Report: #31551

Complaint Review: Bernard Haldane Associates - Atlanta Georgia

  • Submitted:
  • Updated:
  • Reported By: Atlanta GA
  • Bernard Haldane Associates 4360 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Suite 100 Atlanta, Georgia U.S.A.

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I contracted Halden for training/coaching for skills and support services in finding a job - Training was weekly meetings with a consultant. Support services were secretarial support, access to a resource center & job contacts.

Half way through the training I canceled my agreement, stop going to training & using their services. Notification was by phone to my training coach. Agreement was canceled because;

*During my coaching sessions my consultant repeatedly complained how cheap management was and that they did not provide him with adequate tools (like computers) to do his job.

*The Halden sales person promised me job contacts of companies that were looking for my specific job skills. These contacts were never provided to me, after repeated requests.

*I was promised secretarial support to send out letters & resumes. However, because Halden was under staffed I could never use this service & ended up typing my own letters & resumes.

*I promised up-to-date & state of the art resource library. Their resource library only consisted of old (+ 3 yrs) reference books - 7 out of 10 of the contacts were not valid. No computers or Internet access was available.

*I was promised a video taped mock interview & a written critique on how to my interviewing skills could be improved. This was never done; I was advised at the time that the video camera was broken.

Approximately 2 yrs latter the same sales person wrote to me demanding payment or they would ruin my credit. I wrote to them of my reasons for canceling their services. I never received a reply addressing my complaints.

This month I applied to refinance my house. We are being denied credit because Halden has reported this $2,000 as non-payment.

Atlanta, Georgia

CLICK HERE, You must read this!! ..Financial Post Article LINK - Haldane not up to the job ..exposing this company for what it really is - a huge scam

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#5 0

The Kansas City Star

AUTHOR: - ()

POSTED: Sunday, October 06, 2002

Posted on Sat, Sep. 14, 2002

Career counselor Bernard Haldane agrees to refund Kansans' money
The Kansas City Star

Career counseling giant Bernard Haldane agreed Friday to refund $300,000 to clients in Kansas who complained that they were deceived by the company's Overland Park and Wichita franchises.

Many of the consumers complained to Attorney General Carla Stovall's office that they were cheated out of thousands of dollars with unrealized promises of getting an inside track on a "hidden job market."

Bernard Haldane's national office in New York and Reed Freeman Management Group Inc., which runs the two Kansas franchises, also agreed to pay the state a combined $100,000 in penalties and fees.

The consent agreement resulted from a nearly two-year investigation by Stovall's office, which had received nearly 100 complaints from consumers.

"In today's tight job market, it is understandable that so many people are using the services of career counselors," Stovall said.

"Adding to the stress of finding employment, these job seekers were unfairly taken advantage of due to the false representations made by these Bernard Haldane companies," she said.

While they agreed to refund clients' money and pay the fines, the Bernard Haldane officials denied allegations of wrongdoing.

In a statement, company officials said they decided to consent to the settlement "in the interest of speedy resolution of the matter."

The statement said Bernard Haldane "is committed to the highest level of client care, and any allegation of client dissatisfaction is of great concern to us."

Local Bernard Haldane officials were not available for comment, a spokesman at the Overland Park office said.

The Kansas City Star first publicly aired complaints made by clients of the Overland Park office in August 2000.

Former clients told the newspaper that they were induced to pay upfront fees of $4,000 or more with misleading claims that they would gain exclusive access to a "hidden market" of job contacts. The former clients said they were never introduced to a special network of executives and did most of their job search on their own.

At the time, Bernard Haldane officials said the client complaints resulted from misunderstandings.

But complaints that flowed into Stovall's office prompted her to initiate an "aggressive investigation."

According to the consent agreement released Friday, Kansas investigators found that Bernard Haldane representatives:

Falsely claimed they could bypass normal business human resources and personnel departments.

Falsely claimed their services were always tax-deductible.

Falsely claimed they had access to a "hidden job market."

Posted solicitations disguised as job openings in newspapers to recruit clients.

