Allen & Associates Promises Professional Career Help, Delivers Questionable Results

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.

RELATED
“Report: Allen And Associates” [Rip Off Reports]
“Career Marketing & Outplacement” [Metafilter]
“Subject: Allen & Associates” [All Experts]

Comments

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  1. humphrmi says:

    The only thing worse than taking financial advantage of people out of work is taking financial advantage of people about to lose their house. I’d start at the regulatory levels (forget BBB, go State Attorney General’s office or similar). Since you’re out of work, see if there’s a local legal aid office and talk to an attorney about whether you can sue them in small claims court. I bet they’ll fold like a cheap suit once they get a summons.

  2. humphrmi says:

    @humphrmi: Hmm, I re-read, and I guess you didn’t say outright that you’re out of work, just looking for a job. Of course, if you have the financial resources, hire an attorney for just a consultation.

  3. caj11 says:

    Those services, where the would-be job applicant has to pay money, are all a sham. At best, they can’t provide anything more than what you could learn from a book on networking and selling yourself, available at the local library or bookstore, or online. At worst they take your money and provide you with a pep talk (or maybe provide you with a few outdated job leads I don’t know). Only you can ultimately sell yourself and get yourself through the door of a potential employer. I have never heard anything good from people using those services, never.

  4. laserjobs says:

    Real placement firms get paid by the company looking for employees. Asking a job seeker for money to help find them a job is a total sham.

  5. ShortBus says:

    @laserjobs: I agree. My company pays *huge* bucks for headhunters when they produce.

  6. jfischer says:

    In the 70s and 80s, executive search and placement firms were a normal part of any hiring of anyone in a leadership role. Back then, one worried if one was being sucked up into unwittingly dealing with a low-class “continegncy fee” firm, who would send your resume all over the place on pure speculation, or dealing with a much more reputable “retainer” firm that had a firm and exclusive contract to fill a specific post at a specific company, and would be paid no matter what happened.

    Life was better then – all expense paid trips to go visit a prospective employer were normal. Trips to go visit a prospective employer on their corporate jet were even better, as this was long before it was considered wasteful and bad for the environment.

    But placement firms that YOU paid were the last bastion of the executive who was fired for theft, the VP of Sales who had been inadvertently photographed with his arm around the wife of the CEO, and the engineer being forced to train his replacement, an H-1B visa holder from far, far away.

    There are no “retainer” search firms any more.
    There is now software that will read your resume and eliminate you in a fraction of a second based upon mere keywords/buzzwords (or lack thereof).

    But I would want a list of references from happy and employed people longer than my arm before I would write a check to someone who says that they will find me a
    good job.

    Its rather like “investment counselors” who want to manage my money. I have to ask them why they need my money to “manage” if they are so good at managing money. After all, if they were really any good, they would not waste their time with me and my paltry nest egg, now would they?

    Why are these people with all these great job leads not taking these jobs themselves? They must realize that the jobs marketing is tightening, and the “headhunter” firms are looking at a downturn.

    Answer – The jobs are a fantasy.

  7. typetive says:

    How about small claims court?

    [consumerist.com]

  8. allthatsevil says:

    Has he never heard of Monster.com? Seriously, asking someone for money to help them find employment should have been a huge red flag. I feel bad for the guy, but if he had any brains he wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with. Who has $3100 to throw away on that kind of thing anyway? Did he really think it would cost them that much to mail a bunch of envelopes and make some phone calls?

  9. Scazza says:

    Why not try a local career firm, usually one that is run by the local government if you have one near by. They are usually free, and have experinced staff when it comes to job placement. Only downside is they arn’t going to “fast track” you like these bogus companies claim to…

  10. sprocket79 says:

    Any time you have to pay for something job search related you should steer clear. The best thing you can do for yourself is to network. Join associations for the field you are in. Go to alumni events at your university. Join LinkedIn (which, coincidently is how I got my current job, which is at a really great company – one of Forbes 100 Best Companies to Work For).

    If you need help with a resume, you should consider going back to your old university and talking to the career center. Most universities will work with alumni. At my old university you do actually have to pay a small fee to use the career center once you’re past 6 months after graduation, but it’s only a few bucks, certainly not thousands like that scam. It’s the only exception I have to my rule about not paying for job searching tools.

    If you didn’t go to college… well, #1 you should try to go now that you’re not working or #2 take a business writing class at the local community college where you will probably learn to write a good resume.

