Letter and Review of ERG/NWE (Part 2)
Letter to the Office of the Attorney General continued… Further, I would like to add that later on in the day I witnessed her selling the service to another customer. The customer was of Hispanic/ Mexican origin and appeared to have a strong Spanish accent. Alexis Blains used a similar sales technique as she had done with me, except she asked questions about this woman's children, while the woman was filling out the contract form. Specifically, I overheard Alexis Blains say, "What are the ages of your children?" Then she asked "Are they in school?" And the woman proceeded to reply to her questions, thus distracting her from reading the fine print on the contract. The ERG contract is written in such a lawyerly and confusing manner that a typical native English speaker would have difficulty understanding it, not to mention people with limited English fluency or mental capacity (e.g. immigrants, disabled, seniors). One statement that I find to be especially exploitative is "I understand that this agreement contains our entire understanding and any oral promises or statements made by any employee or representative of ERG are not binding." In simple English, the above statement translates as follows: "At ERG any employee, staff person or representative can make false promises to you (our customers) by telephone or in person and lie to you as much as we want, and mislead you because the contract says we can. If you happen to overlook the fine print, then you are an *** for believing anything we had to say. Our staff people are highly trained, exceptionally good liars because we are still in business." Another passage from the contract, that I find to be especially deceptive and misleading is: "ERG does not charge a percentage of income after employment." During the week of September 26, 2011 I spoke with ERG several times on the telephone. When I called, Megan told me "We don't take fees out of your paycheck like employment agencies do." The statements above are both examples of manipulative parallels made by ERG and their staff. Use of such language is intentionally misleading, and to make such a comparison is highly inappropriate in this case, not to mention deceptive. Traditional employment agencies in modern America are back-loaded which means they only charge fees if they are successful in placing the applicant and only after one begins to work and earn income. ERG/NWE is front-loaded which means they charge a fee regardless of whether the client secures employment (through his or her own efforts) or not. A real employment agency or recruiter find the applicant a job, i.e. place the applicant. ERG intentionally blurs the line between their service and a real employment agency by using such misleading statements, making fallacious comparisons, and lying to their customers. The passage from the contract should be changed to read as follows: "If you are successful in securing employment as a result of your membership with ERG, ERG will not charge fees from your income in addition to the payment you have already made." At this time, I also wish to discuss the "Client Release" ERG sent me by email (refer to document attached). Although I am not an attorney, I believe ERG's "Client Release" is illegal under Washington State laws. In particular I am concerned with these clauses "Having paid one hundred and eighty five dollars ($185.00) by company to prevent all future disputes between the parties, Client hereby releases, quit claims and other disputes between the parties…Client agrees that the payment of the above amount does not constitute and admission of any liability by company." First of all, ERG is not issuing a "payment" to me but a "refund" as stated on the "Member Subscription Addendum" under the heading of Unconditional Guarantee is the statement "If you discover that a position has not been verified or confirmed as indicated, or has not been accurately advertised as communicated by the employer, you are entitled to cancel your subscription with a full refund of your service fee." This is another form of deception and legal trickery used by this company. I don't understand how such an agreement can even be made. I hereby request that someone with the proper credentials within the Attorney General's Office review the "Client Release" form. On October 3, 2011 my mother and I paid ERG/NWE $185 via credit card. All of the company's paperwork is under the name "Employment Resource Group (ERG)" however, the printed credit card receipt shows "N W Employment" as the company (copied as shown with spaces included). When I called to file a dispute with my credit card company they could not find the transaction under ERG because it was listed under NWE. This dual naming scheme is deceptive and misleading, which brings me to my next point… With the very limited information this company provides about themselves in the Spokesman Review job classified listings (ERG, phone #, fee) it takes a highly skilled and knowledgeable person to find them on Google or any other search engine. The Seattle/Tacoma location uses ten different phone numbers simultaneously, so finding them via telephone number on the internet is nearly impossible for free. When I called ERG they did not even provide their full name to me by telephone (Employment Resource Group) before my scheduled appointment however I believe it's on their voicemail. How many people will think to call after hours to get their full name off of the voicemail? Ultimately this all comes down to one thing--consumer protection. This company intentionally deprives people from making an informed decision with frequent name changes, telephone number changes, and even moving some of their office locations to new address when the complaints begin to pile up. The company intentionally withholds important information from callers, makes false statements and promises to people, and manipulates consumers by creating false expectations about their service. Consumers have the right to make an informed decision but how can they when the information is not presented in an honest, trustworthy, transparent, ethical, and forthright manner? People of all skill levels, backgrounds, intellectual capacity, technological know-how, and language competency have the right to make an informed decision. ERG/NWE intentionally deprives consumers of this choice. Given the seriousness of ERG's/NWE's conduct, I respectfully request that the Office of the Attorney General disallow any and all name changes for this business to protect consumers. Consumers must be protected from ERG/NWE. Tighter controls and stricter regulations ought to be imposed on ERG/NWE. In short, the entire affair has been a dreadful experience and a complete waste of time and money. As of yet, the company has refused to issue a refund. I filed a dispute with my credit card company but was unsuccessful in securing a refund. This letter, although long and comprehensive, is not exhaustive. There are many details regarding this case that I wish to discuss further with the appropriate person in your department. In addition to my earlier requests in this letter, I seek two resolutions: 1) That you thoroughly investigate this company's business practices and take appropriate action to protect consumers. 2) A full refund of monies paid in the amount of $185. My mother is a licensed insurance agent with the state of Washington and she would never think to conduct business in such a deceptive and manipulative manner as Employment Resource Group and Northwest Employment Service easily does on a regular basis. Sincerely, Liza Shipovskiy
Washington, District Of Columbia
Consumer Alert: This company defrauds customers!
