Help Me Hank: What to know before booking company to avoid scams, losing money

Tips from BBB

By Hank Winchester - Reporter, Kelley Kosuda - Producer

DETROIT - It’s been a wedding venue deposit battle.

Althea and her fiancé, Robert, booked their wedding reception at Port Huron’s Rix’s on the Rooftop back in February. They had been to a party there before and enjoyed it. Althea said the venue was going to take care of the cake, hors d'oeuvres and much more.

The couple put down a $320 deposit on the space. The wedding invites went out, but in May, Althea’s cousin contacted her saying Rix’s on the Rooftop posted to social media that it had closed permanently.

When she reached out to the owner, he tried to get the couple booked at other venues, but none seemed to be working out. She contacted Help Me Hank, feeling frustrated that she wasn’t getting her deposit back. But there was one key thing that the couple did wrong. All they had was a receipt, no contract.

We reached out to the Better Business Bureau. The organization’s president, Melanie Duquesnel offered some tips to follow when booking a company:

  1. Sign a contract: A contract sets everything in stone with times, dates, money, etc.
  2. Get a contingency plan on the contract: Many times, there will be a Plan B on a contract if something goes wrong. It should have an agreement on refunds and how far in advance the venue will contact you if your event needs to be canceled or moved.
  3. No contract? Write it up yourself: Be direct with what the venue should provide. Always list dates, times, and prices. It doesn’t need to be drawn up by a lawyer, but it should outline exactly what your expectations are and what the venue will get in return.
  4. Something missing? Don’t be shy…add it yourself. It will need to be agreed upon by the venue, of course, but at least address the areas you’re concerned about.
  5. Due diligence: When looking for a venue, take the time to do the research. Get references from friends and family and online. Check the Better Business Bureau website. Ask the venue for third party references, like other guests that you can talk to. Ask those people, what was the experience like? How did the staff handle problems that came up? You can ask how the food was, but you also want to know what potential problems could arise.
  6. Look for red flags: If the reviews are of legitimate concerns, make a note of it. If there’s no contract being offered, maybe look somewhere else. Brand new venues have few references, but that’s where a contract is most important. If they don’t have a reputation and there's no contract, be wary.

If you’re wondering, in the end, the owner of Rix’s on the Rooftop gave the couple back their deposit. Now they’re working with another local venue for their wedding that’s in a couple weeks.

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