Spa owner promises to refund gift certificates, gift cards

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The owner of Spa 151 on the River promised Wednesday to refund all outstanding gift cards or gift certificates, an amount she estimated to be $50,000.

Spa 151, at 151 S. Spanish St. in Cape Girardeau, closed last week amid a divorce dispute between owner Ashli Rowland and her estranged husband, Scott Rowland. No notice of the closing was given and employees have complained that they are owed back pay and were asked to work for tips when Scott Rowland said he would not accept the gift certificates or cards after taking over the spa.

Details of the refunds are still to be settled, Ashli Rowland said. Customers are being asked to hold on to their gift certificates or gift cards until the procedures can be announced. she said.

Rowland's announcement came a day after the Missouri attorney general's office said it was investigating at least one complaint about the gift certificate sales.

Meanwhile, owners of a business formerly owned by the Rowlands said they are being caught up in the controversy over the gift cards and certificates. Ashli Rowland said earlier this week that when the spa closed, she was trying to sell her interest in a building at 78 Plaza Way in order to pump cash into the spa business.

That is the address of Check Please, a company sold by the Rowlands and partners Brent and Lori Wills of Jackson to Grisham-DeBusk Management of Columbia, Mo. Grisham-DeBusk took over 21 Check Please locations from the Rowland-Wills partnership in early October, Bill DeBusk said.

Confusion over the ownership of the check cashing and payday loan operation has led customers to demand satisfaction on the gift cards and certificates in the form of reductions in their payday loan accounts, DeBusk said.

"I have got customers from the Check Please location with gift certificates not wanting to pay me thinking that the Check Please is owned by the Rowlands," DeBusk said. "I am an innocent party."

In addition, DeBusk said, other check businesses are eyeing his Cape Girardeau operation thinking it can be purchased at a discount.

"It stirs me into a pot I don't deserve," DeBusk said.

Rowland said Wednesday that she is continuing to pursue a sale of her share of the property at 78 Plaza Way. That money will be used to finance the gift card and certificate refunds.

Rowland was able to sketch out the basics of her plan to make the refunds. A post office box will be rented within a few days, she said, and a bank account will be established to hold cash for her customers.

Customers will be asked to send in their certificates or cards to the post office box, she said. Within a short period of time, a check will be sent for the remaining value of the gift certificate or card.

"I will have an account set up and a P.O. box by early next week," Rowland said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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