Outrage after Texas retiree hit with $10,000 in cosmetics charges after visit to mall kiosk

A 79-year-old Houston-area woman's trip to the mall for shoes resulted in a facial procedure and cosmetics unknowingly costing her nearly $10,000, subsequently draining her bank account, according to her son.

Trey Fleming told USA TODAY his mother went to Katy Mills Mall in Katy, Texas alone on April 1 to try on Hey Dude shoes, but when she left, her hands contained a bag of cosmetics and two receipts totaling around $9,600. His mom, who suffers from "age-related occasional confusion," had her savings and checking accounts emptied, he said.

"She's a retired social worker," Fleming said. "She worked for Child Protective Services for over 25 years or so, and she retired from CPS probably 10 or 12 years ago... She's never had a whole lot of money, but she's always been extremely responsible."

When Fleming's mother got older, he took financial power of attorney over her, he said.

"She would be upset about spending $15 at Walmart on makeup," Fleming said about his mother. "... she would never spend this kind of money."

USA TODAY contacted the Simon Property Group Team, which owns Katy Mills Mall, on Monday morning but did not receive an immediate response.

Stock photo of generic jars of facial creams.
Stock photo of generic jars of facial creams.

How did Trey Fleming's mom's trip to Katy Mills Mall go awry?

Fleming's mother's mall trip went awry after she stopped at a kiosk to ask for directions to the Hey Dude store, he said. Once his mother began speaking to the employee at the kiosk, their conversation shifted from directions to cosmetic products, he added.

"She stopped by one of the kiosks to ask for directions (and) they started talking to her about their products," Fleming said. "... They ended up taking her into their salon for a free facial."

The salon Fleming's mom entered was Royal Bee, a cosmetics company located in Katy Mills Mall. Fleming said he became weary of the situation once his sister told him their mother was having lunch with two guys at the Cheesecake Factory in Katy Mills Mall.

Fleming immediately began looking up his mother's accounts to see how much she spent at the Cheesecake Factory, and what he saw was a "whole bunch of big charges."

"I'm looking and I see her bank accounts are empty," Fleming said.

Trey Fleming's mom 'was just floored' after learning her bank accounts were empty

Fleming said once he and his sister got their mom on the phone, she explained how the salespeople at Royal Bee took her to the back for a free facial and showed her the different products and packages they were selling. The salespeople told his mother how their products would be great for her daughter and other family members, he added.

When Fleming initially checked his mom's account, he saw charges totaling $9,600 from Royal Bee. He learned from his mother's bank, which froze her accounts due to suspicious activities, that $91,000 in charges were run against her debit card during her mall trip, he said.

"She had no idea she was spending that type of money," Fleming said about his mother. "When I told her that her bank accounts were empty, she was just floored and her jaw dropped."

USA TODAY contacted Royal Bee on Monday morning but did not receive an immediate response.

Royal Bee refused to give Trey Fleming's mom a refund

Fleming said he and his mother disputed all the attempted charges with her bank and then he returned to the mall to confront the salespeople at Royal Bee.

When Fleming walked into the salon, the manager greeted him and asked if he came in for a facial, he recalled. Once the manager learned who Fleming was, he called his mother "wonderful" and "great," he added.

Fleming said he saw a book of paperwork containing his mother's contract with the salon, so he grabbed it and walked out.

"I was livid, as you can imagine," Fleming said. "You find out your mom was taken advantage of. We knew she would never buy this type of thing... that's three times her monthly income."

Bank fraud prevention: Whose job should it be?

Fleming returned to Royal Bee about an hour later, but this time with his sister and their mother. They went into the salon with the bags of stuff their mother had bought, and requested a refund, he said.

The salespeople at Royal Bee told the Flemings, "Absolutely no refunds (and) no returns," according to Trey Fleming. The shop only said products can be exchanged within 14 days for other products, he recalled.

"My mom is sweet as can be," Fleming said. "She had no idea that people are out there that will take advantage of her."

Nextdoor helped Trey Fleming's mother receive a refund

Fleming said his wife's Nextdoor post about the situation led to outrage against the Katy Mills Mall.

"They were livid," Fleming said about the users on the social network app. "There were several people that had the same thing happen to them."

The pressure from the Nextdoor users led to mall management going to the salon to inquire about the "exorbitant charges," according to Fleming. Once the mall got involved, Fleming began getting calls from the salon saying they got approval for a full refund, he said.

Fleming's mother received a full refund by April 11, he said. She did have to pay $250 for the facial and $50 for the lunch, he added.

"Just to get out of this, it was like 'OK fine,'" Fleming said about paying the $300 after the refund.

Fleming said he and his mother also filed a consumer complaint with the Texas Attorney General's Office about the mall mishap.

"It's unfortunate, and it's not just the makeup industry," Fleming said. "Anything they can do to target seniors, it's so much easier to scare them into buying something."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Houston retiree's Royal Bee visit at Katy Mills ends with $10,000 bill