INDIANAPOLIS—Customers are looking for answers from an apartment rental service that is no longer answering the phone or emails.
The company, Frontdesk, is based in Milwaukee Wisconsin.
Their website says they have properties across the country including Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Nashville, Phoenix, and Tampa.
Robert Cox is a police officer who lives in Miami County and works security jobs in downtown Indianapolis that sometimes require him to stay overnight.
“Sometimes it’s easier to stay downtown if it’s going to be a longer basketball game,” said Cox.
A few years ago, he started using Frontdesk.
“It was a very good price. It was very reasonable,” said Cox. “There wasn't a lot of fees like you get with some of the other sites.”
Cox said when he booked a room through Frontdesk, he had to pay up front.
He called last month to cancel a booking he no longer needed.
“I spoke to the company and they said they would issue a refund,” said Cox. “I waited four or five days, but usually the refund comes instantly. This time it didn’t come instantly, so I did a follow up call with them on January 2 to check on the refund.”
Cox received an automated voice message.
WRTV Investigates got the same voice message when we called the number listed on the website.
The voice message says, “Currently, Frontdesk is unavailable. If you have a reservation, please seek alternative accommodations, and expect to be contacted within the next two weeks. Thank you for your understanding."
Cox said Frontdesk didn’t respond to his texts either.
“I was a little shocked,” said Cox. “It was a great company. I’ve referred them to a lot of people and I’ve used it myself.”
Our Scripps station in Milwaukee, WTMJ, stopped by Frontdesk’s office at 3:30 pm on a Friday, but the office was dark and no workers appeared to be inside.
WRTV Investigates tried emailing and texting the company, but we did not get a response.
We also tried calling Jesse DePinto, the CEO of Frontdesk according to the Better Business Bureau, however, we never heard back from him.
“I was out $100,” said Cox.
Cox disputed the charge with his credit card company and got his money back that way.
He also filed a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General’s office.
WRTV Investigates reached out to the Indiana Attorney General’s office and a spokesperson said consumers can file a complaint at www.IndianaConsumer.com.
WRTV also checked with the Better Business Bureau in Wisconsin, which recommends consumers file a complaint.
One customer posted a review about Frontdesk with the BBB on January 10.
“I booked with them for a trip and they emailed (thankfully a month in advance) that they were closing immediately and to cancel with our third-party booking site,” read the review. “I did so. Then the next day they emailed again saying to dispute the charge with our credit card company. Why can't they just refund?"
Robert Cox said he never got an email from Frontdesk about the status of their business.
He’s concerned visitors coming into Indianapolis for the All Star gave could be impacted.
"If they've booked with the service, they're going to get here and they're not going to have a place to stay," said Cox.
As of now, it does not appear you can make a new booking using the Frontdesk website.
If you plan on booking a short-term rental, the BBB provides the following tips:
- Plan ahead. Allow plenty of time to research hotels, flights, and your stay area. Typically, the earlier reservations are made, the better the deals and the lower the risk of the destination being booked solid. Making reservations in advance also locks in rates and prevents higher prices later during prime spring break, peak summer, or holiday travel seasons.
- Avoid broad internet searches. Entering phrases like ‘best deals’ into whichever search engine is used can sometimes bring up-websites that look official but are designed solely to rip people off.
- Be alert for travel scams. Watch out for phone calls or letters claiming a 'free trip' or websites offering prices that appear too good to be true. It’s easy to extend questionable offers like these, but most leave hopeful travelers in limbo – and out of money. Learn more about travel scams here.
- Do your homework. Ask family and friends to recommend a travel agent or website, and visit BBB.org for free Business Profiles. Research the business and read customer reviews about any rentals under consideration.
- Get trip details in writing. Before making a final payment, get all the trip details in writing. This should include the total cost, restrictions, cancellation penalties, and names of the airlines and hotels. Also, review and keep a copy of the airline’s and hotel’s cancellation and refund policies, as well as the cancellation policies of the travel agency or booking site used.
- Consider travel insurance. Travel insurance covers things like trip cancellations or medical emergencies. There are different levels of coverage based on what type of plan purchased. Ask many questions, and always read the fine print to see what’s covered and what’s not.
- Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card provides additional protection if something should go wrong with the travel reservation.
- Planning to travel internationally? Check to see if any advisories affect Canada and the U.S. Travel Association for any issues that may impact the trip.