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Customer has options after business destroyed in Almeda fire

We purchased a product from one of the businesses that burned down in the Almeda fire. We paid in full, but never received delivery. At first we worried the business owners and employees were hurt. Now, to the best of our knowledge, everyone is safe, but it’s been two months, and we still haven’t heard anything from them. Every time we drive by, it looks like they’re still in the middle of cleanup. No phone number works for the business, and we’ve written two letters with no response. How do I find out if they’ve chosen to go out of business with my money, and without delivering what I bought from them?

— Rebecca B., via email

This is a tough situation without an easy answer. These are hard times for many Southern Oregon business owners and customers alike.

But customers have rights, and according to the Better Business Bureau’s website, there are options for customers of businesses that shut their doors — be it in the courtroom or through credit card chargebacks.

The BBB recommends that a customer in your situation start by gathering any receipts or proof of purchase.

The next step, according to the BBB, is to check with your bank or credit card issuer and see whether you can dispute the transaction because you never received the product. The BBB states they typically offer more consumer protections than a debit card.

The next step is to find out whether the business is truly out of business. Ways to check include seeing if the business is still active in the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office business directory, searching court records in U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Oregon or checking with the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the BBB by calling 253-830-2924 or checking BBB.org.

You don’t describe the product you purchased or name the business involved, but if what you bought was big enough, you may want to consider talking to a lawyer.

If the company hasn’t filed for bankruptcy protection, the business is still legally obligated to fulfill your order, according to the BBB, however that may require you taking the business to court.

Another option, according to the Internal Revenue Service website, could be to write off the loss on your taxes. The IRS allows individuals to deduct casualty, disaster and theft losses, but we’d recommend talking to a tax professional before going that route.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501 or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.