Customers complain Apropos is too slow with gowns, owner says no

Sindi Saita

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Sindi Saita adjusts the dress that a customer is trying on in her Guilderland shop, Apropos Prom and Bridal.

GUILDERLAND — The numerous negative reviews online about Apropos Prom and Bridal in Guilderland,  and the fact that the store has a rating of “F” from the Better Business Bureau, might be of little interest to anyone besides brides or prom-goers, except that owner Sindi Saita is, as a member of the zoning board of appeals, an official representative of the town.

Members of the zoning board of appeals, which considers requests for exceptions to regulations on land use, are appointed by the town board and receive an annual salary, as of 2017, of $5,250.

Zoning-board members often move to the planning board or town board. Current Town Supervisor Peter Barber was the zoning board’s chairman before being elected to his current position.

Zoning board Chairman Thomas Remmert said, “I haven’t heard any of this before; all I know is what you’re telling me, so I don’t feel in any kind of position to comment on it at all.”

Supervisor Barber said, “This is news to me. All I can say is that, on the board, Sindi has been a stellar member. A good listener, asks pointed questions. I think she has discharged her responsibilities very well.”

Complaints about Saita from customers who spoke to The Enterprise centered on: dresses ordered far in advance that do not arrive in time to get alterations done anywhere but Apropos; shoddy alteration work done by Apropos; dresses that arrive in the wrong size or style; an ironclad no-refund policy that is enforced no matter what errors the store makes; and an unwillingness to listen to or respond to customer complaints.

Saita said on Tuesday that she had responded to every Better Business Bureau complaint she has received and that she was not aware that there are any unanswered. She said that some manufacturers with which she works take a minimum of 16 to 20 weeks to make and ship a dress, while others take 20 to 24 weeks. She recommends leaving a cushion of between a year and a year-and-a-half from the time that a dress is ordered and a deposit is made, to ensure that it is ready on time.

“I did 627 weddings last year. Over 4,000 dresses left the store,” Saita said.

There are some positive reviews of the shop. On Yelp — a site that hosts public reviews of businesses — there are 13 “recommended reviews,” or reviews that Yelp posts as being particularly reliable or helpful. Of those, two are positive. On Apropos’s Facebook page there are 10 negative reviews, and two positive. Some of the reviewers wrote on both Yelp and Facebook.

Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York said that the shop’s F rating is due largely to its failure to respond to seven out of eight customer complaints.

McGovern explained that companies start out with an A+ rating, and there is a algorithm of 13 factors that can make their ratings fall. One of the factors most likely to lower a rating, she said, is not responding to a customer’s complaints.

When a customer fills out a complaint form with the Better Business Bureau, online or by mail, the agency sends a letter to the business, asking for a reply within 30 days, McGovern said.

The agency sends a second letter and, if there is no reply, telephones the business, she said.

When a company makes a “good-faith effort” to reply to the complaint — for example, explaining its perspective — the incident is closed, with both complaint and response posted online. Failing to respond is probably the worst thing a business can do in terms of its rating on the BBB site, McGovern said.

“We don’t want companies to have ‘F’s. We want business to answer complaints. We’re a neutral third party who wants everybody to be happy,” McGovern said.

It’s not the case that all bridal vendors inspire these kinds of complaints. Bridal Gallery by Yvonne in Latham has a rating of A+ and is listed as being 15 years old. Fancy Schmancy, once in Guilderland and now in Latham, 14 years in business, has an A+ rating, as does Angela’s Bridal in Albany. Jocelynn’s Bridal in Clifton Park, 15 years in business, has one closed complaint and a rating of A+.

Dresses “late” or “never arrived”

Lisa Connally of Albany ordered three dresses from Apropos over a short period last spring for her older daughter. She first ordered dresses for the two proms her daughter planned to attend, and then, soon afterward, a white gown for graduation from Albany Academy for Girls, where the young women wear white gowns, rather than caps and gowns. “So when I ordered the third dress, the first prom hadn’t happened yet, and I had no idea yet that there was an issue,” Connally said.

A week out from the first prom, the dress hadn’t arrived. “We called and called and called,” Connally said. “They take the phone off the hook. I’ve seen them do it in the store. When you do get through, they say, “Your dress will be here soon,” “It’s been shipped,” or “I think it’s in the box that just arrived,” she said, giving  hypothetical examples.

For the first prom, the dress arrived two days before, Connally said. “So there’s no time for alterations. So you’re stuck; there’s no time to take it anywhere; and you have to ask Apropos to do the alterations. The sequins and the jewels were falling off; I had to then glue them back on. The alterations they did were shoddy.”

Then, for the second prom, the same thing happened.

