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The CEH- The Anna Delvey, Elizabeth Holmes... of furniture? 👀🍿🧃
And *a second* furniture company scamming people has entered the chat
Update, April 11th at 10:45pm PST: Two fascinating updates below!
The CEH website is no longer up.
ElementStyle’s Erin Gates posted to her Instagram stories today saying, “Hey guys, I’m just cooling down from my run but I had to tell you about the call I got before I left for work today… from Justin from The CEH. So he called and acted like nothing was wrong and wanted to coordinate the pickup of my items. One of which was never started, turns out… that we paid for in November. Another one is halfway finished but we’re going to go send our shippers to pick up tomorrow anyway. I still don’t believe we’re going to get them so I’m leaving my fraud claim filed with Amex. Also he didn’t apologize… still stuck with the story that their entire life has been hacked. I assume saw the Business of Home piece and all the… surrounding drama but literally acted like… nothing was wrong. And I kept my cool for the most part cause if I can get the stuff, I want it but what a weird turn.”
Weirdly enough I’d also been tipped off this weekend to another furniture maker scandal happening concurrently to this one. In the case of the Cream City Restoration, the company also took people’s family heirlooms and never delivered on the promise to return them. The owners of Cream City Restoration actually sat down for a news interview and discussed how they got into the situation they did. It’s an interesting look into a weirdly parallel story to what’s going on at The CEH— albeit without the whole hacking-and-getting-the-FBI-involved allegation.
Update, April 7th at 1:45pm PST: We just realized that within the last couple hours, the banner that was directing people to their new number/email, has now been replaced with one that says “The CEH is not accepting new orders while we restructure our business. If you have questions…”
I tried to go through the ordering process but this time there’s a teeny tiny banner above checkout that says “Checkout is closed. This store isn’t set up to process payments. Click here to learn more”
Which means at least no one can officially place orders through the site anymore! Amazing job by all the influencers, designers, etc that spoke up and sounded the alarm, now here’s hoping there’s a way to recoup the lost payments.
Update, April 7th at 11:15am PST: We spoke with a Boston-based interior designer (let’s call her DesignerB) today who ordered a custom-sized table for a client from The CEH in June of 2021 after having heard of the company and knowing their good reputation in the space. After a good back and forth about the custom order and sending a beautiful sample of the burl wood, they aligned on a contract for a 16 week production time (around October) and DesignerB charged the $1.8k deposit to her American Express card.
She followed up on the order status in October and was told there was a supply chain delay, but not to worry. In November, her card was charged for the remaining $1.7k order balance, without having been consulted as she’d initially been promised. After she reached out, the team told her that the table was in the final stages of veneer and she could expect delivery shortly. In December they said the table was ready to go but January came and went with no update. Towards the end of January, DesignerB called The CEH again but encountered that the phone number had been disconnected so she sent a few terse emails and managed to get a photo of her table sent to her in February, when it was then agreed that DesignerB would arrange her own shipping. When she reached out to a shipper in the area, the vendor told her they’d had issues with The CEH in the past but they’d do what they could to help her finally get her client’s table. While The CEH encouraged her to let them know when her shippers would be arriving to pick up the table, she got radio silence when she did. The shippers encountered a bolted door and a pile of mail when they showed up for the pickup, last week.
“As an interior designer, you’re sort of representing your company, so I sort of have to hop on the call to my client and say ‘guess what, you gave me you know, $4,000, eight months ago- A) you don’t have a table and B) you’re not getting it and I don’t have your money.” DesignerB was able to dispute and get the charges reimbursed from American Express but she knows that people who have been waiting for their orders for over a year are having difficulties getting Amex to reverse the charges, putting many in precarious positions.
Like the other designers I’ve communicated with, I asked DesignerB what she thinks happened with The CEH, given their previously good reputation. Her sentiment echoed the others I’d spoken with, “Maybe they didn’t start off as con artists, but I think they’ve gotten themselves into a hole. I don’t think it started out this way, I think that they’d gotten themselves into financial trouble and then learned ‘but ooh, I can still make money or…’ and they’re making money. To them as long as their website is up and someone clicks and puts something in their cart, puts their credit card information in there, they’re making money, their scam is working, so they can’t care too much, they don’t care, they’re complete con artists, complete thieves.”
It makes me nervous because even after ElementStyle’s Erin Gates’s stories were shared around Instagram yesterday, there’s little trace of the chaos behind the scenes when you search for The CEH, so there’s little to alert unsuspecting customers who are clicking around online. The website is even touting a “Quick Ship” items like $8,850 kitchen nook table, a $7,350 chest, and dozens of other products that list lead times of ~6-12 weeks. And they could all be added to my cart (and subsequently presumably purchased).
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Update, April 7 at 12:30am PST (because #can'tsleep): It’s so good to see designers coming together to flag this story so that The CEH doesn’t make any more money off of unsuspecting consumers. We were grateful to speak to another New York-based designer, Dana, of Dana Mitchell Interiors who we found because of a comment she left on The CEH’s instagram posts from November 27, 2021 asking “How can you take on new clients when you haven’t delivered my furniture in 9 months?” It happened that her comment was left shortly after The CEH was apparently dissolved as an LLC due to a failure to pay taxes, based on Texas records. Which ahem, should have marked the end of The CEH as a company. Instead it’s a gorgeous, welcoming website– with inventory. And unless an error would pop up upon trying to enter my payment info, there’s also still a very-real, functioning check-out process.
