'We're just left with nothing:' Furniture Depot fire leaves customers waiting for refunds

MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee woman waiting on a furniture delivery turned on the news one morning and learned she'd be waiting a long time.

In April, Felecia (whose identity is not being revealed due to safety concerns not related to this story) said she paid in full and up front for a new table to replace the one that's chipping in her kitchen.

"I paid in cash," Felecia said.

Chips on Felecia's kitchen table she liked to have replaced.

While Felecia waited for her table's delivery, the store she purchased it from caught fire.

"I was shocked. I was like, 'Oh my God -- that's the store we got the table from!'" she said.

On April 13, a fire tore through the Furniture Depot near 25th and Lincoln. The store was a total loss.

Felecia tried contacting the store owner for a refund.

"We're just left with nothing," she said. "It's very frustrating."

Felecia's situation raised the question: If a business is destroyed, does the customer still have a right to any goods already bought and paid for? Do they have a right to a refund? Or, are they simply out of luck?

Consumer attorney Anthony Murdock said, in general, if a store burns down, the customers' rights stand.

"You still have the right to get what you purchased. They either have to give you a refund, or they have to give you the goods," Murdock said. "You need to be smart, and make sure you take the efforts to protect yourself in that situation."

If you find yourself in a similar situation, send a copy of your receipt and notice of claim to the store owner and their insurance company. If you do not get a response, file a complaint with Wisconsin Consumer Protection or the Better Business Bureau. As a last resort, go to small claims court.

Customers may have to be patient.

"They can wait for the retailer's insurance company to make payments on the property -- assuming that they have insurance or that they will," Murdock said.

Furniture Depot's owner, Abdullah Numann, said he's waiting on his insurance claim. He said customers can send a copy of their receipt to the store's Facebook page. For now, he's trying to refund orders less than $1,000.

"You still need to take care of your customers," Felecia said.

Contact 6 sent Numann a copy of Felecia's receipt two weeks ago. She's still waiting on a refund.