WARNING TO NEW BUSINESSES
RE: DEALING WITH SHADY COMPANIES
AND THEIR CROOKED REPRESENTATIVES
RE: AMERITECH YELLOW PAGES
Bill Payment Center
Saginaw, MI 48663-0003
I know that Ameritech has many satisfied customers or they wouldn't still be in business. But I feel the need to write about my experience with Ameritech; how it has been for me, a beginner in the Business world, and how bad it hurts the little person struggling to start a business to have to deal with corporations who, knowingly or unknowlingly, fail to find and dismiss unethical employees who use shady business tactics and crooked customer relations practices.
I understand that the results of my choices are my own responsibility. It may be considered too trusting of me to not understand the ways of the business world, but "Business" people are even more responsible for not being trustworthy, people using their position to make an unearned dollar off customers, people they know are new, naive, and struggling to get started.
So, I accept my responsibility, but I am nevertheless hurt and shocked by how I have been tricked and walked on. It is my contention that I shouldn't have to worry about dishonorable behavior from representatives of reputable companies - that the business world should be one of honor.
I want to talk about my problem with Ameritech Yellow Pages, a problem that I am dealing with right at this moment and will have to pay for over the next year. My mistake in trusting their salesman, Mr. Jake Tanner, has cost me $600 for the next 12 months. I can find no decency nor honor in the kind of unprofessionalism Ameritech's employee, Jake Tanner, has shown me. Nor have I yet had reason to believe Ameritech Yellow Pages is going to make Mr. Tanner's actions right for me.
In early March of 2002, I received an unsolicited call from an Ameritech Yellow Pages salesman by the name of Jake Tanner. He urged a meeting with me to discuss what Ameritech had to offer as far as listing my business with them in their yellow pages.
We agreed to meet at Perkins Restaurant in Eau Claire, Wisconsin so he could make his presentation. I was actually happy to meet another businessman. I knew that I wasnít going to agree to anything at this point, but did want to view prices and information. More importantly, because I was new to the business world, I thought I'd learn about professional presentation. Ha!
On March 6th, 2002, we did meet. He was late, but I waited. When he finally showed up and we were seated, he ordered food while I ordered coffee.
Of course I was a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, but I had written down all the questions that I wanted to ask. I wanted to totally understand everything he was going to talk about.
Mr. Tanner proceeded to show me different methods to advertise through Ameritech Yellow Pages. It certainly looked as if they were doing a good business. He kept referring to one particularly large ad listed under 'Massage', pointing out how nice the big ad was. He said that this particular person was one of his best clients.
I asked about the price of that size ad, and the price he quoted floored me! Remember, my business is just opening, doesn't even have a name yet, so you can understand that I am shocked at the high prices.
So, I asked what else he had to offer, he continued to go down in size, showing me smaller sizes with different color writing. He told me that I probably didnít want to go any less that a box that has about 6 lines in it, and pointed out that red writing is a really good way of getting the folks' attention. He says this one is $600 a year! $46 per month.
When he told me about the smaller box for $46 per month. it was much more reasonable than the biggest ad. He made it sound like the best deal. He tells me the price and we both know it is probably too high for me. Here I have a business that hasnít even gotten off the ground at all, and he wants to sell me an ad this expensive? I told him, I would have to think about it and let him know at a later time. (I never make decisions without consulting my husband. He is currently THE breadwinner in our home.)
Mr. Tannershowed me progressively smaller ads, then showed me another type of online advertising, which he quoted at only $9 a month. Now this is more my price range. It was an online listing to be put under 'Massage Therapists' at www.smartpages.com
Mr. Tanner explained that this ad was through a different company... Southwestern Bell. (Later I found out it was the same company phone number)
I am from Texas, so I know that the Telephone Company in Ft Worth, TX is Southwestern Bell. He explained that a listing for me under 'Massage Therapists' could start immediately. I knew I could afford $9 a month, and an online listing was better than none, so I agreed to the online service listing under 'Massage Therapists' which was to start immediately, to be priced at $9 per month.
He asked if I had a business name. I responded that I did want to acquire a business name but didn't know how to go about it. Jake Tanner was nice enough to explain how to do that.
I was thinking that Mr. Tanner was a nice business guy to point me in the right direction. A little wall against salesmen in general went down then as I listened closely how to create and list a business name here in Eau Claire. (He made it sound so easy that, after I left the meeting with Jake Tanner, I went straight to the court building, and registered my new business name... ADVANTAGE MASSAGE.)
Anyway, back to the meeting at Perkins. Mr. Tanner told me that the listing online under 'Massage Therapists' would start immediately, but "In the meantime," he asked, "what do you think about listing with the Ameritech Yellow Pages?" I told him that I would have to think it over, talk to my husband, and get back to him about that one.