Gathered resumes from the Internet and contacted job hunters for "a job interview" that was in fact a sales pitch.

Charged clients for the production of a videotape of the clients when the service wasn't even provided.

"I'm glad Carla Stovall took this action," said Dale Keith, who paid the Overland Park Bernard Haldane office $7,000 in 2000 for services he said he never received. "They told me they would plug me into a network of hiring decision-makers."

Instead, he was made to comb newspaper want ads and the Internet. He said clients who came in with leads had to share them with other clients.

"It was all a smoke screen to get you to sign the bottom line," he said. "The client does all the work."

Mark Ohlemeier, a spokesman for Stovall's office, said any Kansas consumer who bought services from Bernard Haldane offices in Overland Park or Wichita, and who alleges the same harms outlined in the consent agreement, may be eligible for a refund.

The deadline to file a complaint and make a refund request is Oct. 28, Ohlemeier said. Any request made after that date will not be eligible for a refund, he said. Consumers can make a refund request from Stovall's office by calling (800) 432-2310.

Ohlemeier said the state will divide the entire $300,000 among all the eligible refund requests on a pro-rata basis.

The settlement only applies to Kansas consumers who used the two franchise offices. But Ohlemeier said that since the Kansas investigation, other states have begun similar investigations.

This settlement resulted from the second investigation Kansas conducted of Bernard Haldane, which has grown in 55 years into an international company with hundreds of thousands of clients.

In May 1999, Bernard Haldane officials agreed to pay $80,000 to the Kansas attorney general to settle earlier complaints and legal costs.

To reach Paul Wenske, consumer affairs reporter, call (816) 234-4454 or send e-mail to pwenske@kcstar.com.

Job hunting tips

Job search experts say consumers should avoid career counseling companies that demand upfront fees, promise access to hidden markets or advertise that placement is guaranteed.

They also offered these tips:

Get references from at least 10 persons, and don't pay until you've talked to at least three former clients.

Find out if an agency's job database is exclusive.

Ask to meet the counselor you'll be working with, and check the counselor's credentials.

Be sure you understand the pricing structure. Experts recommend that consumers pay by the hour or for specific services.

Look for certification from at least one of these organizations: International Association of Career Management Professionals, Career Planning and Adult Development Network, Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, or National Board of Certified Counselors.

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#4 0

Better Business Bureau of the Southland, CA Online Newsletter

AUTHOR: - ()

POSTED: Sunday, October 06, 2002


Bernard Haldane Associates Employs Bait and Switch to Keep Clients Signing
On paper, Bernard Haldane Associates looks good. By itself, advertising in the Wall Street Journal, headed "JOB HUNTING," adds prestige and credibility to advertised statistics that, on their own, would characterize the company as solid: 50 years of "Job-Search Success," " . . . met with over 600,000 people nationwide seeking better employment or making a career change," "Over 75 offices - U.S., U.K. & Canada."

To these, Haldane's web site adds superlatives: ". . . largest and most experienced consulting team of its kind . . ." ". . . oldest and one of the largest outplacement organizations in North America . . ." "most highly respected and innovative firm in the industry."

Another newspaper ad concludes, "If you want to find a better paying, non-advertised career position, call the most trusted name in Job Hunting."

Perhaps the clincher on the web site is the statement, "The better paying career positions in executive and professional jobs are usually not advertised. The key to finding these jobs is locked in securing top level, often elusive interviews. Pro-Active 4 will give you the most comprehensive exposure possible." Just before they offer a no-cost, no-obligation review of your career potential, they invite you to "get professional help in managing this [job] change through [their] professional staff," and promise that "[w]e can assist you in reaching your goals."

Then, if you were to click onto Haldane's web page that lists "8 MYTHS ABOUT JOB HUNTING, you'd learn that "over 85% of job vacancies are not available through traditional resources like newspaper ads, civil service notices, federal or state employment agencies, private agencies or search firms" and that "less than 7% of all professional, managerial and executive opportunities are ever listed with agencies."

