboozled.
We took the complaint to Toys “R” Us, which told Bamboozled after our original story it would be happy to listen to other customer complaints that come our way.
“The cashier told me, since it was over 90 days, it would have to be store credit, which was all I really wanted in the first place,” she said.
She said she and her daughter strolled through the store and Lily picked a Pillow Pet and a Dora Play-Doh set.
“And just that fast, there on the shelf was the toy we just returned,” Zakrzewski said. “So what’s the big deal about this 90-day policy if you’re just going to put it right back on the shelf to sell?”
When the two returned home, Zakrzewski found an e-mail response from her initial complaint. It said: “Unfortunately, the store was following the policy as it is required to do.” Funny timing.
GOING TO SMALL CLAIMS COURT
If something happens once, it’s an anomaly. If it happens several times, it’s a pattern.
In June, Bamboozled spotlighted Community Surgical Supply of Toms River, a medical supply company that appeared to overbill for a wheelchair rental, then sued the patient’s estate in small claims court, not once, but twice.
Since then, Bamboozled looked at some of the more than 500 small claims cases filed by the company since 2007.
We dove into the filings and found that 37 cases were dropped after Bamboozled started asking questions. We asked the company why.
“Your article got (Community Surgical) thinking and they want to reconsider how they go about collecting money,” spokesman Glen Rochkind said.
The company also said it won’t file any new cases until it determines how it wants to proceed with its bill collection practices.
That’s good news, indeed, because Bamboozled had more questions about some of the cases.
We spoke to two dozen customers taken to small claims court by the company. They shared similar stories: no regular billing, then a small claims notice; billing for equipment months after the family requested the company reclaim the machines, followed by a small claims summons; ongoing rentals of equipment, along with payments by patients and Medicare, after ownership of equipment could have been transferred to the patient, yet the patients say they never received such notification.
The company disputes those claims.
When Bamboozled told the company we spoke to 15 customers who said they didn’t receive bills before being taken to small claims court, Rochkind said the company, which has 30,000 customers, “wouldn’t be in business if we didn’t get bills out.”
“Look at the population you’re talking to. It’s a population of people that owe money,’’ Rochkin said. “That tends to be the first thing people say: I never got the bill.’’
But it turns out it’s quite possible some customers didn’t get bills for some time periods, Rochkind said after conferring with company officials.
“There could be a big gap in bills or getting invoices,” Rochkind said. “There is a possibility, if for example, Medicare didn’t pay us for an extended period, we’d hold off on billing the copay because Medicare tells us what to bill for the copay.”
Perhaps these customers — 15 that we talked to — never received regular bills. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t pay, landing in small claims court.
On the question of rentals customers said they tried to end, Community Surgical said it makes no sense to leave unwanted rental equipment at a customer’s home.
“We want to pick it up. We’d want to rent it to someone else,” Rochkind said.
Rochkind also said when warranted, the company sent letters to customers about their option to stop rentals, but it’s common for those letters to go unanswered. It does not keep copies on file, he said.
If Community Surgical is dropping current small claims cases and not filing any new ones — at least for now — perhaps the company and others should reexamine the accuracy of older lawsuits.
Bamboozled always says that if you make a mistake, own up to it. We’d like to clarify some inaccuracies about a case we wrote about in June involving Community Surgical.
On June 15, we reported that Community Surgical collected $4,837.50 in payments over 45 months from a deceased patient’s supplmental insurance, Medicare and the patient’s family for a wheelchair that retails for $545.
That information, based on figures provided by the patient’s family, was incorrect. Community Surgical collected 15 months of rental payments and a maintenance fee every six months for the next 30 months, totaling $2,564.31, for the wheelchair and some related accessories, as allowed by Medicare.
The company values the Invacare 9XT wheelchair and accessories at $1,357.98, which the company says falls within Medicare guidelines. The company said the wheelchair alone, without accessories, costs $891.50.
A Medicare spokesman also mistakenly said the maintenance fee would be charged quarterly rather than every six months.
After our story ran, Medicare asked the company to return an overpayment of $258 for fees collected while the patient was in a skilled nursing facility. Also, the supplemental insurer is due $64.50 in overpayments, and Community Surgical said it will pay.
The patient’s family said they never received a letter offering ownership after 15 months of rental. The company insists it was sent, and a note in the customer’s file indicated the letter was not returned. It said it does not keep copies of the mailed letters.
By sticking with the rental, Medicare, the supplemental insurer and the patient paid $1,206.33 more than the company said the chair was worth.