• Report: #102256
Complaint Review:

Scentura Creations - Midwest Management

  • Submitted: Thu, August 05, 2004
  • Updated: Sun, October 17, 2004

  • Reported By:South Elgin Illinois
Scentura Creations - Midwest Management
17924 Halsted Street #3D Homewood, Illinois U.S.A.
  • Phone: 708-6479180
  • Web:
  • Category: Employers

Scentura Creations, Midwest Management rip-off! Empty promises! Irresponsible & reprehensible business practice! Homewood Illinois

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: Your "truth" is riddled with obvious lies. 27 news articles against World Perfume and Scentura

*UPDATE Employee: Understanding the truth!

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Midwest Management is a company that advertises management positions in the want ads of local papers and draws young, naive kids (and, surprisingly, some adults) into their pyramid scheme of perfume selling.

I was out of a job at the age of 20 and desperate for a quick fix to pay my bills and keep my head above water. The ad I saw seemed too good to be true, but I wouldn't admit that to myself because I was in need of money. The ad read something like "Have fun while you work/ Guaranteed $500/wk to start/ Positive, upbeat attitudes only!!!"

I became suspicious when I called the number in the ad and the man I spoke to wanted to see me for an "interview" within the next four hours. Upon arriving at Midwest Management, I saw that there were at least 30 people milling around this office and interviews were conducted in groups of 3. We were told that this was because this was the "biggest response" they'd had to their ad and our group looked to be the "most promising."

Once at home, I received a nearly immediate phone call for a second interview, which was basically the same process except that we were told that we were exceptional for having made it this far. I remember thinking that they hadn't even seen my resume or spoken to me one-on-one and already they knew I was what they were looking for? They offered me a position the next day and I started with a group of 15 to 20 other people. I only lasted 3 days.

Day 1 consisted of the manager of the office explaining that Midwest Management was part of Scentura Creations, which made "renditions" of designer perfumes and dominated something like 75% of perfume sales in the US and Europe. Then he proceeded to brag for 3 hours about his lavish lifestyle, and the lavish lifestyles of other office managers within the company. Then some weary kids who were apparently in training talked enthusiastically about what great opportunities lie ahead. Then they sent us home with order forms to "practice" selling to our parents. "After all, how can you manage an office if you can't even do the basics of what your employees will be doing?" said the manager.

Day 2 was spent memorizing the perfumes. For some reason the perfume names weren't printed on the boxes so we had to memorize the color schemes. There was tremendous pressure to memorize these quickly, even though we were being told that it was not our responsibility to sell the perfume, only to manage the offices out of which the perfume would be sold. Regardless, the manager said that the owner of the company (whose mansions and yachts were covering the walls in collages) had called and said that whoever memorizes all the perfumes first gets $500. This seemed so silly to me, but everyone else seemed to be taking it really seriously. Someone ended up being promised $500, but who knows if he was paid.

Day 3 was the day I got out. I was partnered up with a girl who'd been selling perfume for the company for 6 months and she spent the car ride to our "merchandising area" telling me that pretty soon the company was paying for her to move to Orlando where she could manage her own business and get rich and how fulfilling this job was. She took me to a strip mall where we went door to door attempting to sell this crappy knock-off perfume. By the time we got to the third business I realized that all of the owners of the businesses in the strip mall had told us to leave as soon as we entered. Obviously, she'd been peddling her wares here to the chagrin of the legit business owners for some time. I told her to please take me back to the office because I didn't think this was for me.

The car ride to the office was silent and when we got to the manager she told him I had "flaked," a popular derogatory term for everyone smart enough to get out of this scam ASAP. He attempted to talk me out of it, but when he saw that I knew that they were jerking these people around he went for another tactic. "I'm sorry you're not willing to work hard to get to the top" was just one cheap shot he laid on me, but I just took it, knowing that deep down in his heart he knew that I was on to him.

Since that day I've had no contact with the company but everything I've read here inspired me to tell my story. Midwest Management in Homewood, IL. is NOT a legitimate business. In fact, some of the same kids that were telling me they'd be getting offices "any day now" were hawking perfume at my new job over six months later. IT'S A SCAM AND THE QUICKER YOU GET OUT THE BETTER OFF YOU'LL BE!!!

I'd be interested to know of people in the Homewood area who got sucked into this and how you're doing for yourselves today. Are there still people from your training group that are there? How do we let them know that this is a scam? Or is it just another life lesson they'll have to learn. I think about those poor kids all the time, and if filing this report is the extent of what I can do to help them realize the truth, then I'm glad I did it.

South Elgin, Illinois

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This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 08/05/2004 09:40 AM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/scentura-creations-midwest-management/homewood-illinois-60430/scentura-creations-midwest-management-rip-off-empty-promises-irresponsible-reprehensi-102256. 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 UPDATE EX-employee responds

Your "truth" is riddled with obvious lies. 27 news articles against World Perfume and Scentura

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

Let me ask you a couple of questions, then I will destroy your dubious, erroneous posting.
Do you promise people huge salaries and health benefits? Most distributors do.
The truth is that World Perfume and Scentura are 100% commision jobs. You will NEVER get a paycheck. World Perfume and Scentura are elaborate multi-level marketing scehemes (the Illinois appelate court even ruled that Scentura was a "pyramid sales schemes" http://www.state.il.us/court/Opinions/AppellateCourt/2001/2ndDistrict/September/Html/2000964.htm
Do you advertise in classified ads for as long as the business is open?
the answer is YES. That is the crux of all pyramid schemes: keep new recruits. If the recruits stop coming, the pyramid collapse. This is Scentura and World Perfume's achellie's heel. If you stop the classified advertising, the pyramid scheme will collapse.
Go to:
type: scentura shut down
This page gives a detailed explanation how to shut down your local distributor. We shut down two distributors here in Salt Lake doing just this.
Do you do a "friends and family" scam?
Yes, all distributors do, you "practice" selling perfume on your friends and family. This is were most of the money comes from from the pyramid. most people get smart and realize that Scentura and World Perfume are scams and drop out right afterwards.
Do you promise management positions to trainees?
Yes. All distributors do. The catch is you have to go through training making NO money. Then, as you climb the pyramid, you start to recruit people through the want ads / classfieds too, taking a portion of their money when they "drop" perfume.
The sad truth is that most distributors go out and sell perfume (illegally with no solicitors license) in parking lots too.
Adrienne fails to explain how she sold those bottles of perfume: to friends, to family, and in parking lots. Great career huh?
Adreinne writes:
"Have you ever heard the saying that people only hear what they want to hear. You were not mislead, you just misheard!!"
My response:
Well, I guess 27 news organizations that reported that Scentura is a scam and the Illinois appelate court all "heard wrong" . Because they all beleive that Scentura is a fraud, which it is.
5th question:
How many people quit after the first week? How many quit within 2 weeks. The vast majority do...they realize their is no money in this scam.
As Mike Barrick said, who was with the Scentura for 10 years:
"Recruiting people on false pretenses knowing that 99% of them will leave the business in worse shape than they came, is not admirable. The 1% of people that truly make great money w/ Scentura are people that could make great money doing ANYTHING. "
"Do you explain in your orientation that once they complete training ( which 99% won't ), that they will have the opportunity to sign their name to a lease which they are ultimately responsible for, to pursue an endeavor which 80+ don't survive the first year? And another 10-15% don't make the year after?"
"1 out of 1000 coming through the doors will make it to their own office ( 90% quit in the first 2-3 weeks). Of those that open an office, 25% will make it past a year. Of those who last a year, the majority of them will still struggle to pay the bills and keep up the appearance of being successful."

