A dispute between a Fresno television anchor and a local furniture business was decided by a judge Tuesday after three separate hearings over two weeks.
Alexan Balekian, KSEE 24 news anchor and host of weekly political show Sunday Morning Matters, filed a claim against Furniture City near Blackstone and Barstow avenues on Jan. 19.
Balekian claimed Furniture City owner Fawzi Saed owed him $4,192 from a breach of contract related to a furniture purchase gone bad.
After reviewing evidence and witness testimony, Judge Bob Whalen decided to award Balekian $2,652 plus $50 in court costs. The amount represents the value of a high-end bookcase and dining room chair that arrived at Balekian’s home damaged. Balekian rejected those items on delivery.
The dispute included allegations of threats and harassment on both sides and illustrated the fallout for businesses from supply chain issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The trial concluded with the two parties shaking hands. Balekian declined to comment for this story. In an interview with The Business Journal, Saed said he was glad it was over.
“I’m not running a scam. I’m not running a fraud,” Saed said during the trial. “This is my livelihood business.”
The disagreement began on Jan. 29, 2022, when Balekian and his fiancee purchased bookcases and dining chairs from Furniture City Design Studio, the retailer’s high-end location. Furniture City had previously advertised with Balekian’s employer, television station KSEE 24.
The sales contract stated that the furniture would arrive at Balekian’s home in a 6-8 week window. Balekian said after attempting to gain more information about his delayed furniture by telephone, he returned to Furniture City on April 24, 2022, where Balekian said he and his fiancee were harassed by Anthony Halim, a Furniture City manager and part owner.
Balekian said Halim yelled and acted aggressively. A former Furniture City employee testified that Balekian had threatened him over the phone — a claim Balekian said was false. Halim said that is what prompted him to act in defense of his employee when Balekian visited the store.
Charges were made against his credit financing months before the furniture was delivered June 13, Balekian said, adding that a bookcase and chair arrived damaged.
Balekian said his experience with Furniture City and Halim was “extremely uncomfortable.”
“This company is not serious about customer service,” Balekian said at the trial.
Saed said he spends $10,000-$15,000 a month on customer service at Furniture City. Efforts to ensure satisfied customers were pushed to the brink by the pandemic, he said, as supply chains crumbled and consumer goods — including furniture — sat unloaded on cargo ships at California ports.
Before the pandemic, furniture orders could arrive from the manufacturer in a matter of days. After the pandemic, it could take as long as a year.
“It’s a supply chain issue,” Saed said. “Out of our hands.”
The delays resulted in negative reviews for the business on platforms including the Better Business Bureau website and Yelp.
Saed acknowledged the bad reviews, but said they represented a small fraction out of thousands of customers.
“Some of the reviews are fake,” he said. “It’s all due to delays.”
Judge Whalen said the pandemic resulted in consumers taking their disputes to small-claims court. He said he has even held judgements against suppliers.
Whalen ruled that while Furniture City’s delivery quote at the time was 6-8 weeks on its sales contracts, it also included a clause that delays are not grounds for canceling an order.