A recent Haldane ad in the Wall Street Journal, which lists addresses, phones, etc. of 14 of its U.S. offices, is categorized as "career guidance and consulting." Indeed, although in the smallest print in the ad, it offers "job consulting, career management & corporate outplacement services," followed by "not an employment agency."

Just what does all this promise readers of Haldane's ads? More, it would seem, than it puts on paper--at least the paper its contract is written on.

One Bureau complainant, Lorraine Meyer, of Livermore, California, seeking a middle management position, responded to the company's Wall Street Journal ad. Although she realized their contract was not specific as to the services Haldane would provide, representatives implied even more than the ads stated. "The impression I got was that they could help me position myself and would connect me with companies with whom I could then seek positions appropriate for me. They talked about a data base of job listings and companies they would present to me that were not accessible to the general public."

So Meyer signed a contract with Haldane, paid $1,400 down, and financed $2,200 through Western Acceptance Corporation. She acknowledges that the first several sessions were valuable because she extracted what she wanted to do; Haldane also helped her put together resumes and conducted practice interviews. But after that, she says, it seemed to be a "waste of time. Nothing much happened--I was just going in and reporting what I'd done."

Another Bureau complainant, Sean Smith, of San Bernardino, who went to Haldane because he'd seen an investigative TV program on which they looked favorable, tells of being pressured to sign a contract on the spot. He signed because of the TV program. But he rescinded his contract as soon as he, like Meyer, realized that it said little and that he could do for himself as much as they would do.

Agoura Hills resident Aquila Aswat, originally from Pakistan, and who came to California after living in Canada for about ten years, also saw a Haldane newspaper ad. Working as a temporary computer analyst, she wanted a good, permanent job.

Aswat had several interviews with Haldane's Irvine office before signing a contract and paying them $3,200. "They bragged about me so much--they can put me here, or they can put me there," she says. They also told her they could find her a job because they "had ways of getting them without going through human resources." When she asked how they could do that, they responded, "'we have clients in higher positions who will help us get you a job.'"

Aswat admits that Haldane pointed out to her that they were not an employment agency. But when she asked, "Then how do we get a job?" they answered that there were "different techniques" in acquiring a job, through the use of which Haldane had been successful for 49 years. Although Aswat didn't expect Haldane to find a job for her, she did expect, because of their references to their "clients," that they would arrange interviews for her. She says they showed her letters of recommendation and testimonials that led her to believe they could help her because of the people they worked with. She now complains that "what they told me was completely different from what I got."

Haldane's web page dispels "MYTH 2 - Most people know how to conduct a job hunt" by stating that "Most people job hunt by sending out resumes, the most common - and ineffective - method."

Ineffective as Haldane claims resumes to be, Aswat complains, "I went to them for a year; I kept writing resumes and sending them out." Aside from assigning Aswat to write about herself, helping her prepare resumes, assuring her that her dress, grooming and presentation were fine, she says they gave her addresses of companies she, herself, could have gotten from the Internet or the library. They assured her that once an employer saw her they'd hire her. But she never got an interview.

Disillusioned, in the complaint she filed with the Bureau, Aswat says that, after several months, "I came to the realization that there are no special techniques. All one needs to do is to send resumes out through contacting people we know." As to their "clients" and the help Haldane's clients were supposed to receive from them in acquiring jobs, she says, "This never happened." Another complainant, also working with Haldane's Irvine location, tells of dissatisfaction with the service because, after spending hundreds of dollars to send out hundreds of letters and resumes and to make phone calls, in addition to the more than $4,000 he paid Haldane, he did not obtain one lead. Still another client complains that, for a charge of nearly $4,000, the only service he received was learning how to "brush-up" his resume.

In spite of their claim that the great majority of jobs are not available through sources such as newspaper ads, Kobayashi complains that they would ask her, "What have you done this week?" and that rather than give her lists from the data base they'd told her about, they would ask, "'Have you checked this newspaper or that?'"

