• Report: #368272

Complaint Review: The Southwestern Company

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  • Submitted: Fri, August 29, 2008
  • Updated: Sun, February 24, 2013

  • Reported By:hayden Idaho
The Southwestern Company
www.southwesternathome.com Nashville, Tennessee U.S.A.

The Southwestern Company The Southwestern Company deceives foreign students into slave Labor! Nashville Tennessee

*General Comment: Commissioned Sales=Scam?

*General Comment: Orignal poster how to I get in touch with you I need help

*Author of original report: Call the TV stations

*General Comment: helped save a few students from Eastern Europe

*Author of original report: jamlinrich please contact me!

*Consumer Comment: Don't waste you time and money!!

*UPDATE Employee: Math Mistake

*General Comment: Southwest Company larger problem than most would imagine.

*Consumer Suggestion: 4 words to help stop this.

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Long story I am going to make short! NOT!

We had a young lady from a foreign Eastern Block country knock on our door trying to sell us educational books and also looking for a place to live. Now I have been in the business of coordinating high school exchange students for over a decade, so when this gal came to my door with her very broken English my heart went out to her.

When she began her sales pitch--broken English attempting to sell me American text books--I had to make her stop...it was painful to listen to. I knew immediately that she had really no idea what she had gotten herself into. So I began to explain that in America, our public school students received their books free from the schools---she had no idea about this...I asked her if people in HER country liked door-to-door sales people, and she said--"NO NO, BUT THE RECRUITERS TOLD ME THAT AMERICANS WERE DIFFERENT AND DIDN'T MIND THIS TYPE OF SALES." I asked her if she thought that was true...I must have hit a nerve because she let it all out! She told me about the lies she had been fed by the recruiter as well as the 6 day cult like MLM training she had received with hundreds of other foreign students in Nashville.

She told me about the schedule that these kids were told they MUST adhere to. Wake up at exactly 5:59, take a ONE MINUTE COLD SHOWER, out the door and sell until 9:00 pm. EVERY day except Sundays. On Sundays they were all told by their student managers that they must go to a meeting, which was held at a different location every week. At these meetings they performed what was called execs. These are cult like chants---running in circles, rhythmic hand clapping...below is an excerpt taken from this site (http://www.gatorpressure.com/David/archives/000308.html) which details this bizarre activity: "Executive Exercises.

In the morning, we will do execs at our breakfast spots out in the parking lot or in a nearby open area. We will do them in front of roads or highways, we will do them in front of the restaurant's patrons, and on Sundays when we are at a hotel we will do them in the hotel parking lot.

What are these 'execs?'

Well, they start with someone mentioning execs. That person will usually then raise his hand up in the air shout "ohhhhhhh...hhhhh... Ohhhhhh...!" indefinately while running around in a large circle. Everyone else follows this person doing the same exact thing until everyone is present in the circle.

At that point we will start skipping and singing a song. The song goes --
It's a great day to be a bookman.
It's a great day I know.
It's a great day to be a bookman everywhere I go.
Goodbye no-nevers, goodbye doubts and fears
It's a great day to be a bookman -- be of good cheer.
I feel happy. I feel terrific. I feel GREAT!

Then someone will yell out loud "UH-OH!" and we all will chime in "Book Time!" We all sing/chant this in unison four times while doing a very specific rythmic clap that took me a few tries to get down. (I still mess it up on the really sleepy mornings.) After chanting that four to five times someone makes the conductor's sign for stop and everyone goes silent.

After about three beats another iniative-taking (sic) individual will jump or dance into the center of the circle and yell/scream out, "Now let me see that funky chicken!" at the top of his voice, and everyone else will yell something like, "What's that you said!?!"
This happens three times with slight variations each time based on the whims of the person in the center of the circle. At the end He will say "I said unh..." and everyone in unison will sing "Oooo, ah ah ah oooo; ah ah ah oooo; ah ah ah oooo; one more time now!! Oooo, ah ah ah oooo; ah ah ah oooo; ah ah ah oooo." Or whatever other chant, saying, or sounds that go along with the particular thing that the initiator wanted to "see."

