The New York Times
September 6, 1986, Saturday
Complaints On Buying By Mail
By William R. Greer
CONSUMERS complain more about mail-order companies to Better Business Bureaus than about any other companies, according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Washington.
As the mail-order business has grown into a $44 billion industry – selling everything from designer clothing to houses – the largest category of complaints has come from consumers who say that what they ordered never arrived or was not what they expected.
Each year since 1975, such complaints have accounted for 15 to 22 percent of all those received by the bureaus. In 1983 there were 85,677 complaints, the most of any year, according to Richard L. Bullock, senior vice president of the council.
Because of the persistence of the problem, the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York set up a department this year to monitor mail-order companies. In the first six months, it received more than 4,000 complaints; nearly half were about five mail-order companies.
”What we’re seeing is that a few mail-order companies are contributing the majority of these problems,” said Rhonda Klein Singer, general counsel of the New York bureau.
The five companies are Abernathy & Closther, owned by Direct Marketing Enterprises of Westbury, L.I.; Poole’s Fifth Avenue, 89 Fifth Avenue, owned by the Overseas Exchange Corporation; Parfums de Paris, 175 Fifth Avenue; Carter & Van Peel, also owned by Direct Marketing Enterprises, and Favorite Fragrances, 210 Fifth Avenue.
In 74 percent of the complaints against those five companies, consumers said they never received the product they ordered. In the others, they said they got defective, incomplete or unsatisfactory merchandise.