New Cleveland computer store comes with old baggage

kjahner@newsobserver.comJanuary 31, 2014 

— Less than a year ago, Raleigh Geeks opened on I-40 and N.C. 42. So far, reviews have not been glowing. They fit a pattern for the four-store chain, one with connections to other computer shops from Smithfield to Myrtle Beach that have been panned by customers and investigated by authorities.

The BBB of Eastern North Carolina rates Raleigh Geeks an F and said the computer and phone repair shop had more unaddressed complaints than any business in the territory in 2013. Complaints about the chain – with locations in Fuquay-Varina, Apex and Raleigh – cover a wide range of issues: long repair times, problems that remain unfixed, selling faulty computers and phones, and poor customer service.

The Secretary of State’s office began the process of dissolving the company for not filing required annual paperwork, according to its website.

Garrett Foster, who says he’s the owner of the business, dismissed the complaints and said that paperwork had been filed two months ago. The department’s website doesn’t show the files and officials there did not respond to an inquiry. He said the business responds to the complaints, but that no business could make everyone happy, though he said his business tries.

“A lot of it is people don’t understand the product, and sometimes there can be miscommunication,” said Foster, who lives in Broadway. “Sometimes they don’t even try to contact us to let us know they have a problem.”

BBB president Toby Barfield said the company had not followed up with the BBB on any complaints and that he had not heard from any customers indicating Raleigh Geeks had responded to their complaints. While many companies had far more complaints, he said complaints against Raleigh Geeks are among the most egregious.

“They lead the customer on and on and on until the consumer is at the breaking point. The complaints range from being totally cussed out and told to get out of the shop and told to come back, to part-swapping, to never getting the job done,” Barfield said.

The BBB informs businesses when a case is closed, whether addressed or not. Barfield said 85 percent of cases are at least resolved at some level, but none of the complaints against Raleigh Geeks has been resolved.

Repair headaches

One customer’s September complaint claims he took his laptop to the Cleveland Raleigh Geeks store for repairs five times, only to have the same problem return within days of pickup.

“Also their customer service is terrible, they are rude and unprofessional. They do not call when they say they will and they keep the computers for an unreasonably long amount of time,” the complaint reads.

Another complaint filed in August reported a customer was quoted $170 and three days for a repair. The consumer claims it took eight days, the assembly wasn’t right which took a ninth day and the phone still didn’t properly charge. Another trip to the Raleigh location didn’t fix the issue. After returning to Raleigh to say it still didn’t work, the employee became defensive, the complaint said. “He gets defensive, telling me it's fixed, and that I don't know what I'm talking about. At this point, I look to my right, and his coworker has his phone out like he's recording us talking,” the claim says. “They took several times longer than quoted, repair quality was terrible, and customer service was non existent.”

The complaints resemble those from other branches.

Asked generally about the BBB complaints in Cleveland, Foster said the store had just opened in April, and he blames prior management. The complaints were filed months after the Raleigh Geeks Facebook page announced the store’s grand opening at 5572 NC Hwy 42 West on April 3.

He also said the BBB has it out for them because they didn’t want to join and pay dues. Barfield said he could pull hundreds of non-certified businesses with A+ ratings and that certification was eliminated as a minor factor in rankings years ago.

“These guys submerge then re-emerge”

Foster said he bought the Apex and Fuquay stores “4 or 5 years ago.” He operated the one in Apex (formerly Caveman Computers) as Protech Computers and the Fuquay store (formerly Sunshine Computers) as Fuquay Computers.

Foster declined to say from whom he bought the two shops (the Raleigh shop came later, he said). But a 2009 Wake County filing with the Register of Deeds office lists Timothy Staie Jr. as the lone owner of Caveman Computers in Fuquay at the Raleigh Geeks location.

Staie’s name appears on a Nov. 5 Wake County form declaring Fuquay Computers Protech Computers LLC’s intent to operate in Wake County as “Raleigh Geeks.” Staie is listed as a manager; Foster’s name isn’t listed. But Foster says Staie works for him as a manager.

“That should be signed by a principal (owner) of the company,” Barfield said of the form.

The Better Business Bureau lists Staie and Mark Edward White as the principals of Raleigh Geeks. Foster said he’s called BBB several times explaining the ownership situation: he says White doesn’t work there and Staie owns no share.

Barfield said if Foster had called, BBB records would have been changed barring a credibility issue. Barfield said Raleigh Geeks has a credibility issue.

“These guys (White and Staie) submerge and re-emerge under different names all the time. That’s part of how they operate,” Barfield said.

Checkered pasts

Credibility has been a problem in the computer business for Staie and White in two states. And their connection to Foster goes back years.

Staie, 31, and White, 37, both have ties to computer stores in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., that have also had problems with customers and BBB complaints. White also faced 18 counts of felony conversion when customers accused him of keeping their computers after closing Laptop Pros in Smithfield in 2010. Those charges were later dismissed.

The state of South Carolina filed 19 tax liens against White Computers between December 2010 and January 2012. A WMBF TV report linked White to several computer businesses in Horry County that would close and not return equipment, among other customer complaints similar to the ones against Raleigh Geeks. In that report Kathy Graham of the BBB of Coastal Carolina said more than 300 complaints had been made at stores connected to White.

Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @garnercleveland

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