The variations on this are numerous and growing. We come up with new stuff from time to time. I come up with new stuff all the time, because I enjoy execs and I come up with stuff that I think will be fun all the time. Most of the time the stuff I come up with doesn't really pan out, but that is fine because every once and again I'll come up with something really fun and even "classic."

After doing that there are several other execs that we do. Some we only do in a large group on Sundays, but most of the other ones are just thrown in as people remember them. If no one remembers a particular exec it's fine -- it doesn't get done.

At the end of execs we do this thing where we all gather in a circle and get fired up and then we all run off acting like birds, ostriches, video game charaters or bookmen..."

THIS IS A CULT PEOPLE!

So, after hearing this and taking the time to go over the money this gal has made --$400.00 GROSS, she gets 40% of this...she worked 80 hours a week for 4 weeks...YOU DO THE MATH! However, the worst part of this, for the unfortunate foreign students is they get here about $3000+ in debt! They pay for their own way here (round trip), they pay about $600+ for visas and then they pay for the 6 day hotel stay in Nashville to undergo an intensive brainwashing seminar...then they are made to pay for a plane ticket to go to what ever city the company decided to send them to. In this girls case it was half way across the country. She had $26.00 in her pocket when she came to live with us!

I had a mission to look this company up on the internet. So many horrible experiences... But it was just amazing to see how many people write about their wonderful experience selling with this company! This type of Brainwashing, results in an unbelievable, long term psychoses. These people actually believe that coercing individuals to by books, using very persuasive, scripted sales tactics builds character and has helped them for their future. In my book, this is really learning the art of lying, deceiving and and making a buck on nice people who buy items they really don't need out of pity for the sales person or getting totally bamboozled by a slick salesman! Every one of the items the girl who came to my door had in her book bag were available online at a fraction of what she was selling them for! 'MAKE THE SALE IN 20 MINUTES OR LEAVE! As I read through their scripted sales "BIBLE" manual I was just disgusted at the different scripted sales PITCHES these young people were told to memorize! When this gal came to my door, her words were verbatim from page 45 of the sales manual...well at least those that I could understand in her broken English!

To make matters worse, the Southwestern company tells these foreign kids that it doesn't matter if you can speak English well, "ALL THAT MATTERS IS YOUR ATTITUDE!" GIVE ME A BREAK! And through their 6 day, intensive brainwashing seminar, they actually cause these kids to believe this lie!

Then there is the matter of housing. Some of these foreign kids have families who have worked for the SW company host them. But this is very, VERY FEW! The girl who came to my house was asked to leave by the older man who agreed to house her and another girl. When I went to pick up her things from this man, it was a very CREEPY situation. I can't put my finger on it, but when I left his house I had terrible uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach!

Shortly after this girl came to live with us, we found her another job...even though student managers and people from SW made it very difficult for her...people who she thought were her friends were now her enemies. Within 2 days, 4 other students found their way to my house and asked for help to get out of this company and help to to secure housing and jobs.

It was hard to believe the type of life these foreign kids were living...but when I heard the EXACT SAME STORY FROM ALL FIVE, it became appalling! Oh and did I mention the white bracelets they HAD to wear, showing their commitment to this company! All of them had these white bracelets...when you took this bracelet off you were no longer a part of this company!

The kicker to all of this is that the Southwestern company makes them sign a contract--which most do not understand---that states several places that they are NOT employees or agents of this company....NOT EMPLOYEES OR AGENTS! And that they can run their company as independent owners as they see fit. But still, they have been brainwashed into a way of thinking that to be successful in this company they must adhere to the schedule! Yes the unwritten schedule! These kids are told how to micro manage their lives on a minute by minute schedule. This is pounded into their brains by the managers. All 5 of these kids have talked about "KEEPING TO THE SCHEDULE....KEEP TO THE SCHEDULE!" This schedule starts at 5:59 and doesn't stop until they get home and are schedule to contact their managers to report on the number of doors they went to, number of demos they showed (should be 30 a day) how many sales they made--$-- and what their plans are for the next day. This schedule, as precise as it is, is NOT written down by ANY manager and given to these kids. WHY? Because that would be a paper trail showing that this company controls these student's every move even though the contract they signed explicitly states that they are NOT EMPLOYEES and are free to sell these materials anyway they choose!

CULT CULT CULT!

