Hundreds of Winnipeg parents are waiting for refunds after paying for hockey camps and tournaments that never happened.
The problems date back to 2020 when parents started registering their kids for sessions with the World 3-on-3 Hockey program that were either cancelled or had class sizes reduced.
“We are sitting out about $350 right now,” Dan Sajatovic told Global News.
Sajatovic registered his nine-year-old son for a training program last August but his child never got to participate. They were turned away at the door after class sizes had to be reduced because of COVID-19 restrictions and were told they were full.
“It left a sour taste being having to show up at the rink back in August, with my son fully dressed ready to play, just to have them tell him were full,” Sajatovic said.
He said he was never contacted ahead of time but was told he would be issued a refund.
In the past, Sajatovic said his son had positive experiences with the group and its hockey director Mike Loustel, so he gave it another chance.
The group was advertising a spring 2021 program for mid-March at the Winnipeg Winter Club.
Sajatovic signed his son up and paid the $209.99 fee.
“By March 12 the web page was taken down so I tried to phone them and I found there was an older phone message and no longer the capacity to hold voicemails,” he said.
Parents started to contact the Winter Club asking questions.
In an emailed statement to Global News the WCC said World 3-on-3 had no bookings for spring 2021 or thereafter.
“We wish to confirm that despite what is presently indicated on the World 3-on-3 website, neither World 3-on-3 nor Mike Loustel has contracted with the Winnipeg Winter Club to rent our hockey facilities for their spring 2021 programming,” the statement said.
“Our legal counsel has written to World 3-on-3 and Mike Loustel to demand that this false statement be removed from their website immediately.”
Global News has spoken with at least a dozen parents who have been trying to get refunds for differing times over the past year.
One said she was finally able to get her money back a week ago when Loustel had his ex-wife deliver a bank draft.
But the others all told Global News they have tried contacting the company and Loustel multiple times through different avenues and have never received a response.
One woman, who asked to not be named publicly, said she was waiting for a $3,600 refund for camps her three sons never got to attend.
There have been at least five complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau within the last 12 months all alleging similar circumstances.
“World 3-on-3 cancelled my daughters hockey fall 2020 camp due to overbooking. I requested a refund and to this day have not had any response or refund Company over-booked hockey clinic,” one complaint stated on the BBB website.
Another outlined multiple attempts to get a refund that have gone unanswered for months.
“I have e-mailed this organization multiple times, phoned and now attempted to contact on facebook but they will not return any communications and their phone mail box is full,” the complaint reads. “They currently owe $209.99.”
A handful of the parents Global News spoke with said they filed fraud complaints with the Winnipeg Police Service.
“WPS has received a complaint regarding the activities of this individual and allegations of possible fraud,” Cst. Rob Carver confirmed.
Working on refunds
World 3-on-3 hockey director Mike Loustel said he is working on issuing refunds to nearly 800 parents but said it’s been an accounting nightmare.
“We’re only set up to send 40 to 50 back each year,” Loustel said in an interview with Global News. “But every cent we’re sending back. It’s going to take two to three months to send it back.”
Loustel said he’s been running the World 3-on-3 hockey program for 35 years. He said it was struggling financially at the end of 2019 and when COVID-19 hit, the problems were exacerbated.
“Now all of a sudden we’re shut down. So half of our revenue for the year in April, May has gone and we’re behind the eight ball about $50,000 to $60,000 because we’ve expensed that out,” he claimed.
Loustel said there is roughly $150,000 in payments that need to be refunded.
“I’m paying everything out of my pocket,” he said. “Everything, all the refunds have come out of my pocket.
Loustel, who is currently living and working in the United States, claims tens of thousands of dollars spent on the spring 2020 program were sunken costs that cannot be recovered.
“We start marketing in October to run our spring program, which is half our revenue. That’s about $50,000 bringing in a thousand jerseys, salaries, putting up posters and all the arenas, your mailings, your advertising on social media, all that kind of stuff,” Loustel claimed.
Loustel said some parents chose to accept credit notes for the failed spring season, which added to financial problems when the summer program started at half capacity.
“Now you forward the credit notes to that and really you’re only running at 25 per cent revenue because half are credit notes paid forward,” he said. “Now you’re in a cash funk because, you know, you still got all your operating expenses.”
He also told Global News he was still hopeful he would be able to put on the programming for spring 2021 as advertised, but he had yet to book any ice time because he was waiting for the province’s restrictions to loosen up.
“You can’t run it (at) 20 (players). So we weren’t planning on running any programs until the ban was lifted,” he said.
Loustel said he has already started to send some parents refunds but knows others are frustrated. He maintains he will be paying people back starting in April but warned it will take a few months.
“My promise to everybody. April 15th, we start paying every cent back because that’s the right thing to do, he said. “We are supposed to give them a service we couldn’t own to. I’m going to complete it. That’s who I am, you know, 1000 per cent. “