Report: #651078

Complaint Review: Scuba Schools of America - Montclair California

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  • Reported By: saneighbor — Upland California United States of America
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  • Scuba Schools of America 4420 Holt Blvd Montclair, California United States of America

Scuba Schools of America Aquatic Outfitters Fraudulent, Bait and Switch Montclair, California

*Author of original report: Ah, the facts according to Mrs. Berry

*UPDATE Employee: Nuts and Bolts....Maybe just Nuts?!

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My wife and I met SSA owner Rusty Berry during the Lobster Fest Event held at San Padro California on 09/18/10. He offered both of us scuba lessons/certification at a reduced show special price of $100.00 each.  At that time he promised us a full refund for all equipment purchased from Scuba Schools of America should we decide to cancel lessons or otherwise end our relationship with Scuba Schools of America.  Based on his money back, no risk guarantee, we decided to sign up and paid Mr. Berry $513.92. for classes and educational materials to include 6 classroom/pool sessions and 4 open water ocean dives.  We again met with Mr. Berry at his Montclair retail shop on 09/22//10 where he proceeded to select several items of equipment required to begin scuba classes.  The total for the equipment came to $1795.49 in which we paid.  He then directed us outside to a on premise swimming pool to try out the new equipment.  On Saturday 10/02/10, we arrived at the Montclair location for our first lesson.  We were suprised to learn from Mr. Berry that there were to be additional costs to become scuba certified. Totaling over $700.00 to pay for boat fees and additional rental costs. Mr Berry then attempted to sell my wife and I additional scuba equipment totaling over $9000.00. In which he then gave us a money back guarantee in the event we decided scuba was not for us. We decided not to purchase at that time. My wife and I were both under the impression that the $513.92 was all costs needed to get certified including all equipment rentals.  After experiencing Mr. Berry's high pressure sales tactics, and considering the unexpected additional fees, we felt that Mr Berry had been less than forthwith concerning costs, and we decided to discontinue our certification course and ask for a refund of all monies, for classes and equipment purchased.  At that time Mr. Berry agreed to refund monies for the classes the $513.92 but refused to refund equipment as he said that there is no refund on snorkeling equipment.  We were shocked because we did not buy any snorkeling gear, we bought what Mr. Barry said we needed to start scuba diving. We have yet to see a refund of any monies spent.  Buyers Beware!

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 10/14/2010 05:36 PM and is a permanent record located here: https://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/scuba-schools-of-america/montclair-california-91763/scuba-schools-of-america-aquatic-outfitters-fraudulent-bait-and-switch-montclair-califor-651078. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year. Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content

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#2 Author of original report

Ah, the facts according to Mrs. Berry

AUTHOR: Anonymous - (USA)

POSTED: Friday, May 13, 2011

Dear Niki,

Since you seem to have such high regard for factual statements, I find it amusing that you omitted the fact that you are (or at least were) Rusty's wife. Or did you fear that such an admission might taint your credibility regarding the actual facts regarding our case?

The fact is that we are not the only one's who have complained about your store. Anyone reading this can perform an internet search and find many negative reports regarding Scuba Schools of America/ Aquatic Outfitters in Montclaire, CA. Yes, there are some positive reviews - everyone has friends who will say nice things about them. Regardless, what my wife and I experienced, and several others, is as I, and those others, have stated. There was an extensive discussion regarding SSA at a popular scuba discussion forum here: http://www.scubaboard.com/forums/socal/358721-scuba-schools-america-rusty-berry.html.

And there are many other online examples; the Better Business Bureau for instance.

I noticed another complaint over at Yelp (http://www.yelp.com/biz/scuba-schools-of-america-montclair) Lara H. has a story very similar to ours.

One of your former customers had to file a small claims action against you in order to get a refund. We know because we were there when you finally issued her the refund. She had to haggle with you about your policies for approximately 6 months.

Yes, we finally did receive a refund for our unused tuition and educational materials after about 4 months of filing complaints through the Better Business Bureau. But we did not get refunded for the personal snorkeling equipment. Yes, Rusty did promise at the Lobster Fest a full refund for everything. That's why I decided to sign up. A risk free purchase is hard to pass up. But I accept full responsibility for believing him. Lesson learned.