I am getting sick and tired of reading all the canned spam.... about how this job is not for everyone....builds character, long hard hours.... Best experience of my life....And I made lots of money taking advantage of people by selling them materials that were obviously over priced and they didn't really need! Here (http://www.youbyte.com/images/SWC_price.jpg) is a price breakdown for books taken directly from the j1 visa agreement on the Southwestern Q&A page (http://www.southwestern.com/site/international/FAQ.aspx).

ANYONE with access to the internet can see that they are getting ripped off, buying over priced books! Then there is the letter of Endorsement that this company makes these students parents or friend or relative sign. This guarantees that if these kids don't send in the money they receive for books, the signers of this letter of credit will pay this money for them! My group of 5 student has had to spend this money to live as they were averaging less than $1.50 a hour working 80 hours a week---EVEN FOLLOWING THE SCHEDULE! Attitude is everything, who cares if you can barely speak English! I FEEL GREAT, I FEEL AWESOME, I FEEL TERRIFIC! Right? And the people who signed these contracts can not even speak or READ English, but are convinced by their students that this is such a great opportunity for them to come to America and make HUGE amounts of money...remember Americans are different, we just love to buy things from door-to-door sales people!!!!


Ok folks, I really have to wonder with the motivation is behind this company. Really? Why does this company recruit these kids from Eastern block countries...students that barely speak the English language? What is the point? What is the agenda? I understand that the students that came here previously make money on the ones that they recruit to come again, but what is the big picture? I am beginning to believe that it is a conspiracy to see just how far you can warp someone's mind to make them believe an idea and to cause them (normal people) to do things they would never consider doing....like EXECS! This psychoses carries on in some for years after they have worked for this company. Look on line...it is like a mission...recruit, recruit, recruit.... When I asked these kids why they actually took one minute COLD SHOWERS, they all replied, "Because they told us to!"

I sincerely hope that if one of these young foreign students comes to YOUR door, you will do everything in your power to help them escape!

Oh, and I forgot to mention one thing...the company that sponsors the j1 visa for these kids is totally OWNED by the Southwestern company! It is NOT an independent j1 visa sponsor who helps foreign students come to America to work for the summer at any j1 visa appropriate job....it is a company owned by The Southwestern created specifically to bring these foreign students to America to sell door-to-door. Can you say conflict of interest!

"IT WILL BE THE BEST EXPERIENCE OF YOUR LIFE!"....as long as you don't get raped, mugged, murdered, or commit suicide because you're scared, lonely...so far from home, in a foreign country, can't speak the language...deeply in debt, with no money!


Important financial information for ANY FOREIGN STUDENT TO KNOW BEFORE WORKING FOR SOUTHWESTERN!

According to the company, in 2006 the average first-time sales program
participant made a gross (before expenses) profit of $7944 over a
four month summer. Site (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southwestern_Company)
80 hours a week, plus Sundays=88 hrs. wk
15 weeks of summer
1,320 work hours
Gross profit of $7,944.00
Net Profit $40%=$3,177.60
Hourly wage=$2.40
Minus $100 week living expensive=$1,677.60
Your take home is $1,677.60

Do not come to America and spend $3000+ dollars getting here only to be an indentured servant(SLAVE) to the SouthWestern Company!

The numbers above are for average English speaking students. Imagine how little you will make when you can't speak the language!

Post Script: As of the posting of the original text above on my personal website, several more foreign students have contacted me regarding the horrible experience they suffered with the Southwestern company.

Witznd
hayden, Idaho
U.S.A.

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 08/29/2008 05:42 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/The-Southwestern-Company/Nashville-Tennessee/The-Southwestern-Company-The-Southwestern-Company-deceives-foreign-students-into-slave-Lab-368272. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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#1 General Comment

Commissioned Sales=Scam?

AUTHOR: Hmmm - ()

Can someone please explain how this company is any different than any sales company or MLA out there? (ie) A lot of hype, promises of fantastic rewards and money to be made, mandatory sales meetings and quotas, but mostly a lot of hard work?  

Whether it is cosmetics, knife sets, vacuums, water treatment systems, books or security systems, the approach is the same!  First, if you don't want sales people coming to your door have it posted!  Second, if you are genuinely concerned about these kids and their circumstances, do what you are already doing and help them out. However, none of what has been posted makes this company a "scam" or a "rip off".  

