Lewiston, Bath appliance stores close; customers in limbo

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The Attorney General’s Office’s is fielding complaints after Gediman’s Appliance stores in Bath and Lewiston abruptly closed last month, sitting on customers’ deposits and undelivered appliances.

The stores are owned by Peter and Serrene Gagnon of Poland.

The answering machine at the Lewiston store at 1822 Lisbon St. says, “We are currently out on appliance training and we will be back on Wednesday, Sept. 17,” before saying the voice mailbox is too full to take messages.

“They just want their stuff,” said Martha Currier, a complaint examiner in the AG’s Consumer Protection Division. “We’ve talked to people who have bought all the appliances for their house and now don’t have the appliances and they’re out the money.”

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It appears both stores closed two-and-a-half to three weeks ago, she said. The first formal consumer complaint was filed Sept. 23. Five more have been filed since. Currier has also received a “deluge” of calls this week as word has gotten out.

“This is the type of stuff the Attorney General wants to hear about,” Currier said. “You can’t just have a business shut down and not provide people with either their money back or the stuff that they’ve ordered. We want to try to figure out, how can we help him deal with his consumers?”

She declined to put a dollar amount to the missing deposits and appliances listed in the complaints so far.

Currier’s office has tried, unsuccessfully, to reach the Gagnons.

“Nobody seems to know where the owner of the business is; they haven’t heard anything from him, he’s not returning calls, mail’s piling up,” she said. “At this point we’re just monitoring the situation. There are a variety of things that could go wrong with a business. There could have been some tragic event that they just had to abruptly close their doors. It could have got to the point he feels he’s got to file for bankruptcy and he’s got to close his doors. We don’t have any proof of one thing or another.”

In two to three weeks, complaints will go to a volunteer to open the mediation process. Businesses don’t have to comply. The next step for customers out $6,000 or less would be small claims court.

In the meantime, Currier encouraged customers who paid by credit card to call their credit card company and try to get the charges reversed.

Complaints can be made to the Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-800-436-2131 or emailing the office at consumer.mediation@maine.gov

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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