Candice Lemay was at a loss for how to help her young daughter.
The teenager, whose father had died unexpectedly when she was a toddler, was struggling.
Finally, the mother from Toefield, Alta., struck upon the idea to give her daughter a chance to speak to her dad, through the aid of a psychic medium.
Lemay did research and discovered local psychic medium Carmel Joy Baird — something of a celebrity in the medium world, having starred in a two-season run of reality show Mom’s a Medium.
Lemay paid $525 for a 30-minute appointment with Baird on May 2, 2017, booking her daughter, now 15, in for a session on Nov. 23, 2018.
But, like other clients of Baird who shared stories of frustration with CBC in 2018, Lemay said the reading was cancelled and has yet to be rescheduled.
In an interview, Baird defended her business practices despite the long delays for clients, maintaining that she is following the terms and conditions they had agreed to.
Lemay said she has exchanged a number of emails with Baird’s staff asking about rescheduling, and has also asked for a refund. She said it has been hard to watch her daughter’s hopes dashed.
“She actually still asks if she’ll ever get it, and I pretty much tell her no. She is heartbroken by it, because she really wanted to talk to her dad.”
Over a year after the original appointment date, Lemay said she’s at a loss about what to do.
“I just don’t want anybody else to make this mistake,” she said. “I’m not asking for my money back. I gave up on that. I just don’t want anyone else heartbroken like my daughter is.”
‘You only have one person’
In an interview in June 2018, Baird blamed medical and family issues for the delays. She claimed she was making changes and planned to introduce a new refund system. She stopped accepting new bookings for readings, so she would be able to catch up.
But in an interview with CBC last month, Baird said she decided not to give refunds after all, citing advice from lawyers, and argued that the policies outlined in her terms and conditions protect and offer flexibility for clients who have scheduling issues arise due to their own health or other concerns.
“It’s a different type of business,” Baird said. “There isn’t anything like this. It’s not like your stores, or your products. You only have one person.”
Baird said she is working through her waitlist, and stands by a number system she implemented to manage the bookings, as well as her offer that clients who are waiting for a reading can instead use the “credit” for the amount they’ve paid to purchase something from her online store.
“I feel like I’ve done everything I can to be very black and white, and very fair,” Baird said.
In an email on Dec. 3, 2018, Lemay was told she was No. 1,539 on Baird’s reading waitlist. In May 2019, when she asked for an update, a staff member told Lemay in an email that there were still about 1,400 people waiting for readings.
Baird said she is continuing to experience health challenges but expects she will be through the list by the end of 2020.
She said she finds it frustrating that people don’t reciprocate the empathy and understanding she extended to them as she deals with a loss in her family and ongoing health issues.
“Sure, I think I’m guilty of trying to help too many people at once,” she said. “But I think I’m innocent of saying that ‘I’m a fraud, or that I have bad intentions, or that I’m a bad person, or that I’m wrong.’ I think I’ve asked for patience and time, and understanding and empathy for my own grief and journey.”
‘A refund is not possible’
Lemay said she wasn’t aware of the terms and conditions when she paid — including that Baird could opt to do the reading by phone rather than in person. But a copy of an email interest form Lemay filled out in October 2016 shows that the terms and conditions were available to her.
In a chain of emails shared with CBC, Lemay repeatedly asked Baird’s staff for updates on her daughter’s appointment, and asked for a refund multiple times.
“A refund is not possible. Our lawyers have instructed us to stand by our policies,” an employee wrote in response on Nov. 8, 2019.
The employee offered to help Lemay use her $525 credit for a different purchase, and told her that otherwise she would be in touch when the number for Lemay’s daughter’s reading comes up.
In other messages, Baird’s employees advised Lemay by email that people waiting for readings would have the option to use the money they paid in advance as credit toward anything Baird sells in her online store.
In an email Tuesday, one of Baird’s employees claimed that offering credit to Lemay amounts to giving her a refund.
A number of courses and products are advertised on Baird’s website, such as the $800 “Personal Psychic Pen Pal Service,” which allows buyers to ask Baird two questions per month and receive responses for a year. Another option is a $99 “Manifesting Magic” online course. Baird also hosts events: a general admission ticket to a two-day event scheduled for June at Baird’s ranch is $200, though customers can also upgrade to a “platinum” $600 ticket.
Baird and her staff claim that most of her clients are happy with the service they’ve received, despite the long waits.
No enforcement action taken
Baird’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) profile is not accredited, but reports 119 complaints over the past three years. In the past 12 months, 25 new complaints were closed, most about having appointments cancelled and not rescheduled, or stating that the company fails to respond to communications asking for refunds.The BBB has maintained a “pattern of complaint” alert on Baird’s profile outlining the persistent issues consumers have had in receiving requested services.
“…while the company has responded to the pattern outlining its corporate policy terms and conditions, the underlying causes of the pattern remain unresolved to BBB’s satisfaction,” a spokesperson said in an email.
In an email to CBC, one of Baird’s employees claimed that a Better Business Bureau employee told them the agency is “supporting” Baird’s policies, and also claimed to have been told that Baird is operating within provincial guidelines and legislation for businesses by Service Alberta — the provincial ministry that oversees consumer protection issues.
BBB president and CEO Seanna Lawrence said by email that she reviewed the BBB’s communications with Baird’s business and found nothing to suggest her staff indicated they support Baird’s policies.
“BBB did one more than one occasion, encourage the business to update its policies, indicating that it would be better for the conciliation process between the business and consumers,” Lawrence said.
In an email, Tricia Velthuizen, press secretary to the minister of Service Alberta, said the department could not comment on Baird’s claim that the policies follow provincial rules. In an earlier statement Velthuzien confirmed the department is “aware of this ongoing issue.”
In response to CBC queries in 2018, Service Alberta confirmed that it has investigated several complaints against Baird in recent years. However, no enforcement action has been taken against Baird, according to a search of Service Alberta’s enforcement database.
An Edmonton police spokesperson confirmed that its economic crimes investigators received one complaint about Baird in 2019, but referred all inquiries to Service Alberta. A search of court records found Baird has never faced charges.
Service Alberta did offer the following tips to consumers looking to purchase what they described as “these types of services”:
- Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of a contract.
- Get answers to all of your questions before making a final decision.
- Don’t sign a contract you don’t understand.
- And don’t accept verbal agreements — always insist on a written contract.
Lemay said she approached CBC because she doesn’t see how authorities can do anything about her issue with Baird.
Despite everything she has been through, she still believes a reading from a different service provider will help her child.
“I believe in it,” she said. “One hundred per cent believe in it. I think a word from my daughter’s father would change her mind in life, which I think she needs.”