Consumer watchdog sounds alarm over local wedding DJ

BONNEY LAKE, Wash. -- For Colin Donnelly of Bonney Lake, a chance encounter at work led to a lifetime of love.

He was a firefighter; she, an EMT. They were engaged over Christmas 2011 and planned a wedding for the following August.

"We just wanted to have a really good party," Donnelly said.

The couple found a waterfront venue, picked some summer colors, and sought advice in choosing a disc jockey. Friends were getting married around the same time and had just signed with a DJ in nearby Graham, Donnelly said, and so he and his fiance, Megan, looked into a similar package from the same company.

"We were looking for somebody to emcee the event, help us run a timeline, and just play music that would lend itself to having a good time," said Donnelly. "We were looking for something pretty simple."

The Donnellys signed with DJ Sandman, a Graham company, paying about $600 up front for an evening of music and a personal emcee, according to an email exchange. The duo picked a song list, a first dance, and sent a program to the company, and expected the final details to be hammered out in few weeks leading up to the wedding.

"About a week to five days beforehand, it kind of started to make me a little bit nervous because we just weren't hearing anything," Donnelly said. "A day before the wedding, I still hadn't heard from (the DJ). I was texting her and calling her and stuff like that and still not getting anything."

The morning of the wedding Donnelly left a voicemail with the DJ as a last resort.

"I said, 'You're making me really nervous, and I'm trying not to be a pain, but today's the day and we don't even have confirmation,'" Donnelly said. "Then I got a text. She was apologizing, said that she had a family emergency, that she was going to send an associate DJ to do the setup and that she would be there late."

David Quinlan, a spokesman for the Better Business Bureau, said a series of complaints have been filed against the company.

"We've noticed a pattern of this," Quinlan said. "Something catastrophic happens right before the wedding to her. (The owner) is either in a car accident, she's got some sort of family emergency. She's fallen ill."

The Better Business Bureau has 16 complaints against DJ Sandman in the past 36 months. Seven have been resolved, four have not, and another five have been unanswered, Quinlan said.

The state Attorney General's Office also has one complaint on record against the company. It was filed in 2011, said Alison Dempsey-Hall, deputy communications director.

"What I'm showing is that DJ Sandman music did not respond to AG requests for informal mediation," Dempsey-Hall said.

"Planning a wedding is stressful enough," added Quinlan. "Call me crazy. It could be a coincidence or she might be doing this on purpose. I'm beginning to think that she's doing this on purpose."

KOMO News reached out to DJ Sandman, stopping at several locations tied to business licenses and listings in Washington State without success. The owner did, however, return phone calls, but said she could not speak on-camera because she was out of the area.

"I've had some issues in the past, but nothing, anything recent," said business owner Cindy Sandman. "I've always made sure somebody's been taken care of. I've had a million compliments as well."

"There's only been one time in all these years that I did get in a car accident but I've never not sent somebody else," Sandman said. "I do care. I want to make this right."

After KOMO News got involved, Sandman reached out to Donnelly and offered to refund his money. Sandman also says she contacted the Better Business Bureau to close the unresolved complaints.

Donnelly says a replacement DJ ended up playing the wedding, but wasn't familiar with the program or the couple's requests.

"We totally understand family emergencies and that stuff happens," said Donnelly, who now works for the Seattle Fire Department. "We still got married and still had a party but we didn't get what we paid for."

"I just kind of feel like we got totally ignored," he said.