[Attorney General of Illinois brings suit against World Perfume distributor]
Chicago Daily Herald

Scents Of Deception: To Buy Or Not To Buy
Cleveland Ohio report on World Perfume

Scent firm pays damages
Nottingham Evening Post (England)

Dream Jobs That Turn Out To Be Nightmares
Orlando Florida Television Report

Denver Post: Rape
The victim was walking along West 32nd Avenue near Zuni Street selling perfume when two men approached her and dragged her into an alley. They took turns sexually assaulting her, according to a police report.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Serial Killer was a Scentura employee

Perfume-Selling Operations Smell Like Scam, Women Say
Cleveland Ohio Newspaper Report

If it sounds too good to be true
Noblesville, Indianapolis

Perfume jobs smell fishy, BBB says
New Orleans, Louisiana

Perfume Bandits. (Fake Perfume Offered In Parking Lots)
Kristen Stieffel Orlando Business Journal, Sept 14, 2001 v18 i16 p23

Know What You Are Applying For When Answering A Want Ad
Richmond Times - Dispatch; Richmond, Va.; Jun 9, 2002; Iris Taylor;

Perfume Purveyors Are Real Thing, Even If The Myth Isn't
Richmond Times - Dispatch; Richmond, Va.; Dec 6, 2000;

There's Big Dollars In Street Scents
Intelligencer Journal; Lancaster; Mar 07, 1997; Flannery, Thomas L

Perfume Sales Just A Smelly Scam? Young People Say Amherst Company Fails
On Training, Pay Promises
Buffalo News; Buffalo, N.Y.; Mar 28, 1992; By James T. Madore

Former Employees Cheer Reports Perfume Firm Is Out Of Business
Buffalo News; Buffalo, N.Y.; Jun 13, 1992; By James T. Madore

Perfume Sales Company Recruits In Munster, Indiana
The Times (from Munster Indiana), 06/22/2001 Kim Chievrue

Ads Spur Warning On Jobs Company's Internship Is Sales Spot, BBB Says
St. Louis Post

Workers Say Perfume Business Stinks

Too True To Be Good
Charles Elmore
Palm Beach Florida

Who Wants To Be Rich? Larry Hahn: From Sleeping In A Car To A $5 Million Home.
(History and inner workings of Scentura, 3 page article, including one court order against Larry Hahn's company and police complaints)
E. Thomas Jr.. Atlanta Business Chronicle, Oct 5, 1987 v10 n19 p1(5)

Phony perfume salesmen
Anchorage Daily News. Anchorage, Alaska: May 27, 1991. p. B.2

Job Warning
12 News Phoenix Arizona March 22, 2004

If scent of a job-ad is foul, be wise, trust your senses
12 News Phoenix Arizona Apr. 5, 2004

Miami Beach, FL 1999

Perfume Selling Business: Recruiting Methods Questioned
WAOI Television, San Antonio

Death Linked to Local Perfume Selling Group
WAOI Television, San Antonio

Company Leaves Perfume Peddlers Feeling Betrayed
WFTV Orlando, Florida

Officials: Scent Of Fraud Lingers In Sales Scheme (title only)
The Atlanta Journal Atlanta, Ga.; Feb 15, 1996; Associated Press



[Attorney General of Illinois brings suit against World Perfume distributor]
Chicago Daily Herald July 31, 2003, Thursday


In these times of rising unemployment, Gil Fergus, the chief of the attorney general's consumer fraud division, warned people to check out companies before entering contracts with them.

As prosecutors announced the suit against Best Gourmet, they also announced a filing against a Schaumburg firm accused of promising people managerial positions, then making them sell perfume on the street.

Prosecutors say Archie Penson, managing Executive Design of Schaumburg, promised a managerial position to a Streamwood woman, Gina Romano, for sales of World Perfume imitation fragrances.

Instead, prosecutors said Romano, as part of her "training," was forced to sell perfume on the street and in shopping mall parking lots. Though company officials maintained they were "marketing" and not selling, prosecutors said, police ticketed Romano and others for failing to have a license to sell.

The company's telephone line was "being checked for trouble" Tuesday.

In each case, prosecutors asked for restitution, a permanent injunction against the defendants, and penalties of up to $100,000.

.The second case filed today names Archie M. Penson individually and d/b/a as Executive Design, 1205 Remington Road, Suite M, in Schaumburg, for violating state consumer laws by advertising "management" positions for a line of imitation fragrances manufactured by World Perfume, Inc. Executive Design is not incorporated nor is it registered with the state.

According to Madigan's complaint, Penson has placed classified ads in newspapers since December 2002 seeking applicants for salaried branch managers. Applicants, including a Streamwood woman who complained to Madigan's office, were told they would be paid during training. However, after a few days, trainees were paired up and told they must "market" products on the street and in mall parking lots as part of their training. According to the complaint, several trainees were ticketed by local police for not having a business license to sell products even though Penson said the activity was legal because it was only "marketing."

Although the defendant interviewed the Streamwood consumer for an alleged job, he failed to tell her that she would be required to sell products, and he led her to believe she would be paid during a training period that was to last between 10 and 13 weeks. A $50 ticket she received for peddling in mid-December from the Schaumburg Police was later dismissed. At the time the consumer filed a complaint with Madigan's office, Executive Design had not paid her for the training period.

Madigan's suit seeks a permanent injunction against Penson, a civil penalty of $50,000 and an additional penalty of $50,000 if the court finds the acts were committed with intent to defraud. The suit also seeks restitution and costs. Assistant Attorney General Janice Parker is handling this case for Madigan's Consumer Fraud Bureau.


Report on World Perfume


Ron Regan Finds Out The True Scent

POSTED: 5:43 p.m. EST November 2, 2001

CLEVELAND -- Brett McCoy, a former salesman: Smell that one, this is Freedom by Tommy Hilfiger.

Ron Regan: Brett McCoy claims this was his "sales pitch" to dozens of women.

See, I was just selling them at the show for 60 bucks and I need to unload them.

Regan: McCoy claims he convinced women they were buying expensive designer fragrances--the real thing...for the half the price. In fact, they were expensive knock-offs.

McCoy: From there, we can make up any lie, any story to make the sale. And if I asked if this is the real thing you say--"its the real thing.

Regan: McCoy worked for a company that placed these ads that began running last summer. So we decided to answer one of them.

Regan: Is it perfume? I've heard of, is it sold in department stores?

McCoy: Yes, we carry anything from like Versace, to Liz Clairborne to what else --Polo.

Regan: On another day, dozens of young people, trusting those ads, fill a room in this office labeled "International Management." Listen to exactly what they're told.

Seminar sound: Same ingredients, mixed the same way, without the same cost.

Regan: The company behind those fragrances is headquartered 1,300 miles away...deep in the heart of Texas.