So Niki, it's not just us. And yes you were there. And you know exactly what we are talking about.

That is an absolute fact.

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#1 UPDATE Employee

Nuts and Bolts....Maybe just Nuts?!

AUTHOR: DIVERCHICK - (United States of America)

POSTED: Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hi, my name is Niki and I am an eight year employee of Scuba Schools of America.  I have been the Store Manager for the past four years and while I am always looking for constructive ways to resolve customer concerns or complaints, minimize miscommunication and overcome any issue or obstacle that may arise throughout the course of doing business, there are some situations that seem to be beyond resolve through any reasonable, rational or realistic means.

Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor are one such incident.  While yes, Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor did indeed meet Rusty Berry as well as the rest of our staff at the Lobster Festival and sign up for Open Water Classes in September 2010, the rest of the recounted events in the complaint they filed are to be considered, at best, loosely based on fact.

As with every show we participate in throughout the year, there is a standard, set protocol that is followed when discussing Open Water Classes with potential customers.  This is at the very start of a diver's education in the world of scuba and therefore is of utmost importance to our instructors and employees.  Because these individuals are uneducated regarding scuba initially, guaranteeing full disclosure every single step of the way is crucial to developing a long-lasting, positive relationship with a person who will eventually trust you with their life where it matters most: underwater.  Each staff member that works with new customers goes through a significant amount of class sales and client interaction training to guarantee each and every prospective customer is identically informed of exactly what Open Water training entails.  This includes course length and in-class as well as confined water (pool) session requirements, equipment necessary for particpation in the SSI Open Water Diver Course, open water dive requirements in the ocean, as well as an initial discussion about the possibility of refunded course tuition with a Life Support System purchase and the Money-Back Guarantee offered through Scuba Schools of America.

To leave absolutely nothing to chance and to make certain of uniform discussion each and every time, a printed flip book is used at the show that not only guides the staff member through each section that must be covered with a potential new diver, but also so that customers can visually receive all of the information that they are also hearing during the orientation.  Once the orientation is finished, a follow-up appointment is scheduled for the customer to come to the dive store and review the exact same information again, with an instructor.  We understand that new divers are excited, daydreaming and altogether distracted at shows, and it is explicitly for this reason that we require a follow-up appointment with the prospective diver.  Once at the store, a powerpoint presentation (that is an exact duplicate of the flip book used at the show) is gone through as a review and to guarantee, once again, that all of our ducks are in a row, that full disclosure of all requirements have been made and that there are no ligering uncertainties, questions or concerns with the new student.

Only after both of those meetings have been successful, leaving adequate time for the information (on two separate occasions) to be processed and really sink in as to the time, effort and financial commitment necessary to go through the program, do we move on with scheduling a first day of class for the individual and assisting them as they select and purchase their required personal equipment for use throughout the course and afterward.

Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor did sit through both of those orientations, they were repeatedly asked if there were questions or concerns with any portion of the program as it had been outlined and our staff received affirmation that they did, in fact, understand the course requirements and did, in fact, want to participate in our Open Water Diver Course. 

In addition to the two orientations where they both heard and saw the details of the program, we reviewed the entire set of information a third time, during Classroom Module One.  Once again this is on a powerpoint presentation so that the customer sees and hears what the program entails.  Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor completed Classroom Module One, as well as additonal modules without ever mentioning any sort of reservation, concern or aversion to completing the program, or that they were the least bit unhappy with any part of their experience with Scuba Schools of America.

After Classroom Module Three, Mr. Neighbor advised me, as well as Rusty Berry, that he was interested in purchasing Life Support Systems for both him and his wife.  Rusty has worked in the industry, and this store in particular, for nearly thirty years.  I think it is safe to say that he has worked with, taught, certified and sold Life Support Systems to an enormous number of divers throughout his career.  As with everything we do at Scuba Schools of America, there is ALWAYS a protocol, referred to as our Standard Operating Procedures (much like the flip books, verbatim dialog used during orientations, etc.).  Prior to any Life Support System sale and before an in-depth discussion is even allowed to begin regarding such equipment, a series of "checking" questions are asked to make sure that the customer is fully aware of the time commitment we ask for in educating them on each individual piece of equipment that makes up a "Life Support System" as well as ask what type of budget they would like us to work within and others.  Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor were both present for Rusty's questions.  Both myself and another Sales Representative were also present.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor expressed excitement and interest in the idea of purchasing their Life Support Systems and asked us to continue with the process of helping them get outfitted for scuba diving with their own Life Support Systems.  Rusty spent nearly two hours with the Neighbors defining the parts that make up a "system" and explaining the differences between many manufacturers as well as differences between types and functionality of various air deliveries, computers, exposure suits, etc.. 

