HOUSTON – Brides who purchased their wedding gowns from Alfred Angelo stores have been stood up and are now scrambling to buy a new dress.
On Thursday, employees and consumers learned for the first time that the store would be closing its doors at the end of business day -- for good.
“Her exact words were, ‘Lady you’re not going to get your money back,’ that was it,” said Claudia Munguria, who bought a dress from Alfred Angelo in Willowbrook.
Her sister gave her $1,000 on May 8 as a gift to buy her wedding dress.
Munguria’s wedding is in October and she was expecting her dress in August, but now is without a dress and her money.
"I imagine it's heartbreaking, I have a lot of sympathy for these consumers,” said Dana Karni, a Texas consumer rights attorney.
Alfred Angelo has not put out a statement, contacted brides or answered phone calls. The company’s website is still active, but if you try to reach out to the consumer help line, it goes straight to voicemail.
"It's very upsetting because if they would have sent an email, a call, a text, anything to let us know the situation we could have handled it differently. I could have gone in and gotten a different dress off the rack that fit me," said Munguria.
Some people were able to grab their dresses from the store before it closed. Others who were waiting on their dress told KPRC2 that employees allowed them to take one from the rack.
Alfred Angelo, a Florida based company, has an attorney people can reach out to and give their information. Brides and bridesmaids have been told to call Patricia Redmond 305-789-3553 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We've emailed their lawyers and called their lawyers. All they said was, 'Send us your receipt,' that's it and, 'Your information,' nothing tells us that we'll get our money back , nothing that's going to resolve anything," Munguria said.
STRANGERS STEP UP
Many viewers, local bridal shops and even national bridal stores stepped up to the plate to help out former Alfred Angelo customers.
A Spring bridal shop called Princess Bridal reached out to Claudia Munguria.
"It's just heartbreaking because the whole thing is about the experience of going shopping for your dress, they're excited, and find the perfect one," said Denise Case, owner of Princess Bridal. "I understand big corporations, things happen, it's just heart-breaking because this is just such a sentimental and important thing in your life. It's like, what do you do?"
Case reached out to Munguria and gave her a discount.
"They let me come in and try on dresses and found the perfect one," said Munguria, who had cried the day before after learning she lost her money and dress. "It's a blessing, I truly appreciate it. Like I said, I know we just can't get a free dress. We're out that money (spent at Alfred Angelo), but now I can look forward to finding a new dress and I think I found my dress here."
A viewer called in and also donated $1,000 to Munguria.
Stores across the area like David's Bridal are offering discounts if former Alfred Angelo customers bring in their receipts.
"It's just a really big disappointment, we feel terrible for what has happened," said Stephanie Garcia, Sales Manager at David's Bridal off of San Felipe in Houston. "We understand that this is such a big day in their lives and we want to be able to help out in any way that we can."
Garcia said the company is offering 30 percent off bridal gowns and that's in addition to any sales that they have going on. She said people who have bought bridesmaid dresses from Alfred Angelo and have not received them can get 20 percent off their dresses.
Renegade Bridal, which is a local custom dress store in Houston, is also offering discounts.
"I've seen other chain stores close and handle it well. The more conflicting stories you hear from different brides, you're like 'Oh this is not how I've seen this go down in the past," said Natalie Harris, Creative Director for Renegade Bridal.
She said she was upset when she heard what happened to many brides.
"By the end of last night, I was probably full of a red-hot rage just like a bunch of them," said Harris. "We are pretty well positioned to actually offer styles that are exactly like what they're looking for. Even though we don't generally do replica projects , I'm hoping that we can take pretty much the exact styles these girls are looking for and add some of the special little details that we like to put into Rrenegade gowns and kind of make a silver lining situation out of it."
Renegade Bridal is doing a partial deposit match and giving 20 percent off. So if someone spent $1,000 on a gown they ordered at Alfred Angelo, they would take off $200 and give complimentary custom sizing.
With no communication, many brides don’t know what to do.
“If they're consumers who purchased dresses in the last month I think they would be in a great position to try and dispute that charge with their credit card companies first and foremost.” Karni said. “I think the bigger problem will be for consumers who purchased their dresses in the past, the time to dispute the credit card charge may have expired and they may feel like they’re out of luck, they’re out of a dress and out of their money."
Even though there is talk about bankruptcy, a case has not been filed yet on behalf of Alfred Angelo.
“If the company is actually in bankruptcy, every one of those consumers could line up as a creditor, I wouldn't hold my breath on getting a huge refund, though, because the company may owe other creditors larger sums of money. Certainly if the company owes Uncle Sam money, such as payroll taxes, then the consumers who are out what would may seem like a lot of money for them, a $1,000 or $2,000 (bill), are probably a much smaller priority than the government,” Karni said.
“Consumers might get a refund, they might get some amount of money back, but that's not going to fix their upcoming wedding dress situation and if they have a wedding date that's coming up soon, hopefully this doesn't put a damper on it,” Karni said.