‘I called the police’: Business shuts down after taking large deposit; consumers lose thousands

TITUSVILLE, Fla. — A Titusville couple claim a furniture store collected thousands as a deposit then closed its doors and kept their money.

Store closings have increased during COVID-19 and that can put future deliveries and deposits at risk.

When Jose and Yolanda Fonseca found new furniture near Orlando, they didn’t have any second thoughts about buying it.

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“The furniture was great, but we never got it, never got it,” Jose Fonseca said.

The couple found bedroom and living room pieces at Mattress Outlet Furniture on South Orange Blossom Trail.

The Fonsecas say the store manager offered cash discounts, so they wrote a $4,000 check and were promised delivery a year ago. The store kept delaying delivery for weeks. Then the Fonsecas say managers stopped answering their calls.

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“I said I was fed up; I called the police,” Fonseca said. “I said, ‘Look, I’m done with you. I either want my money or I want this resolved now.’”

Investigators told the couple it was a civil matter. So, they went to small claims court and won a $4,000 judgement. But then found out it was up to them to enforce it and get their money back.

“That blew our mind,” Fonseca said.

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“That hurt didn’t it?” Todd Ulrich asked.

“We’re waiting and that’s a big chunk,” Fonseca said.

Sudden store closings are a reality many consumers face during the COVID-19 crisis. Business failures are a real threat and trying to get money back is an unfair fight.

“It’s best to protect myself upfront?” Ulrich asked.

“Absolutely, protecting yourself upfront is your best line of defense,” said consumer attorney Jared Lee.

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Lee says that defense starts with a credit card that would provide refunds for store closures.

If you paid cash, a court case can be the only option, but a bad one.

“How do I make sure they pay on that judgement?” Ulrich asked.

“Collecting judgement is a challenging process for professionals and certainly consumers,” Lee replied.

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Both Mattress Outlet stores have closed. Action 9 attempted to contact managers and owners without success.

Jose and Yolanda Fonseca still can’t get their money back.

“And all they do is just play games with people every time you go,” Fonseca said.

Now is not the time to be tempted by cash discounts at stores for future deliveries. If any business closes, getting a refund is a long shot without credit card protection and avoid deposits if you can.

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.