HARVEY, La. - Dozens of people believe they're being swindled by a now defunct Westbank spa.
Spa Manhattan, once located in Harvey's upscale Fountain Park Centre, has been closed for months but is apparently still accepting money for services it can't provide.
Kathy Griffin was thrilled when her son gave her a $100 gift certificate to Spa Manhattan for Valentine's Day.
“He works hard for his money so it was really touching that he would do something like that,” said Griffin
But that hard earned money has gone down the drain. The Harvey spa has been closed for more than six months, and Griffin's gift certificate isn't worth the paper it was printed on
“I just hope these people come forward and pay back all the money they owe people including my son,” said Griffin.
Spa Manhattan's phone is disconnected but its website is still up and running, and it is still advertising online gift certificates, sold in hundred dollar increments.
A former employee says records show 60 gift certificates worth a total of $6,600 have been sold through the company’s website since it abruptly closed it's doors.
Employees were given only a day’s notice before the spa shut down in July.
Angry customers have filed one complaint with the state Attorney General’s office and 11 complaints with the Better Business Bureau since September, dropping its BBB rating to an F.
“This is incredible, it's unbelievable that a company would do such a thing, but it does happen from time to time," said Cynthia Albert, with the BBB. "Before you do business with any company check with the BBB and you can really save yourself a lot of headaches.”
Other spas in the shopping center have fielded dozens of calls from confused customers about Spa Manhattan.
“I'm heartbroken for them, I'm furious, a lot of people have lost money from that,” said Christina Keller, co-owner of the Spa at Fountain Park.
Spa Manhattan owner Randal Norris did not return my initial calls, so I tracked him down at his Westbank home.
Norris refused to speak on camera, but said my phone message was the first he heard that people can still buy gift cards online for his now-defunct business. He claims he doesn't know where the money is going.
"I'm not a thief, I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses, it's just a business that failed,” said Norris. “I haven't received any money from the gift certificates."
Norris says frustrated customers have been calling his cell phone since September, and he answered a few but then stopped responding.
He claims he was under the impression customers were all calling about gift certificates purchased when the business was operating that had not yet been redeemed. That's another major complaint, since gift certificates were sold at the business until the day it closed.
“I have no excuse for that, of course,” said Norris, who says he currently does not have the money to refund anyone, citing outstanding debts from his failed business.
Now, Norris believes there may be some confusion with the company contracted to help sell online gift certificates, SpaBoom.
Norris said his manager, who has since moved out of state, verbally canceled the contract with SpaBoom when his business went under. He said bank accounts related to Spa Manhattan have also been “zeroed out.”
“I'm assuming if SpaBoom is depositing in the account, [the bank is] taking it for outstanding debts, I don't know,” said Norris, who had not yet contacted SpaBoom at the time of this report.
A representative for SpaBoom would not comment on the specific case, citing client privacy. SpaBoom’s website says the company deducts commission and credit card processing fees from gift certificate purchases, then deposits the balance directly into a business’s bank account.
A leasing office representative for Fountain Park Centre said Spa Manhattan owes a significant amount of back pay for rent, but would not give a specific number.
If you have a gift certificate for Spa Manhattan, you can file a complaint with the BBB, the Attorney General, and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office.