That Haldane's contract is vague works to the company's advantage. In spite of the fact that Haldane's clients are often well educated and come from high-paying jobs, do read their contracts and realize that what Haldane is to provide is not specifically stated, they succumb to the verbal promises of the associates. "They promise you the world," says Smith. "You're usually there because you've lost your job or are frustrated with it, and you're already vulnerable."

Indeed, in Meyer's case, she not only didn't get what she feels she paid for, but lost defending the small claims court action Haldane filed to collect the money she still owed. ". . . I had signed a contract that didn't say what services they would provide, so the judge went by the bottom line," she says.

Bernard Haldane and Associates operates in much the same way as a franchise, selling licenses to operate under their name. Many change owners frequently or go out of business. Whoever buys the assets disclaims responsibility for claims against the former licensee. Sometimes a new name ventures into the same business at the same address and generates the same kinds of complaints.

Nevertheless, complaints against some Haldane offices have been religiously answered. Edwin H. Pollock, listed on his stationery as Regional President (which stationery also names San Jose as Regional Headquarters and lists four other locations), has responded in great detail to complaints against the company's offices in San Jose and Sacramento. But, according to the Better Business Bureau in Oakland, these answers almost always claim that the problem lies with the customer, and Pollock's offices have made few refunds.

In 1992 Pollack executed a consent decree on behalf of Career Marketing, Inc.(which does business as Bernard Haldane Associates) and Western Acceptance Corporation (described in the agreement as "a company which derives the majority of its revenues from the collection of fees paid on installment payment agreements executed between WAC and clients of CMI") with the Contra Costa, California, County District Attorney. Although not admitting guilt, under the consent agreement the defendants were permanently enjoined from making representations of having positions available, arranging for interviews, providing contacts, etc., and were ordered to pay $60,000 restitution to a list of clients.

Although there are presently no Bernard Haldane offices operating in the Southland Bureau's service area (even though their web site still shows four), the Oakland Bureau reports that Pollack is obtaining a license to do business as Bernard Haldane Associates in the Los Angeles area. Should that happen, the Bureau urges prospective clients to call before signing a contract.

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#3 0

New York Times

AUTHOR: - ()

POSTED: Sunday, October 06, 2002

January 4, 2002, Friday

Career Management Company Fights Complaints

By KATY McLAUGHLIN (NYT) 1615 words
When Michael Gonzales, an aerospace engineer in Arlington, Tex., lost his job in October 1999, he turned to Bernard Haldane Associates, a business that describes itself as the nation's oldest and largest career-management company, with 93 offices in Britain, Canada and the United States.

Mr. Gonzales said he paid Bernard Haldane, which is based in New York, an upfront fee of $4,815, a decision he says he now regrets. He said Haldane promised to deliver ''hidden market'' job leads, but instead provided a mostly useless ''data dump'' of company information, much of which could have been obtained free on the Internet.

Mr. Gonazales has since found a job on his own, but he is battling for a full refund from Haldane. He is among hundreds of dissatisfied Haldane customers, some paying as much as $20,000, who have complained about the company's practices to 11 state attorneys general, including those in California, New York and Texas. One state, Kansas, is investigating nearly 100 consumer complaints against the company.

In response, Haldane said some complaints were to be expected given its history of serving more than 600,000 customers over 53 years. It also said Mr. Gonzales received what he was promised, and that it never guaranteed career advancement.

''What we do is give our clients tools so they can have a successful job search,'' said Jerold Weinger, Haldane's chairman and chief executive.

Haldane has faced similar complaints in the past. In 1982, after the attorney general in New York accused the firm of making ''false, misleading and deceptive'' statements, Haldane agreed, without admitting guilt, to make refunds to clients. In 1983, California obtained an injunction against the company, preventing it from making misleading statements to potential clients.

And in 1992, the district attorney of Contra Costa County, Calif., reached a settlement with the company under which it agreed, again without admitting wrongdoing, to refund $60,000 to 63 clients.

''They give the impression that the big check leads to the big job,'' said Bill Mitchell, president of the Southern California Better Business Bureau. After receiving many complaints about the company, Mr. Mitchell in 1998 wrote an article in his online newsletter about the complaints.

