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BBB: Complaints about southern Illinois-based Liberty Trading

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - The Better Business Bureau in Saint Louis is hearing complaints from people around the country who have done business with a Liberty Trading based in southern Illinois.  Chris Thetford says this is an especially interesting warning because a lot of money is at stake.

Customers say that Liberty Trading, a Southern Illinois auctioneer of gold and silver coins and bulk precious metals, sent their orders late or not at all, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.

The BBB urges caution when buying from Liberty Trading of Vandalia, Ill.  The company also has used the name Liberty Shops Auctions and Liberty Trading Post. The owner is Sean Cook.

A customer from Wales, Wis., said he bought more than $150,000 in coins and silver from Liberty Trading in January. He said the company still owes him merchandise worth more than $90,000.  “I have been calling and complaining for four months,” he said. He became so frustrated that he recently drove six hours from his home near Milwaukee, Wis., to Vandalia, Ill., to meet with police and Cook about the matter.

Cook told the BBB that he is scrambling to fill auction orders. “We just got way behind,” he said.

Michelle Corey, St. Louis BBB president and CEO, said customers of Liberty Trading have a right to be frustrated and angry. “Many of these people are paying thousands of dollars for online auction items, and they expect to get their purchases in a timely manner,” she said. “To have to wait months for products that should be ready for shipment simply is not acceptable.”

A man from Greenville, S.C., said he won three Liberty Trading Auctions for silver coins and bars between March 4 and March 16. He said he paid the company a total of $5,400 more than three months ago, but has not yet received any of his items. He said his credit card company reimbursed him for $1,400 he charged for some of the items. He fears that he will not be able to recover $4,000 he paid the company through a wire transfer. “I’m afraid they are going to go out of business and leave us holding the bag,” he said.

A customer from Greensboro, N.C., said he is afraid he could lose $7,000 he paid to the company for silver coins and bars more than a month ago.  He said he asked to pick up his items, but was told he could not. “I will definitely not order from them again,” he said.

A customer from Mantua, N.J., said he, too, was told that he could not pick up his $5,300 in auction items that have not yet been delivered.  “I’d hate to see this happen to somebody else,” he said.

Cook said Liberty Trading has stopped selling until it can resolve its problems with past orders. “We are still accepting consignments, but we are not selling them until we are caught up,” he said.

Cook said he realizes that the business has done a poor job of communicating with customers and hopes that can be improved.

The BBB offers the following tips to consumers buying coins or other valuables in online auctions:

  • Check out any company thoroughly before buying. Find out if the business meets licensing and registration requirements in your community or state.
  • Ask the company whether it has physical custody of the auction items.  If not, you may experience delays or other problems receiving your product.
  • Speak to a person with the company.  If you have trouble getting in touch with a company representative by phone, it could signal future problems.
  • Find out if the auction site and/or the business offering the items for sale make any guarantees on quality or shipment times.
  • Pay with a credit card whenever possible, in the event you need to challenge the charge.
  • Ask the company what recourse you have if the item or items are not what you expected or if shipment is delayed.

Get a BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.