World Perfume...I recently bought some perfume from a guy pumping gas...this is the real white diamonds right...yes...do many people know that they sell them in different bottles, oh yea, I mean we get it all from the manufacturers we use them in fragrance show that's what we do.

Chic Enterprises is home to World Perfume Inc., a company founded by J.D. Whitworth, a Dallas businessman, who now lives in this million and a half dollar home.

Small compared to the home he recently sold.

Regan: Hawking perfume brought Whitworth the sweet smell of success. In the early 90s, he bought this home now valued at $3.5 million.

It's a company, this father says, recruited his daughter through newspaper ads.

Richard Whitney: They can't have a pager, a beeper, can't call home during the middle of the week or during the day.

Regan: Richard Whitney complained to the Better Business Bureau.

Whitney: My wife and her family compared it with a religious cult, it was like they were brainwashing.

Regan: At the time, World Perfume denied any wrongdoing, saying it's "proud of the quality of its work and ethical business practices."

But when we wanted to ask a few questions inside their Dallas headquarters...this guy blocked the hallway.

Regan: Is there any reason why you won't talk with us? And remember the company representative you first saw in our undercover video? Regan: This is International Management, we're part of a larger company called World Perfume. When we caught up with him...the story changed.

Regan: Who do you work for?

Rep: It's my company.

Regan: Oh, it your company.

Rep: What is World Perfume?

They are one of the distributors--is that who supplies you--yes, they are one of my suppliers and I am asking you to leave my office right now.

Regan: Even the sales force ran for cover.

Regan: Do you tell people it's the real fragrance.

I have no comment.

Regan: Why won't you speak about it.

Rep: Because I'm very busy and I'm off somewhere right now.

Regan: And customers who bought Brett McCoy's sales pitch say they wasted their money.

Diane DiCarlo, a customer: It's like $28 a bottle for watered down ...nothing.

Regan: Finally, we found job applicants, lured by huge incomes.

Rep: And our top range managers making $75 to $85 thousand dollars a year. Managing new locations.

Regan: Right now, the company is undergoing a $10 million expansion plan to open ten new offices.

Left only....with a "training" office.

Regan: Do you pay these people anything?

Rep: Yeah, they get paid off their sales.

Regan: They don't get paid a salary?

Rep: No.

Regan: An office with plenty of free time.

International Management insists it tells its sales force that the fragrances that they sell are renditions only and not the real thing. The company declined an opportunity for an on-camera interview to fully discuss its sales practices.


Scent firm pays damages
Nottingham Evening Post April 5, 1999


A PERFUME company which sacked three men on the spot has been ordered to pay damages by an employment tribunal.

Gary Spencer, Norman Campbell and Chukudinma Wakama were promised GBP 25,000 a year and travel to America in an advert for sales staff by the Scentura Creations International perfume company in January last year.

The Notts trio were encouraged to sell thousands of bottles of perfume, and were told they would eventually be able to set up and manage their own sales offices.

But a Nottingham Employment Tribunal heard that after only a few months they were sacked without notice by Scentura.

The company claimed the three men had never worked for Scentura and were self -employed.

But the tribunal ruled their employment contracts were breached by Scentura and that the company should pay them damages.

Scentura was ordered to pay GBP 1,041 to Mr Spencer and Mr Wakama, the equivalent of one month's notice.

The tribunal agreed that Mr Campbell was also employed by the company.

But he was not awarded damages because it was decided by the tribunal that he had not reached office manager level.

Scentura Creations International, an American company with 900 offices worldwide, had earlier told the tribunal that the men had received training and GBP 3 of the GBP 20 sale price on each perfume bottle.

But Alison McFarlane, counsel for Scentura, told the tribunal the men had signed a form agreeing that they were not company employees, but were only buying stock from it.

Mr Spencer, 30, of Sherwin Walk, Nottingham, said: "We did sign the agreement.

"But we were told it was just to cover the company in case we ran off with the bottles of perfume."

In a written decision, the tribunal members were unanimously agreed that the three men had been employed by Scentura.




(02/11/02) -- Each week you see ads in the paper offering high paying jobs that offer on-the-job training. But sometimes those dream jobs turn out to be a nightmare and you're left paying for it.

"They said they'd pay you $52,000 a year, and they're training. That's easy. Train me. I'll make that," Amanda Henderson told Action 9. She answerd an ad in the local paper for management, but soon she felt scammed.

"They don't tell you that you're going to go walking around the Walmart parking lot and ask people as they're getting in their cars to buy perfume," she explained.

Rebecca Baldwin responded to a similar ad and the pitch was the same. Company representatives explained that hands-on-experience was the only way to go. "Now you'll be managing a team that's going to be selling this imposter perfume. In order to manage a team to do that, you need to walk in their shoes." Rebeca recalled company representatives told her.

Walking in their shoes meant showing up in parking lots and gas stations. Both Amanda and Rebecca soon discovered their dream jobs were nothing more than peddling imposter perfumes by Scentura Creations -- right out of the trunk of their cars.

How does it happen? Our Action 9 team went undercover to find out. Action 9 Consumer Investigative Producer, Lawan Williams, answered an ad in the paper for an administrative assistant. She ended up at an Orlando company called E.M.O. (See BBB report on E.M.O.)

Day One - our producer is told there is no admin job, but there's a better opportunity to run her own office and make big bucks. But there is a small catch - first there's 8 weeks of training -- all at no pay. And that's not all. Our producer soon discovers, she's not the only candidate - there's 30 others applying.

First assignment, sell perfume to family and friends. Candidates are told if they can't sell to family who could they sell? The mission - prove you can sell and cut that 8 week training in half.

"The more you sold, the quicker you got out of training. Then you could get into your office and then you could make money," our producer reported. Candidates are told to get the product sold - even if it means blackmailing family and friends or simply buying the product themselves.

The next morning, the candidates collectively turned in orders for 68 bottles at $20 a bottle. And E.M.O. representatives were on hand to collect the cash -- all tax free and labor cheap.

That same week, our producer is paired with a trainer to learn the ropes fast. Back roads, even gas stations . . . trainers show us how easy they peddle phoney perfumes in parking lots -- far, far away from high paying office jobs.

Action 9's Consumer Investigative Reporter Todd Ulrich caught up with E.M.O. president, Lisa Piccione at her office. "Are you really hiring any managers for 30 to 50 thousand dollars. Do you tell your salespeople to lie?," Todd asked. Lisa Piccione had no comment.

But, to Rebecca Baldwin it was clear. She wasn't being "hired" to do anything, just tricked into peddling perfume. "They're taking advantage of you. They're using you and she's keeping the money," Rebecca concluded.

Now, Scentura Creations in Atlanta makes the perfume and supplies it to independent contractors like E.M.O. A Scentura spokesman says it's not responsible for the job ads or the way it's sold.

Remember, whenever unemployment rises, so do the number of risky job ads. Be careful with any company that requires unpaid training. Stay away from any job where you have to pay a fee first. And finally, always check out any company's record with the Better Business Bureau first.

And if there's confusion of whether you should be considered an employee or a contractor - check the IRS definitions of employees. If you feel you've been classified incorrectly you can file a complaint with the IRS and they will investigate.

