NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — This is the season of giving, but some customers are finding themselves begging a New York City seamstress to give them their most sentimental items back.
They say their credit cards were charged for repairs, but for more than a year calls and emails to the owner have gone unanswered.
As CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Thursday, photos of damaged clothes before and after from company AlterKnit New York are likely what’s lead some to call Owner Miriam Mades “The Leonardo of wool” doing “impeccable work.”
One write up from almost a decade ago refers to her “real gift with yarn.”
Customer Lorin Cole saw Miriam’s “magic work” online, but after sending her two beloved dresses more than a year ago, she says the only thing that’s disappeared are her clothes and the nearly $300 she paid for repairs.
She says in October 2019 she was told “you’ll get the dress back within a week to two weeks. I’ll put it at the head of the list.”
Ron Keller sent in five Italian cashmere sweaters for repair in January.
“What did she charge you?” Rozner asked.
“$750,” Keller said.
“And she told you she had to have the money before doing the work?”
“Yes,” Keller said.
He says Miriam assured him it would take about a month. The same was allegedly told to Lauren Midlam of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She sent in five items including a Burberry Kilt and a Williams Sonoma pillow.
“She didn’t respond to calls. Called again called again. Waited a week, called again. Sent emails and all of a sudden it’s nine months later and I still haven’t heard anything from this woman,” Midlam said.
“This total disregard and no customer service,” said Joe Venturini.
The Better Business Bureau says most unanswered complaints date back to 2019, and the company now has an “F” rating. On Yelp, most recent reviews give the company one star, with the exception of a few high marks. And 27 negative Google reviews disappeared the day after Rozner contacted the owner for this story.
Rozner called the store to leave a message, visited its listed drop off locations for customers at a co-working space on West 30th Street, where Rozner was told shipments are still coming in. Rozner went to a Greenpoint warehouse where the owner told customers she did some of the work, and then found another alleged victim.
Landlord Andy Tomassi showed Rozner her now empty studio, which he says he had to evict Mades from in September. She owed several months of rent worth nearly $9,000.
“She would be six months behind and she would be arrogant and annoyed when I would ask her for rent,” Tomassi said. “She had all these clothes bagged in plastic bags.”
Rozner hoped her attorney Guy Oksenhendler could tell us when clients would get those clothes back. Before a scheduled interview, Rozner asked if he knew why the name on her business certificate listed a Miriam Maltagliati, and not Miram Mades. He backed out.
“Thank you for the opportunity and my client has given me instructions to not do the interview, so have a lovely afternoon,” Oksenhendler said.
“So what does she have to say to all the people that say that she has their items?” Rozner asked.
“Listen, you’re well aware my client has run a wonderful, successful business with thousands of happy clients and…,” Oksenhendler said.
“And? Is she going to return the clothes to the people who have been trying to get a hold of her for more than a year?” Rozner asked. “So why does she have 2 names? OK, so the people that have tried calling her, emailing her to get their items back — she’s not going to try to help them? She’s not going to try and return their items?”
“They will. Have a lovely afternoon,” Oksenhendler said.
“Alright. so should I have those people contact you as her attorney?” Rozner asked.
Rozner even tried speaking with Miriam at her luxury waterfront high rise in Astoria. The doorman told Rozner “She’s not available now.”
Some hold out hope.
“I feel terrible. I mean, these are two of my favorite dresses. I’ve paid the woman. I trusted the woman,” Cole said. “Please get in touch with me.”
Others give up, saying “I have very little trust and faith in this company.”
The Better Business Bureau says consumers in the future should always get an itemized receipt with refund policies on it.
“You’re giving them something valuable. They need to give you something valuable, which is a description of your rights,” said Claire Rosenzweig, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan NY.
Don’t pay upfront, she warns. If the work takes longer than the dispute timeline for your credit card company, don’t do it.
In the meantime, American Express says it will investigate whether consumers can still be refunded.
Complaints can be filed with the New York Attorney General. CLICK HERE to do so.
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