SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A La Jolla store in an upscale mall is facing scrutiny from customers who told Team 10 they were misled after buying hundreds—even thousands—of dollars worth of skin care products.
Team 10 spoke to at least two customers who had similar complaints. When they tried to return unopened products, they said they were sold lies.
Christianna Ortiz regrets walking into Gold Elements at the UTC mall on La Jolla Village Drive.“I’m honestly very embarrassed I fell for it,” Ortiz said.
Last summer, she said Gold Elements employees encouraged her to purchase products, including a skin care regiment.
“He wanted me to buy it for $400. I said yeah, that's not going to work. He said I'll tell you what, I'll throw in a facial and I was like, now that sounds interesting, but I don't want to come here alone. I'll throw in two facials,” Ortiz said the employee told her.
When she went to her appointment, she said employees would not give her the facials she paid for.“I said, I want to return the stuff then and he said no return.
I said I paid for something that was an outright lie,” Ortiz said.Ortiz said they never told her there was a no refund policy.
She disputed the charge with her credit card and could not believe what happened next.
“They sent me back the copy of my receipt along with another sheet of paper that listed the refund policy. I had never seen that sheet of paper, didn't exist!” Ortiz said.
“You’re hustled,” said Sharon Garrow, another Gold Elements customer.Garrow spent nearly $4,500 on products in September. She admits spending more than she should. When she tried to return the products the following morning—less than 24 hours later—she said she was not allowed to.
She went to the store Saturday, where she said an employee told her there was nobody who could help her. She went again on Monday. “He [said] there’s no return on [these] products,” Garrow said.It was on her receipt, but like Ortiz, she signed on a computer and said the policy was not visible on the screen. She said nobody told her anything in person and there were no signs in the store that customers could see.
A Team 10 investigative photojournalist also visited the store. He also did not see any return policies in the store.
On the California Attorney General’s website, it says: “Stores that do not accept returns must clearly display their policy.”
The California Civil code states that retail sellers shall display their policy “either on signs posted at each cash register and sales counter, at each public entrance, on tags attached to each item sold under that policy, or on the retail seller’s order form, if any.”
Goods that cannot be resold due to “health considerations” are an exception. Both women said they never opened the Gold Elements boxes before trying to return the items.
When Team 10 visited the store to get answers, there were no managers available to talk to us. An independent esthetician told Team 10 to contact a Gold Elements promoter. That person did not call back.
Less than an hour later, a man who claimed he was the owner called Team 10 and said they always give the best help to customers and have not had problems with refunds. The man would not agree to an in-person interview, saying that he was not in town.
He told Team 10 all future communication would be with his lawyer, but would not give his lawyer’s name.It was a different story on the Better Business Bureau website, where the store has an F rating. A 2017 class action lawsuit filed in Northern California against Gold Elements products and affiliated companies.
Part of the complaint was that “complimentary facials” were not honored when customers tried to use them.““If I got taken, so many other people are probably getting taken. Somebody has to stop it,” Ortiz said.Team 10 discovered the La Jolla store could also be violating different state code.
On Gold Elements’ wall is a price list for facials. The Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, under the California State Department of Consumer Affairs, said a business that charges for facials should have an establishment license.
The store has no record of that license.The women have a warning for others.“It’s not like I’m a dummy,” Ortiz said. “Do what I usually do. Check reviews ahead of time.”The Attorney General’s office said if any customers have concerns about a return policy, or lack of one, you can file a complaint with their office .