    There’s no need to pay someone thousands of dollars to get you a job. But since Jeff did, he should really think about small claims court.

  11. starrion says:

    For those suggesting legal approaches, I’ve got $5 on “binding arbitration” featuring in the discussion…..

  12. Snarkysnake says:

    Let’s put Jeff’s troubles to some good purpose : With the possibility of a recession looming or already a reality,shady outfits like this are going to thrive UNLESS people are in the know about how they rip you off.

    1) If you are a real,honest to goodness management or engineering professional, NEVER pay anything up front to ANYONE to find you a job.When these people get their money , they move on to the next job seeker.They will then stop answering your calls and emails. They prey on desperation and ignorance. Bastards.

    2) Never pay “out of pocket expenses” .(This was the first tip off that they were not legit) They should be willing to make an investment in you in order to receive their big payoff on the back end when you get hired. The employer will take good care of them,believe me.

    3) Search firms are not a shortcut to developing networking skills (and contacts). The second part of the word network is “work”. While the seas are calm,you have to nurture and develop contacts and relationships with other pros in your field.Just calling your old cronies when you are out of work and needing a job is so transparent that it’s embarassing for them and you…

    4) Be careful. Saw where a pretty sophisticated identity theft ring targets job seekers on Monster and other sites by getting SSN’s and other sensitive info up front and then … God, I don’t want to think about it. The only person that needs your SSN is the HR department of a real ,live company. (They can be held accountable under the law for misuse)

    Hate it for Jeff here,but his experience may be the best $3100 education some of us ever get…

  13. alfista says:

    If you are not working and have some time on your hands, perhaps threatening to stand outside with printed copies of your stories and handing them to their prospective clients (like the car dealer story on this site) might help.

  14. bohemian says:

    I had a brief run in with this company, but it was quite a few years ago. I was looking for a job and wanted to get something asap. I ran across their ad in the paper and spoke to someone briefly on the phone. They gave the impression in both that they were paid by the company placement. I spent well over an hour there filling out paperwork and talking to a rep who was trying to get more information about my background and selling their services. Then he dropped the bomb, that I would have to pay up front a significant sum of money. Luckily I already knew that anyone asking for money up front is a scam. This rep kept trying to convince me that I was wrong and just clearly didn’t understand how great this was. I finally just got up and left. I did notice that the place was pretty busy so they seem to have a long line of potential victims.

    I did hear about six months later than the MN Attorney General’s office was investigating them.

    Another side note, the “but you just don’t understand” sales pitch I got was the exact same one a couple of realtors/mortgage brokers gave me trying to convince me to get an interest only ARM mortgage when we were looking for a house.

  15. ColdNorth says:

    Wow. It took almost 3 whole hours before someone decided to flame the OP…

  16. van_line says:

    For the OP:

    Caveat Emptor. All you did was pay 3k for someone to spam your resume all over the place. I used to work for Citibank and we would get random resumes faxed into us constantly and they went directly in the trash.

    Like everyone else has said, never pay for recruiting services. A legit staffing agency is either going to mark up your hourly rate or charge a flat % fee of your first year salary to their clients.

  17. deadlizard says:

    My parents spent $2000 in one of these companies when I got out of
    college years ago. When I got nothing out of it they blamed me and
    wanted me to pay them the $2000 back. I didn’t and they’re still mad at
    me, even though I’ve been working (with jobs I found myself) anyway.

  18. van_line says:

    @jfischer:

    There are still retained search firms, but they are retained by the company and usually they are retained for high level jobs (C-Level).

    I have been recruiting for 10 years, and I have worked for a couple of fortune 100 companies and none of them have software that screens resumes for buzzwords. All the screening is doing by a recruiter. As far as I am aware there is no software package that does.

  19. goodkitty says:

    All I needed to see was “they offered easy financing through GE Money Bank with no payments due for six month and a quick online application.”

    You know what they say… “birds of a feather…”

  20. SLIXY says:

    I went through the exact same thing with A&A in 2001. I was a young naive kid just out of Tech School and with the market as dead as it was back then, this pitch from them seemed to good to be true.
    Even after they made their whole pitch and after some paperwork, and then only at the end they said that they need to charge me for their services, I thought “what is a couple thousand dollars if you are guaranteed a well paying job?”

    Just like Jeff’s case I was mislead. A&A told me that they had contacts with ownership, management and administration with thousands of companies around my area. I didn’t even receive ONE phone call back form any of the companies that I had the letter sent to. Furthermore when I called those “contacts” up to follow through they had no interest in talking to me and most found it humorous that I was trying to contact a president or a CEO of the company with a cold call trying to get hired for a position they didn’t even need.

