LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - When you see a deal, you like to jump on it. But recent deals with a local dance fitness studio for zumba classes left customers holding dance card with lots of dance and fitness time left on them.
Several viewers turned to the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter for help when a Highview area studio closed up with no notice and only a text message. Now customers want their money back, so I launched a WAVE 3 Troubleshooter investigation and the Kentucky Attorney General's office wants answers too.
Zumba is the latest craze in working out, dancing your way to a better body, Latin style. But these women say the owner of "A Fabulous Me Fitness," a zumba dance studio on Fern Valley Road, is trying to dance off with their money.
"She was taking us for a ride," said Mindy Riley.
Riley is one of a number of women who sent emails and Facebook messages to the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department after owner Jenn Fabel abruptly closed her doors in mid December with a text message.
"I was like, wow," Riley said after receiving the text.
Stephanie Beavers said Fabel called off class a few times before with little notice but no one expected her to shut down all together. She and her friends had spent $60 each on two packages of classes just a month earlier.
"I have one whole card that is unused and 3 or 4 on another one," Beavers said.
Beavers is not alone. Fabel sold more than 250 Groupon deals in November. According to her website, she was selling zumba packages with "holiday pricing" right up until the day she suspended operations December 13th.
That makes Melissa Moore feel as though Fabel was just after customer's money.
"She had to know what was happening," Moore said. "And she continued to sell specials and additional cards."
But according to our WAVE 3 Troubleshooter investigation, Fabel was not paying all her bills. I uncovered documents that showed Fabel was nearly evicted in October after falling three months behind on her rent. The building owner stopped the eviction after Fabel paid half of the $3,470 she owed. I've learned he is not the only one trying to collect.
After Fabel abruptly shut down last month, customers demanded refunds for unused sessions, but say Fabel refused pointing to a "no refund" clause in her contract.
"But to me that was if I chose to quit going," Beavers said, "not if she canceled classes."
The Kentucky Attorney General's office agrees. In an email spokesperson Shelly Johnson told the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department "adding language to the contract or coupons such as 'non-refundable' does not mean that the business may change its mind and not provide the service without providing a refund."
In response to our questions, and customer complaints, the Attorney General's office opened its own investigation in January.
Fabel refused to appear on camera for our story, but in a phone interview she blamed the problems on health issues. Fabel said she was diagnosed in November with a stomach illness. The illness is treatable with antibiotics, but Fabel said the diagnosis left her unable to run her business.
"The fact that I have been sick is what started this whole mess," said Fabel. "When I am not able to teach I am not able to make money."
"I'm trying everything I can to figure out a way to get things fixed but my health first and foremost is most important of all," Fabel continued. "I don't have the money to refund anybody at this point."
Fabel said, "I don't know what they want me to do."
At the time we began our investigation, Fabel's website promised she would be reopening in January. But she can't zumba without a studio and Fabel's landlord has once again filed for eviction after she missed another rent payment in December.
Over the weekend, Fabel pulled down "A Fabulous Me's" website which left her customers feeling anything but fabulous.
"People invested in her business to help her out, and she just cold turkey quit," Beavers said.
The Attorney General's office wants customers holding unused zumba cards to file a complaint with their office. You can do that by calling 1-888-432-9257 or going to the AG website by clicking here.
In the meantime, other zumba instructors who heard about our investigation into "A Fabulous Me Fitness" are offering their help. Tonya Deetch, owner of zumbachick fitness studio in Louisville is offering 5 free zumba classes to anyone holding at least 5 unused classes to "A Fabulous Me Fitness." Call (502) 819-8443 or contact Tonya through her website, www.zumbachick.com, for more details.
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