Slender Life clients who showed up at any of the weight loss company's four Southwest Florida locations this week were greeted by a locked door.
The business, which touts a guarantee its clients will "lose 6 to 20 inches in just one hour" with prepaid body wraps, has instead left them with unanswered questions and unusable prepaid packages.
Sharon Feiser of Bonita Springs started going to the Naples Slender Life location, 5020 U.S. 41, in September. She liked the combination of twice-a-week body wraps, aerobic exercise and nutrition counseling she received, along with the friendly service from the facility's manager and two wrap technicians.
"Slender Life appeared to be a well-run, well-established business," said Feiser, noting its frequent television ads touting its 22 years in business.
Now Feiser and other clients wonder why they weren't told the fitness facility was closing. The Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Port Charlotte locations all did not open Monday.
Slender Life officials were unavailable for comment. There is no answer at the number for the Naples location, and a recorded message at the Fort Myers location still announces, "We have some great specials this week."
There have been reports of a sales blitz to sell body wraps at the Fort Myers location as late as Friday. The Naples, Fort Myers and Cape Coral locations tried to drum up new business with a Groupon offer released last month.
According to the Groupon website, the deal included a weight-loss body wrap for $49, normally a $100 value. More than 82 customers seized on the deal, which was supposed to be good through April 9.
"Why were they trying to dupe people into joining when they — the owners — knew they were going to close their doors?" Feiser wondered.
Florida Division of Corporations records list Slender Life's registrations as "inactive" and Thom Scott as the president of Slender Life International. He took over Slender Life operations in 2004 after the former president, Larry Pettit, resigned over allegations and lawsuits surrounding an investment scam, according to an investigative article by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
An Internet search of Slender Life combined with the word "scam" comes up with numerous results, with most complaints coming from people upset with the company's no-refund policy on prepaid packages. Heidi Oros sued Slender Life for a refund and was awarded a nearly $4,000 judgment in 2009, but she has not received her money, according to an NBC-2 news report.
The West Florida Better Business Bureau assigned the Naples and Fort Myers Slender Life locations an "F" rating for failing to respond to the BBB to resolve a complaint. The BBB has this alert posted for the Sarasota location: "The BBB's mail to this company has been returned as undeliverable. If you have an unresolved dispute with this company you may wish to seek legal advice."
Former clients who invested in prepaid packages are encouraged to file a complaint with the Florida Attorney General's office. There are no active investigations for Slender Life in the Attorney General's database.
The Attorney General's Office does give this general caveat for any company selling body wraps: "Body wraps, cellulite creams, massages and other such quick 'fat reducers' are only temporary measures, at best, and have no long term effects on body fat. The only sure way to lose weight and reduce fat is to eat less and exercise more. There are no magic pills, patches, potions or creams that can do this for you."
While many Slender Life clients still vouch for the success of its body wraps and weight loss program, they are left to wonder why the company abruptly closed its local operations Sunday.
Feiser holds little hope she will ever receive a refund for prepaid wraps and services.
"I am upset that the owners of the business have closed without prior notice, leaving myself and all the other clients out so much money," she wrote in an email.