In August of 2008 I was searching for a company that provided hot air balloon rides at a reasonable price. My sister and I were interested in purchasing a ride for my parents as a 25th wedding anniversary gift.
As I was looking, the company Windmill Balloons caught my eye, both because of the price and location. The "pilot", Marc Van Dis claimed he took off from variable locations in Holland, MI, which is where I live. He also charged only $450 for the ride for two. I e-mailed him several times to get details such as launch site, whether or not spectators could accompany my parents, the equipment he used, and so forth. Each time I was replied to quickly and with great customer service.
My first hint should have been that he required the payment in full before the date, as I was actually purchasing a "gift certificate" since I was not the rider. I also had to pay this with a check, as Mr. Van Dis had no system to run a credit card through. No problem, I sent the check off in the mail and arranged a huge surprise party for my parents.
Weeks went by and no gift certificate in the mail. There was also no response to my e-mails, and the office phone was disconnected. I began to get the impression I'd been scammed.
The day before our flight was scheduled, Mr. Van Dis answered his phone. I must have caught him off-gaurd, because his story about not being able to return calls and e-mails due to a sick relative made very little sense. He had, however, been able to cash my check. Unfortunately, his balloon was now in the repair shop, so unless he could borrow a balloon from another pilot, we would have to reschedule. I immediately requested a refund. This he could not provide because times were difficult and he had already spent the money. . .
Mr. Van Dis told me he would return the full balance of my check as soon as he made enough money back. Of course, that has never happened, and he now is not returning e-mails or phone calls. This has happened to others. Do NOT trust Mr. Van Dis, nor his "company", Windmill Balloons.