BAYTOWN, Texas – Houston-area consumers said they were stiffed by a meal prep company out of Baytown.
The Preparation Company advertises individual meals you can order, or you can pay for them months at a time and have them delivered. The company opened in August 2017, but near the beginning of February 2020, customers say the meals they paid for in advance stopped coming. Six customers reached out to the Houston Better Business Bureau when they say they couldn’t get their money back or the meals.
Customers are fed up
“It’s been excuse after excuse after excuse,” said Edna Wisdom. “And it’s getting very old. 'Cause a lot of people have lost their jobs and a lot of people are relying on the little bit of money that they do have.”
Wisdom said she and her husband purchased three months of meals in a buy one, get one free promotion but they only received a week’s worth before there were big delays and then no meals at all.
Company owner mea culpa
KPRC 2 called the owner of The Preparation Company, Kaci Sutton. She told consumer expert Amy Davis that a series of serious setbacks starting in February sidelined her business. A health emergency, a major family crisis and delays getting the City of Baytown to issue permits that would allow her to open a new location were hurdles she was trying to get over when the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down. Sutton said two of her main employees couldn’t come in because they had no one to care for their children. Sam’s Club, where Sutton shopped for food to make her meals, started limiting the amount of meat customers could purchase.
“It's a tough, tough time,” said the Houston BBB’s Dan Parsons. “And all it takes is a certain number of dominoes to fall and you ain't there. But the thing is, you communicate.”
Parsons said Sutton never responded to the BBB when it sent letters and called trying to help customers resolve their issues. He said Sutton could have simply explained what was going on.
"Money’s been taken on. Ok. Has it been consumed? If it’s been consumed, then you need to just fess up. Here’s where I’m at. Here’s what I may be able to do to make it right,’” said Parsons, role-playing to explain how the scenario may have played out more amicably.
Sutton and her attorney told Davis that since KPRC 2 started interviewing customers on Friday, Sutton has refunded about $3,200. She said she still owes a little less than $10,000, but she is simply out of money until she can get her business running again.
“I’m not playing with anyone’s money,” Sutton said. “I know what needs to be done. These people need their money, but I’m plateaued.”
Sutton’s attorney asked if KPRC 2 would update this story when Sutton pays all of her customers back. Davis told him absolutely.
What can customers do now?
Parsons said consumers who didn’t receive the meals they paid for should try disputing the charges with their credit card companies.