I purchased a set of books from a young woman from Latvia.  I don't really need the program, but purchased them mainly to help this young woman out.  I am in a position to do so and am very well versed on the world of commissioned sales.  Everyone certainly will not have the same experience, but this young woman was friendly and I knew she was working hard to maintain her contract.  She indicated some of the guidelines that she was working under as well.  Certainly not ideal, but not exactly slave labor either.  

The truth is that they do have the "opportunity" to make a lot of money and they do have the "opportunity" to travel.  Anyone in sales has the same "opportunity".  You may not agree with this business model, but it is widely prevalent and does not constitute slave labor, brainwashing or a scam.  If there is abuse going on, then it should be investigated.  When you consider how many college students do this type of work over the summer as well as for many other companies, you can be sure there are going to be some problems, but for others, it is a great experience.  

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#2 General Comment

Orignal poster how to I get in touch with you I need help

AUTHOR: Alicia - ()

 How do I get in touch with you?  I can help several complaints.  If you have a contact  at the state department , I would love to have it.

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#3 Author of original report

Call the TV stations

AUTHOR: Witznd - ()

For all you people seeing the type of slavery and brainwashing these foreign kids are going through and are helping them--GOD BLESS YOU!!  They can stay here on their Visa if they secure another job that falls into the requirements.  This way they can actually make money to take home and can recoop the thousands of $ they spent to get here in the first place. This is a good site with the same information as in the original post  http://youbyte.com/SWC.html  you can send an email through that site :-) I get several emails from people who worked with the SW company 20-30 and even 40 years ago--AMERICANS who were selling door to door on AMERICAN soil.  

They tell me what a WONDERFUL experience they had selling for this company and how it instilled such GREAT character qualities in them.  Yeah OK, how about you send YOUR DAUGHTER'S OR SON'S to Albania, Solvokia or Moldova to sell Books door to door!!!  This is not the 1950's, 60's, 70's or 80's.  I don't see any American kids selling school books door to door and there is a good reason for that!  This is the ultimate of outsourcing from an American company that CLAIMS to be ALL AMERICAN!

If you get the opportunity to host one of these brave kids and can rescue them, call the TV stations and let them know that these kids are NOT walking around trying to abduct young children as that is what has been happening in Spokane, Wa. with news broadcasts and their local forum.  Set the story straight.

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#4 General Comment

helped save a few students from Eastern Europe

AUTHOR: Alicia - ()

 Hi

I came across a group of kids from Eastern Europe.  One girl came to my door begging for a place to live. This girl moved on to another city, but I still helped the two other girls.   Was a large group sharing a hotel room about 5 mixed boys and girls.  The girls were working sun up to sun down.  Waking up at 0559 to take a cold shower and returning about 10 pm.  One of the girls eventualy quit.  She was forced out of my house without my knowledge.  I wasn't home and couldn't prevent it.  The reason she had to leave because it would be to hard on the other girl who was still working.  I'm thankful she was safe with another family.  Later I came across another girl who was being sent to another city because she wasn't doing so well.  She left and returned in a few weeks and agreed to have her stay in my home. 

The other girl basically told me, it won't be long she will quit and return home.  She was working in an area I felt unsafe.  Going door to door selling books in high heat, humidity and a bike.  The first night she got a ride home from a stranger.  I had to put a stop to it.  I got her to agree to a pick up point and she would be in a safe place before dark.  She was very emotional and I could see the sadness in her eyes.  Failure is not an option for these kids.  This girl begged for one more week to prove her self.  It was one o two days later,  the girl was throwing up from heat exhaust and she was convinced to quit the program. 

In my opionion she was set up for failure.  If she quits than its her responsibilty to get home and so on.  I told the other girl who happens to be a manager that the other girl its not going any where.  OMG the guilt trips.  I called the consulate office for help and guidance along with southwestern.   Basically southwestern did nothing to help this girl in my opionion forced to quit and the consulate office wouldn't do much except tell me she has to be out of the country in 30 days.  I did recieve a call from an employee from southwestern wanting to speak to the girl that quit.  In her language, this man told her she has to leave my house because it was making it to hard for the other girl to work. 

