Allen and associates advertise the following: "A dedicated, experienced and responsive Career Management Team, Best-in-class and competitive marketing materials, Targeted company research based on YOUR criteria, Verified contact information of potential employers and decision makers, The fastest turn-around in the business, A door into the unadvertised job market." My account manager, Emily Lopez, said that with my background I was highly marketable and "guaranteed" (her words) that if I did everything they told me, I would find employment. I explained to her that I did not wish to relocate and she replied that this would be no problem. Ms. Lopez did tell me that there was no refund after a certain point in the transaction. I, in turn, replied that I had no problem with the cancellation policy if she could guarantee success which she again reassured me that they would. It was however a problem. I was to choose 200 businesses that I wanted to work for, however, I found less than that in my metro area. I was told that I needed to add more and I should go ahead and pick headquarters of corporations to target, even if these were not in the area.
I was concerned at this because I was not interested in relocation, but I was told that it was a common practice and many big corporations had a presence all over the US and most likely the Fort Wayne, IN area as well. After the campaign letters were sent out, of the 200+ businesses I picked, only 8 responded in any way. When I contacted Ms. Lopez on 11/11/2007 I emailed these concerns.
I had also checked the BBB and this company is not a member, but the website stated "The Bureau has received complaint(s) concerning dissatisfaction with the quality of the material prepared, and stating verbal representation of service does not agree with the wording on the "Understanding of Services Agreement." She told me there was nothing to worry about and the lack of response is typical!! This alarmed me, but I waited to see if I got further response from anyone else. I finally got fed up with the lack of reponse, the feedback I received from the companies that I called and recruiters as well. So that is when I sent the following information about my job search problems to Kari Slade, Customer Relations contact in this email Jan 17, 2008:
I have been a customer with Allen and Associates since about the 27th of September, 2007. Let me first say that thus far I am disappointed about my job search help from Allen and Associates. The beliefs I had after my initial interview with Emily Lopez was this: 1) I believed that Allen and Associates would guarantee me a job because they had the inside track to getting these unadvertised jobs 2) Once I got a job, I would be a network contact on the inside and would be expected to help find a position for the next person looking. I even made the statement that it is an Ill scratch your back if you scratch mine situation when Emily told me about this and she agreed 3) I also believed that the resume rewrite and campaign were all in Allen and Associates hands and I was just to prepare myself for interviews and subsequent offers using the career coaches and manual. I later found out that this was not true.
As you can see from the above statement, I was lead to believe that your company would guarantee that I would get a job because you had the inside scoop and that I would have so many offers that I would need to have them screened. It was also not clear to me that once all the campaign letters went out, I was the one that was expected to do the follow-up calls. I thought that I was hiring Allen and Associates to campaign for me, not just write campaign letters. For the amount you charge for your services, I would fully expect that. However, the entirety of the job campaign seems to be a house of cards.
I have found in my subsequent search that many of the services you offer are far cheaper or even free at other sites. I have even had a president of an executive search firm rewrite the resume your people gave me. He also told me that the resume you wrote had no substance and that it needed more detail. All of this he did for me free of charge. Because of his opinion of your work, I began to question the validity of your company.
Unfortunately I have found that you are not a member of the Better Business Bureau and that worries me, but my hope is that according to the BBB you have been responsive to the complaints you have had. However, I was disappointed to hear that you have had 26 complaints in the last 12 months and a total of 55 in the past three years. Additionally, the BBB said at the end of the year, November specifically, Customer Experience: Based on BBB files, this company has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau due to unresolved complaint(s). This has since been changed at the beginning of this New Year to reflect a positive turn of Allen and Associates being responsive to claims or so the BBB believes. They have even named you specifically as the complaint contact.
