Krystie-Anne Haufler was expecting a peaceful hour in downward dog surrounded by adorable puppies — instead she says she was banned from a series of popular puppy yoga classes for having a “bad vibe.”
And she’s not the only one to be shut out.
Wanting to get in on a growing, made-for-Instagram trend of yoga with animals, Haufler bought two tickets last December for a class near Yonge and Sheppard from the Hive, an Ottawa-based events company that runs puppy yoga sessions in various spaces across Toronto and Ottawa. They were meant as a gift for her mother’s birthday.
But upon arrival, the 28-year-old says they were told if they needed mats they had to book them on an app. As they tried to do this, the room filled up until there wasn’t comfortable space left, she says.
She asked for a refund for her $90, which she got on the spot. But 10 minutes later, she says she received an email informing her she was banned from the Hive’s puppy yoga and other events.
“I was like, are you kidding me?” Haufler says.
She says she followed up with the company in an Instagram direct message and was told, “We ban people based off vibes..you had a bad vibe, you got banned,” according to a screenshot of the exchange she shared with the Star. She’s since been blocked from seeing their Instagram posts.
“Yoga is supposed to be about Zen,” Haufler says. “And you go there and you’re treated like you’re not worthy.”
Others have also said they’ve been banned. The Star reviewed two complaints about the Hive’s puppy yoga classes with the Better Business Bureau that reference customer bans, and spoke with another woman who said her boyfriend was threatened with a ban after a dispute over using a pass as a gift.
The Star sent a detailed list of questions that included inquiries into Haufler’s experience and the other complaints to the Hive’s PuppyYoga.com email, and received a reply signed “the Hive” that read only: “People get banned from the Hive.”
A second email cited “hundreds upon hundreds of glowing reviews,” on its Instagram account, which features pictures of smiling young women playing with puppies and the tag line: “looking for fellow ‘Real Ones.’”
“It’s all part of the marketing strategy,” the email added.
The email did not state whether banning people based on vibes was part of the marketing strategy, or clarify what a “bad vibe” means.
On its PuppyYoga.com website, the Hive explains the company is “based off of bees and we are creating exclusive communities within communities.” It goes on to say there will be a “colony” in each city it operates in, and getting into the colony brings “access to exclusive events and giveaways.”
“Only people with good positive and loving vibes will be invited to join the colony,” the website warns. “There are people that get banned from our events if we think they are too negative.”
In all caps, it encourages people to “VIBRATE HIGHER.”
Haufler is speaking out because she wants to warn other yogis to avoid future events.
“It just doesn’t seem like a good business model at all,” she says.
Pardis Parhizgar has a similar costumer-beware message. She was thrilled to receive a pass to a puppy yoga class from her boyfriend in late January.
“It was one of those cool fads. Obviously I love animals, I don’t even love yoga, but the point is you just go sit there and play with the puppies,” says the 26-year-old marketer.
But after noticing a section on the website that specified tickets have to be in customers’ own names, she got worried and contacted administrators over Instagram direct message to make sure she could still attend.
She says she received a response that her boyfriend’s account would be flagged and he would be “banned if it happens again” as “our events aren’t meant as gifts,” according to a screenshot of the conversation she shared in a Facebook post.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Parhizgar told the Star. “There’s no way a legitimate business would speak to a consumer like this.”
She didn’t go to the class and never got the roughly $45 for the hour-long session back, as she was then also blocked on Instagram, she says, and emails went unanswered.
“It completely ruined my birthday, it completely ruined my experience,” she says.
She thought about filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, but says that threatening to be banned for bad energy didn’t fit any criteria on the site.
There are, however, three outstanding complaints against the company filed in the last year with the non-profit consumer watchdog.
In one, filed in December 2018, the complainant said they sent the company several emails trying to find out the location of a class for which they had purchased tickets, but their emails went unanswered. They said they reached out through social media and “finally got a response saying ‘why should we respond? To an email like that?’ They ended up blocking me on social media, banning me from their events AND refunding me the tickets I was looking forward to giving as a gift.”
In another complaint from October, the complainant said they unsuccessfully tried to get a refund after a friend got one, although the friend was also banned.
The final January 2019 complaint discusses communication problems encountered trying to change a time slot.
Better Business Bureau spokesperson Carlie Bero said PuppyYoga.com does have a “very clearly stated” refund policy on their website. It says they don’t do refunds or transfers at all and don’t reply to emails about them.
But she says they have received an “F” rating with the non-profit, the lowest possible, because they ignored the complaints.
“We don’t accredit any business unless they are a B+ or higher, so they’re very far off from being accredited,” she says.
May Warren is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11