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Firm's real president fires impostor, fixes problem

If the late Anne Kurek only knew what it took to get her tombstone cleaned or the story behind it.

But 2 1/2 years after her granddaughter hired a Niagara Falls monument company to do the work, it's finally done.

We had every expectation in late November that after we looked into an unfulfilled July 2004 contract between Gray & Trigg Monument Co. and Kurek's granddaughter, Sandra Carella of Lewiston, that the work would be done free of charge, as the company promised us it would do in News Power's Nov. 26 column.

Carella kept waiting for the tombstone to be cleaned -- and to receive a United Parcel Service package that the company told us it had sent her, which was to include a refund of her $50 cash deposit, along with a free vigil light, valued at $72. The cleaning job was to have cost $95 total.

But nothing came, other than a Gray & Trigg Monument letter dated Nov. 22 that promised it was all forthcoming, again stating that her grandmother's tombstone would remain on the company's cleaning schedule.

By Dec. 5, we grew concerned about the lack of follow-through when nothing arrived for Carella and the tombstone remained dirty. Determined to get to the bottom of it, we again began calling Gray & Trigg -- and much like we experienced in November, our latest calls went unanswered.

Finally, on Dec. 7, we pursued it even harder and tried to track down the Gray & Trigg representative who had identified himself as the company president in a Nov. 24 interview. The Niagara Falls Pine Avenue Business Association grew equally as puzzled when we called them to inquire, and subsequently referred us to James Farchione, who informed us that he is, in fact, the president of the company. The person we had spoken with was only a salesman, he said.

Farchione was caught off guard and unaware of this situation or Carella's work order. He apologized several times and offered to rectify the mess that same afternoon, on Dec. 7, which he and his work crew did.

"I'm so embarrassed. I didn't know there was a problem," Farchione told News Power, saying that when he questioned his salesman about the matter after first hearing from us, he claimed he didn't know anything about the issue and had not heard of Carella.

Farchione said he fired the salesman. "This is unacceptable and is no way to run a business," he said, noting that Gray & Trigg has been in business since 1901 and not had complaints. "This was an isolated incident . . . Everything [work orders] must go through me."

"There's no way for me to have known this until something like this happens. We are at the mercy of the employee," Farchione said. "My main concern is getting [Carella's] work done. This will be taken care of immediately."

"The stone will be washed right now. This should have been done two years ago," he said, noting that the work would be done for free for Carella.

And it was. Farchione called us and Carella later on Dec. 7 to tell us the tombstone had been cleaned and offered to clean it again, as a courtesy, when the weather is better at no charge. He said a $50 refund check also was mailed to Carella that day. Carella declined the vigil light, which she said she never wanted in the first place. (It had been offered by the salesman.)

"I'm so happy that I'm ecstatic," Carella told us. "I can't ask for more than that. I'm stopping by on my way home from work to look at the stone."

Farchione said that typically it takes four to six weeks for an order to be completed -- not 2 1/2 years.

Have a consumer problem? Send a letter summarizing your problem to News Power, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y., 14240. Attention: Karen Robinson. Or e-mail: newspower@buffnews.com

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