Under pressure from Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Missouri Attorney General’s office and consumers, Rough Country Rustic Furniture, LLC suspended operations July 24.
On July 31, Attorney General Josh Hawley filed a lawsuit against owners Joseph Victor Ross, his wife, Ashley Nicole Dillard, and their companies Rough Country Rustic Furniture, LLC and Rustic Concealment Solutions, LLC.
Rated “F” with BBB, Rough Country Rustic Furniture is a Missouri-based manufacturer of hand-crafted gun concealment furniture and home decor with more than 1,600 BBB consumer complaints and negative reviews.
The lawsuit alleges the companies and their owners used “deceptive and unfair business practices in connection with the online sale of furniture and home decor.”
According to the lawsuit, Rustic Concealment Solutions allegedly “operates as an alter ego of Rough Country and is used by Defendants to assist in their deceptive practices.”
In complaints received by BBB and the Attorney General’s Office, consumers say Rough Country Rustic Furniture took payments for goods but failed to provide the purchased products to consumers, or in some cases provided defective products. Consumers say the company failed to provide promised refunds and to respond to consumer calls and emails.
“After two BBB consumer warnings issued and receipt of more than 1,400 consumer complaints, BBB applauds the Missouri Attorney General’s action,” says Michelle L. Corey, president and CEO of BBB St. Louis.
The lawsuit calls for a permanent injunction to prevent the companies from continuing to accept money for goods not provided. It also seeks restitution for consumers, penalties for law violations and reimbursement to the state for court and associated costs.
Hawley’s office estimates the companies have taken more than $450,000 from at least 514 consumers without providing products ordered.
“If companies don’t deliver what they promise when they promise it, they will have to answer to the Attorney General,” Hawley said in an August 1 press release.
Ross and Dillard told local media they intend to fulfill existing orders, though they did not elaborate on how they plan to do so with a reduced labor force. They said they have laid off nine employees and plan to restructure the business.
It is unclear how the owners plan to address hundreds of requests for refunds from frustrated consumers who no longer want the furniture they paid for before the business halted operations.
BBB issued consumer warnings about Rough Country Rustic Furniture in December 2017 and May 2018 so consumers could make informed marketplace decisions about whether to do business with this company. BBB continues to receive more than 100 complaints per month on this company.
BBB alerted consumers about Rustic Concealment Solutions in the same May alert, shortly after Dillard structured and registered the company with the Missouri secretary of state. Dillard had previously registered the company as a fictitious name in December 2017, “after Rough Country received numerous complaints from consumers and the Better Business Bureau,” according to the lawsuit.
The suspension of operations comes as good news to some consumers who have expressed anger on social media that the company continued to take orders while they were clearly unable to fulfill them in a timely manner.
Other consumers, however, wonder if or when they will receive the goods they ordered or the refunds they requested.
A Florida man, who ordered a custom table and chairs more than a year ago but never received them, told BBB, “When someone closes their doors like this, it makes you wonder about bankruptcy.”
Financiers, suppliers, transportation providers and consumers also have filed lawsuits against the company, seeking nearly $1 million.
According to the website, roughcountryrusticfurniture.com, the business is no longer taking orders for products, many of which are designed to hide guns and weapons in hidden compartments.
The website for Rustic Concealment Solutions is no longer active.
BBB has reached out to the owners for comment but received no replies.
The Missouri Attorney General’s office encourages customers of these businesses who have not received refunds or goods they paid for to continue to file complaints with their office.
BBB offers the following tips for consumers interested in purchasing furniture online.
• Research the business and owners carefully before signing a contract, providing any sensitive personal information or paying any money. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org or by calling 888-996-3887.
• Read online reviews from several sources to get a balanced view of customer experiences with a business.
• Don’t rely on a professional-looking website or presence on social media as verification that a business is trustworthy. Check other sources.
• Read all terms and conditions carefully before completing a purchase online. Make sure you read and understand return and refund policies. Know your options in case you receive an item that was not as advertised.
• Pay by credit card whenever possible in case you need to challenge the payment for non-delivery of the product.
• Contact your credit card company to dispute the purchase if you don’t receive a custom order, even if it is outside of the normal window of time. Ask to speak to a supervisor and explain the purchase was for custom furniture with initial ship dates beyond the typical 60- to 90-day time limit to challenge charges. Document attempts to contact the company, share email exchanges, and provide links to BBB’s profile page and other online sites that share similar experiences of other consumers.
• If a company cannot fulfill an order within the time promised and fails to offer or issue a refund, file complaints with BBB, the Missouri Attorney General and Federal Trade Commission.