To start, I want you to know that my wife and I are college educated, her with a B.S.B.A. and I with a Master's from Harvard, so "we aint no dummies!" While working full time managing a 4-star Hotel, my wife took on moonlighting "cleaning toilets" to supplement our income due to a chronic illness, which after 4 surgeries still left me at age 35 permanently disabled, with chronic pain and forced me into early retirement from high paying State job to now a fixed/limited income from Social Security. We have two minor children. She turned the "toilet cleaning" into a small janitorial/cleaning S-Corp. and works F/T for herself now.
She went with small yellow pages Ad 1st. year. The 2nd year she was highly pressured into a bigger Ad. The sales rep. from Verizon Yellow Pages called at 4 PM to notify her she had until 5 PM that same day to fax an ad copy over for the phone book as the book was due to "close". My wife managed to comply, after MUCH persuasion, "mafia" and "scare" tactics, etc...She was made to feel we had "no choice" as the yellow pages was our largest marketing venue. She fell for the "trap" to run a larger Ad, as the sales rep. used what we now know as "Psychological Manipulation". We went up from paying approx. $118 a month to approx. $360 a month for the Ad.
The 3rd year, we were called from a new Ad Rep. from Verizon yellow pages (they have apparent problems with retention and a HIGH turnover ratio of sales reps). This Rep. scheduled an Appt. to sit down with him @ his office (50 miles away) and have his Art Designer join us. We (my wife and I) went and met with the Rep. and Artist. After approx. 3 1/2 hours of high pressure, "mafia" style sales "manipulation" we left the office with a plan for Ads in BOTH our local phone book as well as the major book covering Boston (about 40 miles from our office). Our new Ad cost would be a total of almost $1500 a month (approx. 20% of our gross revenue at the time). In approx. 1 week I was scheduled to return for final Ad copy review, adjustments, etc...my wife was unable to attend as she was scheduled to clean for clients. We decided together, that the Ad expense was too much, more than our business could afford. When I arrived, the Rep. was at 1st VERY congenial, etc...but soon became "short" and "nasty" as I tried to simply just re-new our old Ad from the year before instead of getting all new huge ads and add on books, etc...
As he saw his "nasty" temperment was not working well with me, he used an old "switch-n-bait" tactic along with lots of "sugar" and somehow (to this day I am not sure how he did it) but I left with a HUGE 1/4 column Ad in both our local book as well as the Boston book with a monthly charge of nearly $1300 a month!!! Tons of false promises and really good-looking figures were presented (high #'s from target market analysis reports, comparative analysis of local vs. Boston book, a HUGE return-on-investment, etc... etc...)
During that "hoodwinking" session I had mentioned to the Rep. my being disabled, our limited income from the business, etc...But the #'s and the seemingly "genuineness" were so convincing I left there feeling like I already was a millionaire! I also explained that my wife was unable to be there....he somehow managed to get me to sign the "contract" which was not even completed and was still missing final draft of artwork, etc...because the "deadline" had come and gone already, they HAD TO HAVE A SIGNATURE TODAY!!! When I explained that my wife does all the "signing" of business paperwork and I just "tag-a-long", he said it's just a signature to get the Ad in the book on time....I questioned several times and clearly stated my position that I am not an active agent in the corporation whatsoever, etc...he said not to worry, again, the signature is just to get the artwork completed and the Ads in the books on time, that I was not personally liable for it in anyway. W
e managed to make things work for over 5 months when we paid the bill (which really turns out to be 9 months because the books don't even come out until 4 months after the "close"). In the 5 months we were paying nearly $1300 a month, we received NOT ONE CALL! NOT ONE!!! My wife decided to stop paying for an Ad that wasn't bringing in ANY revenue whatsoever. We have had our phone service (which is our home phone as well)cut-off several times due to non-payment (a phone is a businesses "life-line") which required often times hundreds and even thousands of dollars to get it turned back on, etc...When we were offered to have the yellow pages Ad remaining balance due sent to collections and just have our "usage" bill to pay we agreed. BIG MISTAKE!
We sought legal advice from our attorney, as the remaining $12,000 due for the Ads (which STILL were NOT producing ANY results)kept "haunting" us. The customary calls for collection during dinner, the registered letters, etc... were ever present. Our attorney spoke with their attorney and requested an amicable and mutual agreement be drafted (basically asked for them to present a settlement)...they NEVER responded. A few month's later, we received a notice that they would be taking us to court to collect on the now $22,000 due (balance plus legal fees, interest, etc...)
We thought, "GOOD, we'll get our day in court to tell it to a judge"! W-R-O-N-G! Instead, I received a few weeks later a registered letter, handed to me by the sheriff, from a court with a judges ruling/signature placing a lien on my home (The title to our home is in my name).....There it was, decision made without us even having a chance to present our side,etc...A disabled person with fixed income and two minor children...with a $22,000 lien on my home!
I contacted Verizon's attorney and asked that the lien be removed, that this was an issue for my wife and the S-Corp. to settle with Verizon and should not be against me ...the response was that it is already settled and that I OWE because I signed the papers! Now, I either pay-up or file bankruptcy, neither of which I am willing to do. I was offered a loan on my home to pay it up but can't afford the payments. The bank said I should file a complaint using the American's with Disabilities Act as a basis.
If anyone has any experience with Verizon Yellow pages, or has legal advice to share, please contact me. I have thought of contacting the A.D.A., the F.T.C., the B.B.B. and the Mass. Attorney General. If you can help me out, please leave a re-buttal or contact Rip-off to try to get my e-mail. Thank You
East Taunton, Massachusetts
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