Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
LAYTON – Holiday decorations are going up, but not for some people who hired a professional light installer to handle that task for them.
Those customers reached out to the KSL Investigators after the installer left them wondering what happened to their lights.
Outsourcing holiday cheer
At the Clyde home, the Christmas decorations have been up indoors since early November at the insistence of 5-year-old Max. But a key exterior decoration is still missing – the lights on their house.
Whitney Clyde hired a company called Vibrant Lighting last year to put up the lights on her tall townhome.
"And our driveway is steep, and I just thought this will be worth the money," Clyde said.
She paid $400 for the lights and the install.
"They're wonderful," she said about her lights. "They look good because he custom cuts the cords to your roof and we had him around our garage so there was no extra hanging wire. They were hung perfect."
But it was the long-term promise from the company that really sold her.
"You pay for the lights upfront and then the deal is he puts up, takes down and stores them for the year," Clyde told KSL.
She planned to use Vibrant again this year but could not get the company to respond to her.
"So, I keep calling along with everybody else who is now just figuring it out that their lights are not coming," she said.
It is the same story for Brett Cragun.
"We haven't been able to get ahold of the owner of the company," he explained.
Cragun showed us the Vibrant Lighting's Facebook page where several other customers have complained.
"Dozens of posts. Nobody has been able to get an answer as to where the lights are," he said.
What are your rights?
Companies going out of business certainly happens. Be it a mechanic, a dry cleaner or a guy holding your Christmas lights, what are your rights if a company shuts its doors with your stuff inside?
"Once you purchase something, it is yours," said Britta Clark of the Better Business Bureau of Utah. She said there are several steps consumers can take to try to get their stuff back when a company goes silent including sending certified letters, filing a small claims suit, maybe even calling the police.
"You just have to call your local police department and tell them what's going on," Clark said.
But in the BBB's experience, a company going completely silent is not the norm.
"A lot of times, companies don't want to just disappear, though, leaving their customers in the lurch," she said.
Vibrant Lighting's customers did feel left in the lurch. Like them, our calls and emails to the company went unreturned. So, the KSL Investigators turned to state regulators.
By law, the Utah Division of Consumer Protection is not allowed to say if they have received complaints against the company. We do know they have not taken any action against Vibrant Lighting. And Department of Commerce records do show the company's registration is expired. They also list its address: a home in east Layton.
The KSL Investigators went to the house and while we still could not reach Vibrant Lighting's owner, Clay Larkin, his wife, Kelly, spoke to us.
"We're not holding them hostage," Kelly Larkin said about the holiday lights.
Larkin said that her husband suffered a knee injury, making it impossible for him to climb a ladder. With hundreds of customers, communicating became overwhelming – especially when she says some customers became aggressive and started showing up at their doorstep.
"We didn't steal your car. We didn't abduct your kid. It's Christmas lights," Larkin said about some of the confrontations.
"No, but people paid for something. And they're frustrated and they can't get an answer," I responded.
"Yeah," Larkin acknowledged.
The good news: Vibrant Lighting still has the lights. And while Clay Larkin won't be doing any installations this year, Kelly Larkin said he will absolutely get the lights back to people.
In fact, a few hours after the KSL Investigators stopped by, Clay Larkin sent an email to his customers explaining everything, apologizing for the poor communication, and telling them how they can get their lights back.
Vibrant Lighting has been in business for more than a decade, and Kelly Larkin said they hope to restart next year.
"This is the first time that this has ever happened. I mean, he's doing the best he can."
Since our investigation began, KSL can confirm some of Vibrant Lighting's customers have gotten their lights back. Others have told Vibrant to hold onto their lights with the hopes the company and its owner really are back on their feet by next Christmas.