When I looked up "prestige" in the Collins English Dictionary, I found something interesting. The root of the word via French from Latin praestigiae is where prestidigitation comes from which is "juggling, tricks" and slight of hand. It's also "apparently related to praestringere to bind tightly, blindfold." How appropriate for this company who succeeds though lies and deceipt to keep a blindfold on their customers' eyes so we can't see their real purpose….fraud.
I found out that Prestige was a fraud about 4 months after sending my gown to them for cleaning. After taking it to my favorite cleaners, my friendly vendor saw the fancy beads and said she wouldn't touch it. I looked in the dress and saw the manufacturers label with an 800 number for the Prestige Gown Cleaning Company. I had purchased my gown at SAKS Fifth Avenue, obviously a highly respected and expensive store. I assumed this too would be a respectable company that would have their tag inside of a SAKS gown.
I called Prestige in early November of 1999. I'm fairly certain there are only 2 or 3 people that answer the phone at Prestige and they continue to use different names each time you call. There is Jill, Sarah, Wendy, Donna and the infamous, Roseanne. I was told to send my gown with a return address inside. I wasn't asked for any money at the time. The woman seemed nice enough. A few days later I received a call saying they'd need my credit card to pay for the cleaning. I gave it to them. I was told my dress would be back to me within 60 days. The fee was $90.
Around February, I started wondering about my dress. I figured maybe they had been busy through the holiday season. Each time I called, I was given some reason why they couldn't send me my dress. It wasn't cleaned, they were too busy, they were moving. Then they would say they were sending my gown, that I would have it within two weeks. I'd wait. Nothing. I'd call again. Same story. I became suspicious.
After several weeks of calling and speaking to these different people, I insisted to speak with the owner of the company. Supposedly this person is James Robinson. I left numerous messages for this person and never once received a return phone call. Whenever he was "there" he was "in a meeting" and couldn't take calls.
I finally reached someone again and demanded to speak with the manager. I was told it was Roseanne. I left numerous messages for her and never received a call back. I finally reached her one time and she said she was sorry, there was nothing she could do and as soon as they finished moving, they would send me my gown. I told her I'd already been promised it would be mailed. She just said she was sorry and there was nothing she could do.
I called again, spoke with someone else and said I didn't care if my dress was ready or not, I wanted it back. She said they couldn't send it to me because they were too busy trying to move. I told her I would pay to have FED-X pick up my dress. She said to call back the next day to arrange that. I said I didn't want to wait until the next day. Then this woman promised she would help me and asked me to call her back later in the afternoon. She would look for my dress and let me know how we could arrange a pick up. I asked her to give me her word that she would help me that afternoon. She did.
When I called back, I was told that person was gone. I couldn't believe it. I let this person have it on the phone and told her that I would be contacting legal authorities if someone didn't respond to my requests. She just kept insisting that I would get my gown back. Later, that same day, I called their 800 number (which I knew by heart) and the person who answered said "First Wok Chinese Restaurant". I'm pretty sure they have caller ID and knew it was me calling again. I thought I called the wrong number so I tried again. Again, the same thing. I could not believe it. I really had to laugh. Pretending to be a Chinese Restaurant. Unreal.
By this time, it was obvious they were not a real company. I just couldn't get this through my head. I'd never been deceived in this way before. It took a long time to realize they were not incompetent, they were a fraud.
I called the BBB and found out that 41 complaints had been issued against Prestige and that the FTC was trying to prosecute for labeling lies. I filed a report with the Better Business Bureau around June of 2000. I left a message at Prestige telling them that I had done so, that I knew what they were up to and if they didn't want to get in deep water, they really should just send my dress back. No response.
I didn't find BBB to be willing to go very far other than filing this report so I decided to go other routes as well. I didn't know where to start. I called the Flushing Police Dept and was transferred a few times until I reached an unbelieveably nice detective. He said he knew of this company, that the owner was a "scumbag" and he wanted to help but it was legally out of his hands. He also mentioned that they had tried to arrest him before, but it was thrown out of the court. I don't know the details. Just because he is nice and wanted to help me, he sent my name to the DA of Queens. He said they would try to supoena the names of the complaints from BBB and try to begin an investigation.
Well, that did happen. I have spoken with the District Attorney from Queens. She is delightful. She told me that she couldn't press charges because she could not find evidence that "Prestige" and "Worldwide" (the new company name) are the same company. I asked her what I could do. She gave me the name of a woman in GA who had a similar experience and had put her story on her local news. She thought maybe together, we could get something done. This woman from GA and I are now trying to form a grassroots effort to put this company out of business.
I did finally get my dress back only 10 months after it was sent. I'm pretty sure that I got it back because of the report I filed with BBB and the fact that Prestige knew I knew what they were doing. But that doesn't stop us from wanting to end this charade to protect others from the same thing.