To continue, I explained from the beginning to Emily that I was not in a position to move out of the Fort Wayne, Indiana area for a job. Consequently, she said that it would be better to be open to relocation but that I was very marketable so it should not be a problem. This had me worried, because I did not see how your system would work here, but I relied upon her professional opinion. Once I submitted my businesses of interest, I was told that there were not enough and I had to submit more. Most of these additional businesses headquarters were in other areas of the country.
Follow-up calls and online investigations showed that most do not even have a presence in the Fort Wayne area so these were basically a waste of time. Once my campaign letters went out, I got only a total of 8 responses out of 213 businesses contacted. I was greatly disappointed and phoned Emily. She told me that this was normal and in fact, eight responses were quite a lot. I was shocked; eight out of 213 companies to me is poor especially since the whole trick was to be working the unadvertised market and on the inside track. To further add insult, all the people (decision makers) that I have attempted to contact have either not returned my calls or have referred me to their HR people. Arent these the people who are supposed to help? I have had better responses from local inquiries into open jobs using my own methods. Perhaps your methods work well in large cities like Chicago, Dallas, Miami etc., but for me they have not worked in this smaller industrial area and I do not expect them to.
Lastly, I contacted Emily about the above BBB investigation and she mostly brushed it off as people who were not satisfied because they failed to do their part or that they just would not be satisfied no matter what. There must be more to it than that. I also spoke to her about an incident I had with one of your career coaches, Karen Battoe, which she resolved willingly. Which is another point, I know that these coaches have their own businesses, but I got conflicting information from the session I had with Karen versus the session I had with Debbie Rotolo and I asked the same questions??
Additionally, I have kept a log of all the conversations I have had with those in your organization so I could refer to their advice and record their information. Please understand, I am sure Emily is doing her job, but I do not believe your method works in my case. As a result, I am asking for at least a 50% refund. I just want to cut my losses and move on from this.
I do not wish to involve the BBB, so I am contacting you directly. I ask you or anyone else in your organization to contact me only to email me about this. I had more examples of issues, but I think that I made my point. I am not a happy customer and just want this issue resolved as soon as possible. Please respond at your earliest convenience."
This was her reply:
"There is no refund for client's that have finished our service. We can do a 2nd campaign for you or a follow-up campaign, call me to discuss this. Kari Slade 866 953 8800 ext. 706."
Not only did she not address my concerns, she flatly refused a partial refund which, considering my situation, I believe was more than fair. I refused to call her as I wanted a written record of her reply. I again wrote her on 2/18/2008:
As I stated in my original document to you, the first campaign did not work because of the limited area. I was told by your people that that was not a problem. By your response, I don't believe you read my last letter and if you did so, you failed to respond to any of it. So may I ask, what makes you believe that a second campaign will do any better than the first? Please reconsider the request for refund. I am only asking for 50% back. That way, we split the difference and go our own ways.
She replied back with this simple email:
"There still is no refund"
It is obvious that the company does not guarantee their work, nor do they care about customer satisfaction. They state on their website, "Our company proudly maintains the Allen tradition of personalized service and commitment to customer satisfaction." A recent check (3/21/08) from the Orlando BBB website, revealed that they are in poor standing again, so how is this possible?!
The chief complaint comes to this, they "guaranteed" me a job by finding unpublished jobs, yet they have a meta search engine to look for job listings. The guarantee was that if I followed all of the steps, I was guaranteed interviews and a job. In fact, I was told that I would have more of a problem deciding which company gave me the best offer. I did everything I was supposed to, but nothing was forthcoming. Secondly, I was told by the president of a large search firm that received my resume (which Allen and Associates professional writers created) was junk and not worth the paper it was written on. It was too generic. Thirdly, the way they made it sound initially was that they were doing the follow-up calls to set up interviews and this was not so.
Because of their questionable sales techniques, I found this out after contracting. Finally, there is no honor in their way of doing business. That seems obvious by their reluctance to join the BBB. Also, they prey on people who need a job and use those fears against them. A glance at their website will show you a section called The cost of being unemployed. Thank you for your time in this matter.
Fort Wayne, Indiana