Waks and Mark Finkelstein, president and owner of two Philadelphia Surplus Store outlets, agreed yesterday to offer refunds to customers who unknowingly bought reconditioned electronics at their stores within the last six months.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office had accused the merchants of selling reconditioned electronic equipment without telling customers. The items included televisions and stereo headphones, officials said.
"There are a number of people selling reconditioned merchandise," said John E. Kelly, senior deputy attorney general in Philadelphia. "The problem is when you don't disclose that it's reconditioned."
Under the agreement, Waks was fined $1,000 plus $500 in reimbursements for the cost of the investigation. He also was barred from selling refurbished merchandise for a decade. He had violated court agreements from a previous offense involving refurbished merchandise, officials said.
Also, Waks was ordered in 1990 to offer refunds to customers who bought items at prices exceeding those advertised in a Philadelphia newspaper.
Finkelstein, whose stores are located at 3803 Aramingo Ave. and 54th Street and Lancaster Avenue, was fined $250 and ordered to pay $750 in investigation costs, officials said.
Waks said it was not his policy to sell reconditioned products as new. "We stamp all of our receipts that some of the products are reconditioned," he said.
"He (Kelly) claims that in some cases we did and in some cases we didn't," he added.
Waks, who also owns two Home Base Furniture Bonanza stores, said he had instructed his employees to inform customers when they bought refurbished items, but sometimes they forgot or didn't bother.
"People don't care," he said of some of his workers. "All they care about is getting a paycheck."
But even if his employees did slip up occassionally, it's probably happening at other such stores throughout the city, Waks said.
"I feel that they did not have anyone else to pick on, so they picked on me," he said. "All the electronic stores in town sell reconditioned products.
"And how about the people who sell 10-karat gold as 14-karat?" Waks added.
Finkelstein said the state investigated his Philadelphia Surplus Store on Aramingo Avenue because officials thought it was still owned by Waks. He said he bought the store from Waks about three years ago.
An investigator, Finkelstein said, asked for a written price quote on a television set. That statement did not mention that the item was refurbished, although it was indicated as such in the store, he said.
"If we sell something refurbished, we write it on there," Finkelstein said, referring to a receipt. "All of our boxes are marked 'refurbished.' We have it marked even more than we have to."
He said his store does not try to mislead people.
"It was just the one example," Finkelstein said.
For customers to get a refund, Kelly said they should bring the item undamaged with the receipt to the store where they bought it. Refund requests must be made within the next 30 days, he said.