Pets.ca - Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 

-->

Training Scam?

Exquizique
September 25th, 2007, 12:04 PM
Hello everyone,

New poster to the board, but been lurking for a bit and enjoying my daily "board fix". I don't have time right now, but i'll make sure i post a proper introduction post in the introduction forum.

I've decided to come out of lurking to seek advice and suggestions from the collective wisdom of the board members. Any thoughts are welcome.

(i apologize for the length of this post in advance)

We have a close to 6 month old Doberman who's just a total cuddle bug. We are first time dog owners and have tried to "do our homework" in terms of researching and learning the best ways to "bring up" our new Dobie. A few months ago, i did an online and yellowpages search for training options/trainers for our Dobie. After checking out qualifications, credentials etc., we settled on one particular individual/school. I'm not sure if it's appropriate to mention the name here, so i won't name any names here at this point.

We had this individual come for an initial consultation. Everything seemed good and proceeded well. The individual offered us a discounted "package" for both puppy and basic obedience courses for a fixed amount of money. We took the offer, signed up, and paid the full amount upfront as the individual requested. In hindsight, this would be our biggest mistake.

UNFORTUNATELY, after having signed up and eagerly awaiting our first lesson, i accidentally came across a couple of former clients of this individual that had bad experiences. The bad experiences being that the individual would take their money, and either just show up for one or two sessions and then "disappear" refusing all contact, or just never show up. Upon further investigation, i also discovered that this individual had had numerous complaints filed for service and contract issues.

Despite all of this, we decided against a confrontation and decided to give this individual the benefit of doubt. Every week at our scheduled lesson time, we would find ourselves wondering whether he would turn up or not. He ended up showing up for half of the purchased lessons. On the most recent lesson that was supposed to take place, 45 minutes into the lesson time and he didn't show up, i gave him a call and politely asked if there was some delay or issue that he forgot to inform us about. He exclaimed "What in the world are you talking about!" and then immediately hung up on us. He then had his phone turned off. At that point we knew what had happened, having knowledge of what he did to his other clients.

We know that the rest of the lessons/our money are probably a write-off at this point, and i blame myself for not being more cautious at the onset when sigining up. We were just so overwhelmed with all the different training options, approaches etc., and as a result had quite a few oversights that now cost us.

We will be filing a formal complaint with the government's consumer protection branch, and i've also filed a report with the police -- the officer said that he will forward it to the fraud unit but it is up to the unit to decide whether to investigate or pursue this further. We both think that both avenues will amount to nothing.

We are pretty certain that this individual is and will continue to scam future clients. This individual appears to have quite a history of doing this, and the nerve to just continue operating like nothing happened. This individual has relocated his "school" twice already all over the country, which makes me wonder if this individual just up and goes when too many people start filing complaints and figuring things out. It frustrates us that nothing has been done.

Any thoughts, suggestions, advice??

jessi76
September 25th, 2007, 01:16 PM
If it were me, I'd not only contact the Better Business Bureau (or equivalent) but I'd also contact newspapers and the local news crews. Where I live, our local news stations have segments such as "Buyer Beware". Segments alert the public to scams and the news crews actually investigate the scam. I'd email, write, and/or call if you have this type of programming in your area.

Get the word out, alert any public media who will listen and relay the story so other's can hopefully avoid this and perhaps with enough exposure, authorities will step in.

Kudos to you though for being so responsible and looking for professional training for your new dobe! Perhaps if you post your location (or nearby) someone here may be able to suggest a reputable training service.

btw, welcome, and be sure to include a pic of your pup with your introduction when you have time! :)

coppperbelle
September 25th, 2007, 07:38 PM
Did you have a contract with him where he outlined the number of lessons, when they would be held and for how long each one would last?

Unfortunately it does sound like you were taken for a ride and you will know better next time. I think at one time in our lives we have all been scammed by someone.

How did you find out about this person? Does he advertise in vet's offices or in pet stores? If so, make sure you tell these places about his scam so that they can stop recommending him.

mummummum
September 25th, 2007, 07:44 PM
You can also take him to small claims court for breach of contract. :thumbs up

And just further to jessie's point about the media isn't there a news station (in Toronto I think) with a consumer affairs guy ~ I think his name may be Silverman. pr pehaps your local television stantion or newspapaer has a similar program. Might be worth a shot.

Exquizique
September 26th, 2007, 07:47 AM
Thanks for all your responses!

Jessi76:

In terms of getting the word out, i've been thinking if i should be worried about slander.

What frustrates me is that i'm unable to get a hold of the names and contact information of the numerous people who have complained about this individual. I know of three people and have personally spoken to two, but wish i could find out more about the others. Strength in numbers right? A complaint by a single lone person is a case of one person's word against another. A group of people all having the same complaint is a different story.

I'm looking for appropriate photos of my furry kids to post with my introduction post. For having so many furry kids, we surprisingly don't have that many photos of them!

Coppperbelle:

Yes, there was a contract signed. But there were no specifics such as numbers of lessons, durations and dates listed. Only general "package names" and a ton of disclaimers. Considering what i do for a living and how careful i usually am about these things, i am quite ashamed of myself to let such a huge thing slip by me. *sigh* I actually spoke to the police fraud unit, and they said that because there was a contract signed and the individual actually showed up for some of the lessons, they can't consider that fraud (which would be the case if he just took the money and ran). That explanation makes no sense to me because it appears that this individual has been doing to this to multiple people over a loooong period of time repeatedly. If that is not fraud what is it?? In one case a grandmother purchased lessons from this individual for her granddaughter who was in college. The individual took the money for the lessons, and never showed up, refusing all contact. That was at least a year ago though, and i'm not sure if i can get concrete information about it if the police would still look into it?

This person advertises online and in the yellowpages and other local classified listings. I was thinking that maybe i could write a letter to yellowpages or whichever advertiser this individual advertises with, but then i guess businesses like yellowpages probably will have tons of "use-our-listings-at-your-own-risk" kind of disclaimers to cover their butts and wouldn't care anyway.

Mummummmum:

I looked into the small claims court route. With all of the expense, time and energy involved just to make a claim and schedule a court date, it doesn't seem to justify the amount lost ... does that sound silly?? Plus, even if we get a favourable judgment, there is no guarantee of enforcing the judgment or getting the amount sued back :sad:

I've of Silverman and may write to him. I'm not in Toronto though and quite a distance away, so i'm wondering if he covers stories not based in or close to Toronto if it's a Toronto program? I haven't come across any similar programs in our local media yet, but i'm still looking.