GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An appliance repairman with a history of taking customers’ money and not doing the work is allegedly at it again.
Doug Westen’s repair business has gone by several names, including A-1 Appliance Repair, which had a pattern of complaints and an F rating with the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan.
Westen registered his most recent company – Aaron’s Appliance Repair – in July 2018, five months after his release from a Michigan prison. He served time for defrauding a man he had met through church whose refrigerator needed repair.
When Vonnie Fey’s dryer broke down this fall, she was referred to Aaron’s Appliance Repair by a Grand Rapids appliance store.
That store later told Target 8 Westen had shown up there with business cards and asked for referrals.
The store’s owner, who said he had no knowledge of Westen’s prior criminal record, told Target 8 he will no longer refer people to Aaron’s Appliance Repair.
When Westen showed up at Vonnie Fey’s Ottawa County home in late October, the 56-year-old repairman told her that her dryer needed a new coil.
Fey said she initially paid Westen $65 for assessing her broken dryer.
But a couple of days later, on a Sunday, Fey said Westen called asking for $109 to order the new coil.
“My husband said, ‘he’s literally coming on a Sunday to pick up the money?’ I said, ‘yeah, I’ve never heard of that.’ Especially on a Sunday. But he wanted to order the part right away Monday and he said he had to have the money before he ordered the part,” recalled Fey.
Fey said he picked up the money, and when she called nine days later, he said he had to check to see if the part was in.
Then, later, he called to say he was returning part of her money. He never did.
“I mean he hasn’t even called back. It goes right to voicemail,” said Fey, who has tried to call and text Westen multiple times.
“It’s not the money part so much, (though) I would like my money back because he didn’t do the work,” she said. “But I do think that other people need to know about him because I don’t know how many other people he’s taken advantage of.”
She is not the only one trying to get the word out about Westen and Aaron’s Appliance Repair.
Another woman filed a complaint with the BBB, reporting that Westen recently took money to repair her dryer and disappeared.
Target 8 discovered Westen has at least five fraud convictions among a dozen criminal cases that stretch back to 1980.
Eight years before he was arrested for defrauding the man with the broken fridge, he had been convicted of scamming a woman with a broken washing machine.
The Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan is very familiar with Westen.
“Aaron’s Appliance Repair is owned by the same gentleman who owned a previous company called A-I Appliance Repair, and that company had a significant number of complaints on file with the BBB and had an F rating,” said Troy Baker, communications manager for the BBB.
“The salesman would say, ‘okay, we’ll come back when we have the part’ and then never return,” said Baker of the prior complaints against A-1.
The BBB has linked Aaron’s name with A-1 so when people check Aaron’s on the agency’s website, they’ll be alerted to the old company’s pattern of complaints.
Aaron’s Appliance Repair is not connected to Aaron’s Rent-to-Own.
It’s not clear why Westen named the new company Aaron’s Appliance Repair, though someone familiar with him said he always uses an “A” word because it’s listed first alphabetically.
Target 8 has been unable to reach Westen, despite checking multiple addresses and reaching out to his relatives and acquaintances. His business phone goes directly to voicemail, and the mailbox is full.
Target 8 was unsuccessful in reaching him through social media.
Several people who know Westen told Target 8 they had not seen the Comstock Park man in a couple of weeks.
Court records show Westen has struggled with drug addiction, gone through rehab and promised judges he’d try to get his life back on track.
But Vonnie Fey doesn’t want Westen’s alleged desperation to cost anyone else.
“I want to make sure people do not call him,” Fey said. “Never call Aaron’s Appliance Repair for anything because they are not what they say they are. Period.”
The BBB urges you to do your homework by researching any company before you hire it.
“First, be comfortable with who you’re bringing into your home,” Baker said.
“Do your homework and make sure you’re using a company that has a very good track record. So, look them up online. Go to bbb.org. What is their rating? What complaints do they have? What kind of reviews do they have? Look for those accredited businesses that have that track record and have promised to treat customers in an honest and ethical manner.”
Baker also said you should ask for the name of anyone coming into your home.
“Don’t be afraid to ask to see their ID If you’re going to let somebody into your home, you should see an ID and know who they are. And that way, if something does go wrong, you know where they are and who they are.”