WEST LINN, Ore. -- Bonnie North admits she signed a contract with a West Linn tanning salon. But she says the details had not been properly explained, and she was suddenly facing a $200 cancellation.
"It was my birthday in June, so I just wanted to get a tanning package for a month,” she said.
She decided to get a package from the Willamette Drive franchise of Islands Tanning & Nails Inc.
“I signed it, and after that I asked about the cancellation," she said. She asked if she should give a few days notice before canceling. "He said I have to have it for at least six months and after that a cancellation fee.”
Frustrated and upset at herself for not reading the one-page contract she signed, North tanned several times. She figured she might as well use what she paid for.
Then she went online and discovered several complaints similar to hers on Yelp.com. That’s when she called Unit 8 Investigators. She said the employee's explanation was misleading, and it was a actually a one-year contract with a minimum $200 cancellation fee.
Nearly two months after signing it--and tanning numerous times--she wanted out of the contract she signed. She went to the Willamette Drive store to speak to a manager.
“He kept using the word 'they,'" she said. "He said 'They could charge you thousands of dollars. They could do this; they could do that,' so I assumed there was someone else I should be talking to."
But North said when she asked who that would be, North said the employee answered, “Me.”
“Then he revealed to me that my contract wasn't up until May of 2013, which not at any point had he ever said that,” North said. When she asked about starting the cancellation process, she says the employee's demeanor changed. "He was straight faced, looked right at me and was really intimidating. I started getting all choked up and left, because I started crying.”
Unit 8 Investigators talked with both the owner of the Willamette Drive franchise and the CEO of Islands Tanning Inc. but each declined an on-camera interview.
On the phone CEO John Guyette said, “We have an A rating with the Better Business Bureau and you don’t get that when you’ve got unanswered complaints.”
According to the Oregon Attorney General’s office, there have been 18 formal complaints over the past few years, none of which were about the Willamette Drive franchise. The complainants had contract issues with franchises in Portland, Wilsonville, Oregon City and Tualatin.
Unit 8 asked for a copy of Islands Tanning contract at the Willamette Drive franchise but was asked to leave the premises.
Outside the business, long-time customer Mimi Durbin said she was very satisfied with the company and the employees.
But when asked about the $200 minimum cancellation fee on the contract North signed, Durbin said, “Wow. No I've never been aware of anything like that. I buy my packages, I use them, and then I buy another one.”
When asked about her overall experience with Islands Tanning Durbin said, “Yeah, it’s been good.”
North emailed a copy of the contract she signed, and it clearly lists all the fees she would face for early termination of the contract. It wasn't clear exactly what employees told her she was signing before she did.
North said earlier this week she talked with a woman at the Tualatin Islands Tanning, which she was told was the corporate headquarters. She said she was told if she paid the minimum $200 before August, her contract would be canceled.
“It still makes me nervous because I don't have that in writing," she said. "I looked up other reviews on the Internet and people are saying they're still taking money out of their accounts when the contracts are expired.”