PORTLAND, Ore. -- A nonprofit company selling memorial bracelets to honor military veterans has generated consumer complaints from around the country.
The online shoppers said they never got what they ordered from Fallen Hero Bracelets. When customers complained to the company, government records show the Tacoma-based company responded to some people with vulgar emails, threatened lawsuits or sent them to a collection agency.
“It goes beyond poor customer service,” said Chad Chambers of Vancouver.
Chambers said he never received the military-style hat or bracelet he ordered in November 2017, nor did he receive a refund.
“I haven’t gotten anything but verbal abuse via email,” said Chambers.
The Fallen Hero Bracelets website features dozens of memorial bracelets for sale, along with military decals, hats and shirts.
“Over 1,223,218 sales worldwide! Thank you for your support” the website declares in neon green writing.
Fallenherobracelets.com says the nonprofit company helps raise money for 40 different veteran organizations in four countries.
“This site is a living and lasting memorial to our heroes … those who returned and those who did not,” exclaimed the website.
Fallen Hero Bracelets has an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau.
“This company is definitely on our radar,” said Stephen Mayer of the BBB. “We’ve received a pattern of complaints over the past year or so.”
In 2017, the BBB issued an alert for Fallen Hero Bracelets and an associated operation, The Benjamin Foundation.
The Washington Attorney General’s office produced 204 pages of documents in response to a public records request for complaints about the Fallen Hero Bracelets. Seven different consumers have filed formal complaints with the AG’s office against the company since August 2016.
“It caused me a lot of stress,” said Taylor Ward of Eagle, Idaho. Ward said he paid for a pair of bracelets from Fallen Hero Bracelets, but never received his order. He disputed the charge with PayPal, which refunded his money.
“A few weeks later, I got a call from a collections agency,” said Ward. The collections agency later withdrew the request for debt collection after researching the situation, explained Ward.
Other customers had similar complaints.
In September 2017, Joshua Barney ordered a military-style hat from Fallen Hero Bracelets for $36.
“I believed from how they represented themselves that they would be supporting a good cause,” said Barney of Boise, Idaho.
Barney waited two months but the hat never arrived. He said the company didn’t respond to his emails so he filed a claim with his bank.
“A few weeks later, I received this big packet in the mail from Fallen Hero Bracelets saying that I committed bank fraud and they were going to sue me and they were going to ruin my credit,” said Barney.
Court records show Fallen Hero Bracelets has filed ten different complaints in small claims court in Pierce County, Wash. since September 2017. Several of the claims, including complaints against American Express, Chase Bank and Capital One Bank, were dismissed.
Other cases are still pending, including a claim against customer Jamze Hampleman of Missouri who ordered a bracelet from Fallen Hero Bracelets and paid through PayPal. Hampleman said he didn’t receive the product for over a year, despite sending countless emails to the company, with no response.
Shortly after he requested PayPal reverse the charges, Hampleman said the bracelet finally arrived – followed by a notice from small claims court.
The complaint, filed by Michael Friedmann, chief legal officer of Fallen Hero Bracelets, demanded $5,000 for alleged violations of terms of service, breached contract and bank fraud.
“Obviously, I can’t travel to Washington to attend court over a $69 bracelet,” Hampleman wrote in a complaint to the Washington AG’s office. “How can you be sued for paying for a product?”
The Fallen Hero Bracelets website includes a lengthy terms of service agreement.
“As a general policy we do not offer refunds, but we understand that at times issues may arise,” said the website. “If an issue does arise, we are more than willing to work with our customers on correcting any such issues to the extent of considering a refund on a case by case basis.”
Fallen Hero Bracelets declined an on-camera interview for this story, but Friedman did email a statement.
“Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on past, or current, or pending legal matters,” Friedmann wrote.
The owner of Fallen Hero Bracelets explained that all consumer complaints the company has received came from customers who received their orders within their promised timeframe, and in some cases, those customers were refunded.
The five customers KGW spoke with said that was not the case. Instead, their items never arrived or were delivered months and months after they were ordered.
“Unfortunately, in the course of business we have had to deal with a small percentage of individuals who choose to disregard industry standard lead times, and then defraud us by engaging in bank fraud,” wrote Friedmann. “Unfortunately, we also have had several individuals engage in defamation and false representations of the facts regarding their transactions with us in efforts to slander and libel our organization.”
