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Updated: Wednesday, 31 Oct 2012, 11:13 AM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 30 Oct 2012, 5:36 PM CDT
AUSTIN KXAN) - Coleman Wholesale promises custom cabinets, and much more, at wholesale prices.
The company claims customers can expect to spend as much as 50 percent less than if they purchased through retail stores. The president of Coleman Wholesale, Allen Coleman boasts that his prices are so good, he gets three out of every four jobs he bids.
So when viewers started calling the KXAN Tipline and emailing email@example.com about Coleman, we wanted to get some answers.
In a video on his company website , Allen Coleman states he is a “wholesaler, direct, installed.” When it comes to custom cabinets, countertops, doors, windows, and appliances he wants your business.
But Coleman did not want to see KXAN when we first found him after interviewing several unhappy customers. The Coleman Wholesale showroom at the business address listed on the company website had been closed down.
There was a letter on the door at his business address at 2136 Rutland Drive stating that he owed $28,963.73. We were initially unable to reach Coleman by phone so we wanted to verify his whereabouts on video.
“Show me some identification, buddy,” Coleman said to a producer. “I mean I've got a bankrupt business going on here. What are you doing?” he asked. He then slapped the camera twice saying, “C’mon, buddy.”
We wanted to ask him about his business with the people who had contacted KXAN. Coleman said that only a few unhappy customers who didn’t like his business policies are trying to ruin his business.
KXAN gets hundreds of calls and emails from unhappy consumers, but rarely do we have so many complaining about the same business.
“He demanded that the money should be paid in advance,” said Yolanda Wheaton.
“All I wanted was a kitchen that I had already paid for,” said Bill Marquardt.
“He still has my money, and I didn't get anything for it,” said Eileen Chee.
We interviewed Wheaton, Marquardt, and Chee on camera (although there are several other customers and former business associates that have contacted KXAN). They all have two things in common: they did business with Coleman Wholesale; and they all say they are out thousands of dollars.
Wheaton, who lives in Georgetown, said she paid nearly $17,000 up front on a Coleman custom kitchen. But after she paid, she says the excuses and delays began.
Wheaton said that when her cabinets were finally delivered they appeared to be low-grade, second-hand box cabinets with peeling paint. She also said the appliances she purchased came in mismatched boxes.
She showed us how some of the cabinet doors wouldn’t close and some don’t have glass where cabinet door windows are supposed to be. Wheaton says poor measurements led to a new kitchen counter that extends beyond the wall of the entry way to her kitchen.
Otherwise, she said a lot of work still hasn’t been finished. Wheaton filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Bill Marquardt of Lakeway says he agreed to spend more than $21,000 on a Coleman custom kitchen remodel. He says he paid more than $16,000 up front and another $4,000 later.
Marquardt says after lengthy delays, some cabinets arrived but were improperly measured, improperly installed and had several pieces missing. He also says his refrigerator was never delivered but the wrong granite for his countertops was delivered. He says Coleman wanted more money to complete the job but he refused to pay any more.
“Then he re-did the quote,” Marquardt said. “He sent it back to me and said, ‘$50,000.’ ‘If you want any of your stuff, I need a cashier's check for the entire amount,” Marquardt told KXAN. “That was the last correspondence that I've had from him.”
Eileen Chee, a 67-year-old teacher, said she also had a bad experience with Coleman.
Chee, of South Austin, is among those Coleman says is conspiring to ruin him. She also filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Texas Attorney General’s Office after doing business with Coleman Wholesale.
She says she paid Coleman about half of $20,000 Coleman quoted for her kitchen remodel with a credit card. She says Visa helped her dispute the charges and charged back the cost of a lot of merchandise. But first, she says Visa required her to get four independent appraisers to evaluate the cabinets she did get.
“They were substandard cabinets,” Chee says the independent appraisals showed. “They didn’t even look new. There was peeling laminate so it wasn't even solid wood,” Chee said.
A week after we made contact with Allen Coleman, he agreed to an interview. But he insisted the location be a "safe place,” at one of his happy customers' homes. As we walked in he had a video camera recording us. Coleman started the interview by reading a prepared statement:
“I'd like to thank KXAN and the Better Business Bureau of Austin for the opportunity to respond to the allegations against my small family business,” said Coleman in a statement he read from
a prepare text. (See his full statement in the video box to the left of the headline)
Coleman's response to the allegations against him is simple. He says the people who claim they are unhappy with his work are in collusion and conspiring to run him out of town.
“I believe this group has run a coordinated slander campaign,” his statement continued.
Coleman says he has many satisfied customers. He proposed we interview some of them but did not provide any of their names and phone numbers, as KXAN requested.
Coleman says he plans on suing those speaking out against him but also says, based on his lawyer's advice, he is withholding documents from KXAN. Coleman also would not tell us the name of his lawyer.
When asked about Bill Marquardt during our interview, he would not comment about his dealings with Bill Marquardt, based on his attorney’s advice.
We also asked Coleman about Eileen Chee’s claims.
“We gave her the ability to work with us,” said Coleman. “She did not like our company policies and has worked against us and worked to ruin our name ever since,” he continued.
The Better Business Bureau says it has received several complaints about Coleman Wholesale in a short period of time. The company has an "F" rating with the BBB. The day of our interview, Mr. Coleman had gone to the BBB to try and address those complaints. But up until that day, he had not responded to the BBB for almost 2 months.
“For many of these consumers who have paid tens of thousands possibly up front, uh, unless they have something in writing that says they can get a refund, unfortunately, we're in a situation where the company's policy is no refunds,” says Erin Dufner with the Austin Better Business Bureau.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office also confirms receiving several complaints about Coleman Wholesale. But a spokesman said the agency can’t confirm or deny any pending investigation or action in response to a complaint.
Coleman was also sued in a Travis County Court by a Granite dealer, who won a summary judgment against him for $55,000 in August.
Coleman Wholesale’s website and business is still running. Coleman also advertises franchise opportunities.
As for Coleman's claim that his company is bankrupt, we checked the latest filings in federal court and Coleman Wholesale is not currently in bankruptcy proceedings. But Coleman told us during the interview he is in the process of filing.
Meanwhile, Bill Marquardt and Eileen Chee say they have paid other companies to complete their kitchen remodeling work.
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