PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Would you wait a year for something you ordered online? Some customers of a Valley-based jeans maker say they paid for their custom jeans but never received anything in return.
Many of them tried to contact the company to no avail; others complained about the company online and with authorities. FOX 10 was able to track down the owner and get answers.
Lawless Denim opened last year in downtown Phoenix with great fanfare. Thousands of orders came in for their custom made jeans, but as the months passed and customers never got their jeans, the complaints piled up. The company appeared to shut down.
It turns out the exploding growth came with a heavy cost, the jeans are fully customized, for a few hundred dollars the buyer can choose the fabric, buttons, and stitching, but all those choices as we learned have consequences.
Greg Morehead bought a few pairs when the company opened 2-years-ago. It took four months to get his first order but he liked them so much he spent a few hundred dollars for some more, he's still waiting for them.
"We have never been able to get ahold of them, phones are disconnected, they didn't return calls, they didn't respond to Yelp and Facebook postings," said Morehead.
And those online reviews are brutal, the company has a 2-star rating on Yelp, "beware" writes one customer. Another wrote they waited 22 weeks, another waited 7 months and warned "don't buy anything." On Facebook, one customer claimed their jeans never arrived.
Morehead asked are you guys still open, but after several months they still have no jeans.
"We have been by many times, weekdays, weekends, mornings, afternoons, evenings, and nobody ever answers," said Morehead.
FOX 10 found the company still operates out of an industrial building in downtown Phoenix, but with so many complaints and people accusing the company of taking their money and leaving their customers hanging, it was time to go straight to the man in charge.
The owner, Roman Acevado answered and invited FOX 10 inside.
The sleek downtown office used to be where the jeans were made, but now nobody is sewing his denim in Phoenix.
"It's a skill set that is gone, we have shipped it all overseas south of the border, and it is really tragic," said Acevado.
Acevado says the company just got too big, too fast, and when they started taking orders online they couldn't keep up.
"We couldn't find employees, we tried and tried, we went so far as setting up a second factory down in Tucson, another 6,000 square feet down there. There's 35 sewing machines sitting down there in an empty warehouse," said Acevado.
As Acevado discovered, producing affordable American made clothing turned out to be harder than it seemed.
"For me, the moral of the story is American made is almost impossible to do for small business," he said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only an estimated 140 tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers in Arizona, that's well below California where Acevado moved all the manufacturing.
"By the time we got anything set up in LA the brand was damaged, every negative comment that could hit us on every venue did, and you cannot recover from that," said Acevado.
Acevado says he's no longer taking any orders, his store at CityScape in downtown Phoenix is now a fitness center.
"You don't invest that kind of money just to run a scam, that is the stupidest scam you could do, you don't spend $100,000 to open a store at CityScape just to run a scam," he said.
Acevado has finished jeans ready to ship out, out of 3,500 orders he says about 900 remain unfilled.
For customers like Greg Morehead, who is still waiting for some of his jeans, patience ran out a while ago.
"He had a really good thing going, and I wish he could have made it happen. Of course now I would never go back to him, and order more," said Morehead.
Eventually, the owners say a box will show up with Morehead's jeans. When though is anyone's guess.
The owner of Lawless Denim says he won't fight customers who file claims through their credit card, but some customers say because so much time has passed the credit card companies will not let them dispute the charges.