Spending time outdoors is a way of life in North Texas. Even when home, we're often dining or lounging in our yards and patios. Investing in quality outdoor furniture can set you back quite a bit, so imagine the frustration when that pricey patio set doesn't last long at all.
Rachel Sipperley has a rooftop patio with quite the view. She knew it is where she and her friends would be spending some serious time.
"To grill out and sit up here and have a glass of wine at night, look at the gorgeous skyline and some sun," Sipperley said.
She saw an ad on Craigslist for some all-weather furniture — brand new and still in the box — from Vrienden Outdoor.
"And then when I contacted them, they told me that they were wholesalers, and that they had just done a home and garden show in Dallas, and that they were leaving and that they kind of just had this extra set here that they were kind of trying to get rid of," Sipperley said.
She says Alex and Suzanne Ricitelli told her it was high quality, commercial grade furniture with a five-year warranty.
Sipperley paid more than $2,000 in cash for the set, and she was pretty happy with it at first.
"I started noticing in the tables kind of little almost melted holes," she said.
She showed how the wicker in the furniture was breaking, and the webbing on a couch arm was falling apart. The coffee table also has broken pieces, she said.
She took video of how the material was sliding away.
Alex and Suzanne Ricitelli reportedly told Sipperley they never had this issue before.
"She kind of said take it up with the manufacturer, there's nothing we can do," Sipperley recalled. "So I reached out to the manufacturer, and what they said was, 'Well, you didn't buy it from us, so we're not going to honor the warranty.'"
Vrienden Outdoor is based out of Minneapolis. And right on its website are photos of Sipperley's furniture and a list of their installations, including, allegedly, the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.
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Vrienden owner Kevin Mach said he wasn't obligated to replace the furniture, because Sipperley bought it from the Ricitellis and not from his company directly.
He offered to sell Sipperley new tables for the set at a discount. But she would also have to pay shipping, and it was going to cost more than $200.
Sipperley asked Mach if he could ship the replacement to the Ricitellis with their next order to cut down on the cost.
He wrote, "We could, but it might be the spring."
She agreed, but it never happened. And Sipperley says it proves the Ricitellis did have a relationship with the company owner.
Vrienden told NBC 5 Responds because Sipperley bought the product second hand, they weren't obligated to help.
To this day, Sipperley says she doesn't know exactly how the Ricitellis are connected to the company.
And the Hilton Anatole tells us they've never purchased any patio furniture from Vrienden.
We've also found the exact same ads running in other cities, word for word.
Vrienden and its owner have yet to return any more of calls or answer any more emails from NBC 5 Responds.
"I don't think I'm getting my money back," Sipperley said.
Sipperley says she's learned the hard way the dangers of buying things online at a discount, and what is said verbally means little.
We tracked down Suzanne Ricitelli — the woman who sold Sipperley the furniture over Craigslist — and tried for days to connect with her, with no luck.
There's also a handful of Better Business Bureau complaints about Vrienden Outdoor's quality and warranty from consumers across the country.