Jeff sent us the following story of how Allen & Associates, a subsidiary of Workstream, Inc., sold him a comprehensive job-placement service package last fall, then short-changed him on the actual services. For example, their “targeted mailing” to former A&A customers turned out to include random people who had never heard of A&A, they didn’t offer detailed target companies or enough of them to meet the minimum mailing requirement, and their consulting services for job placement amounted to cold call techniques. When Jeff asked his contact to cancel the remainder of the agreement and refund him the difference, she delivered him to the “Director of Client Relations” at A&A who told Jeff they would not be reimbursing him anything and to stop asking. After the jump, Jeff gives his full story as a warning to anyone looking for job placement help.
I’m sort of embarrassed to admit this, but I got scammed. I fell for a slick sales pitch from Allen and Associates (A&A) [http://www.allenandassociates.com] a wholly owned subsidiary of Workstream Inc. I consider myself a savvy consumer. I know about all the info you can find online now, but I was taken in by their professional web site and their association with a large, reputable company like Workstream Inc.
In August of 2007, I received a phone call from Laurie Griffin, an Executive Career Consultant with A&A . She had “received” my resume and wanted to talk to me about their services. She gave me some background on A&A, they usually work with companies downsizing their workforce to help find new positions for professionals that are being downsized. They occasionally work with professionals as individuals, as in my case. They don’t charge individuals the normal fee they charge corporations. They only charge for A&A’s “out of pocket” expenses, because (she claimed) they wanted to use those individuals as business contacts for future placements. She stated they have business contacts in thousands of companies nationally because of their past placements. They offered to put my “information” in front of those contacts as part of their “targeted marketing campaign”, again at a cost of only their “out of pocket” expenses. The total cost of this campaign would be $3100. There was a lot of talk about how those contacts were able to hire, even when there were no posted job openings. To sweeten the deal, they offered easy financing through GE Money Bank with no payments due for six month and a quick online application. They even offered to help negotiate a signing bonus with any new job offer to cover that expense. She also stated we would need to hurry, because companies usually didn’t do any new hiring over the holidays, so we’d need to finish before October. Based on her sales pitch, I entered into a services contract with A&A.
A&A asked for me to complete some online forms and provide a current resume, so they could provide me with a new, professional resume. I was passed to a flunky, Conan Jackson, to get through the resume rewrite. Then I was asked to choose a primary city and secondary cities where I wanted to find work. Once I had chosen, I was given a list of all companies doing business in those cities and asked to pick 100 businesses in the primary and 100 from the secondaries. There was no information about what type of jobs were available in each company, just the general market they occupied. I came up with fewer than 100 for each, and the flunky told me “that is OK, they could just do a double mailing to make the total of 200″! This is when I started to doubt the quality of service I was receiving. A&A created a cover letter, which they call a “broadcast sheet” and mailed it to people in each of the companies I’d chosen.
I didn’t get many responses from this mailing, but the few I did get indicated that A&A’s definition of targeted was different than the dictionary definition. The first response was from a Finance Department manager who was wondering why he had received the cover letter from me. His department was staffed solely with CPA’s and I was neither a CPA nor did I have any financial experience. Since both Ms. Griffin and Mr. Jackson had told me that A&A would pre-contact each of their contacts within these “targeted” companies to verify that they were still in a position to hire, I was a little baffled. The finance manager stated he hadn’t been contacted by A&A prior to receiving my cover letter and he had no relationship with A&A. Another of my targeted letters went to the Dean of a local university, again I’m not an academic. I know the Dean did not get his job placement through A&A.
When I expressed my concerns about this failure on A&A’s service to Ms. Griffin she blew it off and told me it would all “work out”. That’s when I received the materials on how they would get me inside these companies, past the HR gatekeepers. They provide training/consulting/whatever on cold call sales techniques, using your recently mailed “broadcast sheet” as a ruse to get these contacts on the phone and sell yourself. It turns out that is the bulk of what they are really selling.
When it became clear that they weren’t really providing a “targeted marketing” campaign but a sales scam, I asked that they cease any further work on my behalf, bill me for their current out of pocket expenses and refund the balance of my payment. Ms. Griffin tried to prevent me from doing this. When I remained firm, I was passed off to Kari Slade, Director of Client Relations at A&A. Ms. Slade stated that I would be billed the full amount, despite not using many of the services included the contract (the hours of sales consulting) and not receiving the services promised by Ms. Griffin. No amount of reasoning with Ms. Slade could dent her insistence that I had no recourse but to pay in full. The lies by her salespeople were of no interest to her.
I tried disputing the charges with GE Money Bank, but they claimed they couldn’t help. I tried your executive email carpet bomb at both A&A and Workstream, but got nowhere (at least one email ended up forwarded to Ms. Slade, who promptly emailed me that I was wasting my time, they wouldn’t do anything for me). I was able to contact a Ms. Simpson in the HR department at Workstream when I was attempting to find the Workstream Corporate Ethics Officer. She listened to my story, seemed genuinely concerned that sales staff would be dishonest with clients and that the Director of Client Relations was not interested in actual clients. Days later she sent me a formal email with the A&A party line that I had signed a binding contract and had no recourse but to pay in full. My allegations of “fraudulent behavior” by their sales staff could not be substantiated and any further communication should be directed to Ms. Slade.
A quick google search on the terms “allen and associates” and “sucks” reveals several stories like mine, going back as far as 1995 (if only I had done that search first). So, they’ve been at this for a long time. But, I hope you put this up on your site and that it keeps anyone else from falling for this scam.
Allen & Associates has a meager record on the web of past complaints—this Rip Off Report is one of the only ones we could find worth reading, although you might want to read this Ask Metafilter discussion as well if you’re in the market for a new job and willing to shell out large amounts of money for the promise of an inside track to a new career.
And Jeff, if they didn’t honor the contract you signed, you may want to see whether you can take them to small claims court to get reimbursed for the unused amount.