HARVEY, La. - Less than 24 hours after Eyewitness News broke a story about a defunct Harvey spa selling thousands of dollars in worthless gift certificates, the business has stopped accepting money for services it can't offer.
When Kathy Griffin realized her son spent hundreds of dollars on Valentines Day for gift certificates to a spa that no longer exists, she turned to Eyewitness News.
“I got really angry, that's when I said let me see if Channel 4, if it's a big enough story for y’all to investigate and I'm really glad that I did,” said Griffin.
Turns out, Spa Manhattan shut down over six months ago, (http://www.wwltv.com/news/local/Defunct-Westbank-spa-still-accepting-money-for-services-it-cant-provide-246246751.html) but was still selling thousands of dollars in bogus gift certificates through it's website.
When I tracked down the owner, Randal Norris, he claimed he was shocked.
He believes the issue stems from a misunderstanding with the contractor that facilitated online gift certificate sales, SpaBoom.
SpaBoom had no comment, citing client privacy. But just hours after I contacted them Wednesday, SpaBoom made a major change.
They shut down the part of the website that allows customers to buy online gift certificates, though the rest of Spa Manhattan’s website is still up and running.
“Very glad to see that other people can't be scammed by Spa Manhattan,” said Griffin.
But there are still more questions than answers, like where all the money has gone. Griffin's son was able to get his money back through his bank, which in turn will try to get its money back from Spa Manhattan. But there are still dozens of others who have lost thousands of dollars.
“The money is going somewhere,” said Jennifer Gautro, who received a gift certificate just months before the spa closed. “There's no way it's in la la land, up in the air.”
Gautro is one of many who received gift certificates when the spa was still operating but were unable to redeem them before the spa closed. She believes those gift certificates, which expire one year after the purchase date, should be refunded as well.
A former employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said the business shut down abruptly, with only a day’s notice to employees. She said she would be disgusted if the business was intentionally selling gift certificates on its website after closing its doors.
“To hear that you were a part of a company that could be doing this, and you not even know about it at all, makes you just think about the past few years that you worked for that company,” she said, through tears.
Norris said SpaBoom emailed his former manager, Virginia Walker, after the initial Eyewitness News story aired, asking for updated contact information for the company.
Walker forwarded that email to Norris. By the time Norris followed up Thursday, SpaBoom had already shut down Spa Manhattan’s ability to sell online gift cards.
Norris said Walker contacted SpaBoom after his spa closed to ask them to stop selling gift cards, but SpaBoom told Norris there was no record of that. Norris said, according to SpaBoom, the money has been deposited into the same account as always. Norris said he called the bank Thursday, but didn’t have the account number. He plans to go to the bank in person sometime next week when he gets a “day off from work.”
Norris said he will refund money from people who bought gift certificates after the spa closed, if he can find it.
If you have a bogus gift certificate, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General, or the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office.