The plaintiffs in two lawsuits filed against a controversial cosmetics company with two stores in Aspen prevailed this week after the firm failed to respond to the litigation.
Three people who sued Aspen Retail Management, which operates Aspen Beauty Boutique and Luxe Skin Spa on the pedestrian malls, are now seeking a combined $166,000 in damages and attorney fees.
Cheron Berastequi filed suit in December, as did Dean and Kim Reeves in a separate lawsuit. The outlets have been the subject of at least four lawsuits and 15 reports to police by people who said they were pressured into paying thousands of dollars for makeup products. They were also unable to return the products for refunds, and messages left with the company went unanswered, according to the reports and court filings.
In their lawsuit, the Reeves allege they entered Aspen Cosmetics — which now has a new name, Luxe Skin Spa, the second name change since October, according to city finance records — last summer. They were each given a glass of champagne that may have been drugged, as they soon felt “very confused and out of sorts,” the lawsuit says.
Employees began applying creams to their faces, against the couple’s wishes, though “they were unable to refuse the demonstrations because they were so out of it, and the store attendants were so aggressive,” wrote their attorney, Chris Bryan of Aspen.
The Reeves’ provided a credit card and then filled out a shipping form in order to “escape the store and the high-pressure sales tactics employed,” Bryan wrote. Once outside, they called the store repeatedly in an effort to cancel the order, which totalled nearly $22,000.
“Plaintiffs thought they were buying $700 worth of products,” and the invoice they received showed no itemized prices of any item or service, the lawsuit says.
Aspen Retail Management violated the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, having engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices, according to one claim in the suit. The other claims are assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Because the defendant failed to respond, Bryan moved for default judgments in the two lawsuits, which Pitkin County’s clerk of court approved Monday. A judge is expected to sign off on the judgments in the near future. He is seeking $75,515, triple the amount of what his clients say they were charged because the defendant allegedly acted in bad faith. The amount also includes $9,258 in attorney fees and interest.
Dave Beitchman, an attorney representing Aspen Retail Management, declined comment Wednesday evening, citing what he called the active litigation. He also declined to comment when asked about the company’s reputation and the numerous police reports that have not resulted in lawsuits.
Bryan also represents Berastequi, whose lawsuit contains claims of fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress and a violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.
She entered Kristals Cosmetics, now called Aspen Beauty Boutique, in September after being offered an eye-cream demonstration, and decided to purchase a product. An employee led her to a small room and explained a light-based therapy that he was going to perform on Berastequi’s face. He also gave her his cell phone number, “telling plaintiff that he would be her private facialist, and that she could call anytime and he would answer her questions about how to apply the face creams and work the lights,” Berastequi’s lawsuit says. “Plaintiff attempted to call the cell phone number given to her, and no one answered and the voicemail was not set up.”
Berastequi repeatedly told the employee that she could not afford a $9,000 light machine, but feeling increasingly uncomfortable and looking to leave, she handed over her credit card, confident her credit card company would decline the charges because of her credit limit. But the employee said the charge went through without a problem — with one caveat: He had charged her $21,000, Bryan wrote.
Asked why she was charged so much, given that she believed the device cost $9,000, the employee told her that “each light was $9,000 and that shipping and handling was an extra charge,” the lawsuit says. She was also charged $5,250 for face masks, with the employee allegedly telling her that he knew she “really wanted the face masks and that the credit card company had accepted the charges.”
Berastequi later researched the lights and found them on the internet for $69 to $650. She was unable to cancel her order, the lawsuit says.
Bryan is seeking $88,685 in damages, interest and attorney fees.
Aspen City Clerk Linda Manning said there are no ethical considerations for firms seeking a business license, save for those involved in the liquor and marijuana industries.
The business license for Luxe Skin Spa, displayed at the cash register, is valid from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019. Aspen Retail Management’s license for its other outlet is also up to date.
Also near the register is the company’s return and exchange policy. The first sentence says Luxe Skin Spa “has a NO REFUND policy.” But the company “may unilaterally, and in its sole discretion make exceptions to its return policy,” the sign says. “Luxe Skin Spa’s customer service department will carefully review each request and contact you directly if your refund is approved.”