FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Michelle L. Corey, 314-645-3300
Bill Smith, 314-645-3300
St. Louis Area Company Tells Millions:
“Mail Brochures! Easy Work! Great Pay!”
But Program Isn’t What It Seems, Customers Say
St. Louis, Mo., February 13, 2009 - A Maryland Heights company that advertises a “legitimate opportunity to earn extra income from the comfort of your home” is the target of tough criticism from consumers who say they feel misled by company promises, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
The company, American Publications, is owned by Dean Murray Spasser, 50, of West St. Louis County, whose office address is a mailbox at a United Parcel Service store on Dorsett Road in Maryland Heights. Spasser and American Publications advertise in such national magazines as Better Homes and Gardens, Parents and Parenting.
The BBB has received 52 complaints from consumers over the past 36 months. Several claim they paid about $30 each for materials that either were never received or which did not live up to the firm’s marketing promises.
“Unfortunately, work from home companies often do not deliver what they advertise,” said Michelle L. Corey, president and CEO of the BBB. “They can be money makers, but many times only for the people who run them. We are living in difficult economic times and often it’s the homebound poor and disabled who are most desperate to seize on any chance to earn a dollar and then end up disappointed.”
The American Publications program enlists customers to help Spasser sell copies of a booklet called “The American Homeworkers Guide Book.” The 46-page booklet lists information on about 100 businesses that Spasser says are hiring home workers. The list includes several so-called “mystery shopper” and “product assembly” home-based businesses that themselves have come under criticism from consumers. It also lists such well-known work at home companies as Amway, Pampered Chef, Shaklee and Tupperware. Similar lists are available at no charge on the internet.
A man from Mobile, Ala. who said he is unemployed and found a classified ad for American Publications in Entrepreneur magazine told the BBB that he sent the company $32 last month (January). He said the ad led him to believe that he would be paid for stuffing envelopes supplied by the company. When he learned instead that he was being asked to help sell the work at home booklet, he said he decided to opt out of the program. “I’m hurt, disappointed . . ,” he told the BBB. “That money could have gone to buy a pair of shoes for one of my kids.”
A man from Huntington Park, Calif. said he made a $29 payment to American Publications in May 2008 and still has not received anything from the company. “It’s frustrating,” said the man, who added that he has written and phoned American Publications several times asking for the materials. He said he wishes he had given the $29 to “a church or somebody who could have gotten some use out of it.”
A woman from Mission, Tex. said she paid for an American Publications packet after seeing the company’s Web site. She said she returned it for a promised guaranteed “immediate refund” four months ago, but has not received the money.
In an e-mail responding to a BBB inquiry about complaints and the value of the guide book, Spasser said the company is streamlining its customer service response procedures “so we will be able to respond to customer questions and requests for refunds and other requests more quickly.” He also said the guide book has been updated and expanded to better help customers. Spasser said too that some of those complaining about his company might be confusing it with a Connecticut company with a similar name, but persons interviewed for this release all confirmed that they had dealt with the St. Louis company.
The package sent by American Publications in return for the $30 payment says that those involved in the program can make $5 for each person they can interest in responding to a flyer that announces: “Attention Homeworkers!! Valuable Home Work and Business Opportunities! No experience needed! Great Pay!”
The flyers ask that interested persons mail $5 for information. The middle man keeps the cash and then mails the names and addresses of those who respond to American Publications. The company uses that information to attempt to sell its work at home booklet, its program materials say.
An ad for American Publications in the December issue of Better Homes and Gardens, under the heading “Business Opportunities,” says:
“MAIL ENVELOPES AT HOME! Pay weekly! Free Supplies! Bonuses! Genuine! Helping Homeworkers since 1992.” It then lists a toll free number and the Web site for American Publications. The magazine has a circulation of more than 7 million.
A recent classified ad in Parents magazine, with a circulation of more than 2 million, says:
“MAIL BROCHURES! Easy Work! Great Pay! Reputable Company.”
On its Web site, American Publications calls its program “easily the most genuinely successful of its kind today.” The site says the program has helped “countless successful home mailers over the years.”
Spasser also sells mailing lists, with the names and addresses of people who have paid for his program, to other businesses.
The BBB, U. S. Federal Trade Commission and U. S. Postal Service all have issued warnings against work-at-home programs.
The following suggestions may be helpful in looking into a work-at-home firm:
Check out the company with your local consumer protection agency, attorney general and the BBB. In St. Louis, contact the BBB at (314) 645-3300 or at www.stlouisbbb.org.
There is no substitute for carefully examining any offer which promises income from a work-at-home job. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. Be especially wary of promises of lucrative pay for little or no experience.
Consider it a warning sign if you are asked to send money up front before receiving detailed information on how the program operates. A legitimate company will provide such information at no charge.
Never give your credit card of checking account information to anyone that promises employment.