St. Louis, Mo., April 17, 2012 – Customers said they paid the web design firm Stadia Studio between $500 and $2,000 each to build websites for their businesses but ended up with nothing, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
The BBB suggests that consumers be cautious when dealing with Stadia Studio or its owner, Michael John Allton, of St. Charles, Mo. The three-year-old business has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest grade possible.
A Hazelwood, Mo., man said he gave Allton and Stadia Studio $1,500 in June 2010 as partial payment for building a website for his lawn care business. Two years later the site still is not done, and Allton has refused to issue a refund. “I have received nothing for my money,” the Hazelwood businessman said.
Other consumers, in Missouri and elsewhere, report similar problems.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said the complaints indicate that Stadia Studio is not living up to its customers’ trust.
“Any business that enters into an agreement to deliver a product and then breaks that agreement is putting its very survival in jeopardy,” Corey said. “A company shouldn’t make promises it can’t or won’t keep.”
In addition to several BBB complaints, consumers have filed at least four small claims actions against Allton and/or Stadia Studio since September 2010, all alleging that the business promised websites it never delivered.
In two of those cases, a judge entered default judgments when Allton failed to appear for court hearings. The consumers said that more than a year later, the $1,600 and $1,400 judgments have never been paid.
The most recent case was filed earlier this month in St. Charles County. In that case, a businessman from Encino, Calif., said Allton and Stadia Studio owe him nearly $1,000 after he made a down payment on a website that was never delivered. “He promised me the world,” the Encino businessman said of Allton. Instead, “he wasted five months of my life.”
A man from Brooklyn, N.Y., who hired Allton and Stadia Studio in March 2011 to create a fantasy football website, said he sued for a $2,000 refund after months of trying to get a working website. In October, the Brooklyn businessman wrote in an email to Allton: “I’ve heard excuse after excuse . . . I have tried everything to get my money back without taking you to court. Now I guess you leave me no choice.”
A woman from Bridgeton, Mo., who paid Allton $500 as partial payment to develop a website for her construction company said he helped her design a logo, but never delivered on a promised website. In the end, “He was blatantly avoiding my phone calls.”
All of the customers interviewed by a BBB investigator said they either learned of Stadia Studio from the firm’s Craigslist ads or Allton contacted them after seeing their Craigslist ads.
Despite BBB attempts to contact Allton over the past several days, he has not responded.
Missouri secretary of state records show Stadia Studio was registered in September 2008. The firm’s website, www.stadiastudio.com, describes the business as a professional web design and development company “that can assist with every aspect of your website and online presence. Our specialty is in helping small to medium businesses achieve increased sales and exposure through effective use of web design and internet promotion.”
Stadia Studio and Allton have posted recent ads on Craigslist and other marketing websites in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and throughout Missouri. “I am a freelance Web Designer with over ten years experience in helping businesses achieve more growth and sales as a result of effective websites,” said a Craiglist ad that ran in the Boston market on March 31.
The BBB offers the following tips for small businesses and other consumers looking to hire someone to develop a website:
- Be careful when dealing with any individual or company you don’t know. Look past the designer’s website and ask questions: How long have you been in business? How many employees do you have? Do you have an outside office or do you work from your home? Do you have references I can contact?
- Know exactly what you will be getting for your money and how much you will pay. Get a signed, written contract that lays out the details of your agreement with the contractor.
- Avoid making a large upfront payment. A contractor should be comfortable with a pay-as-you-go agreement, with periodic payments made as work progresses.
- Agree to deadlines and try to stick to them. Deadline extensions should be the exception rather than the rule. Be wary of anyone who consistently misses work deadlines.
- Check for BBB Business Reviews by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-584-6800, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, email@example.com, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org