Have you been ripped off by a Savannah furniture salesman? If so, the Better Business Bureau says you're not alone. The number is up to 54 victims and counting. The BBB calls it one of the biggest, if not the biggest, case of a consumer rip-off in the history of the Coastal Empire and Low Country.
The case involves more than $70,000.
"My husband had come in to see about getting me a new bedroom suite for my birthday," said Tina Love, victim number 54.
"The guy cashed the check in my husband's name and left, and we never got anything," she said.
The check was worth $1,500. The guy was Frankie Smith, owner of the Furniture Connection Outlet Store on Tibet Avenue.
Tina says after weeks of excuses, delays, and lies, she finally called the police. "We tried to give him a chance," she said. "We got tired of it."
So Tina came back to the store and tried to get her money back. When she got there, the doors were locked and the store was empty. The BBB says Tina was not alone, but does have an idea where the store owner may be.
"We have information on his address, and we know the car he drives," said Better Business Bureau president Ross Howard.
The day Tina filed her police report, Howard says seven other people filed complaints. And the number of victims multiplied fast.
"We have never had a case of 54 complaints in such a short period of time," he said.
Howard says it was all local people, victims of one of the biggest rip-offs he has seen. "It's too early to say if there will be assets we can afford to these people," he said.
"Fifteen hundred dollars is a lot of money," said Tina. "It don't grow on trees."
But to Tina, it was more than just money. "He ripped us off $1,500 and took away my birthday present from my husband."
The Better Business Bureau and representatives from the governor's office are meeting with victims at 6pm tonight at the Southside Fire Department to talk about what they can do to help and whether they can get their money back.
There are a few signs to watch for to avoid becoming a victim. If they ask for cash up front, that's a big red flag. But the first thing you should do dealing with any business: contact the Better Business Bureau and get a report on the company to see whether they have a good reputation.
You can contact the local office of the BBB online at http://www.bbbsoutheastatlantic.org/.