ST. CHARLES, MO (KTVI) - A St. Charles, Mo., estate sales business has drawn Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaints from consumers who say their valuables mysteriously went missing during sales.
One couple alleged that the company’s owner, Bo Wiechens of Bo Wiechens Estate Sales, refused to return or compensate them for thousands of dollars in baseball and football collectibles that disappeared sometime during a July sale at their home in south St. Louis County.
“There’s no reason in the world that woman should be in business anymore,” said the wife, who said she and her husband hired an attorney to force Wiechens to return the collectibles or pay them for the items.
Several of Wiechens’ former employees said the owner routinely removed items from homes without recording them as sales. They said Wiechens later gave some of the items to a member of her family. In an interview, Wiechens denied the allegations, blaming the employees for any irregularities.
Customers of the estate sales business also said they were upset by Wiechens’ sometimes erratic behavior, the sale of items that specifically had been labeled as not for sale and unusual bookkeeping and accounting methods that made it difficult for them to know whether they had been compensated fairly.
“It was a total mess,” said a man who hired Wiechens’ business this past spring to sell furniture and household items for his aunt’s estate near Marthasville, Mo. He said the business never paid him for a picnic table, a TV and a piece of antique furniture that vanished from the house.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said consumers looking to sell estate items should be able to trust that a business will make every effort to ensure that they are treated fairly. “A family’s decision to downsize and sell treasured items can be difficult,” she said. “The business should see the job as a privilege, not an opportunity to take advantage of people.”
The couple from south St. Louis County said they were preparing to move to Florida and hired Wiechens to liquidate the furniture, household items and collectibles in the house. The memorabilia included autographed photos and other items from such sports stars as Joe Namath, Franco Harris, Rogers Hornsby, Joe Medwick, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson and Stan Musial. The wife said they signed a contract with Wiechens’ company, agreeing to pay a 30 percent commission on all sold items. She said a company employee initially told them the sports items were sold to a single buyer, but that buyer later backed out. Wiechens then told the couple she was going to sell the items to a local antiques dealer.
“That’s the last we have heard from her,” the wife said of Wiechens. She said they tried numerous times to reach Wiechens about the missing sports items, but Wiechens did not return their calls. She said local police told them it was a civil matter. “I just gave up,” the woman said.
A woman from Cottage Hills, Ill., said she contracted with Wiechens’ company after her husband’s death in January. She said there were numerous problems with the sale at her home. Several items disappeared even though there were no records that they were sold, she said. Other items were sold that she specifically had instructed were not to be sold. During the sale, the woman confronted an employee of Wiechens loading a bandsaw that had belonged to her husband into a truck. When the woman asked the employee what he was doing, she said he told her that Wiechens had given him the saw in exchange for working the sale. “I wanted them off my farm,” the woman said. “I feel like I was violated.”
Police in Town and Country, Mo., confirmed they had responded to a disturbance call in that community and found several items in Wiechens’ vehicle that had been removed from the house. The family who owned the home decided not to press charges after the items were returned.
A customer from St. Peters, Mo., told the BBB that several collectible toys went missing during a sale at her mother’s home. That customer also said Wiechens asked “inappropriate and personal questions” of family members, neighbors and customers during the sale.
Wiechens’ website claims a “sterling reputation of honesty and integrity” and says the business has “many dedicated followers from the St. Louis and surrounding areas.”
The BBB contacted Wiechens recently at an estate sale her business was running in St. Ann, Mo. Wiechens blamed several coworkers for her problems, including one former employee she said had been a friend for more than 30 years. “She done me wrong,” Wiechens said.
Wiechens said the charges in the Town and Country case were dropped after police found the allegations to be false. She said the missing items were in her vehicle because they had been stolen by another employee and she was in the process of returning them to the owners.
She also blamed the issue with the sports collectibles on a former coworker. “She took some; we sold some. It’s a mess,” she said. She said she has not compensated the owners of the sports memorabilia the $200 she made on their sale because she does not have their address. She said she had never taken anything from a sale without paying for it.
“I don’t lie; I don’t steal,” she said.
The BBB offers the following advice for anyone looking to hire an estate sales firm to sell personal items:
- Make sure you have a signed contract, outlining exactly how the sale is to be run. Know the percentage you will get from the sold items and the percentage the seller will receive. What will be the hours of the sale? How will it be advertised? How will sales be recorded? What kind of security will be in place to ensure that items are not stolen? Who is responsible for any bounced checks or other fraudulent payments? What will happen to the items that are not sold?
- Ask for references and contact them. Get details about the experiences of other customers.
- Make sure the seller carries insurance.
- If at all possible, attend the sale yourself or ask that a friend or family member attend to answer any questions and monitor operations.
- Contact the BBB for a Business Review by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.