But, Connally said, graduation was “by far the worst.” The dress her daughter ordered never arrived, and “they ended up overnighting her a different dress, four or five sizes too big.” She did not get to go to graduation in the dress she had picked out, Connally said.

Connally had the dress “altered overnight, by somebody else that we knew, because at that point I wouldn’t let her touch it,” she said of Saita.

Connally added about Apropos, “There were girls in line in tears, waiting for dresses, every time we were there.”

Did they ever receive any kind of refund? “Oh no,” Connally said with a laugh, “because ‘there are no refunds,’” quoting what she says is Apropos’s store policy.

Connally wondered if it were a cash-flow issue, if Saita doesn’t order the dresses when she claims to, but instead waits until much closer to the event.

“They get ordered immediately,” Saita told The Enterprise, “the day the last deposit gets paid.”

“Disorganized”

Bridget Stackman, who is originally from Loudonville but now lives in Tennessee, said that her first thought on entering Apropos was that it was very disorganized and that maybe she should leave, for that reason. There seemed to be no organizational system, she said; everything was written down by hand in various notebooks.

Stackman had numerous problems with Apropros, not because the dresses didn’t come in; they did. She ordered her bridesmaid dresses in summer of 2016 for her April 2017 wedding, and they came into the shop in November. Her mistake, she said, was trusting the shop’s advice to wait to come in for fittings in the end of March or beginning of April.

One problem, Stackman said, was that two of her bridesmaids became pregnant after the order was placed. One bridesmaid was going to be nine months pregnant at the time of the event. Stackman immediately called Saita, soon after placing the order, to say that she would need to reorder a larger size for that woman. Saita said fine, Stackman said, and that she would call her back shortly.

When Saita called back soon afterward, she told Stackman that, instead of ordering a new dress, she had ordered additional material, and the bridesmaid had agreed to pay for it; Saita’s plan was to cut up the existing dress and add extra panels of material as needed, Stackman said.

When Stackman went in to Apropos to pick up all the dresses to take them elsewhere for alterations, Saita at first told her she could not have them, as they were not all paid for. Stackman’s mother said they were, and asked Saita to produce paperwork suggesting otherwise. Finally, after half an hour, Stackman said, Saita agreed that they were paid for and gave them the dresses.

Five of the eight dresses had zippers that didn’t work and needed to be replaced, Stackman said.

Two of the seamstresses who did alterations on the dresses warned Stackman to have the bridesmaids “wear sweaters,” as the dresses were unlikely to survive the entire wedding and reception.

Stackman contacted Saita to let her know about the zippers, and Saita said that the dresses were “not my problem” since Stackman had already taken the dresses from the store. She told her to call the designer herself, which Stackman did.

Cindy Dessy of the Dessy Group — the designer of Stackman’s dresses — told The Enterprise that, if she had been contacted by the retailer earlier, she would have inspected the dresses and “corrected or replaced them.”

There was no time to send new dresses, Dessy said, but the designer did overnight pashmina scarves for the wedding party to Stackman, at no charge to her.

Dessy sent them as cover-ups, she said, once she learned from Stackman what the seamstresses had said. “I didn’t want her bridesmaids walking down the aisle in cardigans,” Dessy said.

One bridesmaid’s dress — and it was one that had not been altered at all, Stackman said — “broke open and fell apart during our [the bride and groom’s] first dance.”

Saita responded through The Enterprise that the dresses were “in perfect condition, first quality,” and there was no reason for her to contact the manufacturer.

When she has been to other stores for friends’ weddings, Stackman said, she has received detailed paperwork all the way through the process — for instance, a receipt specifying that she had paid $150 as a deposit on a dress in a certain color with a certain style number, and that a certain amount was still due.

From Apropos, she said, all that she and the people in her wedding party received were receipts with the store’s logo at the top and the words, for instance, “Received: $150.”

Saita showed The Enterprise an example of a receipt she gives out, and it was much the way Stackman described it, although it also said “Bridesmaid dress.” Saita said the details are not on the receipts; they are on the order forms, and she showed an example of a printed form with handwritten details all over it. “Our ordering sheet has the measurements, the size, the color. There is no confusion,” said Saita.

Saita also said the zippers were checked when Stackman picked up the dresses. “All the zippers worked fine when she picked them up.”

Of Stackman, Saita said, “She’s looking for a refund for all her bridesmaid dresses, after they’ve been worn. It’s a way that people try to get their money back after the dresses have been worn.” Saita also called Stackman’s complaint “a common Internet bridesmaid complaint,” “a scam,” and “a ridiculous bunch of bullshit.”

A member of Stackman’s own wedding party warned Saita, she said, “that she’s crazy.”