The hell they will.  I called Southwestern back and explained what just happened and told them to leave this girl alone and she is not leaving my house until its time for her to go home.   I spoke with customs and border patrol seeking information on the J1 visa.  Its bad news.    These kids come here homeless.  Work like slaves and on a starvation diet.  Their budget is minimal.    I have so much to say but need help.  I know the state department needs more complaints before they step in.   I paid  the cost to change the girls ticket and had to buy an extra segiment.  She is home safe now

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#5 Author of original report

jamlinrich please contact me!

AUTHOR: Witznd - ()

I am so happy to hear that you SAVED one of these poor kids from the Southwestern company.  I am the original poster who helped many of these kids a few years ago.  And although they still come into our town they are told NOT to come to my home.  Our local news station did a report on these kids and portrayed them as child predators because these kids asked where families with young children lived!!!  OMG it is these poor foreign students who are the victims in this.  Please contact me at (((ROR redacted)))  I have contacts at the State department but they just need more evidence to NAIL this company!  Thank you for helping!  Please put something in the subject line that will let me know it is from you and NOT the SW co. harrassing me

 <:{{{><

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#6 Consumer Comment

Don't waste you time and money!!

AUTHOR: APB - ()

I totally feel sorry for these kids I was given a similar story as well. I felt so sorry for this kid I broke down and bought $200 bucks worth of books and two months later they still aren't here. I called the company and asked for a refund and they refused. They advised I have to wait a few more weeks, and they will send them. I was charged on June 17th and it is Aug 21st. They will not even refund me for materials I do not even have!

I do not know what to do besides call my cc company. So furious with this company!

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#7 UPDATE Employee

Math Mistake

AUTHOR: sallysw - (United States of America)

Hello All, I just wanted to let you know that you have a few mistakes in your entire article, but especially in your math. 

80 hours a week, plus Sundays=88 hrs. wk
15 weeks of summer
1,320 work hours
Gross profit of $7,944.00
Net Profit $40%=$3,177.60
Hourly wage=$2.40 
Minus $100 week living expensive=$1,677.60
Your take home is $1,677.60

this makes no sense for several reasons:
1. we don't work a 15 week summer. I don't know a single first year student that has worked more than 12 weeks. (80x12=960 hours)
2. Our Sunday meeting are about 2 hours of meetings and then activities like white water rafting, paintballing and skydiving in the afternoons. I wouldn't exactly call that work. So I work 80 hours per week during the summer. Oh and is it written down for students I can provide proof of that if you would like. 
3. Gross profit is profit AFTER the company has taken out the 60%. Gross profit is BEFORE expenses though. Does that make sense. So the student who made a PROFIT of 7,944.00 had RETAIL SALES of 7,944/40%=19,860
4. The average student has expenses during the summer is between$ 2,500-3,500 during the summer. (Students who have cars generally pay more, but they can write off mileage per diem on taxes). Therefore 7944-2500=5,444 or 7944-3500=4444. Which is more than double of a normal college job. 
5. Their hourly wage is 7944/960=$8.28. No matter what kind of business you are running you have expenses, even if you live at home. 

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#8 General Comment

Southwest Company larger problem than most would imagine.

AUTHOR: jamlinrich - (United States of America)


I agree whole-heartedly with this person's report.  Last summer, a young man came to my door and gave me the speech and I ended up buying a set of books from him.  For what it's worth, the books are excellent in quality but I do believe I was deceived in the price.  I don't believe it was the boys fault.  

This summer, a cheerful 18 year old girl from Estonia came to my door.  I sadly told her I had already purchased the books but that I would purchase a supplementary set of small books and CDs.  I invited her in and filled out the papers.  I offered her water since I noticed how very hot it was.  As time passed, I saw how she became more uncomfortable with the time spent at my house.  Now I realize it was because she wasn't "allowed" to spend too much time in one place.  She asked if I had or knew of anyone who was willing to lend a car for her to use.  At the time, all she had was a bicycle.  She rode at least 20 or more miles a day around South Carolina with up to and over 100F heat.  Her lunch was in a basket, always hot from being on the bike all day.  I gave her a few things, one being a back to keep her lunch cool.  I felt terrible as she left my house. I hated letting her walk away.  Later that day, there was a terrible storm.  I asked my husband if I could call the girl and have her come back out of the storm.  He sadly told me no. (I tend to collect strays of all kinds.)  I cried very hard and at about 9pm, there was a knock on the door and there she was.  She was soaking wet. She asked if I could give her a ride to the house she stayed at since it was so late and it was many miles away.  I brought her in for dinner and then drover her home.  During dinner, she told us of all that she had been through.  I took her home where she stayed with another girl, from Latvia, who worked with Southwestern. The family hosting them is very nice and they hated what the company was doing but we feel like our hands are tied.

