State Got Complaints Of Deceptive Practices

Madison Newspapers, Inc, March 26, 1999
By Chris Murphy

Companies that employ traveling sales crews often run afoul of state solicitation laws and may treat their employees poorly, says a spokesman for Wisconsin's Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Glen Loyd said Thursday that the office discourages young people from joining the crews, which frequently travel around the country selling magazines or cleaning products door-to-door.

Loyd said employees are sometimes taught to use deceptive sales practices such as saying they are in a contest trying to win a prize or a scholarship.

A state ``Consumer Facts'' publication says there have been complaints about employees being forced to live in cramped quarters and work long hours. Some say their living expenses are deducted from their pay, despite apparent promises otherwise.

The department also receives frequent complaints about the sales practices of such companies, Loyd said. State law requires solicitors to give their name, the name of their company and the type of product they are selling.

Subscriptions Plus Inc., an Oklahoma company whose subscription forms were scattered at the site of Thursday's fatal van crash, received a letter from the state consumer protection department in December with a warning about possible code and legal violations.

Mount Pleasant Police Investigator Doug Chaussee has also had dealings with the company.

The department cited two Subscriptions Plus employees in May 1998 for allegedly selling without a permit, and Chaussee told the pair that they were violating state administrative code by saying in their sales pitches that they were in a contest to win a $1,000 cash prize.

Police said the young people were selling magazines for an organization called Yes. Jason Bennett, a customer service representative with Subscriptions Plus, said Yes sells magazines, and Subscriptions Plus processes the orders. Bennett said the company could not comment further.

The owner of Yes did not return repeated messages from the Associated Press on Thursday.

The state Department of Workforce Development is investigating Subscriptions Plus under child labor laws because minors were involved in the accident, said Mike Goetzman, state Department of Transportation spokesman.

The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection also was investigating the company for recruiting and advertising practices, an agency official said.

Chaussee said that the appearance of the traveling salespeople is ``almost a rite of spring'' in Mount Pleasant, a town near Racine.

Despite efforts to discourage them from that line of work, he said many of the young employees are filled with dreams of winning a trip or a prize.

``I think the kids are treated very poorly in all,'' he said.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.