While headhunters, executive recruiters, employment agencies and outplacement companies earn commissions and fees from employers, retail outplacement concerns like Haldane are paid directly by the client. According to Tom Rodenhauser, an independent consultant for the recruiting industry, the ready availability of job listings and databases on the Internet has eliminated much of the exclusive value that companies like Haldane used to be able to offer clients. Critics argue that Haldane compensates for its outmoded business model by misrepresenting what it can do for clients.

Mr. Weinger said his firm does not promise to make calls or provide contacts, set up interviews, create networks, match clients with recruiters or guarantee job placement for any of its clients. ''It would be ridiculous for us to set up interviews,'' he said. ''That would be another person getting in the way between our client and the prospective employer.''

He said Haldane offered clients guidance in redesigning a rsum and access, via a password, to an Internet service that consolidates job-search engines and databases. It also assigns each client to a career adviser, usually a former executive, he says, though not a ''career counselor,'' a designation that, in most states, requires licensing by the state.

For access to these services for three years, Haldane clients pay from $4,000 to $20,000. Mr. Weinger, the chief executive, said they are charged roughly 10 percent of their most recent salaries.

Pamela Pagliochini, a career counselor whose company Vocatus, based in Manhattan, offers career development and management services at $110 a session, said she considered $20,000 a staggering sum to charge.

''I think upfront fees are unethical,'' Ms. Pagliochini said, ''because if it's not working for you, you should be able to stop.''

Haldane, which has expanded greatly under Mr. Weinger's leadership since 1989, operates by a system of licensing, meaning that various businesses pay royalty fees to Haldane for the use of its name and program.

Mr. Gonzales, the aerospace engineer, said he first learned about the firm in a newspaper advertisement reading ''Job Hunting.'' Such advertisements appear weekly in many national newspapers, including The New York Times. He sent his rsum to the firm, believing it was a recruiter, which called him for an interview. Before meeting with Robert Lewis, a Haldane vice president for client services, Mr. Gonzales gave information about his job history and his savings and other assets.

In his complaint to the Texas attorney general, Mr. Gonzales stated that in two meetings, Mr. Lewis ''described how after years in the business, Haldane amassed a robust and proprietary network of contacts to which I would have access.'' Convinced Haldane would be the conduit to unpublished jobs, Mr. Gonzales paid by check and signed a contract.

People familiar with the firm say those taking legal action against it face high hurdles because clients sign a contract that does not bind Haldane to specific tasks or results. Clients also regularly sign off on a waiver that states they have not been orally promised anything that contradicts the paper contract.

Mr. Gonzales said the promises made to him were mostly oral, a claim echoed by hundreds of other former Haldane customers across the country and in Canada. Asked why he signed the documents, he said, ''I was vulnerable and convinced by the sales pitch. I didn't scrutinize the paperwork.'' Other clients claim they were told to view the wording in the documents as nothing more than legalese from the company's lawyers.

Ian McClure, Haldane's executive vice president, wrote to the Texas attorney general in response to the complaint, ''I am having a difficult time determining where Mr. Gonzales misunderstood our program.'' He stated that the written contract was very clear that Haldane made no guarantees of providing career advancement.

Bernard Haldane Associates was founded in 1947 by Bernard Haldane, revered by many as the father of outplacement. Dr. Haldane, who holds a Ph.D. in management and human resources, sold his interest in the firm in 1974 and now, at age 91, continues to lecture on career-management issues at the University of Washington. He said that while his contact with the company was limited to a meeting perhaps every two years, he thinks it provides a useful service.

''In all the reports I have seen intermittently over the years, everybody says they have gained a great deal from being a client,'' he said.

Disgruntled clients tell a different tale. Teresa King of Indianapolis, for example, said she paid $4,005 to Haldane in March because she was ''promised an inside track and a database of clients they match you up with.'' While she has cut off contact with the firm and posted an account of her experience on a Web site, she says she has not complained directly to the company.

