Dorm storage company ‘defrauded’ college students, city court alleges

A moving and storage company popular with NYU students has been hit with a sweeping lawsuit by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. The company Dorm2Dorm is accused of knowingly deceiving customers. She was accused of at least 1,200 violations of consumer protection laws.

Last August, WSN discovered that Dorm2A dormitory delayed deliveries, damaged items, and failed to return items to a number of NYU students.

After hearing complaints and interviewing several customers, the New York City Department of Consumer and Labor Protection is calling on the company to reimburse customers, pay civil penalties and stop falsely advertising services it does not properly provide.

“[Dorm2Dorm] misleads vulnerable college students by falsely advertising the services it provides,” according to the complaint filed as part of the lawsuit. “As a result, many college students—and their parents/providers—have been exploited and left in the lurch, having to deal with more complexities rather than the simple and integrated moving and storage services that defendant forced them to purchase. .”

Dorm2Dorm offers storage and delivery services for college students while on summer vacation or studying. It promises to provide safe storage and scheduled pick-up and drop-off. It also advertises an “elite” pricing package that promises a 90-minute delivery window, as opposed to the three hours offered to customers who opt for the basic “economy” package. Hand trucks, invoicing, pickup and delivery are also available as part of the premium package, which costs more per stored unit per month.

“None of this is true,” the complaint states. Dorm2Dorm did not respond to requests for comment.

Last summer, sophomore CAS Sebastián Prats-Fernández kept his belongings at the company and was scheduled to be delivered to the Palladium dormitory on August 27, where he will live during the school year. On the day of the delivery, he was waiting to be reunited with his four boxes of belongings – including a sentimental letter from his mother. Instead, he heard radio silence from Dorm2Dorm, aside from one vague text message from the company’s CEO, Jonathan Hotchandani.

He said he was forced to stay near his dorm for days after the scheduled drop-off time because he didn’t want to miss the unannounced arrival, which he heard other students were worried about.

The callous treatment of college students and their parents without respect, empathy, and without regard for the consequences of their actions during an already stressful period could not go without consequences.”

– Diane Castro, father of NYU

At the time, NYU was in full swing, with thousands of students returning to campus for the fall semester. To facilitate the process, the university allocated time slots to each student, each lasting just a couple of hours. Many students who have used Dorm2Dorm services have planned their delivery times around these time windows, but some have been disappointed when their items returned late, damaged, or not returned at all.

[Read more: Dorm storage company loses, damages NYU students’ belongings]

While waiting for his belongings, Prats-Fernandez was worried about the fate of his letter, which he described as “emotionally important” and “one of a kind.” Four days later, on August 31, he was finally reunited with his belongings – at the wrong address – and said he felt cheated afterwards. He said he believed the lawsuit was warranted because of the stress he and many others experienced at the time.

However, Prats-Fernandez found the bright side of the unfortunate situation – a truck driver from the company tried to explain the situation to him and even bought him a sandwich for waiting.

“It shows that a lot of these problems have to do with the greed of senior management.” Prats-Fernandez said. “As far as I remember, he was able to explain to me what was happening, that it was a workers’ strike because of poor working conditions. In particular, he also called his boss an ‘asshole,’ which sealed the deal for me.”

His mother, Lisa Fernandez-Rosselli, recalled the stress they were under at the time. She said her son was lucky even though the boxes came back “pretty battered” as some of his friends didn’t get their stuff at all. She said their family won’t be using another storage company in the future — they’ll choose to store Pratts-Fernandez’s belongings in self-storage or at their home in Puerto Rico.

Fernandez-Rosselli also said Dorm2Dorm charged customers a monthly fee until the fall, which she took up with her credit card company. However, the credit card company took more than five months to process the complaint because they were also unable to contact Dorm2Dorm, according to Fernandez-Roselli.

“I feel terrible for every student that had to go through this and for their parents as well,” Fernandez-Rosselli said. “Many of us were not there to help, we all paid a lot of money for this service. We had no choice but to simply replace the items. It was a terrible situation for all the families who chose this service.’

The city agency that filed the lawsuit reviewed 19 consumer complaints and became aware of more than 65 more before concluding that Dorm2Dorm “consistently fails to deliver” the services it advertises. It was also found that students at other schools, including Columbia University, had similar experiences with the company.

The lawsuit was filed in New York State Supreme Court by Wilda Vera Mayuga, commissioner of the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, which protects the city’s workers and consumers by licensing businesses, enforcing consumer and workplace laws, and handling workplace complaints. place and providing appropriate resources and education to New Yorkers.

The lawsuit also states that Dorm2Dorm is not legally certified to provide moving services in New York because it is not registered with the state Department of Transportation. Business-related vehicles that weigh more than a predetermined limit set by the department must have a USDOT number, an identification number similar to a license plate. They are also required to provide proof of insurance and adhere to a number of safety regulations. In its complaint, DCWP alleges that Dorm2Dorm is not in compliance.

The 25% “instant discount” offered by Dorm2Dorm is also deceptive, according to the lawsuit — it says the offer involves time-consuming requirements and doesn’t discount services from the listed online price. According to the complaint, Dorm2Dorm “hides the actual costs of its services and induces young consumers to purchase the product based on a discount that is not instant.”

Dorm2Dorm’s website is no longer available, but as of December it said the company was founded in 2005 and operates in six states and Washington, D.C. It was advertised as serving more than 42,000 students and storing nearly 200,000 boxes. There were three phone numbers listed, two of which were missing the last four digits along with the message “coming soon.” The third number was listed in its entirety with the message “PHONE CALLS NOT ACCEPTED on the text line only”.

During fall move-in at NYU, some residents and their parents received text messages signed by Hotchandani, the company’s CEO, on Aug. 27 of last year. The texts cited “severe staff shortages” in New York as the reason for the delay and asked customers to disregard previously confirmed delivery times. Later that day, he sent a second text.

“I would like to sincerely apologize for the delay in the delivery of your items,” the message said. “My staff refuse to come into town so late at night. I will send a truck to town by noon tomorrow. They will contact you to schedule a delivery time directly with you tomorrow.”

Hotchandani did not respond to requests for comment.

Diane Castro and her daughter Sophia Herzog, a sophomore at the Tisch School of the Arts, decided to use Dorm2Dorm to store their belongings while the student spent the summer at home in California. Herzog kept seven boxes with the company, and although they were all returned to her, the mother-daughter pair waited for several days, all the while trying to contact Dorm2Dorm. Castro said she was grateful the city took the initiative to file the lawsuit.

“It’s inconceivable to me that a company could be so blatantly unprofessional without pangs of conscience,” Castro said. “I have a lot of respect for how [the city] has taken action against this despicable company that lacks integrity and must be held accountable for its actions. I’m still waiting for my refund!”

Castro and her daughter decided to rent a storage room in Manhattan to store excess items during the school year and during the summer. They have keys to the unit and can access it anytime, and said they are grateful for the peace of mind it has brought them.

“I lived in New York years ago, and even though I’m back in Los Angeles, my love for New York never wavers,” Castro said. “The callous treatment of college students and their parents without respect, empathy and without consideration of the consequences of their actions at an already stressful time could not go without consequences.”

Contact Abby Wilson at [email protected]

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