Dear Office of the Attorney General: I hope you take this letter very seriously as I have put forth considerable time and effort to compose it as completely as possible and to gather the supporting documents. This complaint discusses my experience with ERG in the Spokane, WA location. During the week of September 26, 2011 I spoke with ERG several times on the telephone. I spoke with a woman on the telephone (I believe her name was Megan) and she said "We take people out to job interviews the same day" but that never happened because it's a lie. My mother and I were in the office when I was filling out the forms. Before I signed them, I asked the office manager "Do you guarantee job placement?" because this is what I had been told on the telephone by ERG staff. She answered confidently "100 percent guarantee." The verbal promises made by ERG representatives constitute a verbal contract. The verbal statements are made to intentionally mislead and confuse people and create false hopes and expectations about the service. The verbal promises made are inconsistent with the facts and create false impressions in one's mind about the service (i.e. brainwash). Contract Law stipulates that mutual assent or a "Meeting of the Minds" is a necessary element and must occur for a contract to be valid. (http://law.freeadvice.com/general_practice/contract_law/binding_contract.htm) Clearly, it did not, thus this contract is invalid. On Friday, October 7, 2011 I sent an email to ERG staff with my Request to Cancel Service as follows: "I hereby request to terminate membership with ERG aka Employment Resource Group aka NW Employment. On the "Member Subscription Addendum" under the heading of Unconditional Guarantee is the statement "If you discover that a position has not been verified or confirmed as indicated, or has not been accurately advertised as communicated by the employer, you are entitled to cancel your subscription with a full refund of your service fee." I hereby invoke this clause in the request for a full refund (in the amount of $185) on the basis of my experience with the Goodwill Industries job listings. I accessed their database in the Spokane, WA location on Monday, October 3, 2011. This was the same day that I signed up for this service under false pretenses [made by ERG staff]. When I had searched the ERG database, five job listings came up for Goodwill in and around the Spokane area. The listing instructed the applicant to go to the Goodwill website. However, since they do not offer internet access at their location, I was unable to check this until the next day (Tuesday morning) when I got home. I searched the job listings on the Goodwill website and there were only a few open/ available positions around the Seattle/ Tacoma area. There was not a single job opening near or around Spokane, WA. This and other experiences lead me to conclude that a sizeable part of the so called "job listings" in the ERG database are obsolete, intentionally outdated, filled; and/or are entirely fabricated and probably never existed." ------------------------------------- Over the past ten years or so ERG has undergone five name changes ranging from Employment Resource Group to Northwest Employment Service and all of its variants and abbreviations (e.g. ERG, NWE). I don't know of any reputable company that changes its name so often. Reputable companies such as Coca Cola or Ford Motors have had the same name for a century. The many DBA aliases associated with ERG raised a red flag for me. I confirmed my suspicions after further research when I discovered that ERG, under its former name as Northwest Employment Listing, had a dozen negative customer reviews on Google Maps under its business profile. You can easily find it by searching Google for their address (59 Queen Ave #210, Spokane, WA) and read the customer feedback for yourself. The names may change but the address has stayed the same so far (as odd as that may be). As it turns out, ERG is trying to cover up, and hide its poor reputation and shoddy service record from the public. At some point, ERG/NWE may lead you to believe that this was a rare occurrence. The company will likely deny most, if not all, of the statements in this letter. However, this is not an isolated case, many people have been similarly affected. To illustrate this point clearly, and remove all doubt, I have compiled a list of quotes from former ERG/NWE customers across the internet who have volunteered their experiences freely and without receiving compensation (Refer to document attached "Quotes" with sources). I called the Spokane office at the end of September to obtain information about the job listings I saw in the Spokesman Review Newspaper posted by ERG/NWE. I explained to Megan, the person I spoke to, that I would be driving from Moses Lake, WA to their office in Spokane. I asked her, "Can you give me your address so I can look it up on Google Maps?" She did not tell me their address (which I did not know at the time) but only gave me directions to their location and now I understand why. I have paraphrased her answer as closely as possible: We are located next to the Northgate Mall across from Macy's on Queen Street in a large, two-story, gray office building on the second floor. She knew that if I had searched for the address on Google Maps I would have found the many negative customer reviews about this company and never even bothered to make this long trip. She did not disclose their address to me in that conversation. Intentionally withholding one's address from callers (especially when asked for it) is not how a reputable nor ethical business operates. My mother and I were in the ERG/NWE office in Spokane, WA on Monday October 3, 2011. She is my witness to the events that took place that day. Firstly, the contract was not explained to me by Alexis Blains (office manager). She never explained the contract to me, nor the truth about their service (which I know now but not at that time). In fact, she did everything she possibly could to distract me while I was filling out my name, address and other information on the form to discourage me from reading the fine print by engaging me in conversation with her. She cited a few quick factoids about their company (such as years in business) then asked me questions, and proceeded to discuss the "job opportunities" I had seen in the Spokesman Review newspaper as advertised by ERG. She jumped from one topic to another very quickly, from question to question in quick succession, but she never discussed the contract with me. She asked "What are your job preferences and minimum desired wage?" Then noticing my address she asked, "Are you planning to relocate to Spokane for work?" During this entire process it never occurred to me that I was signing a contract. In the past, whenever I had come up against contracts in college or business the representative would make statements such as… "Please read the contract, if you agree to it, then sign below." "Before you sign the contract, do you have any questions?" "By law, I am required to explain the contract to you. Do you understand all of its terms?" Alexis Blains never used the word "contract" instead she referred to it as "paperwork" or "form." Alexis Blains was deceitful, dishonest, and tricked me into signing up for their service based on false promises made by her.
Washington, District Of Columbia
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