By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
When Margaret George reviewed the bills for Wholey Cow Deli last month, one of them seemed out of sorts.
George saw an advertisement for her restaurant to be placed on a House High School sports schedule. There was just one problem.
“I like to help the schools out, I like to help the kids out,” George said. “But I knew I hadn’t approved that.”
She would have ignored the fax, but this one said the ad would run as is and she would be billed $184 if she did not call within 72 hours.
“You get these things all the time through the fax machine, a lot of unwanted advertising,” she said, “but they had that 72-hour clause.”
George recalls speaking with an aggressive customer service representative who insisted she had a verbal contract and her cancellation window had already passed.
House Superintendent Donna McGee called the matter an isolated incident.
“We’ve had some successful contacts from that company with other area businesses that haven’t resulted in this problem,” McGee said. “When we heard about it, we contacted the company immediately so they could improve their approach, which we think they’ve done.”
The Clovis-Curry County Chamber of Commerce and two area schools have reported companies using their name for advertising projects without consent.
Curry County Chamber Executive Director Ernie Kos said local businesses are being asked to advertise on a series of “community” refrigerator magnets, which are not supported by the chamber.
“Two different groups of people are in town doing (magnet advertising),” Kos said. “One group is not saying they’re with us, but another one is.”
Kos said businesses have two opportunities to advertise with the chamber — its January magazine and its fall map.
Gena Coldwell, an executive assistant with the Better Business Bureau in Albuquerque, was not aware of such practices, but was reminded of a group that would offer phone book advertising and then charge exorbitant rates.
In all cases, she said it’s always best for business owners to be cautious when they don’t initiate contact.
“When a business calls you up like that, it should always be a red flag,” Coldwell said. “If anybody comes up soliciting business, it should be a red flag.”
Texico Superintendent R.L. Richards said his community dealt with a series of phone calls in August, including seeking sponsors for the Texico High soccer team, which does not exist. Also, the business sought advertisement from the local company that publishes Texico High sports schedules.
Richards’ concern was that merchants would get burned by outside companies, and be hesitant to give when Texico does raise funds.
Clovis Athletic Director Brian Stacy said a company told at least one local business last month that Stacy had personally endorsed an advertisement opportunity, which was not true.
Stacy, Richards and Kos suggested contacting local entities to verify advertising projects regarding schools and local organizations.
Coldwell said the bureau is also an option.
Better Business Bureau
(800) 873-2224 or www.bbb.org.