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 user 2009-06-09 at 10:22:15 am Views: 21
  • #22302
    Office supply scam complaints continue to mount
    Columbia office supply business accused of scamming or misleading
    customers from coast to coast appears to be operating with impunity,
    according to the Better Business Bureau.
    In fact, according to
    complaint reports, SVT Inc. has actually accelerated its
    activity.“They’re just thumbing their nose at authorities, consumer
    groups and, most of all, consumers,” said Bill Smith, an investigator
    with the St. Louis-based BBB. “They’re basically saying, ‘We’re going
    to do whatever we want, and it doesn’t matter what you think.’… It’s a
    crying shame.”The BBB first issued a warning March 26 about the
    company, which operates out of a warehouse off of Route E in northwest
    Columbia. Customers had complained that SVT telemarketers were calling
    with pitches that included deception. Typically, the complaints said,
    an SVT telemarketer would call a company purchasing agent, claiming to
    have already spoken to the company’s chief financial officer who, the
    caller claimed, green-lighted the purchase of office supplies at a
    discount. “We’re moving our business and need to unload inventory,” was
    the typical sales claim.

    The purchasing agent would agree to buy
    a small quantity of office supplies at half off or more. But the buyer
    was typically surprised later when large quantities of supplies were
    delivered, with an invoice in the thousands of dollars.Since reports
    from the BBB and the Tribune were published in March, SVT does not
    appear to have changed its tactics. The BBB has received 17 complaints
    from customers since March 28, including seven in May, bringing the
    total to 31.“They just seem to be flaunting what they’re doing — their
    bad business practices,” Smith said. “And they don’t seem to care. This
    is what’s making them money, and they’re going to keep on doing it.”SVT
    is linked to other mail-order office supply companies that previously
    operated in Dardanelle, Ark., and Fort Mohave, Ariz. Both have
    generated similar consumer complaints, according to the BBB. SVT owner
    Michael O’Keefe, 34, of Jefferson City received a Columbia business
    license in August.

    At the SVT warehouse this morning, men were
    taping up boxes of supplies including pens and paper clips. They
    claimed to know nothing about the controversy and deferred questions to
    O’Keefe. Attempts to reach O’Keefe on office, home and cell phones were
    unsuccessful.All but three of the complaints against SVT have been
    resolved, according to BBB records. Often this occurs by allowing the
    unsatisfied customer to return supplies free of charge. Investigators
    believe that SVT hopes invoices for the unwanted supplies will simply
    be overlooked and paid by the accounting division of a company.Brenda
    Hirsch, a buyer for an air-monitoring corporation in Santa Rosa,
    Calif., is one of the latest to file a complaint. This month, Hirsch
    said, an SVT representative called and mentioned her CFO’s name.

    said she agreed to buy nine boxes of Sharpies and highlighters at $1.49
    per box, plus Post-It notes and other supplies. Hirsch expected the
    total to be less than $200 and was astounded when four huge boxes
    arrived with an invoice of $3,280. She had been charged $1.49 per
    pen.“I was shocked and pissed, to say the least,” she said. Hirsch
    refused to pay and is awaiting a label to ship the goods back. “It
    makes me not trust anybody,” she said.

    Others complainants have
    reported badgering sales tactics and promises of deal-sweeteners such
    as free cameras.“It was just kind of shady,” said Stefanie Romagni, a
    contract administrator with a landscaping company in Ohio. Romagni said
    she was pressured into buying supplies by an SVT representative she
    thought was a relative of her CFO. She canceled after reading about SVT
    and confirming that the salesperson didn’t know her CFO.The Missouri
    attorney general’s office has reported five complaints about SVT.