Jay Jungalwala of Hudson, Mass., did. Mr. Jungalwala was looking for a position as an executive vice president and pledged $17,000 in April because, he said, Haldane gave him the impression it had personal relationships with chief executives in his field, which was related to Internet technology. Upon unearthing unfavorable opinions about Haldane, Mr. Jungalwala said, he demanded and received a refund before his contract was fully executed.

Tom Sparber, a former Haldane vice president who worked for a year in a Haldane office in New Jersey owned by B. L. Marketing before leaving last May, said he was encouraged to make vague references to potential clients about a beneficial relationship Haldane had with an outside company called Sterling Hightower. This company, these potential customers were assured, would put their rsums in front of thousands of executive recruiters across the nation. In an interview, Mr. Weinger acknowledged that this supposed third-party firm was in fact owned by the Haldane licensee in Tucson, Ariz., Sarah Hightower-Hill. Ms. Hightower-Hill said the company provides rsums to executive recruiters who request them, but she declined to identify the recruiters or to say how many used her service.

In Kansas, Assistant Attorney General Dave Harder said the highly unusual number of complaints there raised a red flag. His office has tried to mediate by seeking refunds for dissatisfied customers, which he said Haldane had refused to provide.He said he was in the process of taking sworn statements to determine whether Haldane has breached state statutes protecting consumers against deceptive practices.

Asked about the nearly 100 complaints in Kansas, Mr. Weinger, Haldane's chief executive, said he did not believe the number was that high. Positive feedback from clients far outweighs the negative, he said, adding that he was aware of very few unhappy customers.

Haldane provided the phone numbers of three customers, one of whom responded to the request for an interview.

''I am satisfied,'' said Larry Jalowiec of Quakertown, Pa., whose former employer financed the service as part of an outplacement package. ''Haldane helped me by bucking me up whenever my job search got frustrating.''

As for Mr. Gonzales, he found a job on his own by answering a want ad in the newspaper. Haldane has offered him a partial refund in exchange for signing a confidentiality agreement that would prohibit him from telling his story, a settlement he has refused.

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#2 0

The Seattle Times.

AUTHOR: - ()

POSTED: Sunday, October 06, 2002

Job Seekers Should Watch Out for Pricey Career Advice

September 22, 2002 6:41pm

Sep. 22--Paula Simon figures her revamped rsum cost her $1,275. It could have been worse.

Advertisement: Explore Within This Space

The former storeowner from Bothell was on the hook for $4,275, the fee she agreed to pay in advance to a career-management firm last November to help her tap the vast "hidden job market."

Ten months and several frustrated phone calls to the firm later, the blunt-talking Simon is still jobless. But she got most of her money back, she says, and she's regained her senses.

"I'm 63 years old. I know that you don't pay up front for a job."

Simon's not the only smart person to be seduced by career services that promise an inside track on unadvertised jobs, which account for more than 70 percent of all openings. State attorneys general offices and consumer Web sites are burning with complaints from dissatisfied clients who say these firms took their money and offered little in return.

The firm Simon dealt with says it has taken steps to prevent a repeat of what she went through.

But as the recession lingers, job seekers may be tempted to plunk down thousands of dollars in advance on career experts in hopes of getting an edge on the competition. A word of caution: You don't always get what you pay for.

Unlike corporate recruiters or outplacement firms, whose fees are paid by employers, these "retail" firms charge the person looking for work.

They're often called career managers, marketers or, more broadly, career counselors, and they offer advice on career direction, interviewing, rsum polishing and networking.

Most career counselors are legitimate, charging $40 to $120 an hour for long-range career planning along with some practical job-hunting advice. They make it clear that they don't find their clients jobs.

The firms drawing complaints, however, are those that require huge up-front payments, ranging from $2,000 to as high as $15,000. Although these, too, say they're not placement agencies, their salespeople often imply they've got the connections to help job hunters reach the right people.

Consumer complaints

Simon had posted her rsum on Monster.com, an Internet job site, when she got a call from Bernard Haldane Associates, one of the country's oldest and largest career-management firms, with offices in the Puget Sound area.

