Camalier & Buckley Mail Order Inc., a New York based catalogue sales company now under investigation by the New York attorney general's office, has gone out of business leaving a trail of creditors and angry customers.
The mail order company has no corporate ties to Washington's prestigious leather goods store, Camalier & Buckley, but was licensed to use the company's name and had acquired rights to the Washington firm's mailing list.
"We're embarrassed and unhappy," said F. Davis Camalier, president of Washington's 50-year-old family operated leather and luggage store. "No one expected it to happen this way."
The mail order business closed its doors in mid-December, according to several sources, after months of complaints from customers and creditors and in the midst of an attempt by the state of New York to enjoin the firm from violating state mail fraud laws.
According to both Camalier and an attorney in the New York attorney general's consumer fraud division, the event that apparently precipitated the closing was a decision by one of the mail order firm's major lenders to call in its loans.
The mail order firm, headed by New York wholesaler Paul H. Ross, had used the Camalier & Buckley name for two years, according to Camalier. The Washington firm is among the creditors owed money by the mail order firm and left dangling by the closing, he said.
"I don't know that it will make anyone feel any better, but we're substantially bigger than most," said Camalier. "As well as the good will we've lost, we have a monetary loss as well."
Two customers who had ordered through the catalogue said yesterday they experienced difficulty collecting a refund on unsuitable merchandise in one case and in getting any response about an item that was ordered and payed for but never delivered in another case.
"They have closed their doors and ceased operations as far as we know," said Douglas Ackerman, an assistant New York attorney general in the consumer fraud division. "It looks like a lot of customers are going to be out of luck," he said. "I can't tell you how many thousands of dollars or how many hundreds of customers this represents."
According to Ackerman and other sources, the company apparently has not filed for bankruptcy. The company's telephones have been disconnected and Ross and his attorney could not be reached.
Ackerman said the state first went to court in July against the mail order company, but withdrew the complaint and monitored attempts to straighten out the firm's problems. In December, the state went back to court seeking an injunction to keep the firm from violating New York's mail order statutes. aAmong other things, the law requires that a company which is unable to deliver merchandise within a specified period notify the customer and offer either a refund or later delivery, he said.
Ackerman said the attorney general's office is exploring whether any fraud was involved in the company's activities and whether the company might end up in involuntary bankruptcy.
Camalier said his company learned in early December that the mail order firm was closing and notified store personnel who were fielding inquiries from frustrated customers of the mail order firm.
"We're cooperating fully with the attorney general," said Patty Cavin, director of community relations for Camalier & Buckley of D.C. Camalier & Buckley operates five stores in the Washington area as well as stores at the Homestead Hotel in Virginia, the Greenbrier in West Virginia and the Cloister in Sea Island, Ga.
Cavin said the leather goods company is forwarding names of people who have had problems with the mail order firm to the New York attorney general.
"Our business has been good, and we maintain we provide unequalled service in the Washington area," said Camalier. "This is certainly something that will not help us."