UPDATE: MONTGOMERY, Ohio -- The Art of Ballroom Dance Center's owner was recently jailed, which explains why her studio unexpectedly closed about two weeks ago and left her clients empty handed.
About the same time her studio's doors closed, Eleanor Lachman pled guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI). She was arrested after leaving the Riverboat in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, according to Aaron Negangard, Dearborn County prosecutor.
Many of us sign up for fitness classes, dance lessons, art lessons, and other activities. Those activities often ask you to pay in advance.
But students at a Cincinnati dance studio tonight are learning the downside of prepaying. And it's a lesson that applies to all of us.
Paid in Advance Just Days Before Closing
Paul and Susan Hill say they've been duped.
They paid upfront for dance lessons, at the Art of Ballroom Dance Center in Montgomery, Ohio.
But now the storefront studio is empty ... mail sits uncollected ...and a sign on the door says "closed for a week due to a family emergency."
But the Hills say it's been 3 weeks, and say no one is responding to calls or emails.
"We sent emails, we tried to leave phone messages, the voice mail box is totally full," Susan Hill said.
Like other students, they paid several thousand dollars upfront.
"We had paid initially about $1,000 for the first group of lessons, and an additional $2,000. So we are out about $2,500," she said.
We tried tracking down owner Eleanor Lachman, who we showed in a video clip being interviewed about ballroom dancing on WCPO -TV last year.
But we were unable to reach her. The studios phone appears to be disconnected.
The Federal Trade Commission, meantime, has a caution before you prepay for any kind of lessons, activities, or a gym.
How to Protect Yourself
The FTC says:
- Ask about refunds, if you are injured or move away.
- If you have to prepay, try to pay month to month, not for a full year.
- Understand that if they file bankruptcy, you will lose any money you paid.
- And check the club's record with the Better Business Bureau.
The Hills are angry they were asked to prepay just days before the doors were locked. "The fact they asked us for money on a Friday and closed on a Monday is very frustrating," they said.
The Montgomery Police and Better Business Bureau have no information at this point on the studios closing.
But this is an important lesson to anyone considering dance or fitness lessons, art lessons, horseback riding....or any activity where you are asked to make a large payment in advance.
That way you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.
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