Good things sometimes come to those who, like Albert Hairston, wait.
Two years ago he paid $300 to a Furniture World outlet in Landover as a deposit on a living room suite. When he went back to make another payment, he found a big sign on the door: "Closed. Gone Out of Business."
Last week, at the office of the Prince George's Consumer Protection Commission, he received the three-quarters of that money back. "I hadn't heard anything for two years; I'd forgotten about it," the Takoma Park resident said.
"This is like Christmas in the middle of the year," said Bob L. Smith of Oxon Hill, who also had come to the office to pick up a check. Two years ago he bought a sofa, a love seat, a large upholstered chair, a mattress and a box spring from Furniture World for $1,087. He got everything but the box spring and mattress.
He was getting married at the time, but decided to put off his honeymoon until he got the box spring and mattress. "We delayed and delayed and delayed," he recalled last week. "We'd go up there [to the Furniture World outlet in Landover] and argue," he said--but to no avail.
Smith and Hairston were among six former Furniture World customers who assembled at the Consumer Protection Commission's office in Upper Marlboro last week to receive 75 percent of the money they had paid. Sixty-one other customers also will get checks for money they thought they'd never see again--for a total of $14,888 in the county.
"And this check isn't going to bounce either," said Annie B. Jones, the consumer affairs worker who investigated the case for the Prince George's office. Nila Stovall, the county's director of consumer protection, said the settlement is the largest in the history of the office.
In Montgomery County, 49 customers will receive a total of $13,200.
"I think it's a victory for the consumer," said H. Clifton Grandy, the Prince George's associate county attorney who handles consumer affairs cases. He said the case has shown that a new state law, which puts consumers in a high-priority position when the assets of a bankrupt company are being distributed, is working.
The Prince George's Consumer Protection Commission received the first of a long series of complaints in February 1980, several months after complaints began to flow into the Montgomery County Consumer Affairs Bureau.
The Montgomery outlet of Furniture World, in Silver Spring, was the first to close down, leaving several customers with neither the furniture they had ordered nor the money they had paid for it. The Landover outlet closed soon afterwards.
Fortunately for the purchasers, most of the furniture had been moved to the Camp Springs outlet, which was closed and sealed by county sheriffs working under a court order. Selling this furniture provided money to pay back the consumers.