I bought a membership for a service at a local business a 2 or 3 years ago. I had been a customer for 5 years. The business recently switched owners. I loved the previous owner and staff. They were always welcoming, friendly and professional. I decided to cancel my membership in November, 2023 via email. The response I got was letting me know that the service I was paying for monthly will expire after 90 days and that I should have six sessions remaining. I should actually have 9 remaining on file. I emailed back to advise that I was not aware that they had updated the terms of the membership that allowed for previously paid for services to expire and I asked for a copy of the agreement I had originally signed. It remains to be seen whether it was a couldn’t or wouldn’t send a copy but the response I got advised that the new owner wasn’t sure if it was written anywhere that I would have been aware of and blamed the previous owners. This didn’t sit well with me that I was being given excuses and essentially blaming people no longer active in the decision making of the company. People that I really liked and respected. It very much came across as gaslighting. My first interaction with the new owners left me very confused and frustrated.
I immediately had a gut-feeling that I know longer wanted to be associated with this company. I unfollowed them and removed them as following me. I didn’t see the need in blocking them as I had no interest in reaching out again and didn’t anticipate them harassing me online. I deleted all social media posts and removed any tags that I was in. I removed all posts off my website. I never had a contract nor was paid to advertise them. I posted about them because I felt like the services could be beneficial to other people who might be looking for alternate ways to relax and I really liked the business and wanted to help them in any small way that I could.
I called to book an appointment to use up my remaining sessions. I didn’t call to speak to the owners or management about this situation although it was a different owner that had taken the call. That owner advised I actually still had 9 sessions remaining in their system. The fact that I was being told one thing in email and another over the phone was very concerning for me and really didn’t make me confident in anything I was being told. They advised that the miscommunication about the number of services was due to a new employee learning the system. It felt like a lack of accountability issue and still was confusing as to why it wasn’t caught or remedied in the previous email from the other owner. During this conversation it had switched from being about me as a customer to my business as I wanted to let her know that my previous request to have her on the podcast or participate in holiday giveaways wouldn’t be a good fit as I didn’t think that our values aligned anymore. I let them know that I had unfollowed, removed all posts and that I wouldn’t be posting about them moving forward. I wanted to be able to use up the services I paid for, as fast as possible and to end this chapter of me being a paying customer and I asked for everything that we discussed about the amount of remaining floats be provided in writing. It wasn’t sent to me in writing.
My initial interaction with this company under the previous ownership was in 2019. I was gifted a service which I wrote about for a different blog that I was working with at the time. I was not under contract or paid obligation to post about them after that. I always try to support small businesses or local businesses whenever possible. I also value transparency and fairness which is something that I have frequently brought up on the podcast. I want to ensure that if I am supporting a company, that it is one that I would feel comfortable doing business with. I don’t want to support something just for content’s sake. I want my readers, listeners and followers to trust my recommendations and the brands that I choose to partner with.
One of my first jobs was working retail in Metrotown. We had customer service drilled into us and were often secret shopped and graded on our performance. I am so grateful for that education. I learned really quick on how to anticipate my customers needs and to be happy anyone was choosing to shop with us when they had so many alternate options. I also learned you only have one chance to make a first impression. I also worked as a server in a restaurant where it was common practice for a customer to get upset if they had to ask for something multiple times. As my job in a corporate setting it is common practice to get as much accomplished in one email so there was no need to have a long email thread. My experience isn’t everyone’s experience but I also feel like the bar isn’t that high to provide decent customer service.
Every interaction with the new owners was frustrating and didn’t really feel like we were having the same conversation. It really felt like we were talking about two separate things and wasn’t landing. I had still not been provided the information confirming the actual number of sessions that I had left and the dates that they were expiring so I had to send another email. I am a single parent and the caregiver to a senior citizen. I work both inside my home and outside of it. I am the maid, taxi and chef within my home. To say that I didn’t have the time or energy to dedicate to sending multiple emails to get this sorted is an understatement. They did respond to that email detailing the correct number of sessions I had with expiration dates two days prior to my appointment. They felt like they had made an exception to give me all my sessions that I had paid for with a longer expiration date that I didn’t ask for. As a consumer who purchased a membership and then had the terms of the membership changed without providing any documentation that this was happening so to provide me with what I had purchased isn’t working with me to create a solution or providing above and beyond customer service which is how they expected me to feel. They were providing me exactly what I had paid for but with multiple emails added for extra stress. Transparency is very important to me so I pushed for them to update their website with the terms of their memberships. At the time of the initial email, this wasn’t on their website or social media channels. It also wasn’t emailed to me when my membership renewed in October 2023. When the new owners took over there was no email or newsletter to members advising that there was a change in the membership terms.
