Stanislaw Stopyra walked into the Plainville, Ct., Lowe’s store on April 24, 2009 to purchase three bags of concrete mix for about $10.
Stopyra was aware that there was some confusion at the cash register, as a different clerk took over in the middle of the transaction, but he was in a rush and quickly signed off on his credit slip, then left.
It was only a month later, when he received his Chase credit card bill, that he realized that instead of $10 he was charged $1,613.30.
He found his bill and saw that instead of the concrete mix, his receipt included a dozen items that he didn’t even look for, much less purchase.
Stopyra, who was born in Poland, came to the U.S. in 1997 and doesn’t speak fluent English, went back to the store to find out what happened.
A manager viewed the security tape of the time that Stopyra was there, but told the family that the video did not clearly show what Stopyra purchased as there were too many people and too much activity. He suggested that Stopyra contact the police.
Plainville police, according to Stopyra’s daughter-in-law, Urszula Rzemien, declined to get involved because they considered it a private matter.
Stopyra, of New Britain, then asked Chase to dispute the bill and, with the help of his family, filed a complaint with the state attorney general’s office.
Chase said there was nothing it could do because Stopyra signed the receipt, and the AG’s office was not making quick progress.
So Rzemien contacted me in early August asking for my help. While this is one of the strangest stories I have heard as a consumer columnist, it had a ring of truth to it. My gut told me that there had to have been something to Stopyra’s tale considering that he filed written complaints to the police and to the attorney general, and got his family involved. The fact that he only contested the charge after getting the Chase credit card bill also gave credence to his claim.
I contacted state Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell Jr., the state AG’s office and Lowe’s public relations staff.
On Aug. 18 Lowe’s public relations specialist Karen Cobb promised to look into the issue.
I figured with Lowe’s promising to investigate and both the Attorney General’s office and the consumer protection department looking over Lowe’s shoulder, Lowe’s would quickly figure what actually happened.
On Sept. 7, Rzemien contacted me again to say her father-in-law had yet to be even contacted by anyone from Lowe’s investigating his complaint. He had decided to pay the Chase bill, along with hundreds of dollars in late fees, because he could not afford to wait any longer.
The next day I wrote to Cobb asking her why Lowe’s hadn’t even tried to contact Stopyra yet and warned that I would soon write a column. I also asked for details of exactly what Lowe’s has been investigating. I also informed state officials that Lowe’s did not appear to be actively investigating this case.
Under further pressure from the state, Lowe’s finally contacted Stopyra’s family and met Stopyra, with a translator, at the Lowe’s Plainville store.
After that meeting, Lowe’s and Stopyra reached a financial settlement, which according to Rzemien, Stopyra is forbidden to disclose. She said all she knew was that her father-in-law was smiling after the meeting.
Lowe’s refused to comment further other than to say, “Lowe’s worked directly with Mr. Stopyra and resolved his concerns.”
According to the AG’s office, Lowe’s resolved Stopyra’s concerns by tearing up his $1,613.30 tab.
But the AG’s office is not yet satisfied and wants to know from Lowe’s whether this was an accident, and whether anyone else has been hurt by similar improper charges.
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