From chat message 92 at http://www.seniors-s*te.com/fraud/:
The person selling the perfume in the news (Dream Jobs That Turn Out To Be Nightmares) was my "partner" -- Karyn Ramirez KRamirez1@cfl.rr.com


Denver Post
November 11, 2001;
Page B-02


3 rape suspects sought in 2 incidents in Denver. Denver police are looking for three suspects in two rapes that occurred on Friday and Saturday. The first rape was around 4 p.m. Friday. The victim was walking along West 32nd Avenue near Zuni Street selling perfume when two men approached her and dragged her into an alley. They took turns sexually assaulting her, according to a police report.

Thanks to Schauds (schauds@att.net ) for alerting me to this:

In this past Sundays Denver Post I read an article that horrified me. A girl selling perfume less than 1/2 mile from the Ol' Factory Wholesale office [Scentura distributor] was raped at approx 4:00 PM on Friday. This was the first day of training folks. And although I cannot say that she was selling Scentura Products, I can only imagine someone that I had interviewed with was walking away from her first day of training to find her very first sale and becoming a victim of a horrible crime. [Posted on November 12, 2001 at 11:11:42 on http://www.seniors-site.com/fraud/]


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Serial Killer was a Scentura employee


An 18-year-old convenience store clerk was strangled early Friday at the Jackpot Inc. store at 9520 N. Rodney Parham Road, the police said. It was the second murder of a convenience store clerk in Little Rock in 18 days.

A perfume salesman who had been living in homeless shelters and had served prison time for a strangulation slaying in Erie, Pa., was arrested at the store and later was charged in her death.


Ward was a salesman at Wholesale Fragrances of Arkansas, 8 Shackleford Plaza, a division of Scentura Fragrance, said a receptionist at Wholesale Fragrances who asked not to be identified. She said she did not know how long Ward had worked there.

(This article shows two things:
1: That Scentura will hire anyone.
2: That Scentura distributors often do not do background checks.
Why would a homeless man be working for a Scentura distributor?
Why would a convicted killer pass Scentura's "background checks"? --editor)

(Full article)



Monday, March 4, 2002
By Lornet Turnbull
Columbus Ohio
Dispatch Staff Reporter


The lowest point of her short-lived career in perfume sales came on the day Kim Aston and her colleagues were shooed away from the Bogey Inn near Muirfield.

A 30-year-old from Pataskala, Aston and the others had been hitting strip malls, parking lots and office buildings around Columbus peddling rendition perfume -- knockoffs of designer fragrances.

But instead of offering to buy, Bogey Inn managers called police. The salespeople were a nuisance, restaurant managers said, and had no license to sell. They were asked to leave and not return.

It was an early clue to the peculiarity of the new career Aston had chosen when she responded to a newspaper ad offering "serious'' money for a management opportunity that required no experience.

Midwest One in Worthington recruited her and more than a dozen other central Ohioans -- mostly women, and none of them licensed -- to peddle Scentura Creations' line of rendition perfume called Observe L Essence.

Based in Atlanta, Scentura creates fragrances that mimic such designer brands as Giorgio, Poison and Obsession. The company sells them through a network of independent distributors such as Midwest One, which opened here in January.

"Most of these kinds of operations are as predatory as hell,'' said Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Earl Smith. "Over the years, we've had companies bring in vanloads of kids and send them out into neighborhoods, cold weather, hot weather . . . If it's not legally dishonest, it's morally and ethically so.''

The vendors were told that potential buyers were everywhere: in hotel lobbies, elementary schools, grocery stores, bars and strip clubs.

Not even hospitals and funeral parlors were off limits.

"We'd go through the drive-through at fast-food restaurants and ask if they wanted to buy perfume,'' Aston said, laughing at the memory of the sales pitches. "We wouldn't be buying anything ourselves.''

Eventually, after five to eight weeks of training, the promotion says, the vendors could open offices of their own, with free startup money from Scentura. As entrepreneurs, they could expect to earn $52,000 or more annually after recruiting new vendors for training -- starting the cycle all over again.

Aston and the others learned quickly that the path to entrepreneurship wasn't paved in gold: One disappointing sales stop followed another as they tried to convince people that a $20 bottle of imitation Giorgio was as good as the real thing.

"People treated us like we were nothing; it was embarrassing,'' Aston said. "We felt like the people who walk up to you on the street in New York, opening their coats and trying to sell you hot watches.

"The one thing that kept me going for two long weeks was the belief that I would be able to make $52,000 a year.''

It would never materialize.

And eventually, the company's entire sales force quit at once -- all after three weeks or less.

Midwest One owners Stan and Sarah Niemeic and their now-former sales force disagree over various aspects of their relationship.

The sellers, for example, said they were promised a weekly paycheck of $295 or more.

But the Niemeics say the sellers were told that as independent contractors, their income would come from the profit of each sale.

They could keep any amount over $18 for each bottle they sold, Mrs. Niemeic said.

"They were being trained, and during that time they were given the opportunity to make money,'' Mrs. Niemiec said.

She said most of the vendors were under 20, unmotivated and most probably would have been dismissed if they hadn't quit.

"This is an opportunity for a person who does not have a lot of education or experience,'' she said.

The positions are an alternative to $6- and $8-an-hour jobs in fast- food restaurants and retail stores, she said.

"If you want to make more money, you work a little harder. I don't think there was a lot of effort among many of them.''

The Niemeics came to Columbus from Arkansas last December. They have been Scentura distributors for seven years, opening their first office in Mobile, Ala.

Janet Robb, president of the Better Business Bureau of Arkansas, said inquiries and complaints against the company there centered around its hiring practices.

"We'd get calls from the parents of 17-year-olds asking about their financial claims,'' Robb said.

"We never got complaints about the knockoff Gucci perfumes. It was always about these management positions that paid a lot of money. In most cases, there were no management positions, and there was not a lot of money to be made.''

Hundreds of Internet postings make similar accusations against Scentura distributors across the country. A scattered handful of them are from people who had completed the training and were successfully running their own businesses.

Kip Morse, president of the Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio, said that although businesses such as Midwest One are legal, their hiring practices can be misleading.

"If you're advertising management positions and it takes three days of somebody's time, energy and hopes before they come to grips with what it is really about, you've got deception.''

Morse warns potential recruits to check out these kinds of management offers before responding to ads.

"You've got to be realistic,'' Morse said. "Is it feasible that this is a product somebody will want to buy? Is there a market for this product? Am I the kind of person who would want to sell this product this way?''

On top of everything else, Aston and the others were operating illegally when they sold their perfumes without peddler licenses throughout Columbus and some other central Ohio cities.

Niemiec said sellers are told from the start that they are responsible for obtaining their own licenses, as well as paying taxes. Vendors disagree.

Columbus also requires Midwest One to have a peddler promoter license, said Craig Coloby, a licensing officer in Columbus. He said neither the company nor its vendors are licensed.

It's not unusual.

Often, officials don't learn of peddler violations until someone complains; businesses seldom do, Coloby said.

Unlicensed vendors roll into town offering a variety of products for sale.

"Magazines are the big thing,'' Coloby said.

Experts say these kind of "business opportunities'' seem even more appealing when the job market is weak.

Sheena Wicks, 18, said she was looking for a job to help pay the bills and prepare for college after she lost her job when American Eagle Outfitters closed its Northland Mall store.

