Los Gatos skincare shop under criminal investigation; I-Team receives new complaints

Wednesday, May 22, 2024
South Bay salon under criminal investigation, receives new complaints
The owner of Los Gatos' Elements is under investigation following I-Team's report of an Alzheimer's patient who got charged for items she didn't want.

LOS GATOS, Calif. (KGO) -- A change of heart for the owner of a Los Gatos skincare shop. After an I-Team investigation, he is refunding more than $7,000 he charged an Alzheimer's patient for products she says she did not want.

Dan Noyes: "Why did you take that action?"

Evgeni Goldin: "Because it's the right thing to do."

But on Tuesday, new complaints are coming in. That shop owner is getting a lot of feedback after my report last month - from online reviews and even people just walking by - yelling. And the staff at 7 On Your Side recognized his name from several complaints they received during the past few years.

VIDEO: Los Gatos shop charges woman with Alzheimer's $7K+ for products she didn't want; I-Team steps in

Elements skincare shop in Los Gatos charged a women with Alzheimer's more than $7,000 for products she didn't want. I-Team steps in to help.

Donna Smith: "Here's another stem cell one, all the same thing."

Seventy-seven-year-old business owner Donna Smith tells the I-Team she could afford the $1,600 for skincare products she selected at Elements in Los Gatos last June. But when it came time to pay, she got a big surprise - an extra zero.

"I look at the register," Donna Smith said, "And I can see it from where I was standing, $16,000, $16,000. And he goes, 'But, oh, this is so special, you are going to love it.'"

An attorney for Elements says, in addition to the sunscreen and lotions, she bought an LED light device. A promotional video says, "Marvelous Signature is the most effective tool to reverse the signs of aging."

The price on the manufacturer's website -- almost $15,000. Donna tells us she never asked to purchase the device. While she was still in the store, her daughter received a notification from the credit card company about that $16,000 transaction and called Donna's cell phone right away.

Smith: "And so she's talking to me on the phone right there, right? He's right there, you know, and he goes, 'No refunds, no refunds, no refunds."

Noyes: "And she told me that she heard that over the phone."

Smith: "Yeah."

Noyes: "Him yelling, no refunds, no refunds."

Smith: "Yeah, that's all he said after that. I think I was played, you know, he thought he could really, by telling me all these wonderful things about me, he could just like slip right in like a snake in the grass and get me to do whatever."

Donna showed us the salesman's card and a different angry customer sent his picture, so we recognized him when we stopped by Elements.

Noyes: "You know, they say that you pressure them."

Salesman: "Don't, don't, don't do that."

Noyes: "You're in a public. Public place."

He wouldn't discuss his sales tactics with us.

Noyes: "Where'd he go? Oh, there he goes."

Donna Smith told us the salesman was so aggressive that day that she's too afraid to return to the store and try to get her money back. The attorney for Elements emailed me that she agreed to terms of the sale "which include a no-refund policy, by signing the necessary documents" at the time of purchase. Although his attorney later emailed answers to most of our questions, Evgeni Goldin did not want to talk about Donna Smith when I met him in person.

Noyes: "But then she says you added a zero, so the amount was $16,000 instead of $1,600."

Goldin: "I don't have any comments about other clients. What I wanted to comment is on this particular thing, this particular case."

Goldin wants you to know he's taking action after my report last month. I showed how he charged a woman with early-onset Alzheimer's disease $7,400 for lotions and devices she says she did not request.

Noyes: "What did you think you were buying?"

Alzheimer's patient: "I didn't think I was buying anything. I just thought it was gonna be a hair salon."

At first, Goldin refused to refund the money, even after the patient's friend, her husband and a police officer discussed her condition that same day.

Now, after the uproar that followed our report, Goldin has returned her money, canceled the loan taken out in the woman's name, and donated $2,000 to an Alzheimer's charity.

Noyes: "Why did you take that action?"

Goldin: "Because that's the right thing to do."

Goldin also posted this apology to NextDoor: "Obviously I made a huge mistake. I take full responsibility. Apologies to the family and the Community. ...We are now reviewing all of our policies with respect to returns."

