Pembroke Pines spa closes, leaves customers clinging to gift certificates
Owner of Living Waters European Medical Spa & Salon declines repeated requests for interview
PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – For months Susan Jones has been trying to get a straight answer from the owner of Living Waters European Medical Spa & Salon.
"I was a loyal customer for years," Jones said.
Her husband purchased a gift certificate for $205 from the Pembroke Pines spa for a tranquility spa package as a birthday present.
Unfortunately for Jones, before she got the chance to book the day of pampering she received a shock.
In October the spa suddenly closed its doors, making the surprise announcement on Facebook.
"We are very sad to announce that Living Waters will be closing the doors due to unfortunate circumstances," the Oct. 12 post said. "We truly appreciate your loyalty over the years and ask that you bear with us during this difficult time. We will be keeping you posted on any new changes. Please feel free to continue to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates and additional information."
Customers who prepaid for pricey spa treatments or were stuck with hundreds of dollars in gift cards took to the company's Facebook page seeking a refund.
"Please give us a little bit of time to figure out about the unused gift cards -- if we reopen, which we hope to do, this will not be an issue," the company said in an Oct. 12 post.
As the weeks and months followed, the mounting questions regarding gift cards went unanswered.
Frustrated, Jones decided to call Local 10 News consumer advocate Christina Vazquez.
"I would like to get my money back and get a refund," Jones said.
The spa's owner, James Milardo, said via telephone that he is not the bad guy but a victim of a weak economy. The Pembroke Pines building is currently in receivership.
"Unfortunately, you're going to find yourself out of luck because what happens here is you become another creditor to these people," former state and federal prosecutor David Weinstein told Vazquez. "You have gone into debt and you just have to line up with everyone else who owes them money."
For Jones, it is not just about the money.
"How do the owners do that to their clientele -- just suddenly close and go silent?" she said. "I think that's the frustrating part."
Is it in Milardo's best interest to break his silence with customers posing questions on Facebook and contacting Local 10 News? Yes, Weinstein said, if he ever plans on going into business again.
"If they ever hope to resurrect themselves and come out of the bankruptcy and start this business up again, they need to keep that client base," Weinstein said. "If their plan is, 'We failed. We tried. This isn't going to work anymore,' and they are done and finished, then there's no reason for them to reach out to people."
Local 10 News offered Milardo the opportunity to address the concerns of his clients, but he repeatedly declined requests for an interview.
Vazquez also contacted the attorney general's office, Better Business Bureau, an online credit card marketplace and several banks.
Each carrier varies, but if someone purchased the gift certificate with a credit card, industry experts said it is worth calling the number on the back of the card to file a dispute.
"I hope whatever they do decide to do in the future, I wish them the best, because Living Waters Day Spa was a very great place," Jones said. "I am sorry they closed and I wish them well in the future."
Follow Christina Vazquez on Twitter @CallChristinaTV
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