When Allison Johnson and Charley Scott began working at At The Beach, a tanning salon, they were only minutely aware of how, in Johnson’s words, “incorrigible” some of the salon’s business practices were.
“When you go to At the Beach you are either told you are not on a contract, you’re lied to about the price of your contract or you are lied to about the length of your contract,” Johnson, who quit from her position at the salon after five months, said.
According to Scott, this is because every employee is required to have a 60 percent close rate for new contracts. Subsequently, many of those employees manipulate their numbers to meet this rate and, in the process, take advantage of either the clients or the general company.
“It’s awful. They don’t care about their costumers at all,” Johnson said. “We were not trained to care about our customers at all.”
At the branch where Johnson worked, she said more than 50 percent of At the Beach clientele came from CSU sororities and, from her perspective, many of those women were being taken advantage of.
Because sororities are a target demographic for tanning salons, Johnson reported that her manager put special effort into courting CSU’s Greek Life by offering deals that, at times, were misleading because it came with unexplained contracts and conditions.
“Most people think that they are just signing a waiver saying they know that they are causing cancer,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson and Scott, if a potential client catches on, most employees end up downplaying the fact that it is a contract by saying it’s an agreement and easy to get out of.
“They never tell you that it is as big as it is,” Scott said. “If they (potential clients) ask if it’s a contract they say, ‘I’ll print it out and you can read it all later; it’s just an agreement.’”
“This is what they teach you to do and no matter what, they (managers) tell you ‘do not give up,’” Scott added.
“You badger them and badger them and badger them with sales techniques.”
Some of these techniques take form in lying about fake fees that they can waive or offers for free products that are later charged to an account.
“This is the kind of stuff they pull,” Johnson said. “They never learn.”
Additionally, Scott said that during the tours, employees are trained to tell potential clients that the higher-grade beds are better for your skin because UVAs are actually good for anti-aging.
In response to these claims, At the Beach’s Fort Collins district manager Gary Michael Everette said, “There are good and bad people everywhere, obviously we don’t want anyone to have a bad tanning experience.”
Despite all of this, Scott and Johnson said what surprised them most was the fact that At The Beach had recently settled with the Colorado Attorney General regarding complaints of misleading contracts and an unknown cancellation fee.
The settlement resulted in $350,000 in fees and a “halt” in deceptive sale practices as stipulated by the Attorney General.
It was because of this settlement that At The Beach was given a “B” grade from the Better Business Bureau. The report explains that the 24-hour cancellation policy, which, according to Johnson, required “hoops to jump through,” was a big factor in determining the grade.
Maddison Kopsa, a CSU student and former At the Beach customer, said she knew she was signing a contract, however, did feel a lot of pressure from the staff to renew her contract.
“They suckered me into buying a full six months of tanning,” Kopsa said in an email to the Collegian. “I’m nearing the end of my membership and the people working there keep pressuring me to buy a year-long and no one really needs a year long of tanning.”
And although they were employed there, both Scott and Johnson said, as tanners, they felt the company ripped them off as well.
Johnson said she signed a six-month contract, which ended up being 12 months long, and Scott signed a 12-month contract, which turned out to be 24 months.
Although Johnson reasons that people should read the fine print whenever they sign something, she believes that many of the practices at At The Beach are unfair.
“On the one hand you should be conscientious of what you are signing. You should be smart enough to know: if it looks like a contract, it’s probably a contract,” she said. “But on the other hand you should be able to trust your sales people.”
For Joelle Staples, a junior human development and family studies major who is an At The Beach customer, the best advice for future clients is to know what you sign.
“Take your time and read what you sign. Also I’d advise anyone who is still willing to sign on with At The Beach to only do it monthly. Do not sign a year contract,” Staples said.
“At The Beach does their job, I still get a great tan but their way of doing business is deceiving, and they’ve managed to create that reputation for themselves.”
ASCSU Beat Reporter Sarah Fenton can be reached at email@example.com.
Tanning may give you a good glow, but, according to the Food and Drug Administration, it could also give you:
-Premature skin aging
Eye damage (both short and long-term)