NEW YORK (WABC) -- The Better Business Bureau is offering tips to consumers following a 7 On Your Side investigation into a long-term parking lot near JFK Airport accused of leaving customers with vehicle damage and parking tickets even though they had paid to park in a secure lot.
Claire Rosenzweig, president & CEO of the BBB Serving Metropolitan New York, said the agency has also received several complaints about Airlot JFK Longterm Parking, which is currently located at 133-98 142nd Street in Jamaica, Queens -- but the agency's attempts to contact the owner, Markens Nicolas, have gone unanswered.
The BBB has given Airlot an "F Rating" as a result.
"If you are not responding to customer complaints, what does that say about your business?" Rosenzweig asked. "You are slamming the door on consumers' faces. It sends the message that this business is not upholding an important standard for trust."
Rosenzweig added that it's the responsibility of the consumer to fully research any company before signing contracts or engaging in business.
She suggested consumers confirm a business has the proper licenses before making reservations, check the company's reviews, and thoroughly read any terms and conditions. She also suggested consumers be extra vigilant in researching the company providing the service when using a third party online booking site.
Additionally, Rosenzweig encouraged customers dealing with parking lots specifically to document the conditions of a vehicle thoroughly, with photos prior to leaving.
"Especially when dealing with something like a car, you want to be sure you can trust that business," Rosenzweig said.
The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs said Airlot is operating without a required DCA license and a New York City judge fined the company $500. DCA has also sent a cease and desist letter to the landlord of the property on which Airlot operates, demanding the landlord terminate the unlicensed activity.
In Eyewitness News' initial report, several customers complained that Nicolas, the owner of Airlot, refused to compensate them for illegal parking tickets and damage to their vehicles, which at times surpassed $1,000.
Nicolas told Eyewitness News he would compensate customers with legitimate claims and while one customer said they had been reimbursed, several other customers said Nicolas continues to ignore their calls and messages despite his promise to Eyewitness News.
Nicolas has refused to talk in person or by phone to Eyewitness News and has only made comments by text.
In some cases, he has denied vehicles were damaged on his lot despite photos of the vehicles undamaged, timestamped the date of customers' travel, and geotagged to the location of his lot along with video, and in one case a police report, of the damaged vehicles at Airlot, on the date customers returned.
When Eyewitness News pressed Nicolas about his failure to obtain a business license and whether he would follow through on compensating consumers for damages, he threatened to block Eyewitness News from contacting him.
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BBB offers consumer tips following 7 On Your Side Investigation into long term parking lot near JFK