4 Investigates: Spa business in Santa Fe charges customers more than they agreed to

4 Investigates: Santa Fe business charges customers thousands more than they agreed to

In the search for a more youthful look, some tourists in Santa Fe said they were swindled out of tens of thousands of dollars.

*UPDATE: We have modified the title of this story to clarify that this story does not involve the Santa Fe Spa, a separate business in Santa Fe.

SANTA FE, N.M. – We all know it is not cheap to look good. We’re not just talking about women, skincare should be top of mind for all of us.

In the search for a more youthful look, some tourists in Santa Fe said they were swindled out of tens of thousands of dollars. They point to a business near the Santa Fe Plaza on West San Francisco Street.

At one point, it was called the Santa Fe Spa Center by Voupre. Now, the business – under the same ownership – is called Kamea.

“We just usually walk by,” said Jana McKinney, a spa center customer.

If the window displays and anti-aging promises don’t tempt you, there is another, more effective, way to get your attention. Employees often stand outside of the store shop, offering a sample or conversation.

 “He was like ‘Oh, where did you get that handbag, it’s so beautiful,’” said Barbara Gerstad, a spa center customer.

For some tourists, it’s now a warning to shoppers walking around the plaza.

“I really don’t know exactly how it happened,” said Steve Lincoln, a spa center customer.

“It blows my mind. It hurts my heart,” said McKinney. “Because to me, it’s tainted our view of Santa Fe.”

McKinney can’t bring herself to open boxes she bought from the store, filled with skin products she unknowingly spent tens of thousands of dollars on – the price of a new car.

“I never agreed to $28,000,” said McKinney.

McKinney said she was tricked from the moment she sat in the chairs at Kamea.

In August, she said she agreed to buy an eye cream and a red-light wand – a price she understood to be $2,800. That’s until she saw the credit card bill.

“My first, again, naive, ‘Oh they just put one too many zeros, that’s an easy fix. I’m going to call them, and they’re just going to redo it,’” she said. “I called, and I called, and I called. I asked to speak to managers. I called over 18 times. Finally, someone called me back and said, ‘No, you bought the ultimate experience.’”

It’s a pattern that shows up in close to a dozen formal complaints to our state’s attorney general’s office over the last year.
For the most part, the complaints are from tourists from around the country. People who agree to buy one thing at one price but get charged thousands more for other things. And all sales are final.

In November, the Consumer Division at the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office sent a letter to Santa Fe police, saying based on those complaints, they’ve identified “potential criminal charges.”

Barbara and Brian Gerstad from Los Lunas said they discovered they were charged more than $20,000 after agreeing to a $400 eye cream. But in July, they said police turned them away without letting them file a report.

“They basically refused to let us speak to an officer,” said Brian.

Many complaints and months later, Deputy Chief of the Santa Fe Police Department Ben Valdez said they are now looking into it. They’re asking victims to come forward and make a report. You can contact the dispatch center at (505)-428-3710.

The customers KOB 4 talked to have had no luck getting their money back. Their credit card companies point to the “proof of purchase” sent in by the business.

For McKinney’s purchase, the Santa Fe Spa Center by Voupre sent her credit card company a document showing she signed something related to her purchase. 

But McKinney said she never signed for a dollar amount. Instead, she was told to take a survey. Her initials are beside a line that said, “I agree to the total amount that was given to me before finalizing the purchase.”

“I agreed to pay what was quoted to me, absolutely. I didn’t agree to what was charged to me,” said McKinney.

McKinney said the store also sent a picture to the credit card company. The picture shows a sign next to the register saying all sales are final, no refunds.

But that sign wasn’t there when KOB 4 dropped by the store last year. And, it wasn’t there when we stopped by to talk to the store owners. In fact, no one was there.

KOB 4 talked to the store over the phone. He told us, he’s aware of some disgruntled clients but denies doing anything wrong. He would not agree to an interview and hung up on us.

“It could really hurt lots of people and from what I can see, it has. And nobody seems to care, and that’s the frustrating part,” said McKinney.

Now they wait, sitting on thousands of dollars of debt. They’re hoping someone does something. If not for them, for everyone else visiting our state’s capital.

“If we determine it’s not a criminal act, we’re going to get it to the person that can address it. If it is a criminal act, we want to address it because again, we want people to feel safe when they’re out there shopping,” said Deputy Chief Valdez.