The Columbus resident earned less than $20 during her two weeks with Midwest One.

"So many people would laugh at us,'' Wicks said. "Some would just plain get mad.

"Or they would smell the stuff for half an hour and then not buy anything -- wasting your time.''

Aston, a mother of a 7- and a 4- year-old, said that in the end she probably sold 13 bottles before she finally quit. In two weeks, she, too, had earned about $20.

With transportation expenses and child-care costs, the position she had taken to help with the household bills ended up pushing her deeper into debt, she said.

"I didn't have a car, so I was offering the others gas money,'' she said. "We were all broke all the time because we weren't selling anything.''




Richard Reeve/Eyewitness News

Noblesville, Indianapolis Aug. 26

So why are people crowding a Noblesville parking lot? "They said we're going to make like $75,000 the first year," recalls Dan Penale.

Callista Kellas came "with the impression I was, you know, (going to) have this great management job."

They saw an ad for international wholesale assistant managers, maybe $400 a week.

"It fell into the category of, too good to be true." Kent Koven, a recent Ball State grad, liked what he heard from a regional manager for Scentura Creations, assistant manager, cool! "The truth is, you have to sell so many bottles to open your own store."

Bottles? Bottles of what? Perfume, it turns out. "Selling is not important, that's what they told us, over and over, we're management, we're not supposed to sell, however that's not what I found," says Koven.

But he, and several others, soon discovered they were going to be salespeople, not managers.

Linda Carmody with the Better Business Bureau thinks, "it's misleading."

Not illegal, the BBB says, but maybe not very truthful. "Our report does state about the ads, about it saying that it's management. And that people should realize it's an independent contractor and would be responsible for their own business."

That means you'd make the sales and get a cut, but pay the taxes and get your own licenses, if needed.

Eyewitness News wanted to find out more, but company representative Katie Metzger wouldn't speak with us at first. She later told us we'd have to leave.

Dan Panale left too, after hearing Scentura's pitch. "It was more gonna be all sales and like the managing was going to be one or two people getting a managing job. That's not, that's something false from what they said last week."

One young person said, they should've just come out and told us.


New Orleans news report on Scentura:Trainees Promised High Pay, Given Hard Labor


Recent college graduates and teenagers looking for summer jobs need to be aware of one local business that advertises high-paying management positions.

When he responded to a classified ad posted by a company called International Designs, Michael Torres thought he was applying for a good job. But he said the training turned out to be more like hard labor.

"You go out and spend eight hours in the field and you basically made $4," Torres said.

After interviewing with the company, Torres and about a dozen others were sent out on aggressive sales ventures. With just a list of product names, trainees were told to sell as many products as they could to friends and family.

Another part of the training involved sending the employees to parking lots to approach people and sell perfume using a tactic called "cover and smother," 6 On Your Side reporter Stephanie Boswell said.

The trainees made just $2 for every bottle sold, and Torres became suspicious of the job and the product.

"We didn't have these products until the day after we sold them," he said. "And then they brought in the different types of cologne and perfumes, and that's when it really caught me. I said 'Wait, this isn't what I was selling to people.'"

Scentura Creations of Atlanta manufactures the perfumes. International Designs is one of its distributors. Both stand by the product.

One of Torres' friends, Chris St. Pierre, was not happy with his cologne purchase.

"When I called Scentura in Atlanta, they said they had scent tests," St. Pierre said. "Fifty percent (of respondents) say it's the same, and the other 50 percent say it's close. And it's not."

Torres said he's embarrassed that he sold the product to his friends and wants to put this work experience behind him.

Boswell said this is not the first time that 6 On Your Side has received complaints about Scentura Creations and International Designs, but Scentura said it is not affiliated with the individual distributor.

6 On Your Side was unable to reach the distributor, but the Better Business Bureau warns consumers to beware of high-paying jobs that require little training.

Have a complaint about employment compensation?
The Wage and Hour Board advises people who have not been paid or who have questions about the payment they've received. (504) 589-6171
Or call the 6 On Your Side hotline at (800)416-NEWS.


Kristen Stieffel.
Orlando Business Journal, Sept 14, 2001 v18 i16 p23


The message: A cautionary tale describing people who approach women in parking lots and ask them to "sniff perfume that they are selling at a cheap price. This is not perfume - it is ether. When you sniff it, you'll pass out, and they'll take your wallet and heaven knows what else."

The e-mail usually contains several accounts of people, who were approached in parking lots or at gas stations but, because they had. read' a Previous version of the email, avoided disaster by escaping.

The truth: Although it is wise to avoid strangers in parking lots, ether isn't potent enough to knock someone out with only a couple of casual sniffs.

As with many urban legends, however, this story does contain a grain df truth. Two unrelated grams, actually.

According to the Mobile Police Department, on Nov. 8, 1999, Bertha Johnson claimed. to have been rendered unconscious after having smelled an unknown substance. She told. police that, as she was entering a bank (with $500 of her own money and $300 belonging to her employer), she was approached by a woman selling perfume. Johnson sniffed the perfume, lost consciousness and came to some time later at another location. All the money was gone.

Johnson's case appears to be the only one of its kind. Toxicological reports showed no unusual substance, ether or otherwise, in her system. No arrest has ever been made, and the case remains, open.

As for bands of perfume-wielding villains prowling the nation's parking lots, there appears to be some truth there also, though whether the perfume in question contains ether is anybody's guess, since all of their would-be victims have been tipped off to the scheme But at least one company, Atlanta-based Scentura Creations, does sell perfume in this way.

Scentura is described by the Better Business Bureau as a "multilevel selling company." The firm manufacturers inexpensive imitations of designer fragrances. Salespeople are sent out, often in pairs, to hawk the product door-to-door or, yes, in parking lots.

Sightings of such peddlers seem to have lent credence to the original scare story, in spite of the fact that, other than Johnson's univerified assault, no one has ever been found to have been "ethered" by a perfume salesperson.

If a suspicious e-mail lands in your in-box, before forwarding it to everyone in your address book.



Richmond Times - Dispatch; Richmond, Va.; Jun 9, 2002; Iris Taylor;


A Richmond reader who is employed but actively looking for a new job answered an advertisement in The Times-Dispatch for an assistant manager.

She said she went on two interviews but became suspicious of many things, including the company's complicated, multitiered training and money-making structure and its use of many different telephone numbers in ads, all leading to the same office.

She said in a group interview, "a very smooth-of-the-mouth, very fast talker" spoke of bonuses, benefits, profit-sharing, trips, awards, giveaways and future office locations.

But, she said she had trouble getting straightforward answers to how much money she'd make and whether the job involved selling, which she did not want to do. She said she was offered a position "on the spot," but declined after deciphering that the 'job' entailed consumer watch selling bottles of cologne to family members and people on the street.

She said while trying to research the company on the Internet, she learned it was linked to the Atlanta-based perfume products company Scentura Creations Inc., the subject of scathing denunciations by people who claimed to have worked for it.

"Suppose I had been green enough to quit my job and be put out there?" she asked. "I have a mortgage, two children and a car note. I can probably tell you after the first day, I would have been gone. I would have been out there starting over from point one."

