Two more lawsuits have been filed against an embattled California-based cosmetic company that operates two stores in Aspen, the latest legal entanglements involving allegations of high-pressure sales tactics — with one suit alleging that an employee portrayed himself as the singer Pink’s “personal beauty consultant.”
Following two different lawsuits filed in December, Aspen Retail Management, which operates Luxe Skin Spa on the Hyman Avenue mall and another outlet nearby, is already on the hook for $164,000 that a judge ruled it owes those plaintiffs. It has been the subject of multiple lawsuits and numerous complaints to police, with customers saying they were badgered — after consuming free champagne in the store that plaintiffs said might have been drugged, according to one lawsuit — into buying expensive makeup products and devices such as $9,000 light-therapy machines.
Leanna Rajk, an assistant state’s attorney in Illinois, filed on May 24 another lawsuit against Aspen Retail Management in Pitkin County Court. She filed the 17-page lawsuit pro se and is representing herself, and her friend, Christine Villoch, also filed a nearly identical case against the company.
The allegations are similar to the previous lawsuits. Rajk wrote that she and Villoch on March 28 were walking by Aspen Beauty Boutique on the Cooper Avenue mall and were offered a “free eye cream sample by a sales attendant lingering in the doorway.”
That tactic involves some history. The parent company sued the city of Aspen in 2016 in U.S. District Court over free-speech issues related to the distribution of samples outside the businesses on the Cooper and Hyman malls. The sides reached a settlement in which they agreed on a “reasonable administrative construction” of the city code pertaining to vendors not obstructing public ways, according to a judge’s final order.
“Plaintiffs and their employees, contractors and agents shall be allowed to solicit persons passing by the front door of their stores [on the malls] for commercial purposes,” the order says. “Solicitation may consist of oral and written communications as well as the distribution of product samples, leaflets, cards and brochures.”
The employees cannot cross the doorway threshold. However, the settlement is so specific that it says they “may extend their arms and torsos past the threshold of the doorway to give such items to passersby, but the heels of both of their feet shall remain within the threshold at all times while soliciting.”
The agreement, finalized in March 2017, also mandates that the cosmetic employees are prohibited from “aggressive solicitation.” Subsequent lawsuits like Rajk’s allege that that behavior has not been curbed.
On March 28, after the eye cream enticement, they went into the boutique and a sales representative introduced himself as “Julian,” listed in the lawsuit as John Doe.
“Julian represented that his eye cream was revolutionary and was a replacement for Botox and other such injections and surgeries,” the lawsuit says. “Julian explained that he was in town only for a limited time as the singer Pink’s ‘personal beauty consultant.’ He then continued to talk about Pink, his beauty consultation with her, her shows, and other celebrities who value his beauty services.”
Rajk was impressed by the skin-cream demonstration, as it apparently diminished wrinkles, but was “unaware of a glue-like substance that was in the cream that only temporarily caused the result,” the lawsuit says, adding she was charged $1,200 for a product she never received.
The filing says Julian made small talk about his famous clients, telling the plaintiffs, “Baby, Gwyneth Paltrow was just in our store yesterday … All of our clients like to shop here in Aspen because they are not spotted as easily as they are in Beverly Hills.”
The employee allegedly showed “remarkable pictures of women” who had been receiving treatments by light-therapy machines. But such images were “photo-shopped,” Rajk wrote.
According to the lawsuit, Julian waved the light machine around and passed it over Rajk’s frown lines, making her and Villoch “listen to more of his tales.”
“He again guaranteed results from the product,” Rajk wrote.
Similar to allegations in other lawsuits, the employee allegedly said, after Rajk said she could not afford a light machine, that he would give her his cell phone number and act as a personal consultant — and, again like other legal filings against the firm — that she felt pressured to hand over her credit card and only did so because she believed a purchase would be denied because of her credit limit.
“Plaintiff just wanted to leave the store,” she wrote.
The plaintiffs were allegedly charged $2,000 and $7,975, respectively, and did not receive any products, according to the lawsuits.
“Julian stated that the products would be mailed from his father’s plastic-surgery office,” Rajk’s lawsuit says. It adds that several hours later, the eye cream wore off and “there was absolutely no visible difference in the wrinkles, fine lines or frown lines. That same night, plaintiff tried to call the store from her Snowmass Village rental. There was no answer.”
Messages left with Rajk and an attorney who has represented Aspen Retail Management were not returned.
The lawsuit contains claims of violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.