Vlad Somov was barely a teenager when he decided to turn his interest in high-end sneakers into a side business.
He began by buying popular products online and reselling them on websites like Ebay. Then he tried out a Georgetown consignment store he heard of through friends called Kickk Spott.
His first sale in early 2018 was successful, though repayment took several weeks, he said. But with hopes of earning enough money for a trip abroad, he then consigned about $1,500 worth of sneakers and clothes to Kickk Spott that fall.
The items sold, he said, but more than a year later, Vlad is still waiting to get paid.
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“My hope is to finally get my money back,” Vlad, now 16, told the News4 I-Team. “Fifteen hundred dollars is a lot of money for anyone, but especially a teenager.”
The I-Team found he’s far from the only person who said they've been stiffed by the streetwear store. After being contacted by Vlad’s mother, an employee of NBC News, the I-Team uncovered dozens of people who say they’ve waited for months, even years, to be repaid for items they sold.
Records indicate at least 10 people have sued Kickk Spott in small claims court, but many of those cases failed to move forward because the complainants were unable to serve the legal documents.
Now, the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is taking action against the business, shutting it down this week after issuing fines for more than $5,000 for operating without the correct license and what the agency called “deceptive business practices.”
A DCRA spokesman said the store has 10 days to appeal the move to revoke its business license.
“If you have bad business practices, we cannot allow you to continue on that path and expose more people to that risk,” DCRA Director Ernest Chrappah told News4 in a September interview.
Vic Montano, one of two men who have long run the shop, told the I-Team via text message on Thursday that Kickk Spott will appeal DCRA’s actions.
In an interview with the I-Team last week, Montano blamed the payment issues on problems related to changing store locations earlier this year. He described Kickk Spott as a “happy place” that makes “people a lot of money.”
“It’s not that bad,” he said after News4 asked him about multiple customer complaints, adding: “We're going to get back to where we need to be.”
Since our interview, the I-Team has verified he has taken steps to arrange payments with some disgruntled sellers who had contacted either the I-Team or DCRA.
It’s unclear, however, just how many other customers are still owed money. One man who filed a court case alleging Kickk Spott owes him about $400 told the I-Team this week he has still not heard from the store about payment.
Montano said the store hasn’t been “officially” open since it relocated this spring, though the I-Team found Kickk Spott has continued to take in new merchandise — and sell it — since it moved. Montano pledged to repay people by the time the store “officially” reopens this December, though that timeline is now in doubt due to DCRA’s actions.
“We have a few customers that are still delayed from the move, but all those guys are going to get paid back,” Montano said last week.
The I-Team found complaints of non-payment dating back years, long before Kickk Spott moved from its Wisconsin Avenue location to P Street in early 2019.
In interviews and court records, many of the victims recount a similar story of being told by the owners to wait another month, or to come back another day, for payments that — for many— haven’t arrived.
“It's infuriating. It’s just not right,” said Alan Keller, whose son was only 12 when he sold two hats through Kickk Spott last year.
Keller said he called and texted for months, occasionally receiving pledges that he’d be paid, only to not see the money when promised. The family was only paid its debt — $160 — after Keller contacted D.C. regulators and convinced them to look into the store.
“It's really amazing that it's been allowed to continue for this long,” he said.
The I-Team went undercover to test out Kickk Spott’s business practices. In late August, an I-Team photographer and producer took a pair of Nike SB Dunk High “Humidity” sneakers to consign. Montano agreed to sell them for $225, for a profit of $180 to the seller.
At the time, Montano told the I-Team photographer he would text him once the sneakers sold and pay him within “a few days.”
Another I-Team member returned to the store three weeks later to purchase the sneakers, only to be told they cost $250. He and Montano settled on $230.
But Montano never contacted the I-Team photographer to say his shoes had sold and ignored multiple texts inquiring about their status. When Montano finally responded via text message, he said, “We got them on display in [sic] case. Got a few bites but still here.”
When the I-Team confronted Montano about the falsehood, Montano first suggested someone else sold the shoes when he wasn’t there. When told undercover video shows him selling the shoes to an I-Team member, he chalked it up to a mistake.
“We deal with a lot of shoes. I could have sworn they were still here,” he said, adding the store lacks an automated inventory system.
Tiffany Crowe, DCRA’s chief administrative officer, said the agency began investigating Kickk Spott after receiving a complaint from Keller and found more victims through dozens of negative online reviews.
She initially described Kickk Spott’s owners as “cooperative” after the agency presented them with evidence that at least five people were owed money and said they agreed to repay those individuals.
“If it's a business that wants to continue operating in the District of Columbia, it's in their interest to cooperate with us,” Crowe said, later adding: “We want to make sure that the people who live in the District are safe from predatory businesses.”
In late September, one day after the I-Team showed the agency what happened with our undercover purchase and Montano’s text saying the shoes had not sold, the agency issued the store a warning it was violating the law by continuing to conduct consignment sales without the necessary second-hand sales license.
A DCRA spokesman said the agency issued a notice Wednesday that it’s revoking Kickk Spott’s general business license and certificate of occupancy, effectively shutting it down unless the owners successfully appeal.
On Wednesday, Montano paid back the I-Team photographer who sold the shoes in the undercover investigation, noting he normally arranges payments in advance but was expediting the money because the I-Team member is part of “the news.” He also said he was paying with his personal funds, instead of through the store.
He said via text, “Please know we are working diligently to get back on all cylinders. Our clients/consignment are [sic] #1 concern and being handled accordingly based on priority.”
After the I-Team approached Kickk Spott and asked about Vlad’s claims and others, the store owners contacted the teen to discuss a repayment plan, though that was before DCRA shuttered its operations.
Vlad said he’s encouraged he might see the $1,500 he said he’s owed.
“Clearly, I'm not the only one who's been affected by this,” he said. “It gives me hope that I will get my money back.”
Tips for Kickk Spott customers: A DCRA spokesman said consigners who are owed money and can show a valid agreement with Kickk Spott should file a complaint with the Metropolitan Police Department and that DCRA has notified MPD’s fraud unit about the ongoing problems. The spokesman added that anyone interested in retrieving merchandise from the store should contact Kickk Spott directly, and if unsuccessful, should file a police report or pursue legal action.
Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Katie Leslie and Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper and Steve Jones.