She said she believes this is an employment scam and she wants other readers to be warned.

I contacted the company that the reader complained about - Infinity Management in Richmond, which is one of many independent distributors of Scentura Creations. Scentura supplies, but does not own, Infinity Management. There are no complaints filed against Infinity Management at the Office of Consumer Affairs in Richmond or on the Better Business Bureau's Web site.

John Barber, the general manager in Richmond, said Infinity Management is an 11-month-old sole proprietorship that recruits and trains people to go into business for themselves as independent contractors.

He said people are made aware that they're not being hired as employees and that selling is involved because they sign independent contractor and consignment agreements "saying we're giving them merchandise [to sell] on a signature.

"Yes, there is sales involved in the learning process," Barber said. "We completely state that." But, "we don't come out and use words like selling. We would lose those types of people we're trying to appeal to." Rather, business jargon such as "direct marketing" is used, he said. Knowledgeable applicants understand that direct marketing means selling, he said. If they don't, "it's on their end to ask those types of questions."

Barber said Infinity Management uses multiple telephone lines because "we have about 300 different ads" and want to see which ones "pull" the best. Whether the ad asks for a branch manager/manager trainee, assistant manager or manager, "it's the same position," he said.

Infinity Management is licensed to sell business-to-business and to individuals on the street "anywhere in Richmond that is zoned commercial, but not on private property" such as malls or store properties where soliciting is not permitted, Barber said.

Training is progressive, done in several phases, and when completed, those who "prove themselves" are set up in a location with a small staff and budget. They are expected to turn enough profit to support operating expenses. They have other requirements, such as they must "do 30 transactions in one week" in order to keep their office location.

Income is commission-based, and there's no guarantee how much will be made, said Barber. Income is boosted by recruiting others to sell. Selling is done in teams - three-person groups that get cases of products to sell on consignment. They must report their progress twice a day.

I also called Scentura and spoke with Karey Smith in accounts receivable. She said the people who complain on the Internet think they're working for Scentura, but actually they're recruits of the independent distributors. "We've got some great owners," she said. But, "sometimes people open, and are not ready to open," while others misrepresent themselves as part of Scentura, but they're not.

On its Web site, however, Scentura takes credit for developing the concept that distributors use as a model for running their businesses. Also, the distributors receive from Scentura what Barber refers to as "overrides" or "residual income." So, Scentura and its distributors are strongly linked.

If you were looking for employment, would you, like the reader, wonder if you were being offered a job that enables you to support yourself and your family? Or, would you conclude that this is a business opportunity that involves hard work and risk?

Here are five tips from experts which, together with the questions contained in the help box, can help clear up confusion, misunderstandings and miscommunication that can occur in any interview:

* Be persistent in learning what the position entails. What a company is doing might not be anything illegal, said Sue Scott, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Employment Commission in Richmond. But, if the interviewer isn't being up front, the job seeker needs to ask probing questions.

* Look for buzzwords. "Selling" or "sales" are terms that scare off applicants. They often are camouflaged by such terms as marketing, direct marketing, telemarketing or telesales. "Probably the best suggestion is they should learn some business terminology," advised Infinity Management's Barber.

* Look for red flags in the advertisement. Ads of legitimate companies should contain the company name, a job title or job description, said Ron Brown, vice president of Excel Staffing Services Inc. in Richmond. "If you have two or three" of those pieces of information, "fine. If you have none of them, I'd start raising my eyebrows. Any company on the level will be proud of their name and give their name."

* You should be asked to fill out an application. Most legitimate businesses ask respondents to fill out an application, said Brown. "This isn't always true," but it is "in most instances. If they bring you in, take your Social Security number and say they're going to put you on the payroll, I'd start to question that."

* Do not rely on verbal promises. "Get all details regarding an employment opportunity in writing," advises the Greater Atlanta Better Business Bureau in its report on Scentura Creations. To review the report, go to www.atlanta.bbb.org. Click "company reports," then, "additional options," and "Scentura Creations." You will learn that it sells "fragrance products" to wholesale distributors who then resell the items to the public.

One method used by the independent distributors to recruit sales people is the placement of classified advertisements in the employment section under the heading of "Management," the BBB reported.

It said, "Scentura Creations has had no complaints." However, you can read plenty of complaints by going to a search engine and typing in Scentura Creations. Scentura Creation's Web site is at www.scenturacreations.com.


Richmond Times - Dispatch; Richmond, Va.; Dec 6, 2000;


Like the scents they sell, tales of alleged perfume-wielding perpetrators continue to weave and waft their way about town.

For those who are joining the program currently in progress:

On Nov. 17, The Times-Dispatch ran a story about a mass- distribution e-mail that warned shoppers to watch for people selling perfume in parking lots.

The e-mail warning - featuring various women in various places who consequently were drugged and robbed - turned out to be an urban myth most likely based on a single incident reported in Mobile, Ala., more than a year ago. (That case is still unsolved.)

The bottom line was "Don't believe everything you hear, but better safe than sorry."

Within two days, however, several women from the Richmond area called to say something similar had happened to them.

One anonymous caller said she was approached on Election Day by a young woman selling inexpensive perfume at the Mechanicsville Wal- Mart. "I was going to my car, and luckily a man came along who was parked by me. Then she walked away."

No crimes reported

Apparently, people are peddling perfume in public places. But they don't appear to be doing so with evil intent, as suggested by the warning e-mails - no ether sprays or robberies associated with perfume sales have been reported to the Richmond Police Department's Economic Crimes Unit, which usually handles scam-related reports.

One young salesman even offered cologne to a Henrico County policeman at the scene of a crime. The officer was in uniform at the time, so it's likely the vendor's intentions - if not his timing - were benign.

A similar encounter alarmed Betty Anne Howell at the Midlothian Turnpike Kmart. "A nice-looking lady had a box in her hand and said something like, 'Would you be interested in some perfume?'"

Howell thought it was unusual and left quickly. The woman probably was selling something cheap at a hiked-up price, she said, but who knows?

Mary E. Woodley said she was approached the morning the article appeared by a young man in front of the Library of Virginia on Broad Street. He asked her what kind of perfume she liked and began to open a black bag.

"I immediately said no and proceeded on my way back to work," said Woodley.

Another Mary, who asked that her last name be withheld, said she was getting out of her car at the Short Pump Wal-Mart last spring or early summer when a young man suddenly appeared behind her.

"He said, 'Excuse me, ma'am, if you have a minute.'

"I don't know that there was anything dangerous about the situation, but I put the fear of God into that young man. I said, 'You are making a big mistake' . . . I don't know what you have in that backpack, and you have no idea what I have in my pocketbook."

As he took off, Mary noticed one or two other young people with backpacks toward the rear of the parking lot.

Filling a quota

"These poor kids are probably brought out here and dropped off in the middle of nowhere," she said. "They probably have some quota . . . but it's just not a good idea, even in broad daylight."

Whenever someone reports such an incident, said Jim Kloosterman, manager of the Short Pump Wal-Mart, "We go right out and tell them to leave our property."

Kloosterman said the vendors usually are college-age and generally are selling perfume. "In the last three years, we've probably run them off four or five times."

