Members of a Kintnersville Brownie Girl Scout troop raised $652 for a spa day to count toward their Healthy Habits badges.
Instead, the girls may learn a different lesson: always get it in writing.
Troop leader Rosemary Korchek, who had already paid for the April excursion over the phone with her credit card, arrived at the Seedlings Salon in Doylestown this week to find it locked and empty. The Web site for the children’s salon and its grown-up counterpart, Annodam, said the businesses shut down “due to current economic conditions.” An outgoing voice mail message said a new salon and spa will open in the near future but didn’t offer specifics.
The business closed March 7 after owners learned a day earlier it had to file for bankruptcy, co-owner Karen Lafferty said. Employees have been scrambling ever since to connect clients with other salons and hadn’t gotten to the Brownies’ mid-April appointment yet. She said the salon will refund the troop’s money.
This is a low point, Lafferty said, and the salon has 19,000 clients who’d have positive things to say about their experience with her business.
“We’re trying our best, dealing with everything we have to deal with,” Lafferty said.
The 19 Brownies raised the $652 by selling magazines, nuts and sweets, said Korchek. The troop paid up front in early February to lock in an April 10 appointment for manicures, pedicures, a lotion-mixing session and aromatherapy at Seedlings, Korchek said.
After hearing from Korchek, Serenity Day Spa and Wellness Center on Swamp Road stepped up Wednesday afternoon and offered the girls a Saturday afternoon session free of charge, so long as they leave a tip. The girls will learn about facial and nail care from two manicurists and four estheticians, then head home with some goodie bags, said Serenity co-owner Jennifer Wiegand.
Earlier on Wednesday, Korchek, whose own 6-year-old daughter was among the Brownies looking forward to the Seedlings trip, said she hadn’t told the girls their spa chances looked bleak.
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“They’ve really looked forward to this. They’ve really worked hard,” Korchek said of the Brownies, who range from 6 to 8 years old. “I’ve got to explain to them, sorry, we can’t go.”
Seedlings opened in the summer of 2004 as a place for kids to get away from the stresses of everyday life. The rainforest-themed business offered yoga classes, parties and a full range of salon services. This week, a peek inside the South Main Street spa’s windows shows an all-but-gutted Annodam and a darkened, empty Seedlings, a phone message pad and scattered business cards lying on an entryway bench.
Korchek said she’d spent half an hour conference calling with Seedlings management to organize the trip and was asked for full payment over the phone; she was told no-shows would be credited back to her card, and any moms who came along would be given $25 coupons for the adult salon next door.
The Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection is aware of the spa’s closure but hasn’t heard any formal complaints, said department director Michael Bannon.
When a business shuts down unexpectedly, consumers would be surprised how often sending a certified letter results in a refund, he said. Mail is generally forwarded to a new address, and letters copied to the consumer protection office will be filed away for future reference.
But buyers have to protect themselves in this economic climate, he said — first and foremost by documenting any exchange of money. Consumers should always get contracts, receipts or other paperwork to verify their transactions.
When there’s only a verbal agreement, the business may have a moral obligation to follow through but pinning down its legal obligations is trickier, Bannon said. Consumers need to do their homework, which includes asking businesses up front about financial stability and the possibility of closure.
“We have to ask those questions these days,” Bannon said.