TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — All Florida Safety Institute is in the spotlight as customers want to know why instructors stopped showing up for lessons and why the company stopped answering their calls.
“I feel like my grandson was let down,” said Sam Massaro, who paid for lessons for his grandson.
“He’s very excited about driving and this school gave him hope that he’d be able to venture forward and gain some confidence in his driving abilities, and to sit here watching him looking out the window, waiting for them to pick him up. I’m disappointed.”
Massaro says his grandson received some lessons and then the driver stopped showing up. And he’s not alone. A growing number of customers have called Better Call Behnken for help. Some say they paid more than $1,000 and didn’t receive anything in return.
The school has 18 locations listed on its website. In addition to private testing, the school also has a contract with the state of Florida to conduct driver’s license testing. The contract originated in 2016 and was renewed for three more years earlier this year.
Investigator Shannon Behnken reached out to the company’s CFO Paul Trippy. He said the company filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Reorganization in August and blamed problems that originated during the pandemic when he says the company lost $800,000 when offices were closed.
He said the company plans to stay open and is working hard to reschedule lessons. Employees, however, complain they’re not getting paid on time or their full amounts. Some say they quit and owed as much as $10,000 in back pay.
Trippy said, “the hope is to pay everyone back.” As for customers, he still plans to deliver services and recommended customers email him directly at email@example.com.
Trippy also blamed the recent hurricanes and closures during that time. He said the company is waiting on more than $900,000 in tax credits that should help keep the company going.
“We’re not trying to rip off anyone,” Trippy said. “We want to get everyone paid, and the driving lessons never expire. They can gift them if they don’t want to use them. Our goal is to make it right.”
A big part of the problem now, he said, is drivers not showing up for work or quitting. He said he understands their frustration, but it “is a vicious cycle.”
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles encourages any customer that experiences issues with All Florida Safety Institute or any other contracted third-party testing provider to contact the office at 850-617-2421.