News 12 at 6, June 7, 2007
Augusta--New information on a story you first heard about on News 12 this morning during a Buzz on Biz segment.
The story centered around an Augusta woman who was opening a business that was selling among other things, cloth diapers.
That story ignited a firestorm of emails from around the world.
A woman named Laurie Bennett recently opened a store called "Augusta Babies in Cloth."
When News 12 aired that story, a flurry of emails from around the globe came in. A number of them called her a thief and a cheat.
Laurie says the only thing she's guilty of is biting off more than she could chew.
Heather Bergstrom is a mother of five and she knows how much of an expense disposable diapers can be. So when she had her last child, she decided to go with cloth diapers.
"It was an attractive thought that you could wash and reuse." Heather said.
So Heather joined an online group that buys materials to make cloth diapers. The group Heather joined is called "Cradled in Cloth." It's run by a woman named Laurie Bennett.
"She was the first co-op I heard about." Heather said.
Laurie Bennett has run the group for some time, but last December she got into some trouble.
Right around Christmas, I had several thousand yards of fabric arrive at one time." Laurie said.
Several thousand yards of fabric she had to cut, pack and ship around the world.
Heather Bergstrom is one of those buyers.
"I still haven't gotten anything I ordered in November of last year." heather said.
And Heather isn't the only one. 12 On Your Side received dozens of emails from as far away as Australia and France from women who either haven't gotten their orders or got them 6, 7, or even 12 months after they ordered them. In some case, the orders were for thousands of dollars.
The emails complained about Laurie's quote excuses for the delays and they accuse her of lies and being untrustworthy.
Laurie says there is explanation for all this.
"I got overwhelmed." Laurie said.
It was at this point that Laurie says she stopped taking new orders and tried to work through what she had.
You don't realize how much 5 thousand yards of fabric hits your door and how long it will take to get it out." Laurie said.
We asked Laurie what was the time-table on some of the orders we were emailed about.
12 On Your Side: "Steph Theus?"
Laurie Bennett: "Steph Theus, she's been refunded."
12 On Your Side: "Maria Gongora?"
Laurie Bennett: "Maria Gongora, her package is right out there."
12 on your side: "Fabian??
Larurie Bennett: "Fabian, hers are on the way."
Laurie says she's trying to make things right. She showed us a big room in her store that is filled from wall to wall with packages she's in the process of sending out. Outside the store, there are several packages waiting to be picked up.
"I feel bad about the way things have gone. I feel horrible about it. If i was in their position, i would be upset too." Laurie said.
But Heather Bergstrom says feeling bad or not, some changes have to be made.
"I would like to see Laurie call in a few friends and clean out her house and let someone else run the group." Heather said.
I would like to take an opportunity to respond to some of your comments.
Many of you seem fairly angry at the way the story turned out and the results that it brought.
There was a comment about it being "more of an interview, than an investigation." The story was an investigation. I spent quite a bit of time talking with parties on both sides of the issue. Both sides had their chance to speak on camera. I dug where I could. This is a battle between private parties and I cannot force anyone to hand over any documents. I could never prove these accusations of lies that many of you have lobbed up.
We aired several powerful accusations from your emails with words like thief or cheat. Those words carry a lot of weight with people. But, as is fair, we gave Laurie a chance to respond. You may not like or agree with what she has to say, but we have to afford her that opportunity.
There have also been a number of emails and comments on the website from people I did not hear from in the first place when I started working on this story. All-in-all, I heard from about 10-12 women and the total amount of outstanding product totaled up to around $1500. It was not the thousands upon thousands from hundreds of women that has been mentioned since then. If I don't hear from those women, I do not know that they exist. I had to work with what I had.
I think some of you hoped she might be arrested after we "exposed" her. That is not something we have any control over. If the authorities see our story and think a crime has been committed, then they move on with that...independent of our station.
As far as the folks who were going to use the material for business uses. I certainly feel for your situation, but you have to take some precautions on the front-end of these transactions to protect yourself. You may want to consider drawing up a contract and demanding a timeline before you give someone your thousands of dollars. It is nice to just trust someone, but in this day and age, you need back-up especially if you were to ever go to court. Without any contracts, it would seem that Laurie is not really under any real time obligation other than her word. I know this doesn't help with this situation right now, but it may help stop it from happening again.
In closing, remember that we were the only news outlet to tell your story and that story was a balanced one with opportunities for both sides to tell their part.
Thank you for watching.