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This was originally published at http://www.roanoke.com/business/wb/276644 and is reproduced here without permission under the Fair Use Doctrine of the copyright act. Copyright © 2011 The Roanoke Times.


DirectBuy's Roanoke franchise closes after 2 years

The company, which has faced some complaints across the country, said the decision to close came from the local owners.

By Brian Kelley
  981-3116

A DirectBuy franchise that opened in Roanoke County in 2008 closed this week, the Indiana-based membership-only shopping company confirmed Thursday.

The store's more than 1,000 members received e-mails about the closure, and a letter posted on the door at 4082 Electric Road states that neither new members nor orders are being accepted.

The franchise owners made the decision to close the store, said company spokeswoman Sara Butler. DirectBuy of Roanoke's president, Brock Wilson, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Members, who usually sign up for two- to three-year terms with the option to renew for 10 years, are being offered the company's online Home Shopping Program and may shop in person at any DirectBuy store location, Butler said. However, the closest stores to Roanoke are in Gray, Tenn., near Johnson City, or in Richmond.

In response to a question about whether Roanoke-area members could get out of their contracts, Butler wrote: "I'm not certain why a member wouldn't want to remain a member -- the savings and services available at the time the member signed up are still available to them."

Orders already placed and not yet picked up will be delivered through 3PD, a freight consolidator based in Lynchburg. Online orders will be shipped there as well, and home delivery will be available.

DirectBuy, based in Merrillville, Ind., markets itself as a way for members to save money by getting "direct insider" prices for a range of products including furniture, home improvement items and electronics.

But the company also has generated complaints and controversy over membership fees costing thousands and sales tactics, most recently in West Virginia, where the attorney general sued the company and a local franchisee on Jan. 26, alleging unfair sales techniques. DirectBuy has sought to halt proceedings in the case, and its executive team will meet with Attorney General Darrell McGraw to address concerns, Butler said.

In Roanoke, the Better Business Bureau has received four complaints about DirectBuy. One was about service, another that the promised lower prices weren't actually available and the other two were about the franchise closing, said Julie Wheeler, president and CEO. DirectBuy members who wish to contact the BBB may call 342-3455 or go online to bbb.org.

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