BBB warns of Arlington scuba certificate program

Consumer alert involves Jacksonville company that certifies people to dive

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There is a consumer alert involving a Jacksonville company that certifies people to dive.

According to the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida, as many as 180 people who paid hundreds of dollars through Groupon to take scuba lessons at Scuba Lessons Jax might not get their certification cards.

The warning comes after numerous complaints from customers poured in to the BBB.

Matt Hayes said he was looking for affordable scuba lessons and found Scuba Lessons Jax on Google.

"It was more affordable than the rest and there was no fee to rent gear," Hayes said.

Hayes is now frustrated because he, like so many others, is complaining about not being able to get his diver's certification card.

"They informed us after we passed the class, which was the weekend of Dec. 3, 2016, that it would take three to four weeks to get to us, and it's now March of 2017. What happened? I don't know. I reached out to them at the end of January and could not get ahold of them, could not get ahold of the owner," Hayes said.

He's not the only person looking for Scuba Lessons Jax owner Chris Conrad.

"Everybody's looking for a piece of his hide at this point in time, because he has taken money and not been able to provide what he says he was going to do, so he's got some issues," BBB President Tom Stephens said. "He had not responded to us. Whether he does or not, it would be good to tell us his side of the story."

News4Jax caught up with Conrad outside his office. He said he was unaware of any issues.

"I'll be glad to talk to them," Conrad said. "As far as I knew, there was only two or three people I had not taken care of. I was in the transition mode there, changing the company, and I thought I had taken care of everybody. I wasn't trying to beat anyone out of anything."

The BBB thinks customers can't get their certification cards because Conrad is no longer affiliated with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, also known as PADI.

Conrad told News4Jax that he switched to a different instructor affiliation back in January. News4Jax asked why.

"Well, that would be a long explanation. The bottom line is fees and some other things," Conrad said.

But according to the BBB, there's a lot more to that story and it appears PADI may have dumped Conrad for reasons that have not been disclosed. Conrad insisted that he warned customers he was switching instructor affiliations.

"I told them, 'Man, listen, you fell through the cracks. You will get your card so you can go diving. Agency doesn’t really matter. What matters is you get a card,'" Conrad said.

But Hayes never got his card and is now out $399.

"If I could resolve this, I would like a refund or get my certification so I can be certified officially," Hayes said.

The Scuba Lessons Jax website is no longer online, and News4Jax is being told by the BBB that several people have tried to reach Conrad via phone, but have gotten no answer.

If anyone who is concerned about this business, the BBB wants to hear from you.

The BBB said that if someone is offering this type of service for much less than what others are offering, it's likely too good to be true.

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