Customers could lose $ as NC laser center folds

The Better Business Bureau received 11 complaints about Charlotte Laser Center this week alone.
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Customers could lose thousands after laser center folds

6NEWS looked into a laser hair removal center after the Better Business Bureau got a number of complaints from customers who were wondering if they simply lost their money.

The Better Business Bureau received 11 complaints this week alone. The claims come from customers who said they’re out, on average, about $1,000. Now the bureau says this could just be the tip of the iceberg.

“I paid $875,” said Ross Bulla a customer at the Charlotte Laser Center.

He said that payment was supposed to get a year’s worth of hair removal. He paid upfront like the company’s Web site had recommended, but after only one visit he got a call from the company saying they were going through foreclosure.

Bulla wanted his money back or the service he paid for.

“I was simply told, matter of factly, there was nothing I could do,” he said.

A letter the Charlotte Laser Center sent Bulla said that since he pre-paid, he can get a cheaper price and doesn’t have to pre-pay through Atlantic Healthcare Management, the company that is administering foreclosure proceedings.

Bulla said that’s like them allowing him to pay a second time for the service.

The Better Business Bureau said they have 11 similar complaints.

“New money is good to them. Old Money is not,” said Bulla.

We asked the Charlotte Laser Center if people like Bulla would get their money back.

The employees there said they were “just a couple of employees hoping to get our last paychecks.”

A worker referred us to Gary Hamilton’s office. Hamilton is president of the company administering foreclosure proceedings. He was once president of the laser center, but sold his interest in June of 2005. Through his attorney, Hamilton said he is owed a lot of money and is sympathetic to Charlotte Laser Center clients.

“The equipment remains the same, the office location remains the same and the services remain the same, they will not honor the contract,” said Bulla.

The Better Business Bureau said it’s waiting for answers too, including if the center’s assets, like the lasers or its liabilities, like the deals people signed with the laser center, are being bought. Depending upon what happens, the bureau said ultimately this could be a lesson that if you pay in advance, it’s possible you might not get your money back.

Update Jul. 28, 2006
Clients’ money removed instead of hair


Ronda Scheil’s son paid nearly $1,400 to Charlotte Laser Center near Ballantyne for a series of hair-removal treatments, but the center suddenly closed this month after he’d made only one visit. Scheil said she got bounced between two owners, who blamed each other for things going wrong. “My son delivered a lot of pizzas for this money,” she said. Another laser business that specialized in hair removal, Bella Voi in Carolina Place Mall, unexpectedly closed last month with a number of customers out money.


Both Charlotte Laser Center and Bella Voi have racked up complaints with the Better Business Bureau and N.C. attorney general’s office since closing – about 85 between the two this month.

Charlotte Laser Center is going through foreclosure, and customers have little chance of getting their money back, said Chuck Lewis, attorney for one-time center owner Gary Hamilton, who’s owed money from the sale of the business last year. “You’re dealing with a corporation that … has no assets to pay (customers),” Lewis said. The owners at the time the center closed, Mark Ellis and Barry Lubitz, did not return calls and e-mails.

Bella Voi owner Rick Bagley said he closed the Pineville center he bought in January because it was losing money from mall construction. Bagley suggested customers request charge-backs on their credit card bills for unfulfilled services, though he declined to say how he would repay the card companies.


You can try a credit card charge-back, but don’t expect a refund if the card company can’t get its money back from the center.

Avoid making lump-sum payments for multiple treatments (or for any service that lasts over a period of months). Ask about a payment plan, BBB President Tom Bartholomy said. Unlike gyms, laser hair-removal centers are not required under state laws to put up a bond to repay customers if they close.

So you know: The Carolinas require that laser hair-removal clients receive an examination from a state-licensed doctor, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner before any procedure. Anyone can use the lasers to remove hair if they are properly trained and supervised by a licensed doctor. In North Carolina, the doctor does not need to be on site – just “readily available” in case of an emergency. South Carolina requires a doctor in the office. – andrew Shain