Customers say they were ripped off by tanning salon

Customers say they were ripped off by tanning salon »Play Video
KATU photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Some customers of a tanning salon chain around the Portland area say the company is tricking them out of money and lying to get access to their bank accounts.

More than two dozen people have filed complaints with the Oregon Attorney General in the last four years against Islands Tanning, with multiple local stores. Some of those people also recently contacted KATU for help.

Many complaints revolve around the packages that Islands Tanning sells, where you’re supposed to get a discount for buying several tanning sessions at once.

Andrea Ciudin thought buying a package deal at the Tigard location of Islands Tanning would save her money.

“They said for $100, I will give you a whole month to do whatever you want to do,” Ciudin explained. “A body wrap, tanning, blue light therapy, anything. So I was like ‘this is a great deal.’”

She paid with her debit card and signed a form that she said had no price listed on it.

When she asked for a copy, she was told to not worry about it and that the salon could provide one later.

Later, she called Islands Tanning with a question about her $100 package.

“They said, you have a $1,400 package.  And I said ‘no, I don’t,’!” Ciudin said.

But it wasn’t a joke. Ciudin said the tanning salon had changed her $100, one-month contract to a $1,400, nine-month contract.

“Totally unfair,” she said.

Ciudin tried to resolve the problem, but said employees would only give her a fax number for company president Jon Guyette. She faxed him and asked to see her contract.

“I still asked for a copy and he said “well, we don’t have it anymore,’” Ciudin said.

Ciudin said Guyette also told her the company does not allow cancellations unless she paid a $200 fee.

“Next thing I know, there’s $200 taken out of my bank account,” she said.

Ciudin is one of more than 30 people who filed complaints with the Oregon Attorney General about the tanning salon chain.

A woman whom we are calling “Stephanie” also filed a complaint against Islands Tanning. She doesn’t want to have her real name published out of fear of retribution.

Stephanie and other people who filed complaints said employees lied to them about contracts, so they signed, based on those lies.

In Stephanie’s case, she said she was told there would be no charge for canceling after six months. She tried to cancel, but says the employee showed her the contract, showing there would be a charge.

Stephanie tried to find the corporate office to meet with Guyette, with no success.

“He said he doesn’t have an office. He works out of his house,” she said.

Stephanie said Guyette did not help and instead charged her a $200 cancellation fee. He also wrote this response to the Better Business Bureau: “I believe this lady is emailing us from the mental institution. Please notify authorities!”

After hearing these stories, we went to find Guyette at his home and office in Tualatin. We asked for his thoughts on the complaints leveled against his company.

He told us not to come to his door and bother him, and then he shut the door.

Former employee’s perspective

Katy Lynch offers an inside view of Islands Tanning.  She says she is a former employee who worked there for six weeks in 2011.

She told us she regularly saw salespeople deceiving customers and misrepresenting costs.

“Really, what the business is about is sales at all costs and money at all costs,” Lynch said.

She said employees, as a practice, tried to get customers to quickly sign contracts before they could read them.

“They say ‘this is what your payment’s going to be, this is how many months,’” Lynch explained. “You know, ‘initial here and sign and date at the bottom and we need your card.’”

As a result, Lynch said Islands Tanning got a stream of complaints and irate customers calling and coming in to the stores. She said people would complain about still being charged after their contract ended or being charged for extra fees.

Guyette later emailed us a statement.

“All customer concerns are addressed very quickly, whether faxed in, mailed in, through the BBB or any other manner,” the email said. “We have always maintained the utmost pride in this aspect of our business.”

He also said his company has a perfect “A” rating with the BBB. Records show most of his locations do, although one has a “B.”

We wrote Guyette back to ask about the complaints on file with the state, but receive no further response.

On his Facebook page, Guyette posts pictures of a red Ferrari and a boat.  Former customer Ciudin said he should focus less on money and more on good business.

“He should change something,” she said. “If so many people are complaining about similar things, look at yourself and say ‘I need to change,’”