Dana explained that she started following The CEH on Instagram and eventually placed an order in May of 2021. While The CEH has a stunningly-curated Instagram feed, clients that include the Bush family, and press features in Architectural Digest, Dana remained cautious about placing her first order. Because Dana avoids making purchases for clients from vendors she’s never personally worked with before, she eventually personally purchased two night stands that caught her eye, thinking, “this will be my guinea pig”. She paid the $4k deposit on the order with her credit card for the $8k order, which she was able to successfully dispute. Unfortunately many weren’t as lucky, as she’d (and all of us) later learn.
After placing the order in May of last year, Dana emailed the office in August/September asking about the status of her night stands and was told that they’d be delivered in October. She stated that the pandemic offered “a plausible excuse that lead times are ridiculous” and she, like many others, was much more willing to The CEH some slack and be generous because of their positioning as a family brand. She followed up again in October, only to be told that due to third-party shipping issues Justin was personally delivering orders so it would take a little bit longer. After there was still no delivery by January, Dana started noticing other people sharing their complaints on Instagram.
Once Dana started engaging with other commenters on The CEH’s instagram posts, people began reaching out to her with their own difficulties, some even waiting on furniture they’d ordered two years prior. One woman in Florida had placed a $20k order and called Dana in tears, saying this could ruin her business. Only across the people that’ve reached out to Dana, the lost orders total ~$50k, not including her own— meaning that it’s likely this scandal amounts to hundreds-of-thousands of stolen dollars.
When Dana decided to call the Texas Attorney General’s office to confirm they’d gotten the complaint she’d submitted, the response was surprising. “I spoke with someone who said basically, ‘don’t expect much to happen from this.’” She doesn’t know who the person was that answered the phone there or if they had the authority to comment, but she was frustrated at the response.
As the most recent update, Dana did get an email from The CEH’s Justin Evans on March 2nd of this year saying, “Thank you Dana. I know this has been frustrating to say the least but will make it right and get you a check. Thank you again” She emailed Justin back on March 11th asking about the status of the check. She never heard back. Several other customers have said that when they emailed The CEH this March, they were directed to use a new email and new phone number– neither of which appeared to be staffed.
We’re planning to chat with more customers later today and will continue posting what we learn. We did reach out to Justin & Diana’s team for comment but haven’t heard back. Not surprised, but as all gumshoe reporters do, we had a smidge of hope.
Update, 3:15pm PST: Know Business of Home, Buzzfeed, and NBC Dallas are all looking into covering stories. LUCKILY because based on ElementStyle’s Erin Gates’s stories, designers are still placing orders with The CEH. A lucky designer caught the news through her Instagram before placing a $20k order. Gulp. It makes me sweat thinking of how many other customers aren’t going to be as fortunate until this news becomes more widespread.
Update, 2:15pm PST: A New York-based designer we got in touch with who ordered furniture from The CEH said, “As a designer, weathering the pandemic has been HARD. The supply chain issues are a nightmare. So our jobs are made even more difficult and some clients just don’t want to hear excuses. When I love a company, I tell people, especially if it’s a small family business. We all win by supporting each other. And then one bad egg ruins it. And it has a ripple effect. This is not just being bad business owners. They are putting all the designers reputations at stake. And for what gain? And they’re also messing with the livelihood of their employees. It’s so disturbing.”
As also mentioned below, the most important thing about this story currently is that word gets out that something isn’t right and new customers don’t place orders on The CEH.
Update, 1:15pm PST: We’ve been in touch with a few folks about The CEH which gives some more context to how strange this story is. The conversation below is with a confirmed customer and shared with permission. Her friend is local to where the The CEH team is based. I blocked out the actual photo of the house but the photo shows the front windows of a house with the curtains and blinds pulled down in disarray, in a way that can only be described as bizarre.
The most important thing about this story now is that word gets out that something isn’t right and new customers don’t place orders on The CEH.
A lot of money has been already lost and it’s unlikely that things will be remedied anytime in the near future. So if you’re an influencer that has recommended The CEH in the past, maybe just give your followers a heads-up to avoid purchasing from them.
P.S. If someone can please give me tips on uploading higher-res screenshots, that’d be cool.
As we mentioned in this week’s The Wreck List weekly email, after getting a tip from a friend (thanks Laurie!), we saw that NY Times-published influencer, Erin Gates, of ElementStyle has been posting in her Instagram stories that it seems like bespoke furniture company, The CEH is pulling a scam.
Some screenshots of her stories are below. Erin has posted some video stories that are also worth watching— one of her quotes is,“Basically this is turning into an Anna Delvey… Elizabeth Holmes… pyramid scheme-situation, it seems. But in furniture.”
The story is still developing and we woke up only a little bit ago so will delve into this and update this article below as we delve in to see what’s going on. It’s always a good (bad?) sign of a scam when there’s a line that says “…taking people’s money and ghosting completely (after making up some insane story about being hacked and the FBI-not true)”
Doing a double-click into the The CEH’s instagram, they still have the post up where they claim they’d been hacked and gotten the FBI involved. Which, from what’s been said is actually untrue.
The CEH has turned off commenting on their Instagram posts which is never a good sign and makes our gumshoe work a bit trickier, but stay tuned on this piece here.
We’ve reached out to a friend that’s closely in the interior design world to see if she has can point us in some direction. PS. For those of you that hadn’t seen the Homepolish drama and collapse a couple years ago, that’s a fascinating read to delve into.
The CEH Instagram and Facebook pages seem to have locked down their comments but the existing ones are very telling, especially the conversations on their Facebook.
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