Heartbroken hot yoga fans say the sudden closure of a studio in Thousand Oaks has cost them hundreds of dollars they may never get back.
Practitioners at Bikram Yoga Thousand Oaks say the studio’s owner, Beatrice Samson, sold them prepaid workout packages, then without warning, abruptly closed up shop in February without offering refunds.
Tania Stappard told the I-Team she had recently purchases a year’s worth of classes for $800 in cash when the studio went out of business.
“It’s just the last place you would expect someone to do this,” Stappard said.
“The night before she shutdown the studio, she was still selling packages,” Stappard alleged. “She not only pushed people to buy just one deal, she kept pushing to buy this deal over and over again.”
After the closure, said Stappard, “I texted (Samson), I called her, I emailed her and she never called me back.”
Stappard added she’s now suing Samson in small claims court to recover her money.
The I-Team contacted Bikram Yoga International, which licenses studios around the world, and was told Bikram Yoga Thousand Oaks was neither affiliated nor licensed to use its name.
Chief investigator of the Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs Rigoberto Reyes says there are legitimate reasons for some businesses closing without giving warning or refunds to customers. However, Reyes explained, “it also could be fraud if a business owner had reason to know that they weren’t going to make it and they kept taking money.”
Samson declined to be interviewed, citing a “medical issue,” but contacted by phone, she disputed any notion that she knowingly took money from customers when she knew her business would close. She told the I-Team her studio was “stolen” from her, but would not elaborate.
The I-Team spoke with Kevin Mattison, who opened a new studio, Hot Yoga 1000, in the same space last month.
“This is a yoga community, abandonment is atypical,” Mattison said.
Mattison told the I-Team he has offered to honor any prepaid package for three months, despite the financial hit he’ll take.
“I am balancing that wrong with something right, not expecting money in return, but expecting balance in return,” Mattison said.
Stappard is grateful, but says nevertheless she’ll have a hard time getting over her disappointment with Samson’s actions.
“I hope this woman never says “namaste” again,” she said.
The case serves as a powerful reminder to use a credit card (not debit card, cash or check) when purchasing goods and services; under the Fair Credit Billing Act, and certain credit card companies’ rules, consumers whose merchandise was not delivered can usually get a refund on their credit card.
If a company you’ve done business shuts its doors while still owing you money or merchandise, the Better Business Bureau has this advice:
- First, try to contact the company directly with a certified letter.
- If the certified letter goes unanswered and there is no way to contact the company, you can file a dispute with your credit card company if that was the method of payment. To be eligible under federal law, you must file the dispute within 60 days of the transaction.
- If you are owed a large amount of money, and paid by cash or check, consider consulting an attorney.
- You can file a formal complaint with your local government’s Department of Consumer Fraud.