The Advertising Scam: New Entrepreneurs Beware!

George Torok

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Imagine that you are a new entrepreneur. You have a great idea; you did your research, you're feeling optimistic and you just registered your company name. Experienced business people might call you naive.

The phone rings and someone asks for you by your company name. Wow! - you think, customers are calling already. Hello? - ok so it is not a customer, just someone offering a free gift, no wait, she said two free gifts - guaranteed! Hum, something for free, this sounds interesting.

She said you filled out a form at some trade show, (didn't catch the name of the trade show). That's possible because you have been to several trade shows. Sure you probably filled out the form she is talking about, even though you can't remember the form or the trade show.

What's that she is saying? Any two prizes out of a list including a fax machine, a trip to Club Med, a new computer, a diamond pendant, (oh your wife would love that - maybe she would actually appreciate your business idea), a video camera - latest technology, a 52 inch TV (she called it an entertainment centre) - which you could trade for $8,000 in cash. There were some other prizes but you start to wonder what do I have to do to get the prizes and how soon can I get them?

Reality Check
So far so good. Ok, what did I win? Oh, she said, the gift is contingent on a purchase of advertising.

"But I don't need advertising - just send me my gift. " I declared. At this point she hung up on me. I guess I blew the deal of the century. Stupid me, I asked too many questions. No free TV, Diamond pendant or trip to Club Med. The video camera sounded nice too.

This was the third call I received like this since I registered my business name just a few months ago. I wonder, how many more of these calls will I receive and how many people do they catch?

All three calls followed the same pattern. In none of the cases did we get to ordering. I suspect they wanted a credit card order over the phone.

The purpose was to sell a very specific order of advertising - pens with my company name - no choices, just take it or leave it. The order cost was between $200 and $300. I don't remember how many pens. She did not try to allow me the details to make an educated buying decision.

They spent 95% of the time explaining the free gifts, model numbers and the features of each “prize". At no time did the caller their purpose as that of selling pens. They obliquely referred to advertising. I had to probe to get details.

Each time it was a young sounding female voice that called. “Are you married?" she cooed. “Oh then your wife would love the diamond pendant. " Do they use a young sounding male voice to call a female registered business?

She made a big deal out of the fact that the purchase was 100% tax deductible. She did not seem to appreciate my statement that all business advertising expenses are 100% tax deductible. Soon after I said this she hung up.

Each time they called from Montreal, but they were selling in Ontario. What does that do to the verbal promises and guarantees? To contest any breach of promise would I go to court in Montreal, and how would I prove what they said on the phone? They have a different form of law in Quebec, - different from the rest of the country. They use the French civil law in Quebec. Too bad they didn't keep that other French machinery of civil law - the guillotine.

I know that there are many reputable specialty advertising firms in the area. When I need advertising, I will contact one of them and then I can see and touch the product and see whom I am dealing with. I will also be able to shop around and pick the product and supplier who best suits my needs - when I am ready. In the meantime, buyer beware!

PS. The above is a true story. In each case my questions became unbearable for the caller and they hung up. It's been several months now and there have been no more calls. I still do not need pens imprinted with my name.

© George Torok launched his own business after more than 20 years of corporate management. He delivers keynote speeches, training programs and consulting to help organizations grow. You can contact him at 905-335-1997 or visit for more information about his programs. This article was originally published in Success Weekly.


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