After her son’s death in 2008, money was tight for Booker, so she entered into a payment plan with Haren Monument of Newark, which would provide a monument for the gravesite.
In July 2012, Booker tried to give the company the final fee, but messages she left and letters she mailed went unanswered, she said.
She learned the company shut its doors. It had her money, and her son’s grave still didn’t have a monument.
Booker complained to Consumer Affairs and tried to take Haren to small claims court, to no avail.
We had no luck getting Haren to make things right, either.
But after Booker’s story was published, private donors — including a relative of the Haren family — and other monument companies came forward, offering to pay for a new stone, the inscription and the installation charge at the cemetery.
Once the warmer weather set in, the stone was put in place, and Booker and her daughter were able to see it for the first time.
Booker’s story brought forward more donors than were needed to make her whole, but the donors still wanted to help. They offered to help the other customers we profiled in the story, and their stones are being prepared at no charge to the consumers.
Also after the story, Consumer Affairs went to the Haren property to look for stones that may have been paid for but not delivered. The snow and ice had frozen a bunch of stones together so they couldn’t be identified. They were able to find one that was purchased by another Bamboozled reader, but Booker’s stone, and one paid for by another customer, were not located.
Consumer Affairs promised to return again to Haren once the weather was warmer to see if it could identify other undelivered stones.
Like the one purchased by Martha Salters, another customer who came forward after reading about Booker.
Salters said in 2010 she bought a headstone from Haren for her sister-in-law’s grave, paying the full $795 fee plus another $520 for the installation. Salters said she even checked the finished stone at the Haren property, but it was never delivered to the cemetery.
That grave remains bare.
Salters, like the other customers, wants either the stone to be installed or her money back.
We checked in with Consumer Affairs for the latest on the case.
“The Division of Consumer Affairs is in touch with those consumers who have contacted us about Haren Monuments,” said acting director Steve Lee. “We are well aware of their concerns, and continue to use all resources at our disposal to address this matter. However, it is the attorney general’s policy not to discuss matters under review.”
Good enough. We’re looking forward to hearing a resolution for those who paid money for a service they never received. We’ll keep you posted.
THE DOUGH IS COMING
It looks like Dorothy Songile, the woman whose Harrison home was covered in flour and corn meal after a mishap at the bun factory next door, is finally getting her dough.
Our column last week featured her struggles to get Tri-State Bun, the owner of the factory that backs her yard, to pay for a professional cleaning of her home and property.
The story finally spurred action from the company.
Songile said reps came over to review the damage — as did three local television news crews — and the company promised to send over a contractor to give a new estimate for a professional cleaning.
“Let’s just wait and see,” said a hopeful Songile.
Later that day, Anthony Battaglia, the CEO of Tri-State, who we were unsuccessful in reaching before the story ran, answered our LinkedIn request for a chat.
“We were always helping Mrs. Songile,” Battaglia said. “We sent cleaning guys over in January but unfortunately they didn’t do a good job and we need to clean up her property. We want to get it power washed.”
He said they’d also have someone look at her air conditioner units to see if they can be saved.
“We’ll replace them if we have to,” he said.
We asked what caused the flour incident in the first place.
He said there are sensors on the silo that should give a notification if it’s getting too full during a delivery.
“We believe the sensor malfunctioned,” he said. “We don’t know how much flour got out but it was substantial.”
He said the winter weather made the spill even worse, and all the ice probably made the substance stickier.
Battaglia said he was sending a professional cleaner to look, and he’d get back to us with a clean-up plan.
Songile later confirmed a contractor came to examine the mess, and she told Tri-State she wanted its promises in writing before she’d okay someone coming onto her property to do the job.
“I said, ‘I don’t trust you people,’ and they said they would come back with some papers for me,” she said.
When we checked in with Battaglia later in the week, he said they were working on the written document Songile requested.
He confirmed the company would put it in writing that it would power wash the home, clean the surrounding property, tend to her grass area and make sure the air conditioners are working.
“We hope she’s happy. We’re going to resolve it,” Battaglia said. “I felt like this whole thing was a misunderstanding and I was never given the opportunity to make things right. I make bread. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Battaglia never explained why Songile’s earlier requests — and our calls before the story first ran — were ignored. But we’re glad the company seems to be on the way to making Songile whole.
She should receive the written document sometime this week.
“If it wasn’t for people like you they wouldn’t have done anything,” she said. “They would have completely ignored me, hoping this problem will go away.”
Songile certainly isn’t going anywhere, and with a nice power wash, at least the mess will finally go away.