He then explained, sounding very honest, that I would need to sign a paper that would hold me a spot in the pages, in case I decided to go with the $600 a year yellow pages ad. He said that if I didnít sign the 'hold-a-spot' paper at that time, the Yellow Pages might not have a space to list me if I did decide to go with an ad.
I read over the page, and I believed itwas what he said it was, an agreement to save me a spot, but it looked awfully 'legal'. I asked Mr. Tanner point blank, ďThis isnít a sale sheet is it?Ē
"Oh, no," he says. "It is only to hold your space." Mr. Tanner said that I had time to think it over and to get back with him if I wanted the ad. He explained that IF I decided to run an ad, I would then create the ad that I wanted, and then we'd meet again so I could give him the ad I would create.
That sounded good enough. I figured he knew the advertising business better than I (and boy did he!) so I signed the paper, believing him when he said it was to hold me a spot while I decided. To make sure, I, with his okay, wrote on the paper, "Not a final contract".
I remember after signing it, I was reading over my online paperwork, and Mr. Tanner suddenly said, ďYou can leave now.Ē
My thought at that moment was, "Wow! That is kind of rude", so I responded, embarrassed, ďI know.Ē
But I sat there a few more minutes and tried to reaffirm exactly what he had told me, that this paper I had signed was to 'hold my spot' in the Yellow Pages if I agreed, that we would meet again if I decided to create and list an ad, and that my $9 online ad would run under the heading 'Massage Therapists' beginning immediately. He agreed that I understood correctly.
Just before I left, he told me again to call him as soon as I got my business name registered and he would put it on the website listing for $9 per month. I then left, heading directly to the courthouse to get the name of my business registered.
When I called later that same day to let him know that I had registered my business name for the $9 website listing at www.smartpages.com, from Southwestern Bell, he thanked me and that was the end of our 'business' dealing for the moment.
I let a few days pass, then went to check the listing. My $9 ad was not there. I let a few more days pass and went online again. I noticed that my listing was still not posted. I rechecked often in the next week, thinking that maybe Mr. Tanner was wrong and perhaps it takes a week or more, but after a while, I realized it just wasnít there and apparently wasn't going to be there unless I followed through.
So I called back this Jake Tanner using the phone number on the business card he had given me, only to find he was not available. I left a message on his voice box answering machine. He finally called back and said the ad wasn't there because he couldnít use my home number. I had a cell phone, so I gave him that phone number. He said my on-line listing should be up on the website very soon under 'Massage Therapists', and thanked me.
Later I went to the website and STILL could not find the ad. I tried calling Mr. Tanner numerous times, but he was never again available. By then, I was getting a bit fed up with Southwestern Bell and with Jake Tanner for not returning any of the messages I left.
By this time I had also received my first bill of $9, with no ad that I could find to show for it. So I called the number on the invoice, 877-64-SMART, which says it is Southwestern Bell, and Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell and SNET, and Ameritech.
I asked for this Jake
Tanner again, and he was still not available. I called back the number on the invoice and told them "I am unable to find my listing." They tell me it has been listed under something other than 'Massage Therapists' all this time. So I asked them to put it under 'Massage Therapists' as Mr. Tanner had promised.
I went online a few hours later, and did find my listing under 'Massage Therapists'. "Wahoo!" I think. "Finally!"
But then, I noticed the ad had the wrong name ... Instead of 'Advantage Massage', it was listed as 'Advanced Massage'. Once again I felt discouragement with the service I was receiving from these people, Jake Tanner and his company, Ameritech Yellow Pages.
Sigh... I once again called #877-64-SMART and told the person who answered the phone about the problem. "The name of the business is 'Advantage Massage'," I explained, "and not 'Advanced Massage' as you have listed it." They changed it immediately.
I went back online and found that, when I clicked on my listing, the link led to a map. The directions on the map were heading to my home, not my business. I called back and told them the problem. They wanted to know the address that the map should take them to, so I gave them 2000 Oxford. Then I asked if they could make the link on my work name go to my website at http://www.angelfire.com/folk/therapy. So they did.
There were no more problems after that with my $9 online listing. I already knew, though, that because I had gotten the run around from this Jake Tanner fellow, that he never returned calls and did a sloppy job, I definitely wasnít going to do future business with him or his company, Ameritech Yellow Pages.
Anyway, months passed, and I began to realize I wasn't getting any clicks from the online listing. So, when I received another $9 bill from Southwestern Bell, I called and told them that I wanted remove my listing from their smartpages site.
The Ameritech representative on the phone informed me that I had signed a contract for a one year listing. He could remove my listing, he told me, but I would still have to pay the $9 a month until March of 2003.
This was the first time I had heard of it being a year long contract! Jake Tanner had conveniently neglected to tell me that part. Yes, I know... I apparently hadnít read every word of the small print. But I thought I did. Maybe not though.
