NewsProblem Solvers


Memorial bench botched: Buyers beware

Posted at 9:44 PM, Feb 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-14 22:49:33-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — After the sudden loss of a loved one in April, a Kalamazoo family tried to create a memorial bench in his memory. Their plan didn’t turn out as they expected.

More than $2,000 invested and 8 months of waiting, and they are less than happy with the results.

The problem all started on Craigslist. The Problem Solvers have tried to warn viewers time and time again to be careful when looking for services on the website. The family feels they fell victim in a time of grieving. The Hawkins family didn’t have a lot of extra cash to spend, and finding a monument or headstone can be tough when prices rise as high as thousands of dollars. So, they took a chance with a deal they saw on Craigslist.

“My mom came and woke me up, because his wife at the time said he wasn't breathing,” recalled Melissa Hawkins of her older brother’s death.

McKinley Laverne Underwood  Jr. died from a heart attack last April. He was 37-years-old.

“I hadn't spoken to him in almost a year. We got into an argument. It's too late and I have to live with that,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins regrets not patching things up with her brother before he died, so she wanted to honor him to make up for the past. She thought a bench as a headstone marker for her older brother would be a good start.

“My father is disabled. My little brother and I thought it was best for him because he is not able to stand at the cemetery. It’s something that when my dad goes out to the cemetery he can go out there and talk to my brother,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins saw an ad on Craigslist for Hillsdale Memorial Products last April. The company was advertising for half the price of other similar services. For the bench, the engraving, and his picture on it, Hawkins paid $2200 up front. .

“It was supposed to be delivered by Memorial Day in May.”

Hawkins said months kept passing. She claims Hillsdale Memorial stopped responding to them, and keeping the family up to date with when it would be finished. On top of that, she claimed she got excuses on why it was taking so long to complete. By December, the Hawkins had enough, and demanded they receive the headstone marker. Hillsdale Memorial finally delivered the bench 9 months later on December 11th.

“ The picture wasn't there, it had hunks of glue, it was scratched, and dusty, and it wasn't polished or anything,” said Hawkins.

The family said Hillsdale Memorial did offer to take it back and fix it if they weren't happy with the product.

“Why would we put our trust back into you when you said it would be done Memorial Day and here it is Christmas?”

Fox 17 Problem Solvers looked into Hillsdale Memorial. They do not have a license with the state, a better business bureau accreditation,  and are not registered with the Monument Builders of North America. While it is not illegal to operate without these licenses, it does hold businesses to a higher standard, so the customer knows the quality of work they are receiving for their hard-earned money.

The Hillsdale Memorial website has been taken down as well.

Fox 17 News called the owner of Hillsdale Memorial. He did not want to be recorded, but said they are no longer operating because of his wife’s health.  Fox 17 News asked if there was any reconciliation that could be made between the two parties. He gave us this statement.

“It is the Hawkins’ fault for not providing us with a better picture. You can tell them to go away.”

As for the Hawkins, they ended up having to spend another $2000 to fix the bench when they got back from Hillsdale Memorial.

“It’s horrible, it’s a horrible feeling,” said Hawkins.

Fox 17 News did inform the family that they can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The Hawkins are talking to a lawyer to see if they will take a small claims route to all of this.