By Patrick Winderl
The on-line auctions of a Havre business have angered some customers and left the company struggling for cash.
The company, Griffith Technology, held several auctions on Ebay last November and December. Between 45 and 60 people bought iPaq handheld computers during the auctions, but financial and supply problems have plagued their delivery, company owner Travis Griffith said.
"It's a huge, huge mess," Griffith said this week. "We're playing damage control at this point. We're just trying to get everybody taken care of."
Nine people have not received a refund or a computer, Griffith said Wednesday.
Most of the problems arose because Griffith Technology did not have enough iPaqs in stock to cover the orders, Griffith said.
The auctions advertised the Compaq iPaq 3975 handheld computers.
"I intended it to be a Christmas present for my daughter," Steve Clark, a businessman from Portland, Ore., said in a telephone interview this week. "I was a little suspect of the advertised price, but I couldn't afford to pass it up."
Clark paid $725 for a computer and accessories that could have cost up to $1,600 elsewhere, he said.
"I was promised over and over that my iPaq was in the mail," Clark said. "Finally I was told I would get a refund, but that was more than a month ago."
Clark said Tuesday he had gotten a refund.
In an e-mail to one concerned auction winner, Griffith said that he had ordered the units from GPS Computer Services of Vermilion, Ohio.
"They are under investigation by the Ohio Attorney General," the document said.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office sued GPS last February after receiving 1,200 complaints, according to the attorney general's Web site. GPS was dismantled and sold at auction Sept. 14, according to the Web site.
"The proceeds of the auction appear to be minimal," the site says.
Griffith said he ordered the iPaqs from GPS in December, and was unaware the company was under investigation.
"I had done business with them before," he said. "At the time I was not aware a lawsuit had been filed against them."
Multiple people who purchased iPaqs from Griffith Technology filed complaints with Ebay's fraud investigation unit, according to the unit.
Havre police Lt. George Tate said Monday the department has received multiple complaints about the now-defunct Griffith Technology.
Tate said criminal charges are unlikely. "At this point there is nothing to indicate an intent to defraud," Tate said. "This looks more like a civil case to me."
Griffith said no one was defrauded.
"It was not our intention to defraud any of these people," he said. "I've done everything in my power to make sure everyone is taken care of."
An e-mail dated Dec. 20 from Havre police Capt. Mike Barthel to one complainant said that as of that date, six complaints had been made to Havre police. Tate declined to say if that figure has risen over the past month.
On Monday Griffith said at least some of the deliveries were delayed due to distribution setbacks. Griffith said that after the deal with GPS fell through, he tried to purchase iPaqs from D&H Distributing Co. of Harrisburg, Pa., but was unable to do so.
The iPaqs were finally purchased from another company, Griffith said in an e-mail to Clark.
Griffith Technology is no longer in business, the former owner said. The company's Web page has been shut down and the phone number is disconnected. Griffith said his decision to close the company was not related to the Ebay auctions.
"It was a personal decision," he said. "I found that I could not balance running a company, my academics and my family at the same time."