She had sold her Kirkland clothing store, Sassy Elegance, in 2000, but she wanted to get back into the apparel business as a buyer. With the apparel business slumping, however, work was hard to find.

"They did a real good sales job," she said. "They had people to contact. They could help me find the job that was hidden and create a better rsum than I already had."

After signing a contract for $4,275 she met with a career adviser in the Bellevue office. She said he had her list her achievements, examine her skills, print out job ads from the newspaper and Internet. He told her to enlist a friend to write about her strengths and weaknesses. He polished her rsum. He coached her on interviewing style.

What he didn't do, she said, was hook her up with the people actually hiring, the one thing that Simon felt would justify the four-figure fee.

"When I really got the idea that they weren't working for me was when they told me I should contact anybody I knew in the apparel business. I said I could do that on my own!"

By August of this year Simon wasn't any closer to finding a job as an apparel rep, but she did get from the firm a CD-ROM listing contact information for employment agencies.

"Whoop-de-do. I could have done that on the Internet."

After haggling with the company, she settled for a partial refund of $3,000.

"I will say I do have a decent rsum now."

The Seattle-area offices of Bernard Haldane Associates are now under new ownership.

Kirk Leipzig bought the licenses for Bellevue and Tacoma (now Federal Way) offices in July.

Leipzig, who also runs offices in Iowa and Arkansas, wouldn't comment on the complaints against the former management. But he did say he's made some staff changes and that he plans to improve service.

"You go above and beyond what anybody expects and you'll be very successful. Don't focus on the bottom line, focus on the client," he said.

Bernard Haldane Associates has more than 90 licensed offices in North America and the United Kingdom. It isn't the only career-services firm to draw consumer complaints, but it is one of the most high-profile.

Ripoffreport.com, a grass-roots consumer Web site that allows people to anonymously vent about everything from deadbeat parents to bad boyfriends, has more than 200 postings on the firm, mostly from people who claim to be angry former customers.

Another consumer-oriented site, Cageyconsumer.com, based in Palo Alto, Calif., has a special section called Bernard Haldane Watch.

The Washington Attorney General's Office has logged nine complaints against the local offices since 1996. Other states also have received complaints about the firm. In Kansas, the Attorney General's Office spent two years investigating claims from more than 100 clients who said the firm deceived them.

On Sept. 13, the Kansas licensee who dealt with the clients agreed to refund $300,000 to them, although it didn't admit to any wrongdoing.

The Kansas attorney general said the firm had falsely claimed to have access to the hidden job market, that it advertised job openings that didn't exist, and that it called people for "job interviews," which turned out to be sales pitches.

Bernard Haldane corporate spokeswoman Liz Vogel in New York said the complaints and Internet postings have prompted the company to revise some of its policies.

"We're aware that there are complaints," she said. "And we've made some dramatic changes to address them."

The company now requires licensees to respond to complaints within 24 hours and to resolve disputes within three weeks. It has also added a "client-care hotline" that links directly to the New York headquarters, and has hired a director of quality control.

She added that Bernard Haldane serves about 20,000 clients a year, most of whom are satisfied, and that any business that deals with so many people is bound to have some unhappy customers.

Counseling, not placement

Although Bernard Haldane Associates' contracts specify it's not a job-placement service, that's not clear to some of its clients.

Derrick Johnson of Issaquah thought he was hiring essentially an employment agent when he signed up with the Bellevue office in March.

In a complaint filed with the Washington Attorney General's Office, Johnson said he learned about Bernard Haldane when he got a call from a woman in the Bellevue office who said someone had passed along Johnson's rsum and that the firm could help him reach the right people.

Johnson said he was first quoted a fee of $3,000, but when he showed up for his first appointment the price was bumped to $4,500.

"I asked him (the sales consultant) a direct question: Would they be able to get me a job in my field?" Johnson wrote. "His answer was ''Yes.' "

With that assurance he put $1,500 down and signed a contract. After meeting with a counselor eight times in 25-minute sessions -- much shorter than the hour and a half he'd been promised -- Johnson decided to ask for his money back, according to the complaint.