Mary Brinkley, an assistant manager at the Wal-Mart at Parham and Brook roads, said people have been asked to leave because solicitation is not allowed on Wal-Mart property. Generally, they cooperate and move on.

Diane Pedraza of Richmond thinks the proliferation of perfume peddlers may be related to a company called Scentura Creations.

Scentura, according to its Web site, began about 25 years ago in Atlanta and has evolved into a "multimillion dollar company that distributes perfume to independent business owners on an international level."

The company revolves around the sale and distribution of its Observe L Essence line of "rendition" fragrances, created to mimic designer perfumes at a reduced price.

Scentura's Web site - though it includes no contact information for prospective employees or interested parties - offers a "once-in- a-lifetime opportunity to be in business for yourself," claiming the potential for a six-figure income and financial independence.

Not so, said Pedraza, at least not in her experience. She worked for a division of Scentura near Old Bridge, N.J., for about three weeks in 1998.

"When you first starting working for them, they say you get paid at least $200 a week.

"The only money I made was from perfume I sold on the street. I'm not a very good hustler, so I probably sold seven bottles the whole time."

According to Pedraza, her employer "took me to bad places. Where they tell you to go, you have to go . . . to parking lots, inside random office buildings."

Problems like that stem not from Scentura itself, but from its business owners, or "customers," said Karey Smith, who works for the company in Atlanta.

"Customers buy the perfume from [us], and the way they sell it is up to them," she said. "They cannot misrepresent the product [by saying it's the real version of a given scent] or say they're employees or work for us."

Web sites set up by Scentura representatives - which seem a safer venue than parking lots from which to sell a product - offer the 3.3- ounce bottles of perfume for anywhere from $19.95 to $39.95. Because customers own their own businesses, Smith said, they set their own prices and keep the profits.

Customers may employ anywhere up to 50 people on the local level to make the actual sales.

Most people, Smith said, learn about Scentura from having been introduced to its products. "People who want the perfume will call and say, 'I bought it in the Wal-Mart parking lot and can't find the girl who sold it to me.'*"

Customers and their employees are allowed to sell wherever they like, Smith said, as long as it's not illegal.

Scentura has about 200 to 300 customers at any given time, including some currently in the Richmond area.

If customers' tactics are questionable, Smith said, they usually don't last. "It's very easy to cut off the supply."

Whether or not the perfume-mongers can be traced to Scentura customers or similar operations, it pays to be alert, especially during high-volume shopping days.

And it wouldn't hurt the sellers themselves - whoever they are and no matter how good their intentions - to take a tip from Mary:

"I don't have Mace or anything, but some people have that on their key chain.

"You run into one of these feisty middle-aged West End women, and they're likely to sling it at you."


Intelligencer Journal; Lancaster; Mar 07, 1997; Flannery, Thomas L


To hear Warren Jentis tell it, peddling bottles of perfume on the streets of Lancaster will catapult you into the world of the rich and famous.

But to hear city officials and business leaders tell it, what Jentis is doing will, in all likelihood, make only make one person rich:

Warren Jentis.

A Barnegate, N.J., native. Jentis said he moved to Lancaster on Jan. 31 with his girlfriend/partner Betsy Schuyler, rented a vacant three-story building at 114 E. Chestnut St. and opened WBI--short for Warren and Betsy International.

Jentis, who has the intensity of a get-rich. quick infomercial, describes himself as a "direct marketer of rendition perfumes he buys from Atlanta-based Scentura Creations.

Since no one may patient a scent, what Scentura dues is analyze the contents of popular fragrances, then replicate them and sell them under their own names at rates far lower than their original counterparts.

Jentis said he buys the perfumes at a deep discount and provides them to his sales force at prices ranging from $10.50 to $20 a bottle, and they, in turn, peddle the products for $24.95.

After about two months, Jentis said that "successful" salespersons are offered contracts with annual salaries ranging from "$30,000 to $35,000 and a car," and that free vacations are commonplace.

None of the seven people interviewed by the Intelligencer Journal said they have ever met or known anyone who received a contract, but two said they were off to Florida this weekend on Jentis' tab.

Since Jentis' arrival in Lancaster, police said they have been inundated with complaints of high-pressure sales tactics by the young sales crew Jentis calls "independent contractors"--made up primarily of felons, admitted drug dealers and hard-luck youngsters, the youngest being 17.

Hardly a day goes by, said the Downtown Investment District bicycle police officers, when they don't cite one or more of Jentis' crew for soliciting without a permit.

DID Police said most are repeat offenders and face fines between $50 to $600 on each daily charge.

Jentis and Schuyler insist the ordinance is not legal and said they plan to challenge it in court.

Jentis' attorney, Kevin C. Allen, could not be reached for comment.

"Crazy, Greedy ... Must like $$$, music and fun. Office and general work. Call Warren ... ," reads Jentis' ad in all three local newspapers.

And, according to Jentis, 29--a ponytailed, modern-day version of super salesman Prof. Harold Hill of "Music Man" fame--call they do.

"What's wrong with giving people the opportunity of a lifetime," said Jentis, waving his right hand, bedecked with a gold ring topped with a dollar sign. "I'm just teaching people to do what I do, and they learn as they earn."

After paying a non-refundable $25 fee for a nondescript "background check." the fledgling salespeople begin a four--to eight-week training program that includes stints at various locations throughout the county under Jentis' tutelage, Schuyler said.

Jentis said hundreds of people have passed through his doors, but admittedly few make the cut. One training class started with about 70; five remain.

Sam Loth. the DID's new executive director, said Jentis has scheduled a meeting with him next week.

What Jentis won't find when he gets to Loth's office is a sympathetic ear to his pleas of police harassment.

"Apparently Mr. Jentis feels he's free to operate outside the rules and regulations of the business community," Loth said.

Loth said he plans to continue to utilize the city's ordinance regulating vendors and peddlers "to help protect the community."

As does the man who heads the city's licensing and permits section, W. James Schelling.

"The problem is that Mr. Jentis is portraying his business as one that participates in business-to-business sales, and that's just not the case," said Schelling.

"The city doesn't issue permits that allow anyone to enter a business or stand directly outside a business and solicit that business's employees or customers," Schelling said. "Why? Because that's not legal."

Schelling said the only permit Jentis' sales force might be able to get is a peddler's permit that allows for door-to-door sales.

But that would require criminal records checks, and because most of Jentis' workers admittedly have had run-ins with the law, the applications would be denied, Schelling said.

Lancaster Bureau of Police Chief Michael L. Landis said enforcement of the city's vendors and peddlers law is complaint-driven, and that legitimate operations know they need a permit to do business in town.

Landis said he has received a number of complaints about Jentis' high-pressure tactics, misleading help-wanted advertisements and calls from parents of minors worried about what Jentis is really up to.


Buffalo News; Buffalo, N.Y.; Mar 28, 1992; By James T. Madore


A group of young people is accusing an Amherst perfume distributor of falsely advertising career opportunities and of asking them to smuggle products into Canada.

They describe Nautica Stars Inc. as nothing more than a sophisticated "scam" that preys on people made desperate by unemployment and the recession by promising them career advancement and paid training -- and then not delivering on the promises.

They say they were told they could earn up to $35,000 a year or about $600 a week. However, they say they were lucky if they made $50 per week.

