Nearly a dozen (and counting) teenagers in The Suffolk County News’ coverage area were devastated that their prom dresses, ordered from Merrily Couture of New York LLC, an establishment in Mount Sinai—as early as January of this year in some cases—would not be delivered by the retailer in time for the high school milestone event. But local boutique, Eva’s Dresses, in Sayville, came through and managed to rush orders for the young women to receive their dresses.
Local Facebook group, Sayville Moms, rang the alarm when a number of parents in the area spoke of major issues with receiving prom dresses in time and administrators noticed that all the orders were with the same retailer, Merrily Couture, located on the North Shore, and that the orders, which ranged in price from $700 to $1,000, were all from high-end fashion house, Jovani.
In all the cases discussed with The Suffolk County News, parents were asked to Venmo the cost of the dress and lured with that practice by the owner, Merrily Ottomanelli, because she would not charge the requisite Suffolk County sales tax of 8.63 percent.
Ottomanelli’s attorney said it was not typical of his client to request payment via Venmo.
The Suffolk County News attempted to contact Ottomanelli through nearly 10 cell and landline numbers listed for her, multiple email accounts, and social media profiles, but did not receive a reply by time of print. Ottomanelli’s attorney said that their client “enjoyed a fine reputation, servicing satisfied customers for many years.”
They characterized the demonstrators as a “small group of loud protestors [who] achieved what they really sought: a flash of momentary fame.”
Warning that “in direct proportion as the protestors stir internet and media troubles, they diminish the number of Merrily’s customers,” the protestors would diminish Ottomanelli’s “ability to promptly give refunds.”
The attorney chided the efforts as “not a brilliant tactic.”
Parents said that in multiple instances, the shipping date with the manufacturer was documented as early as April, but that the dress had still not been delivered by Ottomanelli.
When demanding refunds for the sizeable purchases, Ottomanelli did not respond to her clients, who staged a protest in front of the store on Sunday, June 4.
Eva’s Dresses, owned by Eva Sarlis Pappas, said when she heard of the situation she was “absolutely heartbroken” for the young women affected and felt she needed “to do everything possible” to help them feel their best for the prom.
Sarlis Pappas helped nearly 10 students get their dresses within a couple of days of heading into her shop.
In the group chat for those affected by Ottomanelli’s business practices, many mothers spoke highly of Sarlis Pappas and said how “understanding” and “helpful” she was during the difficult process.
Jovani, the wholesaler, which was contacted directly by some of Ottomanelli’s dissatisfied customers, said they “had not had any significant issues with delivering merchandise to our authorized retailers and carry over 60,000 dresses in stock, specifically during the prom season (i.e., December to May),” as Ottomanelli claimed.
“We’ve worked diligently to ensure one-time deliveries to all of our stores,” said Felicity Garay Stanton, from Jovani’s public relations department.
In regards to their retailers, Jovani said they require accounts to “stay in good standing with us in order to ship merchandise ordered.” They declined to say definitively if Merrily Couture was an account in good standing, but added, “Without good standing, we unfortunately cannot ship dresses. And this goes for all retailers, both domestic and international.”
Stanton confirmed that the wholesaler had been contacted by a few customers who “have unfortunately been impacted by the store’s contractual requirements not being met in order to stay in good standing,” and suggested contacting other authorized retailers as they cannot make sales directly with the public.
“We can ensure that these styles are in stock and ready to ship,” concluded Stanton in Jovani’s official statement to The Suffolk County News.
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