So I hesitated, more angry than ever with Jake Tanner and his company, but I told the man on the phone that, if I am going to be forced to pay the $9 a month to have it online in their listing for a year, then I would definitely just leave the ad there.
More time passed... I heard nothing more from Jake Tanner ever again. He just melted into the pit of the business world, I suppose. I didnít think anything more of the rip-off or of him. I figured it was bad business on his part, a learning thing on mine, and I swore that when this year was over, I was NEVER going to advertise through Ameritech Yellow Pages again.
In mid-September 2002, I received a call on my cell phone from a man asking me if I wanted to put a flyer on the front of the Ameritech Phone Book. I told him that I have no listing with this company, have no intention to ever list with this company, and am not the slightest bit interested. He said, "I just got your name out of the New Ameritech Phone Book."
So I started questioning him. I told him that I didnít understand. I stated that I didn't HAVE an ad in the New Ameritech Phone Book.
The man asked if I had sat down with someone and created an ad for the phone book. I said, "No! I met with someone months ago, but never agreed to nor created an ad." I told him that I had just signed up with the $9 online service. I told the caller that I had talked to a representative back in March, that we had discussed the costs of putting an ad in the Ameritech Phone Book, but that I had never agreed, the rep had never got back with me, and we had never met to make up an ad.
The caller put me on hold, and then returned to say that he has heard of a listing put in the phone book as a complimentary thing and that maybe that is what happened. I thanked him for letting me know this, but said no thanks to the insert. That was the end of the call.
On September 21, 2002, I check my mail at my work place. There is a bill for $46 from Ameritech with a recipient's address of 2000 Oxford. I thought, "What could this be?" I thought they were charging me for a phone that I didnít have. I figured it was a mistake, and that I would call them Monday morning to straighten it out.
I did. September 23, 2003 I called the phone number on the bill... #1-800-647-9000. A rep by the name Richard Squidowsky (sp), answered the phone at 8 am in the morning. I told him, "I have a bill here that I donít know anything about."
He asked for my account number... I gave him the invoice number by accident. He seemed a bit irritated and said, "That is not your account number." So I looked closer and it wasnít. I gave him the account number on the bill... 715-R71-3113-715-8.
Richard Squidowsky put me on hold and when he returned, he asks, "What can I do for You?"
While I was on hold, I had been looking over the bill and had read..."Total Ameritech Yellow Pages Charges". So, I told him, "I donít have an account with Ameritech Yellow Pages. I only have an online listing, but is with a different company." (The online statement comes from Texas, not Wisconsin, and is for $9, not $46).
Mr. Squidowsky insisted that I had signed a contract back in March for a listing in Ameritech Yellow Pages. I said vehemently, "NO, I did not!"
Mamm," he says with venom in his voice, "Yes, you did. The paper is right here with your signature on it."
I was extremely upset, and I wanted to know what was the name of the salesman I supposedly ordered this ad from. He put me on hold and came back and said... "John Cook."
I told him in no uncertain terms that I had never met with a John Cook. I said that I had met with some guy long months ago, but that the result of that meeting had been an online ad costing $9 a month for an unexpected YEAR.
Mr. Squidowsky then said, "Maybe it was Jacob Tanner."
Well that didnít ring a bell with me either. I knew the only salesman I had met with was not John Cook, not Jacob, but Jake Tanner. Mr. Squidowsky says, "No huh?"
I said ... "Wait... Tanner, Jacob Tanner... Oh, yeah. I met with a Jake Tanner. Yes, Jake Tanner."
I told him that, although we had met, we didnít sign any contract except for the $9 a month online service through a different company that turned out to be for a year.
The man on the phone, Richard Squidowsky, said, "Yes, you did sign a contract and it is binding."
I told him if that were so, then I wanted a copy of the contract. He stated that he thought I had one. I replied, "No I donít, never have seen one."
Richard Squidowsky stated that he would send one to the address they have, and he asked if there was a suite number. I told him that he could just send it to the address he already has used because it apparently will get to me; this bill did. (I didnít want to give out more information than they already had.)
I asked Mr. Squidowsky if there is a supervisor I could talk to. He reluctantly asked, ďAbout what?Ē he says in a most unprofessional manner.
"About this matter we have been discussing, of a bill I don't feel I owe and a contract I don't feel I bargained for."
Squidowsky then says in a most superior tone, ďIt wonít help, because you have signed a contract and you are bound by it!Ē
I was very upset, and asked him to "just send the copy of the 'contract' in the mail, and include a copy of the phone book." He agreed to do so and that was the end of the conversation.
The ad in Ameritech Yellow Pages is not my ad. If I had created an ad, it would not look like this nor be worded like this. If anyone has seen any of my ads, they can tell you that this is not my type of work nor words I would use.