    I didn’t pay with financing like Jeff, but I used a credit card. I disputed the charges and after a long fight back and forth I was able to get a measly $350.00 (out of $2,500.00 or so) for my troubles.

    Since I didn’t really have the finances to pursue them legally I just had to cut my losses and move on.

  21. Mr_Burmie says:

    I once worked for a company similar to A&A. Based on my experiences in this industry, my advice is “stay away.”

    My boss lied to clients, basically telling them what they wanted to hear. My boss didn’t know much about many of the industries he purported to have expertise in. To find inside hiring information, we basically had to work with whatever we could find doing a basic google search, and calling the companies to confirm whatever information we found with gate-keeper receptionists. The cover-letters and resumes were edited by a kid just out of college.

  22. JonesboroMom says:

    @humphrmi:
    Thanks for the information. I emailed the Allen and Associates recruiter I was talking with and asked if there is a fee and magically he no longer needs to have a phone interview on Monday.

    This company is shameful. The service is fee based and if you are not going to shell out 3100.00 their interest in you ends. DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY!!
    See the email trail below.

    From:
    “Smith, Michael – Allen And Associates”
    To:

    Subject:
    RE: Allen and Associates
    Date:
    Saturday, March 15, 2008 10:06:12 PM
    I wish you good luck in your search. If something comes up through our
    recruiting effort I will email you 1st…

    Mike
    ________________________________

    From: bones@comcast.net [mailto:bones@comcast.net]
    Sent: Sat 3/15/2008 4:17 PM
    To: Smith, Michael – Allen And Associates
    Subject: Re: Allen and Associates

    Hello Michael,
    Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me on Friday. I did some research on the internet on Allen and Associates and surprisingly most of it was not very positive. A follow up with the BBB in Fla has also indicated a number of complaints.

    It sounded like from our conversation you had a specific position in my area you were working on. If that is true, please do call me Monday at 9. If you are going to ask me for 3178.00 we aren’t going to have a meeting of the minds. Let me know.
    Brenda

    ————– Original message ————–
    From: “Smith, Michael – Allen And Associates”

    Brenda,
    I enjoyed our brief conversation today and I’m looking forward to
    speaking with you. Once we receive your resume my team and I will research your salary information to see where we need to be in order to market you effectively. In addition we will review your resume for areas ofimprovement. During our consultation, if we have a strategy that we feel comfortable with I will go over exactly how we can help you.

    Review our web site and if you have any questions, I will be glad to
    answer them when we speak. In addition, reply to this email, with a Word version of your resume for
    our review.

    I have our meeting Monday scheduled for 9 am. If for any reason you can’t make the scheduled call, please inform me so that I may place another appointment in your time slot.

    Have a Great Day,

    Michael Smith
    Executive Career Consultant
    Allen and Associates
    866 953 8800 ext 724
    michael.smith@allenandassociates.com

    Web Site: http://www.allenandassociates.com
    Brochure: http://www.allena ndasso ciates.com/brochure

    Demo: http://www.allenandassociates.com/demo

    Success: http://www.allenandassociates.com/success/successStories.asp

    We b Site : [www.workstreaminc.com]
    http://www.workstreaminc.com

    Workstream Career Networks:
    6FigureJobs
    Allen and Associates
    Workstream Recruitment Services
    Workstream Rewards and Recognition

    NASDAQ: WSTM

  23. J. Michael Sullivan says:

    As an employer I can tell you from what I’ve seen from this company you are wasting your money. If you are paying for their servies, save yourself that money and do the work yourself. After receiving very poorly crafted / researched “cover letters” with printed signatures that all look the same for years I finally got curious and e-mailed one of the people who had them sent. She is the one who told me that Allen & Associates is the firm sending the letters out on her behalf. What’s really unfortunate about this is that people who generally in no position to spend money on a service as poor as this one are truly being “scammed.” If I were in your position I’d tell them I’d pay when they delivered the goods – a job.

    My two cents – keep your money!

  24. Anonymous says:

    I just got off the phone with an Allen and Associate representative. We discussed what they offered for about 90 minutes and everything sounded pretty good- except for the price. I was told about the ‘guarantee’- if I didn’t receive and accept an offer within 90 days, they cost would be reduced by a third. Sounds good, but I started to think about it. They had nothing to lose- they got $3K if I found a job, and $2K if I didn’t….