Goldin's lawyer added, the woman's Alzheimer's diagnosis was "not disclosed to any of the sales personnel or management prior to or during the transaction, nor could such a condition have been reasonably discerned by our client's staff."

That is not the end of the story. Consumer Watchdog Jamie Court tells us that under the state law, he believes Donna Smith and others who spent thousands at Elements and regretted it should be allowed to return their items. "If they don't post a sign saying all sales are final and you can't return things, you have a right to return something within 30 days or you should call the Attorney General," Court said.

In several visits to the Elements shops in Los Gatos and Burlingame, the I-Team's Dan Noyes never saw any signs indicating a "no refunds" policy.

Goldin's attorney emailed, "In accordance with California law, my client has printed on its retail order form that refunds are not allowed for this store." Even though his lawyer wrote that Goldin "is not obligated to post any signs," he has now placed one at checkout in his Los Gatos shop.

Still, Jamie Court believes this could be an issue for law enforcement, telling the I-Team, "This company sounds like it really has a pattern and practice of trying to mislead customers, particularly seniors and to take their money."

Los Gatos police confirm to the I-Team that they are investigating and are now requesting that the Santa Clara County District Attorney file criminal charges in this matter. No decision yet from the DA's office if they'll move forward with the case.

Seventy-year-old Dominic Battistella complained to Los Gatos police. He's a retired hairstylist living on a fixed income; he sometimes worries about skin damage he suffered as a lifelong surfer. So, in September, when a young woman at the door to Elements offered a free facial, he agreed, and then let her apply face cream.

"I thought, well, why not just pay the $300 bucks, get this product, give my credit card number and skedaddle, you know, because I'm a diabetic," Battistella said. "And I felt like my blood sugars were getting a little low, so what I wanted to do was just get out of there."

Battistella says he made it clear he couldn't afford it, but that same salesman loaded him up with lotions and skincare devices, and got him approved for a $7,200 interest-free loan.

Battistella added, "Anywhere from $200 to $300 a month for the two years sounded good to me because all I wanted to do was leave. Battistella tried to return the products the next day, but Elements owner Evgeni Goldin refused, telling him "no refunds".

"That's when I left with my tail between my legs and the product," Battistella said. "And I felt like I had no recourse until I saw your video."

The store's attorney emailed us that Battistella "signed documentation acknowledging Elements' no refund policy." Eight months later, he still hasn't broken the seal on any of the Elements products.

From the 7 On Your Side files, nurse Donna Williams contacted us in 2021 to complain about Elements in Burlingame. She went there after seeing this ad for a free facial on social media, and she met Evgeni Goldin. Williams told the I-Team, "And then he came in while I had all the cream on my face and said, 'Well, you need to put all your information, we forgot to register you, we need your social security."'

Donna says Goldin got her to sign for what she thought were additional services. Then, she tells us Goldin gave her a bag and rushed her out of the store. The shop's lawyer says her description of events "is totally meritless".

Willaims said, "He sent me out with bags full of product." She later realized he charged her $7,680 and set up an interest-free loan for the bulk of it. She brought all the products back the next day, and confronted Evgeni Goldin: "And they said that I couldn't return it, it was non-returnable."

So, Donna emailed 7 On Your Side, and after our consumer counselor contacted the bank and Evgeni Goldin, he refunded her money and apologized by email.

"He was sorry that that had happened to me," Williams said. "And I told him, I'm sorry that it happened to me, too, and that they shouldn't run a business that like that. That's really not the way to run businesses."

At the time of our first report, the Better Business Bureau rated Elements an "F" because of consumer complaints. Then, they asked Evgeni Goldin to "substantiate, modify or discontinue claims" on his website, advertising 50% off savings and using these before and after photos that also appear on other companies' websites.

Now, Goldin has removed those photos and responded to complaints on the BBB website, so they've raised his rating to a B+. By the way, Goldin and his lawyer say they were not aware of the police investigation until I asked them for a response.

Take a look at more stories by the ABC7 News I-Team.

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