Is Gary Spatz and The Playground a Scam?

by Guest2775  |  10 years, 3 month(s) ago

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Is This Company A Scam?
I have seen many posts about this man and his company. I can’t be sure if it is a scam at this point but I have had some and interaction with them.

Just recently we were handed a card by a woman while at the shopping mall. We were told how cute my two kids were she invited us to an audition. I made sure I asked her if there were ANY fees or costs whatsoever involved. She replied “absolutely not!” So, we decide to give it a shot. We go to their office wait around for awhile and then are brought in a mock studio were the kids go in front of the camera one at a time for a quick reading. We then talked briefly with an agent of the company. I had an odd feeling this was all a setup for them asking for money. One day later a man by the name of David calls and both our kids are “invited” to come back and meet with him. I play along with him just to see what the REAL story is with these people. Well, it’s all about selling you acting classes! He wanted almost $7000 for both kids.He told me how special my kids were and how with the right training they could really do well and he would have no problem getting them an agent. He practically guaranteed it. I kept my cool and said we needed a little time to thinks it over. (We had no intention of spending any $ at this point.) He then got a little upset and said the classes were getting full and only 2 more “spots” were available. I asked how often they do this. He stumbled a bit and said “well I’m not sure”. I told him again we were not going to make a decision that night and if they were gone they were gone, thanked him for his time and left. Well on the way out we ran into another parent who had been “invited” back too. We compared stories and she was told the exact same story.

After thinking about this I did a little more snooping around when we got home and found out they have these people handing out cards every week and they hold auditions every week. It’s apparent to me now this is just an acting school mill. They churn as many kids through as possible with no regard to talent or potential at all. They accept anyone who is willing to pay the thousands of dollars they require.

I could be totally wrong so, if anyone has had any contact with them I would love to hear about it. Please post your experience or opinions good or bad so others can make an informed decision before spending any money.

 Tags: Gary, playground, scam, Spatz



  1. Guest7762
    Approached in Target or at a kiosk in the mall? SCAM! There is no such job description as a "talent scout" of any kind in Hollywood. Rather these are front men and mostly women of acting school scams and rip-offs.

    The first rule of thumb is to understand that in this industry is that more expensive doesn't equate to better. If someone could 'buy' success everyone would be a star. Sometimes the most expensive services actually provide the least benefit.

    These scams committed against children and their families are very common as they prey on our love and pride for our children. That is one consistent across all scams - they all say everything a parent would ever want to hear about how great, talented, beautiful, "star in the making" their child is. That is closely followed by playing on the guilt for a parent who might not be "allowing their child to follow their dreams".

    So how does a parent spot a scam?

    LISTEN. One step is to really listen to your instincts. What seems too good to be true usually is.

    RESEARCH. Researching every company you are going to work with is of paramount importance. Use Google and check the names of the businesses as well as the names of the people you meet. Ask other parents. Look for common red flags. Some red flags of a scam or rip-off include:

    Being approached in a mall, family store or other public place

    Name dropping such from shows LIKE The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Hannah Montana or the use of Disney and Nickelodeon logos (call the studio and let them know your experience with the scam school and how much they charge)

    Promising work or access to talent agents through "show cases" or "agent auditions"

    Using several different names for their business on the internet to confuse people and load up the search engines so all the bad reviews won't show up first. (luckily it can't be done)

    Putting pressure or time limits on the offer such as "we only bring back 10-20% of the kids we see, not everyone makes it", "we can only hold the spot for 3 days", etc. You can cancel if you don't like it.

    Long term contracts that must be paid for in advance. Legitimate acting classes are offered for 6 weeks or less at a time, with professional level group acting classes costing around $45 per class. Anything longer, or costing more is a red flag.

    Exceedingly nice sales people.Predators have to be nice. If they weren't, they wouldn't get their prey.

    "But some people say it is OK...."

    Of course every story has 2 sides, and you may find a former client 'vouching' for a business because they *felt* successful or they had fun.

    Getting an agent can be accomplished for under $100 via picture submissions. Really. Just get a list of agents that handle children and send them a photo. That simple. Of course you will be told that having these expensive classes will almost guarantee a top agent.

    We understand why parents want to see it otherwise - but after hearing many of stories from people who experienced this, you need to be safe rather than sorry.

    Here is a link from a DATELINE EXPOSE with CHRIS HANSON on overpriced acting schools.

  2. Guest3321
    The children's acting school run by Gary Spatz is a legitimate acting school but it has a fair amount of controversy surrounding it and their practice of using outside sales companies that recruit in public places, like the mall, has opened them to significant criticism. Many anonymous online reports have even called them scammers or rip-offs. Despite inaccurate reports to the contrary the school has a good rating with the BBB and has suffered only one complaint from a client since they opened their doors in 2005.

    Look them up on BBB for yourself or look them up on Yelp or Google Places. You will notice that none of the people making the accusations have had any contact with the company and have made their judgment based solely on the fact that there are some sales people working in the mall.

    There is also a lot of accusations against one of the owners, Eric Rottman, who owned a number of acting schools that went bankrupt after he sold the franchises, ultimately resulting in accusations against Eric himself.

