St. Louis, Mo., March 4, 2013 – Frustrated customers of a St. Charles, Mo., luxury limousine service say the company either failed to show up for scheduled pick-ups or emailed cancellation notices just hours before the vehicles were supposed to arrive.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests caution to consumers considering doing business with Showtime Limousines or Gregg Adam Sanford of St. Charles. Sanford is listed as Showtime’s owner in filings with the Missouri secretary of state.
A Marine, Ill., woman said Showtime ruined her 21st birthday celebration last month when a limousine failed to arrive to take her and more than 20 guests on a planned outing to area bars and restaurants.
”It was humiliating,” the woman said. “People couldn’t believe it. I felt like a sucker.”
A woman from Arnold, Mo., said she was devastated when Showtime’s pink stretch Hummer failed to arrive for her daughter’s 16th birthday celebration in early November. “I had all these kids with their hopes up,” the woman said.
Other Showtime customers said they had trouble getting refunds from the business and had difficulty contacting company representatives by phone or email.
Showtime has an “F” rating with the BBB, the lowest possible.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said the reputation of a limousine rental business depends, in large part, on its professionalism and reliability.
“Unfortunately, the recent history of this company shows it has trouble meeting either of those standards,” Corey said. “Too often, it appears, Showtime Limousine has been a no-show.”
Missouri secretary of state records show that Sanford first registered Showtime Limousines in December 2011.
The BBB has received nearly 20 complaints involving Showtime since July 2012, with most of those filed since Nov. 1.
Last month, a man identifying himself as Devin Blake, manager of Showtime, told the BBB that Showtime had changed ownership in mid-December. The man told the BBB that the new owners were from the Chicago area, but he declined to identify them. Showtime’s website, www.showtimestl.com, includes a “New Owners Statement” that says that the business had “undergone complete restructuring . . . to make your experience with us amazing and memorable.”
The BBB could not verify that the business has changed hands.
A BBB investigator who attended a bridal show on Feb. 24 in St. Charles found that a man who introduced himself as “Devin” with Showtime was the same man who claimed to be Gregg Sanford in a 2012 TV newscast about Showtime Limousines.
The BBB also discovered that the same Showtime limousine that was on display at the St. Charles bridal show on Feb. 24 was parked in front of Sanford’s home the morning of Feb. 26. Sanford identified himself as Showtime’s CEO in a Feb. 22 fax sent to a former customer.
The BBB tried several times to reach Showtime about the discrepancy, without success.
The Marine, Ill., woman, a student at Lindenwood College, said her boyfriend paid Showtime $600 on Jan. 14 for a five-hour vehicle rental for 22 passengers. When the limousine failed to arrive, they began calling the company. She said she did not hear anything from Showtime until five days later, when she received an email that said: “I was notified that our driver was missing in action on Saturday for an early event and was checking to see if your reservation for the party bus was on time and the driver was satisfactory.” It was signed only “James CEO.” The woman and her boyfriend said that as of late last week, the company had not yet refunded their money.
Several customers said they experienced problems after purchasing Showtime deals from Living Social.
An O’Fallon, Mo., woman said she contracted with the company to provide a party bus for her sister-in-law’s bachelorette party on Jan. 19. The woman said she paid Living Social $400 in August 2012 and an additional $160 in November for a driver’s gratuity. She said that she heard nothing more from the company until she received an email on the morning of the event canceling the appointment.
The email said the vehicle had suffered a “major mechanical issue” and could not be repaired in the time to honor the contract. “I was pretty panicked,” the woman said. She said she ultimately had to pay $890 to another limousine company. She has asked for a refund, but has not yet received it.
A woman from Maryland Heights said she paid Living Social in advance to reserve Showtime’s pink Hummer for a wine outing for 17 people on Nov. 3, 2012. On the morning of the planned trip, Sanford told her via email that the vehicle had been vandalized and would not be available for her event. The woman said she hired another limousine company to transport the group to the winery. When they arrived, they discovered the pink Hummer that reportedly was out of commission. The woman said the driver told a guest in her group that the vehicle had been repaired in time for a last-minute booking. She said she eventually received a refund from Living Social for the canceled trip.
On Dec. 4, Sanford responded to a pattern of recent BBB complaints.
"We are in the business of catering to alcohol-consuming patrons 99 percent of the time and [the customers] will not be happy all the time,” he said. “Keep in mind most people that are complaining are not adhering to our legal signed contract they have provided to us. Our vehicles are not normal cheapo limos. The pink Hummer is [a] $400k custom vehicle. When people don’t return contracts or damage [the vehicles] and they are charged they get mad and make false complaints.” He said, “Half of [the consumers who filed complaints] are being sued by me in court.”
The BBB could find no Missouri court records in the past year indicating that Showtime has sued any of its customers.
The BBB offers the following tips to customers looking to hire a limousine service:
Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-0606, email@example.com, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, email@example.com
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. All BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4 million businesses, 11,000 Charity Reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.