Although he said his phone calls to the firm went unanswered, Johnson received a full refund after filing his complaint.

Despite the complaints and its efforts to improve, Bernard Haldane Associates isn't abandoning its up-front fees or its claims of vast industry contacts.

Leipzig, the Seattle-area licensee, defends both practices.

The actual Bernard Haldane, a revered career-development pioneer who founded the company in 1947, required advance payment.

"His philosophy is if you don't pay somebody they're obviously not going to work too hard for you," Leipzig said.

Haldane, who died in Seattle in July at age 91, sold his business in 1974.

Leipzig said many counselors do have contacts in the right places, plus they have access to databases with detailed information on prospective employers.

"If you do exactly as you're instructed, you will get leads, you'll get offers and you'll get a job."

Other career counselors, however, disagree with any firm that isn't a placement agency making such claims.

"They are deceiving the job seeker if they say they can help you get a job by hooking you up with the right people," said Bill Gregory, president of the Puget Sound Career Development Association, a 100-member trade group. "They don't know any more people than you do."

Employment agencies, which are regulated in most states, do match job seekers with employers to fill specific positions.

Counselors promise only to help their clients direct their careers and to become better job seekers. They're not required to be licensed in Washington, although they may be certified through the National Career Development Association or other trade organizations.

"I've gotten to know a lot of people in the 23 years I've been doing this work," said Tom Washington, a respected local career counselor and author of five books, including "The Hunt: Complete Guide to Effective Job Finding."

"I will introduce my clients to them, but I don't advertise that as the reason they should work with me. I don't think it's an appropriate promise."

His Bellevue-based firm, Career Management Resources, charges $75 to $125 an hour for advice on interviewing, rsum-writing and networking.

"I like the concept of coaching," Washington said. "The coach is on the sidelines. We're observing them, helping them do the right things, but they're doing 99.9 percent of the work."

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Attorney General announcement on Bernard Haldane

AUTHOR: - ()

POSTED: Sunday, October 06, 2002


Attorney General Carla J. Stovall announced today that an agreement has been reached between her office and two companies doing business as Bernard Haldane Associates which she alleges engaged in deceptive business practices. The agreement, in the form of a consent judgment, was filed September 13, 2002, in Johnson County District Court.

Defendants in the case are DRB, Ltd., d/b/a Bernard Haldane Associates in New York, New York, and Reed Freeman Management Group, Inc., which runs Bernard Haldane Associates franchise offices in Overland Park and Wichita, Kansas.

"In today's tight job market, it is understandable that so many people are using the services of career counselors," Attorney General Stovall said. "Adding to the stress of finding employment, these job seekers were unfairly taken advantage of due to the false representations made by these Bernard Haldane companies."

Attorney General Stovall alleges that the companies engaged in numerous deceptive acts and practices when providing career counseling services to their clients, in violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. She alleges that they "willfully used exaggeration, falsehood, innuendo or ambiguity as to a material fact" in the following ways:

representing that they could bypass the normal human resources and personnel departments of employers when they could not;
claiming that their services were tax deductible when, in some cases, they were not;
representing that they had access to the "hidden job market" which they did not;
posting solicitations disguised as job openings in newspapers to recruit clients;
gathering prospective clients' resumes from the internet and contacting those individuals for a "job interview" which was in fact a sales presentation; and
charging clients for the production of a videotape of the clients when that service was not provided.
The companies deny the allegations.

As per the consent judgment, the companies agree to pay up to $300,000 in restitution, plus $100,000 in penalties and fees. Any consumer who paid for services provided by Bernard Haldane Associates offices in Overland Park or Wichita, and who alleges the same violations outlined in the consent judgment, may be eligible for a refund. Eligible consumers may file a complaint and make a refund request with Attorney General Stovall's Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-800-432-2310. The deadline to file a complaint and make a refund request is Monday, October 28, 2002. Any refund request made after that date will not be eligible under the consent judgment.

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