Stackman responded through The Enterprise, “I’m confident that the family members that were part of my bridal party would never say something like that. And I’m obviously confirming that I’m not crazy. She’s someone who doesn’t want to take any kind of responsibility, and keeps throwing it back on brides.”

“Ill-fitting” and “late”

Olivia Clemente of New York City was a bridesmaid for her friend’s wedding last August. All the dresses, including the bride’s gown, were ordered through Apropos.

Clemente says the bride’s gown was ordered in November 2015 and was expected in the shop in April 2016, in plenty of time for the August 2016 wedding.

The bride’s gown did not arrive until a week before the wedding, Clemente said. “It doesn’t fit, and it’s not the right size,” she continued, “so Sindi tells Heather that she gained weight.”

Saita told The Enterprise that the bride had gained 40 pounds after ordering the dress. “She bought a mermaid dress, and couldn’t even get half her body into it,” she said.

Clemente said that the bride’s weight gain was not as drastic as Saita claims, and that even if the bride gained weight, the dress could have been altered if delivered on time. Or the same style could have been re-ordered in a different size, she said.

So the bride ordered and paid for a different dress — not her original choice — which then arrived four days before the wedding.

The bridesmaids’ dresses had been ordered in March, Clemente said. One woman in the wedding party was a week late with her deposit, Clemente said, and Saita told them that she would not order the dresses till all the deposits were in, so they were slowed down by one week. But the dresses did not arrive until three days before the August wedding, Clemente said.

Saita responded that the one deposit was well over a week late; the dresses were not ordered till April 18.

All the bridesmaids called the shop repeatedly as the event drew nearer, and were told each time that the dresses were en route, would be there soon, etcetera, without any specifics, Clemente said.

When the bridesmaids’ dresses did arrive, “Half of us, our dresses didn’t fit,” Clemente said. A few were able to get alterations done on short notice by friends, and others were not. Several of the girls swapped dresses so that they would fit better, Clemente said.

But still, she said, for most, the dresses remained unhemmed and were so long and ill-fitting — in some cases too big and in others too small — that all of the bridesmaids changed out of them midway through the reception.

“We would have accommodated them, so if they chose not to hem their dresses, that was their decision, not ours,” said Saita.

“So my friend didn’t get to have her bridesmaids in their dresses all night,” said Clemente.

Clemente asked Saita if the members of the wedding party could get, for instance, half of their money back for their trouble, but Saita refused, saying that the difficulties stemmed from the women’s not ordering the dresses or paying the deposits early enough.

“We ordered them in March; the fact that they came in August was kind of insane,” Clemente said.

“Dresses never arrived”

Mary Chase of Schenectady became involved with Apropos when the wedding party’s dresses for her daughter’s nuptials did not arrive when promised, she says, and the bridesmaids didn’t want to worry her daughter.

The wedding was planned for March 2017, and the dresses were ordered and deposits paid in August 2016.

Chase says that the dates the party was given for the dresses’ arrival continually shifted.

Finally, it was two weeks before the wedding and they were still waiting. They went to a different bridal shop, says Chase, and she paid for all-new dresses which were ordered and which came in and were altered before the wedding party’s dresses came in at Apropos.

The flower girls’ dresses eventually came in to Apropos, Chase said, but Saita did not want to hand those over, because the bridesmaids still owed her the balance on the dresses they had not yet received.

Chase’s daughter filed papers with the Guilderland small-claims court. The family then “went on and had a beautiful wedding and waited for the court date.”

The Friday before the April court date, Chase says, they received a check from Saita for the deposits on the dresses that had never arrived, although Saita wrote a note specifying that the dresses never came in because the deposits had not been made on time.

Chase says that Saita had blamed the dresses’ failure to arrive, at one point over the phone, “on the snow out West,” where she said the dresses were coming from.

“She was just making up stuff,” said Chase.

Saita said that she did not write the note that Chase describes, and that the weather out West was in fact given to her by the manufacturer as the reason for the delay.

What bothers Chase, she said, is that “She doesn’t have the heart to care about a special occasion. For her to put that stress on us was unbelievable.”

Saita said of Chase, “When someone harasses, belittles, demeans, and humiliates someone on a daily basis — you don’t deal with someone that way. We require respect, and we give respect.”

Because Chase came into the store and harassed her in front of a store full of customers, Saita said, she should have called the police and had her escorted out.

There were people in Chase’s daughter’s wedding party who told Saita, she said, that they felt sorry for her for having to deal with Chase.

“Everything is always everyone else’s fault but hers, that the product doesn’t get to the customers on time,” Chase said.

Asked if she isn’t being insensitive to the momentousness of these occasions, and the stress that her customers feel, Saita said, “It’s momentous for me too. I want to get these dresses in and out of here as fast as possible.”

She added, “I work very hard to keep it all going.”

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