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'I’m not a Grinch’ – importer issues apology after slew of complaints

A Bermudian businessman has defended himself against a firestorm of complaints after residents cried foul after promised deliveries to the island of low-cost meat never arrived.

Kevin Simmons, head of US-based shipping company Ekko Trading Bermuda, said yesterday: “I accept full responsibility – we were late with the shipment and we have had issues with suppliers.”

He said he was “not the Grinch who stole Christmas” and insisted his shipment was now on the way to the island.

It came after three residents gave similar accounts to The Royal Gazette of waiting months on substantial prepaid orders of meat, and being unable to contact Mr Simmons.

Another said her delivery of a kitchen appliance only materialised after months of waiting when she threatened to denounce the company on social media.

Complaints lit up Facebook this week after irate residents claimed they had been ripped off because they never got their orders.

Mr Simmons attributed the lack of communication to problems with his phones as well as being blocked by Facebook for unspecified reasons.

He added: “I have everything in the orders – it’s being processed right now to land in Bermuda this weekend.”

He said people had “maliciously sabotaged his business” and that he had “nothing to hide”.

“But it’s a serious matter. It’s people’s finances. No one wants to feel as if they have been ripped off. I will set the record straight.”

Mr Simmons, whose said his legal first name was Kavin but who also goes by Kevin, is the Bermudian owner of a second shipping company, East Coast Exports.

Both companies set off a string of complaints from residents who asked not to be named.

One woman shared records for an order made of October 15 for $346 worth of meats from Ekko Trading, based on an ad on Facebook for “best quality meat products at the best market price”.

“He said it would be two weeks,” she said. “It’s been two months. “We work hard for our money and I do not have money to throw away.”

The woman said she had “several conversations” with Mr Simmons in the US and had been promised later deliveries.

She said he did not respond after she demanded her money back in mid-November.

She added: “He went ghost. There are people all over Facebook talking about how he took their money.”

A police spokesman said on Tuesday that no formal complaints had been filed in regard to Ekko Trading.

But the woman said she now planned to file a report with police. “I’m not playing with this man,” she said.

Christmas charity drive dropped

Kevin Simmons said he has dropped plans announced to the Gazette in November to help 300 families for Christmas in a charity drive called Project 300.

Aubrey Pennyman, the Registrar General, said yesterday that no licence existed for Project 300 to solicit funds.

Mr Pennyman added Mr Simmons had applied for a licence but the Registry General still had queries regarding the charity.

“We had queries regarding the application and he has not responded,” Mr Pennyman said.

“We reminded him it is against the regulations to solicit funds without a licence.”

Mr Simmons insisted he had accepted no donations.

Another customer, a 73-year-old woman, said she had not yet gone to police because she was deeply embarrassed after paying $340 in October and receiving nothing.

She said she had purchased meats off East Coast Exports before and spotted Ekko Trading’s Facebook ads.

“I am a senior. I live off my pension. It’s not right – as far as I am concerned, he took my money.”

The woman said she had last been told she would receive her delivery by yesterday, but simply wanted her money back.

Another woman said she had purchased a kitchen appliance off Ekko in September and received “countless excuses when I reached out via Facebook”.

“It was only until I contacted him via WhatsApp and constantly asked for updates after countless more excuses and after he saw me commenting on other people’s posts for an update that I finally received the item about two weeks ago.”

Another customer said she had received the same $19 product after six weeks of delays, which were attributed to Customs in Bermuda – which Mr Simmons said was correct.

He added: “They were held up – I had to pay a substantial amount of money to have them delivered.”

A fifth customer complained that she had ordered nearly $113 in meat off East Coast Exports in January but only received two of the five items.

But she said she decided to give the business “another chance” with a $152 purchase, and paid Mr Simmons on October 14.

Receipts confirmed the transaction, but she said she got no reply until November.

“All he said was there was a delay and he was correcting all orders in the next week.”

At the end of the month, she was told the goods would arrive this Tuesday.

She said nothing came.

“I never made a formal complaint due to waiting to see if he was ever going to keep his promise.

“I’ve had enough, though. I’ve had friends interested in ordering through him and I’ve told them my story and discouraged them.”

Mr Simmons insisted he had no reason to get a bad reputation in his home country, where he plans to visit soon and continue doing business.

He added: “People are jumping on the bandwagon that I am a scammer, but anyone who knows me knows I’m an extremely generous person.”

He said he planned to issue a public statement via Facebook to set the record straight.

“I want to be completely transparent.”

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