Since I received the phone book, I've called around to other massage therapists with ads in it to find out what they were paying. They are paying around the same price Jake Tanner quoted me and that I have been billed for.
But one lady called today, Sept. 25, 2002. She advised me that she had been sent a proof of her ad before it was ever printed. I never received a 'proof', nor have I to this day received a copy of the contract in question.
The McLeod company, Ameritech's competition, called me, yesterday, Sept 24, 2002, and wanted to confirm my listing. I had nothing to say except that "I do not have a listing in your phone book, and No, Thank you.. I do not want a listing!"
All I did with Ameritech is to check prices months ago. When I decided not to go with Ameritech Yellow Pages, all this happened. One little contract for a monthly $9 online ad turned into a year long commitment to one and an agreement for another $600 a year ad that I never agreed to.
I just feel that I need to let every beginning business person know: BE AWARE and BE ON GUARD when it comes to dealing with business people, especially those like Jake Tanner, aka...Jacob Tanner, ...aka John Cook. They can be unscrupulous people.
BE VERY CAUTIOUS when dealing with their companies: ALWAYS, always read every word on the page! I've found that it is NOT rare for corporations like Ameritech to try to rip off the little guy. This type of dirty dealing is NOT uncommon - it appears to be the standard for how businesses are run today.
This is only one incident that I've ran up against. By all means, it was the most expensive mistake I've made... and the most valuable lesson I've learned: If you are new, have someone look over the paperwork and help to guide you in the right direction.
Everyone is out for themselves and apparently there are many companies who don't care how they make their money, who they hurt, nor how shady their reps behave - as long as the Jake Tanners of the business world appear to get the 'contract' signed! .
RESPONSES TO AMERITECH-JAKE TANNER LETTER
From: Tanner, Jacob (AAS)
Sent: Monday, October 07, 2002 2:08 PM
Cc: Laura (AAS)
Subject: FW: SBC Southwestern Bell Business: Smartpages online business directory
I apologize to you if you think I was trying take advantage of you. Small businesses are the backbone of our business. Many small business owners rely on us and trust us as their sole source of advertising. We would never
take these small business owners for granted. I am sorry that you had a negative experience but I assure you that this is very uncommon. I have forwarded this message to my manager so she is aware of your concerns
Again I am extremely sorry,
To: happydarb_1 <firstname.lastname@example.org>;
Kay Lee <email@example.com>
Cc: Laura (AAS) <Laura.A@sbcdo.com>;
Tanner, Jacob (AAS) <Jacob.F.Tanner@sbcdo.com>
Date: 10/07/2002 - 13:23
Subject: Re: SBC Southwestern Bell Business: Smartpages online business directory
Ms. Laura: Jake Tanner expresses his apology, not for tricking me, but for my 'uncommon' negative experience. Since this entire Ameritech episode, I have talked to many, many people who have had 'uncommon' experiences with big businesses and their con-men - excuse me - sales-men. However, your other customers, their satisfaction or complaints, have nothing to do with the situation between Ameritech Yellow Pages, Jake Tanner, and myself.
I don't even work my business anymore because of the cost and the loss of faith I've incurred from sleight-of-hand 'salesmen' like Jake Tanner. I can verify that I have since notified my leaser to rent my business space, I've quit all new advertising, and I have people like Jake Tanner to thank for using my inexperience to put a damper on my attempts to run my own business.
Because my husband and I have worked very hard to protect our credit, if Ameritech does not make this right by absolving me of the $552 ad cost, I will probably end up having to pay for something I never wanted nor knowingly asked for.
However, I am going to raise as much hell about this as I possibly can to warn other young entrepreneurs to be careful of dealing with established businesses that would con a newcomer, and I promise to give your collection department as little cooperation as possible to peacefully protest a bill I don't feel rightfully belongs to me.
If Ameritech rectifies Jake Tanner's devious attempt to get credit for a sale he didn't honestly make, I will absolve the company of the employee's actions.
I would expect to receive a copy of this Ameritech 'contract' that locked me in to, not only an unexpected year of online listing, but according to Ameritech, also foistered the Yellow Page cost on me instead of "saving me a spot" as Jake Tanner put it.
I'd also like to have a copy of the ad proof I supposedly submitted but never saw before it appeared in the Yellow pages.
I still am awaiting the physical 'contracts', which I have yet to see.
In Utmost Sincerity
Eau Claire, WI
AMERITECH RIPOFF RESOLVED
AMERITECH YELLOW PAGES JAKE TANNER SCAM RESPONSES TO COMPLAINT LETTER JAKE TANNER 'NOT FINAL CONTRACT'' MY ' HOLD-A-SPOT'' CUSTOMER COPY FOR COMPARISON JAKE TANNER FRAUDULENT AD WITH MY ADS FOR COMPARISON