MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Six months ago Myrtle Beach resident Lisa Bowes hired a local company to help her update her website.
“Right away I wanted somebody local, somebody that I could meet up with and talk to if I needed to and somebody who had really good references and someone who had a good website to begin with,” Bowes said.
For her, JW Designs fit the bill.
“All the reviews on the website were stellar, they had good page with pictures of their team, local people, local work, they had a history,” she said.
However, she said soon after she paid the business $500 for the work, trouble began.
Bowes said JW Designs double charged her for the work.
Email correspondences show Bowes and the business’ owner Jeff Whiteis sent a few exchanges about the matter and then a different employee started contacting her.
“They said they would have proofs and was asking seemly legitimate questions about the web hosting that I had and then correspondence just cut off and I kept saying, ‘I need an update, I need an update and I never heard anything,’” Bowes said.
Now, six months later, Bowes has not been refunded $1000 and has seen no work from JW Designs.
Complaints on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) detail similar incidents that stem back to June 2017.
“I paid him upfront and was told I would have completed work in 4 weeks. I have not received anything in 2 months,” one complaint stated. “I asked for a full refund and he will not return emails, phone calls or text messages.”
Another written in July 2017 states, “Web site never completed and calls not returned and 3 meetings cancelled. We signed a contract to develop a website in December of 2016 with JW Design.”
Again, the individual claimed they never received their money back.
The amount of complaints led the BBB to issue a warning against JW Designs in October 2018.
“BBB files indicate that this business has a pattern of complaints concerning Refund or Exchange, Customer Service, or Service Issues,” the site stated.
Horry County court records reveal Whiteis and JW Designs owe more than $14,000 in judgements.
“The only thing we got after numerous emails, text's and phone calls where every excuse under the sun, lies and broken promises,” Jack C writes on BBB as a company review. “We filed for a judgement against them and this morning the Judge granted it. The owner Jeffrey W****** didn't show for court.”
Cox, Beall & Associates, a real estate firm in Myrtle Beach, is one of the companies that filed a lawsuit against JW Designs in May 2018.
Carol Jones, an employee at the firm, explained her firm had worked positively with JW Designs for years. She said the company delivered a website and updates until recently.
Jones said the problems started in the beginning of 2018 when her firm tried to get another round of updates.
Horry County’s Public Index reveal Whiteis and JW Designs owe Cox, Beall & Associates more than $1,700 in judgements.
Jones said the Sheriffs Office told her the company agreed to pay it.
WMBF reached out to the companies listed on the court documents and both said they haven’t been paid.
Many past clients shared an experience like the real estate firm.
Clients told WMBF their relationship used to be positive but in recent years they have parted ways with JW Designs because like Bowes, they are owed money and work.
One client said the five-star testimony on JW Design’s website was not true.
“We interviewed 3 web designers and we chose him because he was extremely personable (funny too if I might add) and well versed in digital marketing,” part of the online review stated.
Hurd Insurance Agency, however, said this review is fake and it has tried for get it removed for more than a year.
Since WMBF began investigating, the BBB has changed the business’ rating from an ‘F’ to ‘not rated.’
The BBB said this is because on Monday, Whiteis started answering complaints that had gone unanswered for months.
Whiteis declined WMBF’s request for an interview but said in a statement, “I am currently in ongoing communications with previous clients and will continue to make sure any issues are resolved.”
The owner also said he learned this past summer JW Designs’ “business model was not sustainable, which also contributed to project delays.”
Whiteis told WMBF the business has closed but they, “will continue to dedicate ourselves in resolving any issues with clients that were not satisfied with the services we provided. “
The BBB updated the business’ page confirming this change, “According to information in BBB files, this company is no longer in business. If you have an unresolved dispute with this company, you may wish to seek legal advice.”
Whiteis did reach out to Bowes after WMBF got involved, but Bowes said he did not offer to refund her money.
Bowes said she is looking into legal action to collect the more than $1,000 she owed and is urging others to be caution even when working with local businesses.
“Don’t assume that friendly is nice and that’s what I did,” Bowes warned. “This is a bad apple in a barrel. Do your homework and do your diligence.”