    It is important to be careful when getting involved with entertainment industry agents, schools. etc. - and even more important when dealing with services for you child. You need to be careful and stay on the look-out for unrealistic promises, exorbitant fees and other warning signs of an illegitimate company.

    If you are interested in Gary Spatz's - The Playground Los Angeles your best bet is to go to the school and talk to other parents. Go on a weekend when classes are in session and grab parents coming out of the building - you will overwhelmingly hear positive reports.

    Here is a web-page with links to information about the reports of scamming that have been made against The Playground - you can check them out before you speak to the parents.

    So how can a parent spot a scam?

    Really listen to your instincts. If something seems too good to be true usually is. Specially when it comes to promises of "stardom".

    Researching every company you might work with is very important. Meet with other clients, speak to reputable agencies, look for reviews on sites like YELP! and use Google to check the names of the businesses and the names employees you meet. Look at the company's website skeptically. It can be hard to get to "the truth" because the internet is generally slanted in favor of bad press but if you read reports carefully and talk to real people you can get a good picture of the business.

    More expensive doesn't automatically equate to better. If someone could 'buy' success everyone would be a star. Sometimes the most expensive services actually provide the least benefit. You need to look at the value that is being provided and decide if the costs are justifiable in your particular case. But the fact remains that studying acting with established, successful teachers can be more expensive than studying with unknown teachers. Also, some schools have more advanced facilities or provide additional services. For example, at The Playground there are classrooms with full sets, professional lighting and theater seating. Those things aren't of value to everyone but if that is important to you there will be greater costs involved than if your child studies at the community center.

    Sometimes it can be very hard to tell the difference between a legitimate company boasting of their accomplishments and a disreputable one trying to lead you down the garden path so you have to pay attention and listen to your instincts. Remember, as a parent it is your job to remain level-headed and take a practical approach. Child stars are not born every minute and the business is a difficult one

    Some things to pay attention to:

    Being approached in a mall or other public place by someone who promises fame or fortune is a definite problem. If someone approaches you in public they are trying to sell you something - probably acting lessons. Listen carefully to what they say and if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

    Name dropping is hard to avoid in this industry. People who work in show business take the time to tell you about their experience and successes.  Gary Spatz has worked on shows like "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody", "Hannah Montana" and the "Mickey Mouse Club" - in fact you can see him talk about these experiences in documentaries on TV. But, it's pretty easy to put a picture on a wall and claim that you've been involved. It's your job as a parent to be skeptical when you are presented with "evidence" and to research the claims independently.

    Any promises that your child will get work, or a talent agent, are a sign that you should walk away immediately. If you are told that taking specific classes will almost guarantee a top agent you are being misled. Schools that have good reputations with agents can arrange for thosere agents to come and visit the students - some even get signed - but there is a big difference between having an opportunity to meet with an agent and a promise that you will get represented!

    Sometimes companies use several different names or web-sites for marketing reasons but it can also be used to confuse people and load up the search engines. Pay attention to what you're reading online.

    Putting pressure or time limits on the offer such as "we only bring back 10-20% of the kids we see, not everyone makes it", or "we can only hold the spot for 3 days". These are sales tactics and you can walk away or ask for more time to make a decision. Any offer that is valid "today only" is not a legitimate offer - tell the sales person that you are only interested in you can have time to think about it.

    Long term contracts that must be paid for in advance should be avoided unless you are getting a significant cost savings over short term classes AND after you are sure that your child is really committed to acting. There are lots of acting classes that are offered for 6 weeks or less and some professional level group acting classes for $45 per class. Make sure that the school you are considering offers significant benefits if you are spending a lot of time and money with them.

    Some people have claimed that you should watch out for "exceedingly nice sales people". Let's face it, sales people have to be nice or they wouldn't be sales people. Instead, listen to what they are saying instead of how they say it. Dont' be flattered into making a decision that you are not ready to make.


    Getting an agent can sometimes be accomplished for under $100 via picture submissions. You can get a list of agents that handle children and send them a photo of your child. It is occasionally that simple. Of course, the agent will want to meet with your child if they are interested and the child will have to perform for the agent before being signed. You are not going to get representation just because your child is "cute", they will have to have acting talent too! It can be natural talent or it can be enhanced by attending classes but they have to have talent.

    We understand why parents want to believe that their child can be a star - but after hearing many stories from people who have paid out lots of money without seeing any results it is wise to be safe and not sorry.

    Here is a link from a DATELINE EXPOSE with CHRIS HANSON on what to watch for when shopping for acting schools.
  3. Guest2129
    Thank you!!!! This compnay IS A SCAM. We got a call back to, same story. Thanks, but no thanks Gary.
  4. Guest7425
    SCAM Check out what ALOT of angry parents are saying.
  5. Guest9024
    Glad I found all the posts. We went this weekend and just like everyone who shows up, we got the callback too. These people are such scammers. Even on the phone they lied about what this really was. We cancled our apt and told them to remove our childs name. Im contacting the BBB.
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Latest activity: 11 years, 1 month(s) ago.
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