When I arrived for my service, I was the first time slot of the morning. I intentionally book this so that I can go back to sleep and use it to relax. Part of the terms of the sessions is that the clients are supposed to arrive ten minutes prior to the appointment time. This has always been advised and isn’t a new policy. This was still listed on the information in the reminder text I had received to confirm my appointment. When I arrived for my service I was surprised to see the open sign illuminated but the door locked. I already was not as comfortable attending this session as I had been previously because of how unnecessarily complicated dealing with the owners had been. I really just wanted to get in and get out. When I had mentioned the door being locked and the sign being on, I asked if it was maybe an oops. The owner advised that the sign gets turned on while the staff is in the building but that the door remains locked until the business opens. This didn’t seem logical to me that they would turn the sign on before they were actually open. The previous owners would switch the sign to on so that you knew that they had unlocked the door and you were able to come inside. They would unlock the doors a bit early to accommodate for the fact that they were asking you to arrive early for your appointment. If it were my business and I wanted to make a good first impression, I would either advise clients that the 10 minute early request isn’t applicable to them for the first appointments of the day, I would adjust the start time of the session to accommodate the request to have the 10 minute early arrival time, or I would ensure that staff had the doors open ready to great their first appointments 10 minutes prior to their start time. It was not a great first impression in person.
After that awkward interaction, I filled out my liability form again, and was offered a tour. The facility had not been remodeled once the new owners had taken over. I reminded him that I have been here for the last 5 years and was familiar with where everything was. I asked which room my session was taking place and he continued to follow me to my room while answering which was extremely uncomfortable. Previous staff would only take you to your room if you had never been their before and otherwise it was very hands off which I liked. I didn’t feel like I needed to be followed around the premise. I was asked if I wanted music at the beginning of the session which I replied no thanks. I am prone to migraines and woke up with a headache that morning. In previous sessions you can opt to listen to gentle soothing music that they provide or plug your own playlist into their system. Once the session had started the music started playing at a loud volume that I had never experienced previously. I already suffer from hyperacusis which is a reduced tolerance to sound. The music was causing me physical pain and made my headache go from bad to worse. I had to remove myself from my session to phone them to have the music turned down. I barely had service in the room so it had to be a quick conversation. The music ruined the ability to relax and I really feel like that was the point of turning it on after I asked for no music to be played. The music isn’t controllable by the customer in the treatment room. Once I was in the common area, I asked a staff member to update my file to say no music. I explained that it was extremely loud and uncomfortable. She advised that she had already done so after I called and I thanked her. The owner had been in earshot of the conversation and in a manner I interpreted as smug asked how my service went. My whole interaction with the owner had been so uncomfortable so in response to his question I just said have a nice day and left as quickly as possible.
Considering how much inconsistent information I had been provided by the owners, I wasn’t shocked to see that I had an email revoking my membership with a partial refund for October and November. I was told to follow up with the previous owners who are not affiliated with the company to get refunded for the six sessions I paid for but was being denied a refund or access to use them. This is over $300 that I paid for the services that I was not advised expired. When the new owners purchased the company it made pre-existing memberships fall under their responsibility but they said that they don’t have to honor them. I worry about what this also means for previous gift card holders or people who bought packages under the old owners. They felt like they had worked with me to have a solution and that I was not friendly enough or grateful enough so it was being revoked, two days after they advised in writing that it was being honored and the expiration date was being extended 6 months. As a customer, it is not my responsibility to make conversation with staff or be extra alert and friendly early in the morning and with a headache and especially when they have created an unprofessional demeanor from the first interaction. During my session I did everything that I was required to do which included filling out the liability forms, showering, after I put all my towels in the same spot I had always been advised to on the mat in the shower so that it is easy for the staff to clean, returned any used equipment to where it could be easily spotted and cleaned by staff. I did forget to add the candles back to the table from the floor where I placed them as I had moved them to store my clothing but were still clearly in the treatment room. While in the common area, I threw away any products that I had used in the appropriate bin and placed the container back in their regular spot as to not make a mess. I am curious to whether a man would be judged for not being “friendly” enough. The whole situation made the service that I paid for feel uncomfortable and awkward. It wasn’t somewhere I was going to look forward to going and just wanted to finish my sessions that I paid for and never return. As a customer that paid for a service, wasn’t told that service came with an expiration date and was now being denied access to the service and a full refund. I also feel like they could have cancelled my membership from the initial emails and save me the time of having to go to my service but wanted to try to spin this into somehow being my fault instead of just admitting they missed a step when they changed the terms of the membership agreements.
