Worst Charlotte Contractors of 2009
Happy Holler Gardens | Rutherfordton, N.C.
Happy Holler Gardens allegedly left customers frowning in 19 states when it failed to deliver flowers, bulbs and perennials through its website and eBay store. The Charlotte BBB reported it received 25 complaints, 22 of which received no response. Five customers also filed complaints with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.
Company owners Curtis and Pixie Raduege responded in writing to the attorney general's complaints by blaming eBay and PayPal for the company's failure to deliver products. The Radueges' eBay store racked up 242 negative feedback ratings in April and May and is no longer active on the Internet site, according to eBay.
Curtis Raduege promised he would issue refunds, but at least three customers confirmed to Angie's List Magazine they never received them.
One was Brandy Barnes of Orangeburg, S.C., who never received $63 worth of bulbs. "Gardening is my own little piece of heaven," Barnes says. "It's like they came along and stepped on it."
By press time, the Radueges had not returned calls seeking comment, the company phone number was disconnected and the website was gone.
Eugene Granelle, Window Pros of Hickory | Mooresville, N.C.
Window Pros of Hickory ignored customers' right to cancel contracts within three days and forced them to pay money they didn't owe, says North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who filed a lawsuit against the company in September 2008 after receiving 27 complaints from North Carolina customers. The case remains in court-ordered mediation and could go to trial this year.
The Mooresville-based company, which is now operating as Conservation Windows, allegedly solicited business through mass mailings and then took aggressive measures to deter cancellations. The AG's office says some consumers wound up paying several thousand dollars.
Babette Martin of Charlotte says she tried to cancel a contract after a pushy salesman convinced her to sign one. "They said cancellations had to be done in writing," she says. Martin says she sent a letter that was returned undeliverable, with a note saying the company had moved. "They gave me the wrong address on purpose," Martin says.
The attorney general has asked the court to order the company to cancel contracts in a timely manner and pay civil penalties of $5,000 for each count of Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practice and $2,000 for each violation of the Debt Collectors Act. Eugene Granelle, who is illegally unlicensed in North Carolina, did not return calls seeking comment.
Henry Privette Jr., Carolina Furniture Inc. | High Point and Calabash, N.C.
A furniture salesman and contractor who bilked more than 600 customers out of more than $1.12 million is now serving a 14-year prison sentence. A federal court in January 2009 convicted Henry Privette Jr. of 10 counts of wire fraud. A judge ordered him to pay restitution but none of his victims has received refunds.
Privette, operating through at least four different company names, took orders online, requiring a 50 percent deposit, then failed to deliver products or provide refunds, according to court documents. Carolyn Durante of Sterling Heights, Mich., sent Privette a check for $2,014.50. The furniture never arrived, so she called the number on her invoice — only to find it disconnected. "I realized right then I'd been scammed," Durante says.
Despite his legal problems, Privette obtained two South Carolina licenses in 2005 to build and improve homes as Sunset Builders Custom Homes LLC. After his wire fraud indictment, the Residential Builders Commission suspended his licenses.
— reporting by Kristen Rojowski