The 18-to-23-year-olds have reported their concerns to the Better Business Bureau of Western New York, which has launched an investigation, according to Dolores J. Liberatore, the bureau's vice president.

Founded in January, Nautica Stars, 331 Alberta Drive, distributes generic perfumes that are similar to Obsession, Eternity and other popular fragrances. The products are manufactured by Scentura Creations of Atlanta, Ga., a 17-year-old company with 570 sales offices worldwide.

John D. Disbro, a Williamsville resident, owns Nautica Stars. He and Michael E. Wallette of Cleveland, a regional vice president for Scentura, deny all the accusations made by the young adults. Both described their venture as "honest" and "not meant to hurt anyone" in an interview Friday.

Jennifer E. Andrews of Kenmore disagreed, saying: "We were basically misled . . . it was totally different than they said it was. We ended up spending more money than we were making."

She explained that she and her friends were given perfume by Nautica Stars to sell on consignment. They could charge whatever price they wanted, as long as $19 was paid to Nautica Stars for every item that was sold.

Financial records provided by Nautica Stars show that the disgruntled individuals earned between $20 and $66 during the two weeks they spent selling fragrances. All of them left the company about a week ago when their sales declined.

Wallette, the firm's supervisor, said it is possible for teen-agers to be successful selling perfume. For example, he said, a 19-year-old woman from Rochester was Scentura's top salesperson in New York in mid-February. And Mark M. Riedel, 28, of West Seneca is planning to open his own sales office in Cheektowaga, after being with the company for barely 3 1/2 weeks, Wallette said.

"This isn't a scam," he said. "And I don't want our name to be tarnished by a few bad apples."

Amy Eddy of Buffalo and Brian Bader of South Wales don't consider themselves troublemakers. They say all they want is to be reimbursed for their expenses and paid for the training sessions they attended.

Bader explained that he and his friends applied for jobs with Nautica Stars after reading a newspaper advertisement seeking managers and assistant managers. The ad promised paid training, and the potential for cash bonuses plus health benefits in the future.

"We never got paid for training," Bader said. "There was a lot of talk and promises; not must else."

He estimated that Nautica Stars owes him $655 for the use of his car and $442 in training wages. Miss Eddy and Miss Andrews each claim they are owed $260 for expenses and $680 in wages.

"If they have receipts, I will reimburse them. But I won't be raped," responded Wallette, who supervises Nautica Stars.

Owner John Disbro acknowledged that his advertisement was misleading and said it has been changed. "It was unintentional," he said, adding "I will do anything to make this right."

The young adults also allege that Wallette took them to Canada on selling trips and told them to lie to customs inspectors. He forced them to smuggle, they said.

Wallette denied the charge and said Nautica Stars has never sold perfumes north of the border.

Since January, about 250 people have sold perfume for Nautica Stars. However, only about 50 are still with the firm, Disbro said. "This isn't for everyone. But we are providing an opportunity for young people to make money," he said.

Paul Gabriel, a former salesperson, described Nautica Stars as a revolving-door operation, where young people are urged to sell perfume to their friends and family, and then discarded when sales drop.

"No one stays very long, they give up because they can't sell enough of the stuff to make money," said the 34-year-old Buffalo resident.

"They know these kids can't get jobs elsewhere so they use them," he added.

Bader, whose 18 years old, concluded: "We had such great hopes and then we found out it wasn't for real."


Buffalo News; Buffalo, N.Y.; Jun 13, 1992; By James T. Madore


Nautica Stars Inc., an Amherst perfume distributor, has apparently gone out of business after being accused by a group of young people in March of false advertising and smuggling products into Canada.

Sources say the small business closed its doors in mid-May -- just six weeks after the students' allegations were reported by the media and an investigation was launched by the Better Business Bureau of Western New York.

The young people never did get the money they alleged was owed them by Nautica Stars. But Amy L. Eddy of Buffalo says she is pleased her former employer has shut down.

"I'd rather have them go out-of-business than get my money back and see them do this to other people," the 20-year-old said Friday. She claims the company owes her $260 for expenses and $680 in wages.

Founded in January, Nautica Stars distributed generic perfumes that are similar to Obsession, Eternity and other popular fragrances. The products are manufactured by Scentura Creations of Atlanta, a 17-year-old company with 570 sales offices worldwide.

Miss Eddy and five other whistle-blowers describe Nautica Stars as nothing more than a sophisticated "scam" that preyed on people made desperate by unemployment and the recession by promising them career advancement and paid training -- and then not delivering on the promises.

The 18- to 23-year-olds say they were told they could earn up to $35,000 a year or about $600 a week. However, they say they were lucky if they made $50 per week.

The young people explained that they were given perfume by Nautica Stars to sell on consignment. They could charge whatever price they wanted, as long as $19 was paid to Nautica Stars for every item that was sold.

The young adults also allege that they were taken to Canada on selling trips and told to lie to customs inspectors. Nautica Stars forced them to smuggle, they said.

The company's owner, John D. Disbro of Williamsville, and his supervisor Michael E. Wallette of Cleveland denied in March all the accusations made by the young adults.

However, Nautica Stars closed its offices at 331 Alberta Drive during the first or second week of May, sources say. The telephones were disconnected and mail has been returned unopened to senders.

In addition, no one seems to know where Disbro has gone. His home telephone number is unlisted. And New York Telephone Co. and the Amherst Chamber of Commerce say he did not give them a forwarding number.

"He's not doing business with us anymore," said Bob Hasty, vice president of Scentura Creations, the Atlanta-based manufacturer of the perfumes sold by Nautica Stars.

"I think he's gone out of business," Hasty said. He also noted that Wallette, the Cleveland man who was supervising Nautica Stars, also has stopped selling perfume.

Before closing his business, Disbro wrote to the five young people who had accused him of fraud. In the letter, he denied owing them any money because they had worked as independent c
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#2 UPDATE Employee

Understanding the truth!

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

I am responding to the reports about the so-called "scam" called Midwest Management. I have worked for the company for 2 1/2 years now, and let me tell you something. In these reports all of you state you were told you will make lots of money and be given an office, and get bonuses..etc. But what i don't see is the "real story" that you were told. In order to make lots of money and get an office you would have to complete the training. You also are told the pay in the program sucks, you WILL be selling the product during the program, and also you are told that during the program you will be paid on commission. You are also told that the program is an average of 8-12 weeks, and depending on how you catch on depends on how fast you will get thru it. When I started with the company I was 19 years old, a college dropout and had no money. I was told all of the same things, that you've been told, but i actually was "smart" enough to know what was going on. I knew i would have to bust my butt in the field, selling to make money while in the program, and then i would move up based on my performance. I sold 81 bottles my first week and made over $500.00. Now i am the GM of my own branch, and i know the program and the company are legit. But i have seen alot of people come thru my door that are told the "truth" and just frankly don't understand. Have you ever heard the saying that people only hear what they want to hear. Well from what i've read in these reports, that's exactly what happened. You were not mislead, you just misheard!! And normally when people fail at something it is never their fault..remember as a kid when you didn't study in class and got a bad grade, it was always the teachers fault. Well i guess we never grow out of making that excuse. So if you are working for the company or have recently interviewed, stick with it..I made it, so can you!!
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