I really anticipated the business flip flopping on what they were going to do because of the inconsistent emails and miscommunication depending on who you are talking with. As someone who had a long-term relationship with an abusive narcissist, the mansplaining, the gaslighting, the condescending behavior was instantly a red flag. I never threatened this company with anything other than getting the Consumer Protection Agency or lawyers involved for changing the terms of the membership I paid for without advising me. They did accuse me after the fact of threatening them without being able to provide specifics to me about what I allegedly said. The thing that makes that so funny to me is if I had been someone making threats than the logical thing would have been to refund me after that call and to end my membership at that time, not to honor the membership based on the terms with which I purchased. I never mentioned the company even though I could have after our initial email. Instead, I removed any posts associating my business, myself and the company. Any post I had made about how I enjoyed my service or about the benefits of the services no longer were relevant. I removed the tags from other people who I had invited to their business in a professional setting. I stopped following them and removed them from following me. I didn’t want my reputation linked to a business that I feel like doesn’t exhibit professionalism in a standard that I feel is acceptable. I didn’t want to give them publicity in any form even a negative post as that still would get them views. As a consumer who had a negative experience with a company or product can absolutely share their experience without it being seen as libel or slanderous especially when they have the emails or receipts to back up their claims. It is the reason customer reviews exist. Companies that don’t feel like they are in the wrong shouldn’t be worried about their customers making honest reviews. My daughter made a one star review on Google, which they responded to her as if it were me, which if they would have searched in their customer database they would have seen that she was also a customer, as well as a minor, and left what she felt was an honest review. If I wanted to make a Google review from my own account, I easily could have and wouldn’t have felt the need to post from someone else’s account. I did delete my previous positive rating as it was no longer relevant. In the response to my daughter’s review, the owner alleges that he recorded the interaction when I was in the building without my consent. I think that this further proves that they intentionally made the interaction uncomfortable to encourage me to get mad so that they could have “proof” to back up any claims they were going to try to make about me.
When a business is rebranding and immediately loses staff that have worked there for years and treats pre-existing customers this way will show their behavior’s to the public on their own. I didn’t need to be a part of that. In this economy, customer service is more important than ever before. During my first phone call, booking my session, I explained that I would never post about their business on my platform again. I am not sure if they felt like because they offered me what I paid for that this would change. This seemed to be an issue for them when I posted about the benefits of the session that are not exclusive to their business. I mentioned another local company instead as I do try to support local businesses especially ones in my community which the business that I had the membership with is not located within my city. I was a paying customer there. I am not required to post about my experience about any business I frequent. I do have a media kit for the companies that do want to contract me to share my experience. As someone who creates content, I am free to share about the benefits of a service that could help anyone regardless of which organization they choose to do it with. I always disclose when I am sharing something because I have purchased it or whether it is an ad campaign.
I think its really unfortunate that my experience with this company is ending in such a negative manner especially since I cannot say enough positive things about the previous owners and staff. In my opinion, the new owners need to learn to take accountability for their business practices instead of blaming people that are no longer involved in the situations that they themselves are causing. I also will not be giving this more energy and they haven’t upset me in a way that I think they were hoping to. I always push for communication to be in writing for this exact reason. I will not be accused of making threats or other slanderous behavior because my actions and emails will always speak for themselves. If there are unfounded attacks on my business or character I will pursue them legally. To the company mad that I am publishing my side, I want to remind you that I haven’t mentioned your company, city the company is located, or type of service I had a membership to. I previously removed any mention of your brand on my social media channels and website. I will continue to have a membership elsewhere and continue doing the same services, I will continue to post about those services and brands without it being spiteful and vindictive to the company that didn’t want to honor the services I paid for. I will continue to do podcasts with similar business owners and have been inspired to have episodes with lawyers regarding consumer affairs to hopefully save someone else from being taken advantage of. I am really grateful that organizations like the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Protections Agency exist.