Consumer refunds in question as businesses abruptly shut down

Albany County

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Throughout the pandemic, a number of local businesses have been forced to shut down, many of them doing so abruptly. Viewers have contacted NEWS10 about how to go about getting refunds when this sort of thing happens, so we set out to gauge consumer options if they run into this type of situation. 

On Saturday, the live music venue Skyloft at Crossgates Mall announced the difficult decision to close their doors permanently. While customers are upset to hear of the closure, those who prepaid for tickets tell us they’re now finding it difficult to get refunds. The company’s website has been taken down, their e-mail no longer exists and their phone line has been disconnected. NEWS10 has reached out for comment from the general manager, but we have not yet heard back. 

Not far from the mall, over at Miami Sun Inc., a tanning salon on Western Avenue, a former customer said he had already prepaid for the month of October and was never given any notice about their sudden closure. He said he was met with locked doors and calls to management have gone unreturned for at least two weeks. “I couldn’t find a way to get a refund,” he said.

As of Wednesday, a sign has now been posted to the front door informing customers of the closure and how they can go about getting a refund. NEWS10 spoke with the owner who told us that it took a little while to get a sign on the door due to legal reasons. He added that he would not be reaching out to individual customers, because they do not have all of the proper contact information. If customers want a refund they will have to send an e-mail.

“It’s just a matter of principal. If you’re open for business in the community you have an obligation to let your customers know. What they have on the door now should have been posted on their Facebook page or posted on their website. Don’t leave your customers in limbo,” said the concerned former customer.

Greg Rinckey, one of the founding partners for Tully Rinckey Law Firm, said that this is happening nationwide. “A lot of these businesses go under fairly quickly with very little notice,” said Rinckey. He said consumers are rightfully looking to be refunded for prepaid services.

He said if you’re unable to get in touch with someone from the business directly or if the business has filed for bankruptcy, call your credit card company to dispute the charge. They may be able to open an investigation and refund your money. “The reality is you’re probably going to be out of luck if you paid cash, but if you paid by credit card, reach out to your credit card company.  If you paid cash and you paid a lot of cash for a concert, a couple hundred dollars, reach out to the consumer bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office because if enough people do reach out they will open an inquiry and try and trace the money to see where the money went,” said Rinckey.

“Debit cards are different because the debit comes automatically out of your bank account. You can still reach out to your bank and see if they’ll work with you, but you don’t have as much protection when you use a debit card as a credit card in transactions,” said Rinckey.

“Ultimately, if the business has filed for bankruptcy, you are basically an unsecured creditor and you get in line with all the other creditors and quite honestly, a lot of times, there’s not enough money left over to pay all the creditors and sometimes you’re out of luck,” said Rinckey.

Rinckey said as the pandemic wears on, consumers need to be careful and think twice before prepaying for services. “There are a lot of companies that are teetering on bankruptcy and they are going to use your payment that you’re going to make now to pay their bills now and potentially if they go out of business you’re going to be on the hook,” said Rinckey.

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