KGW spoke with five customers who said they received vulgar emails from Fallen Hero Bracelets after inquiring about the status of their order. Similar complaints were filed with the Washington AG’s office.
“In short this guy took my money and didn’t supply me with any product,” Marcus Starr wrote in a complaint to state investigators. “All I got from him was a bunch of excuses and verbal abuse when I requested my money back which has not happened.”
Starr included images of notes he received in the mail from Fallen Hero Bracelets. One note used Arabic looking font to spell “go F*** yourself.” A second image shows a lengthy typewritten note, stamped with the words “YOU ARE AN A**HOLE!”
One customer in Texas told KGW he filed a harassment complaint with local police against Michael Friedmann, owner of Fallen Hero Bracelets.
“He continues to harass me by sending me packages through the USPS, FedEx. I have told him repeatedly to stop harassing me and to make no further contact with me in any form,” customer Michael Lindsay wrote in a complaint to the Washington AG’s office.
Lindsay, a retired sheriff’s lieutenant from the Houston-area, provided copies of emails he received from Friedmann to state consumer fraud investigators in Washington.
“You will not receive merchandise from us as you have defrauded us. You can also go f*** yourself. Do not bother emailing again or I will notify your department of your harassment and your fraud. F*** you!” wrote Fallen Hero Bracelets owner Michael Friedmann, according to the complaint.
Friedmann downplayed the number of consumer complaints.
“After over 900,000 transactions in 15 years, 20 to 30 issues are an expected byproduct of doing business over the internet,” wrote Friedmann in the email to KGW.
The Fallen Hero Bracelets website says it offers a “100% Customer Satisfaction Guarantee.” The website also features a logo showing “Business Bureau of America, A+ Rating.”
“It is pretty similar to our seal,” said Mayer of the Better Business Bureau, noting the difference in name. “They are not BBB accredited.”
Fallen Hero Bracelets registered as a nonprofit corporation with the Washington Secretary of State’s office in September 2015. Michael Friedmann is listed on state records as the company’s chairman, president and vice president. Friedmann lists himself as chief legal officer on letters submitted to the Washington AG’s office.
Corporate filings with the Washington Secretary of State’s office list a residential street address in Tacoma as the company’s place of business. A Google map of the address shows a single-story home with three vehicles in the driveway.
Annual sales and revenue for Fallen Hero Bracelets is not publicly disclosed in state records, although correspondence between the company and the Washington AG’s office provides some insight.
In a letter to the state consumer protection division, Friedmann explained the nonprofit spent $60,000 to $80,000 in 2017 on shipping costs alone.
Additionally, in a separate letter obtained through a public records request, Friedmann told state investigators in 2016 he doesn’t collect a salary.
“I have not received a paycheck since 2009, and have funded our nonprofit effort out of my own pocket since that time,” wrote Friedmann.
In addition to its own nonprofit, the Fallen Hero Bracelets website also has links for various veterans’ organizations and charities, including the Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit. The site prominently features the Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit logo and sells several items using, “CK Kyle Sniper” in the product description.
“The Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit has absolutely no association with Fallen Hero Bracelets, nor do they have permission to use our logo,” said Wayne Kyle of the Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit in an email to KGW. “They have been told previously to cease use of the logo.”
Many customers told KGW they felt misled by the Fallen Hero Bracelets website.
“It appeared to be for a good cause,” said customer Joshua Barney. “I was really disappointing when I never received anything. Not only that, but how they treated me as a customer.”
Below is the complete response from Fallen Hero Bracelets sent to KGW via email:
Thank you for your interest in our company and organization. Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on past, or current, or pending legal matters. Unfortunately, in the course of business we have had to deal with a small percentage of individuals who choose to disregard industry standard lead times, and then defraud us by engaging in bank fraud. Unfortunately, we also have had several individuals engage in defamation and false representations of the facts regarding their transactions with us in efforts to slander and libel our organization. The consumer complaints we have received have all been filed by individuals who received their orders within the time frames promised. In some cases those individuals were refunded. We also deal with threats of violence and even death threats from those very same consumers. It is unfortunate that people choose to engage in behavior intentionally and with malice in an effort to damage the reputations of others. After over 900,000 transactions in 15 years, 20 to 30 issues are an expected byproduct of doing business over the internet.
Have a good day.
Chief Legal Officer