Again, at no time did Mr. or Mrs. Neighbor express anything but excitement regarding spending time to put together their own systems, and all the while were directly informed of costs associated with each item, as well as total cost of the Life Support System as a whole, based on what they selected for themselves.  The couple left the store happy and repeatedly assured each of us that they were going to be purchasing their systems the following day.  

At no point does any of what transpired seem to be "high pressure sales tactics" on the part of Rusty Berry.  Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor had more than ample time to hear, see and come to understand the requirements of the program.  At no time did any staff member ever mention that owning a Life Support System was a requirement, nor did any person (including Rusty), ever pressure the Neighbors into asking about systems or purchasing additional equipment.

Regarding Mr. Neighbors' argument that they were not able to obtain a refund for anything once they had decided not to continue with their Open Water Course, that is undoubtedly false.  I, again, was present during that exchange between the Neighbors and Rusty Berry.  Rusty was happy to return Mr. and Mrs. Neighbors tuition for them, though it is explicitly stated in our Student Registration Form as well as printed at the bottom of every single receipt, that tuition is non-refundable.  The educational tools and logbook were refunded without issue.  The further complaint that the personal equipment was not returned, is true.  We have a very large sign displayed directly above the register area that states there are "no refund of any kind on personal/snorkeling equipment".  Once personal/snorkeling equipment (mask, mouthpieces, snorkel, hood, etc.) is purchased, it belongs to the individual.  This is largely equipment that makes seals with your body.  For sanitary reasons, we do not allow the return of such equipment as we certainly couldn't, and wouldn't, resell that equipment to another customer as new.  In addition to the large sign posted above our register, every single receipt also has our store policy regarding not accepting returns of personal/snorkeling equipment.  As part of those same Standard Operating Procedures, each and every customer is made to sign two copies of their receipt.  One is kept for the store to verify that the employee followed protocol and one is for the customer to keep, reminding them of our store policies and that they fully agreed to the terms at the time that they made their purchase.
Besides the above-stated facts, Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor utilized their equipment during their classroom sessions, practice sessions and pool sessions for the three weeks that they were enrolled and actively participating in their Open Water Course.                 

It is hardly reasonable to think that after the length of time that passed during our dealings with the Neighbors and the numerous times that course details and requirements were repeated to ensure absolute clarity, that anything that could be remotely considered "high pressure sales tactics" was used.  In addition, the applicable refunds were processed as promised. 

It is my belief that after fifty-three (53!!!) years in business, SSA knows how to honestly obtain new customers and traiin them to be safe, efficient and long term members of the diving community.  it is without doubt that our staff members know how to respectfully treat customers and develop trusting relationships that often lead to long-lasting friendships. 

While some may consider me biased as an employee of the store, readers can take comfort in knowing that the Better Business Bureau, as well as the State of California's Department of Consumer Affairs, have both denied Mr. and Mrs. Neighbors' claims that SSA had
committed any wrongdoing.  Both completed a detailed analysis of the information discussed during each and every orientation, all paperwork signed by Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor, email communications between Rusty Berry and Mr. Neighbor, as well as obtained pictures of the numerous locations where posted signs remind customers of store policies.  Neither entity found, after hearing both perspectives of the events that transpired and completing their own investigations into the matter, that any fault lay with Scuba Schools of America or Rusty Berry.

I certainly hope that this rebuttal adds useful information to the argument, and eases any mind that may have taken the Neighbors' complaints as factual.  Thank you for reading such a long reply- I guess when you are certain that false, potentially hurtful statements are being made about something you are truly passionate about, like the ongoing and continued success of Scuba Schools of America, you feel you need to bury the opposition with undeniable fact.    

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