    I asked for references, and was told that references are basically not helpful since they would really only be sending positive references anyway. Instead, I was refered to the BBB site- where they had a (B-) with 0 complaints against them in the past 36 months. But, if you looked closely, the BBB site said that they had only been around since March 2008. I asked about that and was told that there membership to the BBB got messed up about a year ago and they had to re-subscribe.

    I really appreciate the info that you posted on them as I was considering their services. I’m glad I did some searching. The AAA rep actually tried to pressure me by saying that he was looking for decision makers- and that if I didn’t get back to him very soon, he wouldn’t want me as a client anyway because I wasn’t a decision maker.

    Isn’t that a riot? These guys have a response for everything…

    Thanks Again,
    Jim

  25. Anonymous says:

    Allen and Associates, Dallas, TX, recruiter, or what ever you call them, scum.
    Guilty associate – Ken Miller, flat out lied to me.
    These SOBs charged me $4,000, I’d been looking for work for about 3 years and was getting desperate when I encountered this lying stealing pos.
    My blast out was 350 letter and resumes, I got one reasponse and it wasn’t even related to what I do. They say their contract with me is for five years, the *&(&)(* ken miller has Never called me after the day I signed his contrtact. He shuffled everything to people in Florida, india, who knows. I’m still unemployed two years later.
    No background or work problems, I moved from Hawaii where my experience is not given much credit, peoples eyes glaze over like I was in another country or something.

    Thanks for starting this thread, get the word out!

  26. Anonymous says:

    Well I am glad my daughter said “check them out on the internet”. Their “speil” was pretty good over the phone – so good I could hear the “but there is a fee” which I have never heard of before. I am supposed to talk more with them tomorrow – I’ll have some fun with this.

    Thanks for the info.

  27. Anonymous says:

    As a long-since former”executive recruiter” (read salesperson) for Allen & Associates I have the inside scoop. They are a con organization. Their people are sent to their headquarters for a week of “intensive training” consisting of forced-learning, verbatim, of a long sales script. This script is carefully, craftily and cleverly designed to engender not only confidence in the organization but also a sense that they have jobs immediately available through companies actively seeking to fill positions they have listed with Allen & Associates. NOT TRUE. The company merely makes a review of your resume, performed by a scarcely trained and often inept but always low level and under educated employee, then allows you to send it out yourself to a list they provide you. They do very little (if anything) else. The “job coach” you might get to see is purely a sales person with absolutely no HR or career training, just another salesman off the street hired & put thru their “intensive training.” Anyone who is stupid enough to part with several thousand dollars for ANY “organization” where you are expected to pay money in order to get the opportunity of employment should not be in the executive job market. On the other hand, Allen & Associates do make it very easy to fall into their trap. I suspect that they would do anything to avoid bad publiicty & I would advise anyone who has fallen for their pitch and parted with any money at all to file a small claim & be sure to let the defendants know that you plan on sharing your experiences with the local and national press. I would also file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office both in the state where you live and in the state where Allen & Associates is headquartered (I’m not sure where that now is). They will almost certainly NOT want any possible negative publicity. if you they offer to settle, as I suspect they will, don’t accept anything less than everything you paid them plus any other costs incurred, such as court fees.

  28. Anonymous says:

    For over 45 years Allen And Associates has been working with individuals to market themselves to potential employers. We are not a Recruiting or Headhunting Firm. We offer a comprehensive campaign tailored to each individual client based upon interactions with their Executive Career Consultant and Campaign Support Manager, who work with each individual client to craft a unique campaign geared towards their needs and successes in this job market.

    It is our goal to work with our clients until they are successful and we do so by providing services to our clients for up to five years as specified in our User Agreement. We also provide unlimited revisions to the client’s professionally crafted Resume and/or Broadcast Letter until comfortable with the documents that they have received.

    Our experience has taught us that our success is derived from our client’s success and that is why we have employed the “best of the best” in Resume Writing / Career Coaching and Research. One of the many things that we stress to our clients is the importance of “Follow Up” and how it significantly increases the level of response from the initial mailing.

    Over the years, Allen And Associates has helped thousands of professionals across many industries. It is our goal to help our client achieve success in the job market and we stand by that with our 5 year service guarantee. We are committed to work with our clients until they have gained employment.
    Please contact the Allen And Associates

    Director of Client Care at 866-953-8800 ext 790 to discus any issues that you may have.