Help wanted ad lured "guys and gals" to motel

Wisconsin State Journal, March 26, 1999
By George Hesselberg

'Absolute Fun'' promised the help wanted newspaper advertisement, urging ''sharp and enthusiastic guys & gals'' to call a Madison motel for more information.

Young job seekers who answered the ad in the Wisconsin State Journal this week were directed to Jeremy Holmes, who rented a room at the Econo Lodge, 4726 E. Washington Ave. Police identified Holmes as the driver of the van involved in the fatal accident early Thursday north of Janesville.

''He was here for three or four days,'' said an assistant manager, Angie, at the motel. She would not give her last name. ''He checked out (Wednesday).''

She said Holmes had interviewed ''five or six people'' for jobs with YES, believed to be a sales company affiliated with an Oklahoma-based magazine subscription clearing house, Subscriptions Plus.

The ad in the newspaper said ''YES is in town and needs 18 to 25 sharp and enthusiastic guys & gals. If you are money-motivated and tired of fast food and minimum wage, we offer 2 week training. All expenses paid, no experience necessary. If you are outgoing and can start immediately, please call, ask for Mr. Holmes.''

The ad ran March 14 through 16, and March 21 through 23, according to Marci Rosen, Madison Newspapers classified advertising manager. Rosen would not identify the person who placed the ad but said it was not Jeremy Holmes.

The motel assistant manager said Holmes ''was keeping all the kids down in Janesville. He would not tell me where. We wanted to know because we were getting more and more calls every day. He was just taking applications for sales here.''

Holmes gave an address of Warr Acres, Okla., in his motel registration. That is the same address that a national trade association of door-to-door sales companies provided for Subscriptions Plus.

State consumer officials annually issue warnings to job-seekers, urging young applicants to be wary of door-to-door sales recruiters.

Doug Chaussee, an investigator with the Mount Pleasant Police Department, near Racine, is an expert in such sales crews and the potential danger in joining them.

Last May, he cited workers for the company involved in Thursday's accident, Subscriptions Plus, for soliciting without permits. That prompted the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to warn the company that its business practices may not comply with state laws.

Chaussee said at times there can be as many as 150 sellers staying at motels along Interstate 94 near Mount Pleasant.

''Any time I come across them I try to dissuade these kids from continuing with the Gypsy lifestyle. I try to let the air out of some of their dreams of making a ton of money, of getting their $10,000 cash awards and other things they will never see,'' said Chaussee.

''They come in with a van load and dump them off with orders to get as much as you can get, do whatever it takes to make the sale, then are back in two hours to pick them up.''

Glen Loyd, a former consumer journalist, now consumer information officer for DATCP, has been warning about similar groups' recruiting tactics for years. The job seekers may not even know they'll be selling magazines, he said.

''The answer is not to buy magazines from any kid going door to door,'' he said. ''It just continues the system of corrupting young people. You are not helping them.''

The Justice Department this week issued its annual warning about summer jobs, reminding seekers that jobs selling books, soap or magazines door-to-door usually involve long hours and ''often require car-pooling in a van and sharing cheap motel rooms.''

It also warns that ''you should be careful of recruiters who ask you to leave immediately for a job. Reputable companies give prospective employees some time to think about job offers.''

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