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Local retailers deny hurricane supply returns following Irma

SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - Alanna Geweye spent hundreds of dollars at the last minute as Hurricane Irma made it's way to Florida. The mother of two says people like her should be allowed to get their money back if those last-minute supplies are now useless.

"If it wasn't opened, it should just be like any other day," says the Sarasota resident. "I don't know why a hurricane would have anything different."

Fellow Sarasota resident Justin Combs says he has friends who have been denied or offered a lower refund price for their storm supplies.

"It's not fair," he says. "If something happens like a hurricane, then ends up coming through and not doing as much damage as everyone said, then you should be able to bring back your goods and get your money back for it."

The DG ACE Hardware store off of Clark Road in Sarasota is one of 12 owned by the same local family for nearly 30 years. They've learned what the community needs as a storm approaches is often more than what they carry, which is why those items can't be returned.

"We go out and buy as much as we can afford, and that's part of the no return policy," says store manager Wes Gough. "We can't afford to carry all the stuff, the depth of the stuff, or the magnitude of the stuff, because we don't have the financial resources to do it."

Florida law prohibits any retailer to refuse a refund without posting a sign stating that decision at the point of sale. ACE Hardware says they had their signs up before September 4th, the week prior to Irma's arrival.

"We have signs on the front door, we have signs on every register, we have signs on the returns desk," says Gough. "And we try to hang signs up on every item we consider a hurricane item."

Still, Gewaye doesn't believe people should have to choose between money and safety.

"People shouldn't have to suffer financially because stores don't want to return unopened items," she says.

The Better Business Bureau's West Florida Office monitors these types of complaints against retailers in the state. If you feel you've been wrongfully denied a refund, you can file a complaint here.