“I’m on a mission to find my dress,” said Jennifer Koussa, who recently paid for the $1,500 total cost of her wedding gown from Cinderella’s Bridal Salon and now doesn’t have access to it, as the West Warwick store filed a petition for receivership in the Superior Court of Kent County on Thursday. Brides-to-be said their designer gowns were not ordered, or never paid for, by the salon.
According to a press release by the Office of Attorney General, storeowners Scott W. Gray of Westerly, as well as Judith B. Gray and William D. Gray, filed a bond for $10,000.
The office, which received about 50 consumer complaints, has been in contact with court appointed receiver, Matthew McGowan, Esq., and anticipates discussing complaints filed with the Office by consumers who paid in part or in full for dresses and wedding accessories but have not received the merchandise. McGowan was contacted but didn’t return calls before press time.
Information gathered through the complaints is being reviewed by the Office and if warranted, will be forwarded to the Rhode Island State Police for additional investigation. Consumers may be required to file a formal complaint with the receiver.
In the meantime, there is hope for brides-to-be, as local stores are offering help. Among them are East Providence stores, Ana’s Bridal Boutique & Tuxedo, Inc., as well as Helene’s Bridal Shop.
Whether it is rush orders, special shipments, appointments or even discounts, the stores are trying to be as accommodating as possible.
Ana Linhares, owner of Ana’s Bridal, said while she can sympathize with Cinderella’s, her main concern are the women in need. She is advising them to bring in their receipts so they can match up style numbers to appropriate designers.
Her goal, she said, is to make the experience hassle-free for the women. As of Friday, a dozen women contacted her for assistance.
“We have brides calling that are getting married right around the corner or in October,” Linhares said. “Most of the brides I’ve spoken to are very emotional and are trying to keep calm. But, you can tell in their voices that they are crying. They don’t know what to do and that’s why we’re stepping forward. They are just now starting to see there is someone is here to help them.”
Koussa said she visited Helene’s last week after filing a claim with the Attorney General’s Office. While she didn’t get a new dress, she said the staff was very helpful.
“I went there and they led me in the right direction,” she said.
However, she is hopeful she’ll get her gown, or a refund, in time for her Sept. 8th nuptials. Otherwise, she’ll head back to Helene’s.
“They were super accommodating,” Koussa said.
West Warwick resident Danielle Zarrella, who recently put a 60 percent down payment on a $1,400 at Cinderella’s, said she thinks it’s a good idea that stores are willing to assist. Her wedding is in June 2013.
“If I can’t get my dress from Cinderella’s maybe that’s an option,” she said. “It’s funny because before they said they would help, my uncle and I were saying that bridal stores in the state should do bridal bailout and help all the girls.”
Her mother, Donna, filed a claim for the dress on Wednesday and is hopeful they either get the dress or their money reimbursed. They are trying to be hopeful, but said the situation is frustrating.
“My daughter’s very organized and was really happy to be able to say, ‘OK. That’s one thing off the list,’” said Donna. “Now, we’re starting from square one and we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Additionally, Donna said the experience has made her cautious going forward with wedding plans.
“I feel like I can’t trust anyone I deal with from this point on,” she said. “If I have to start fresh and get her another gown, no matter where I get it I’m going to pay for it in full and take it with me. There’s no way I’m leaving it at another bridal shop. I thought this place was solid. They’ve been in business for over 16 years.”
Nevertheless, Donna said they were impressed with the salesperson that assisted them at Cinderella’s. In fact, they wonder if she tried to send them signals that the store was soon to go under.
“I almost feel like she may have known something was happening because the night of our transaction she said three times, ‘If you’re uneasy, take the dress,’ when my sister asked what kind of recourse do we have if they go out of business or if something happens,” said Donna. “Little did we know that’s what was going to happen. I wish we had taken the dress.”
Consumers are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Office for additional information and file a complaint. The Consumer Protection Unit is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Call 401-274-4400 for more information or download a consumer complaint form at www.riag.ri.gov, which can be faxed to 401-222-5110 or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.