UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (WUSA9) -- One Prince George's County woman planned to upgrade her home with a call to a local blinds office. But now, 9 months later, as she laid out in her complaint to the Maryland States Attorney General, she's left without her window treatments and a refund worth thousands of dollars.
So, she reached out to our WUSA 9 Call For Action team.
Renee Tyler had big plans for her Upper Marlboro home. She wanted to start with her windows, so she contacted the Budget Blinds of Annapolis South office.
"I saw the website and everything, and I'm like they have some nice designs and stuff," says Tyler.
Renee wanted wood shutters, but says the franchise owner - Patrick Ullrich convinced her to go for vinyl or MDF. So, on April 30th she paid Ullrich more than $5,200 for a cheaper version. The next day, she changed her mind, and sent this signed cancellation form by Priority Mail.
The tracking notice confirms that the cancellation notice was delivered May 3, 2012 at 3:45 pm.
"Mr. Ullrich received it within the three days," says Tyler.
That three day period is key, because according to the contract Renee signed, she had three days to change her mind and get a full refund. What's more, the Federal Trade Commission has what's called a Cooling Off Rule.
That means, if you buy an item in your home, you have the right to cancel that order three days after the sale -- even if you invite the salesperson into your home.
"Based on the information, it just looks like the company has failed to honor their obligation to cancel the order," says Ed Johnson, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau.
We asked Johnson to review Renee's documents. He saw that Ullrich cashed Renee's check the same day she placed the order.
"If the company took action by ordering the product or cashing the check, they should know that this doesn't become effective until the three day cooling off period has taken place," says Johnson.
At the core of the dispute between Renee and Ullrich - is this handwritten line on the notice of cancellation. It reads: "I would like wood shutters, not MDF, vinyl for kitchen and bath."
"I was explaining why I was cancelling," says Tyler.
But Ullrich disagrees. He says he didn't receive the cancellation notice right away. And, told mediators with the Maryland Consumer Protection Division, the BBB and Call For Action, that he believed the note was a change to the order, not a cancellation.
Instead, he offered to replace the MDF's with the wood shutters. Renee wanted him to honor the cancellation request. The Maryland Consumer Protection Division advised Renee that they were unable to resolve her complaint and that if she wanted to pursue it, she should consider legal action.
We went to Mr. Ullrich's home office for answers.
"Mr. Ullrich, we just want to talk to you about Renee Tyler and her Budget Blinds order," says anchor Lesli Foster, as she knocked on his door.
No one answered the door when we tried to get answers, but someone inside closed the blinds.
Ullrich did eventually call us back - and said he made an offer to Renee's attorney. But it's not the offer Renee wants.
"I would like to be reimbursed, the full reimbursement of my monies as stipulated int he contract," says Tyler.
As she looks around her windows - it's not what she intended to see as she comes out of her kitchen.
After we contacted Mr. Ullrich, Renee received an offer for a full refund. In exchange, she would have to agree to "seek to not have her story air." Renee declined the offer. She wants all of her money refunded with no strings attached.
To protect your investment, consider these steps:
*The Better Business Bureau says before you enter a contract, think twice about paying the full amount up front.
*Think of the rule of thirds. Pay a third when you order, a third midway through, and a third when the job is done.
And, we can't say this enough.
*Do your homework - before you allow a company to come into your home.
If you want our WUSA 9 Call For Action team to help you, call us at 301-652-HELP, or file a complaint here.
Written by Lesli Foster & Stephanie Wilson
WUSA 9 and www.wusa9.com