 About a month later, I received a call that my books were ready and could she deliver them.  She came over and I discovered she was moving to a nearby city where her brother also worked for Southwestern.  This left the other girl completely alone.  The Latvian girl stayed and talked to us. She told us everything.  All that the person says above is EXACTLY what she has described to me.  The two girls were dropped off and told they must go door to door until they found a place to stay.  I am amazed at the complete lack of responsibility Southwest Company takes for these people.  Putting two young women, 18 and 20, on the street going door to door looking for shelter not just unsafe but unnacceptable.  She said it was the first time in her life, after three days with no luck, that she sat down on the roadside and cried.  

Luckily, they found a family who was good and safe.  Then began exactly as printed above.  Every day, working from 6am until 9pm.  Any deviation caused panic in the girls.  They considered themselves lucky to have bicycles to use for their mile upon mile journey each day.  

Thankfully, the girl from Latvia broke free.  It was not easy for her.  It has been less than a week and they still harrass her.  They keep filling her head with lies and threats.  I asked her one day, how many days had it been since she stopped and she said, "two work days and one meeting day."  My mouth dropped to see she was so indoctrinated that she thought of time in terms of the company.  They told her of all that she would see in the U.S.  I asked her.  I said, "You haven't really seen anything have you?".  She said to me with genuine goodness, no sarcasm, "I have seen doors, many doors. Oh, and there are some very beautiful doors in America."   Really!  I took her to Dunkin Donuts and she was amazed. She just commented on the colors and how beautiful they were.  She is so grateful for every opportunity she has.  She is an amazing girl and has never complained for a second about what she has gone through.  Now she hopes to go back and stop others from joining.  I am so happy to help her free herself from her bonds.  

The important thing to realize is that these people don't know what they are getting into!  It is NOT a matter for immigration.  They are here legally under work visas they buy with their own money.  It absolutely IS a matter for the labor department.  This has been going on based on ideals starting from the civil war according to Southwest Company website.  

These kids/young adults are promised money, seeing the US and the reality is that they are unwittingly acting as slaves for this company.  It reminds me very much of bootcamp.  They are broken down and built up with ideas of money and seeing the world.  I work for two party based companies, kind of like Tupperware where you have to have parties to sell things and then you have to get people from the parties to have more parties.  It is very similar.  When I was signed I was told I would make so much money, have time to myself and all with just a few hours a week.  Now I know it is possible to make money in these because I know the women who do.  First, you must successfully recruit many people who recruit many people.  The more you grow under you to do the work, the more you make.  Also, you have to dedicate a significant part of your entire life to the business.  They say we are independent contractors, just like these kids but that's just so the company doesn't have to legally be responsible.  I didn't make any money.  i ended up in the negative just like the people who work for Southwestern Company.  The difference is that I am old enough to know better and these kids are not only young but even though many speak english rather well, I don't think they understand what they get into.  

I will spend every day I have with her, helping her detox her brain from the company and I will do whatever I can to continue to fight against this company.  She said that they go to the younger schools like high school and promise a prize if they can list five or more names with numbers.  That is how she was contacted.  We have to get information out so it can stop.  Two similar companies are under investigation with the US Dept. of Labor.  I don't know what we have to do to get them to look at The Southwest Company.  If anyone has helpful info on what can be done to stop this, please post.  The original poster is right. I will stand and verify all she said as true from the mouth of a lovely, 20 year old Latvian girl who decided she had had enough of being used.  Please help them if you can and pass on these stories so more people are aware.  Thank you.
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#9 Consumer Suggestion

4 words to help stop this.

AUTHOR: Robert - (U.S.A.)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (a division of the Department of Homeland Security.)
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