Modeling company accused of tricking customers, unfair business practices

MILFORD, Conn. (WTNH)–Pete Rodriguez never thought of putting a price tag on his daughters smile.

But when he was walking through Westfield Connecticut Post Mall, a woman standing in front of a kiosk said his daughter had “the look.”

“If you want to say ‘no thank you’ which we initially did… they continued to tell you how cute your kid is and how much of a model they could be, said Rodriguez from his New Haven home.

“It’s real easy or real cheap to do it.”

MORE: The six questions you should ask before signing a modeling contract

Rodriguez accepted what was described as a free consultation with Interface Sono, LLC, a New Jersey company with offices across five eastern states.

By the end, Rodriguez would pay more than $1,100 for hair stylists, makeup artists and wardrobe for a set of photographs of his one-year-old daughter. Rodriguez told the employees that he did not want anything but the pictures, but was charged anyway. He took them to small claims court.

After a Hartford small claims judge ruled in favor of Rodriguez, Interface Sono was ordered to repay Rodriguez every penny that he spent. He says he has yet to see any money.

In a September 3, 2014 complaint against Interface Sono, the Department of Consumer

Protection calls their tactics “unfair, unethical, immoral, oppressive, unscrupulous and [they] offend public policy.”

Interface has long been the target of complaints to both the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) and the Better Business Bureau. The DCP has taken 18 complaints there have been 117 complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau.

“One of the problems we’re having is contacting the company and that’s not just in the state of Connecticut,” said Better Business Bureau spokesman Howard Schwartz. “It’s happening in Florida as well.”

Better Business Bureau’s in Florida and New Jersey have taken a growing number of complaints. In 2008, the Connecticut Better Business Bureau issued a warning.

In July 2011, New Jersey’s Attorney General filed suit against Interface Sono and it’s owner, Roman Vintfeld. The suit, similar to the complaint coming from Connecticut DCP, alleged Vintfeld and his employees used high pressure sales tactics against consumers and misrepresented the agreement for the photo shoot.

Vintfeld settled for $400,000.

“The NJ [sic] settlement provided restitution to about 100 of literally [sic] 40,000+ clients, and only to clients who were not provided a 3 day rescission period,” said Vintfeld.

“Prior to closing, our tens of thousands of satisfied clients far outweighed any number of complaints,” said Vintfeld. He blames the economy and a lack of funds for closing the doors at his offices across five states.

Vintfeld lives in a home valued at $1.6 million home, according to Mahwah, New Jersey tax records.

“The company’s proprietors have already depleted all personal liquidity to keep the company afloat during several quarters of losses, and we are heartbroken that we are unable to cover final paychecks and understand the frustration of affected employees,” said Vintfeld.

A September 26 hearing was rescheduled while attorney for Vintfeld and the Department of Consumer Protection began working on a closed door deal.

Here is Roman Vintfeld’s statement in its entirety:

We know there have been a number of rumors swirling, but the facts are as follows.

InterFACE and affiliates have encountered operational issues that have left the companies insolvent. Though we had an investor prepared to come on board as part of a restructuring deal which would have given the company the working capital it so desperately needed, unforeseen circumstances prevented funding from coming in time to save the company, and InterFACE has been forced to shut its doors while it explores its options. The company’s proprietors have already depleted all personal liquidity to keep the company afloat during several quarters of losses, and we are heartbroken that we are unable to cover final paychecks and understand the frustration of affected employees. Management communicated the situation as it evolved, and the moment we understood that funding would not be secured in time (despite repeated assurances of commitment), employees were immediately notified. While some clients have certainly been inconvenienced, a plan for continuation of service is being worked out through industry professionals so that clients can continue to receive the services they contracted. We are confident a service plan will be worked out and clients will be informed as soon as there is more information.

It is incredibly unfortunate, but companies go out of business, especially in this economy. The fact that Interface became insolvent does not mitigate the fact that Interface operated honestly and fairly, providing the exact services promised to clients, until it could no longer remain open.

The NJ settlement provided restitution to about 100 of literally 40,000+ clients, and only to clients who were not provided a 3 day rescission period. This does not apply to CT consumers to whom the rescission period always applied. Interface has had a compliance monitor since that settlement who has provided five consecutive quarters of positive reviews, further showing that Interface was a good corporate citizen. In fact, prior to closing, our tens of thousands of satisfied clients far outweighed any number of complaints.

I understand there have been more, and will probably continue to be more complaints now that the company has closed because people no longer have access to services they’d wanted. No one is more disappointed than Interface’s former management. Fortunately, the company has a decade of industry relationships and does have reputable industry professionals willing to render outstanding marketing services to former Interface clients, and as soon as details are finalized, information will be provided, but Interface as a company simply does not have the capital to continue operations.

An email address “Help@interfacetalent.com ” has been created to facilitate communication, and any inquiries should be directed there. As resources are extremely limited, inquiries will only be addressed when there is new information available.

What to know before you sign:

How do you ensure you get the most out of a modeling contract? Tina Kiniry, President of John Casablancas of Connecticut gave the following tips:

  • The contract should outline what fees the agency will deduct or collect from the model.  It is important that you have all of the information on what you are responsible for before hand.  Examples include photo shoots, workshops, comp cards and the standard agency commission is 20%.  Avoid companies that ask for more than 20%.
  • Make sure the agency is licensed by The Department of Labor because that means the agency has met their standards and the contract is approved by them.  It also means that background checks have been performed and the company is financially sound.
  • Review the length of the contract and termination clause.  Most agencies ask for a 1-3 year term and require you to cancel 90 days prior to the end of the term or it will automatically renew.
  • Look for how an agency can dismiss you and review that closely for items that you don’t think you can agree to.
  • Sign with an agency that has an office in the market you live in.  Avoid companies that are not local to your area because they are not licensed in your area.  And, should a problem arise it will be difficult for you to pursue any legal action against them.
  • Above all else, if it sounds too good to be true it usually is.

 

 

 

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