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 user 2009-12-21 at 10:40:07 am Views: 45
  • #23067


    Complaints continue to mount against SVT.
    In an alleged scam that appears to be picking up steam,
    Columbia office-supply wholesaler SVT Inc. is piling up complaints from
    unhappy consumers from coast to coast.
    The large number of complaints
    last month prompted the Better Business Bureau to issue a rare second
    warning about the company encouraging office managers to hang up the
    phone when called by the retailer.The Missouri attorney general’s office
    also said yesterday that it is “looking into” SVT’s business practices.

    identified in March as possible scammers, the company that operates
    from a warehouse off Route E in northwest Columbia does not appear to
    have deviated from sales tactics the BBB has called “seriously
    misleading and completely unethical.”

    According to multiple
    accounts, SVT begins its sales with a “cold call” to a purchasing agent
    at a business it has previously scouted through online research. In the
    phone call, the SVT marketer typically acts familiar with the agent,
    claiming to have spoken to the company’s CFO or even to be a personal
    friend of the CFO.

    Claiming that the company CFO has
    green-lighted the sale of supplies and further claiming that SVT is
    going out of business or moving out of state, the telemarketer quotes
    bargain-basement prices for items such as pens, notepads or
    highlighters.Sometimes the purchasing agent agrees to a small purchase,
    and sometimes he or she refuses. But either way, according to
    complaints, SVT sends large quantities of supplies at inflated prices.
    Faced with large boxes of goods and invoices for thousands of dollars,
    the purchasing agent typically attempts to contact SVT and finds only a
    voice-mail message.

    Most businesses have refused to pay for the
    unwanted, overpriced goods, but the BBB fears that SVT cashes in when,
    at a large business, the office-supply order simply gets lost in the
    bureaucratic shuffle and is paid for by an unknowing worker in the
    accounting office.“We don’t know how many people it runs through and
    they just accept it,” said Bill Smith, a trade practice investigator for
    the BBB. “Part of the problem is, in these small companies, someone can
    just walk across the hall and say, ‘I’ve got all this stuff, I
    understand that you ordered it,’ and someone else can say, ‘Nope.’ For
    bigger companies, it’s probably people just take their word for it.”

    said the BBB received 17 complaints from businesses last month about
    SVT — the highest number to date — and has received a total of 99
    complaints about the company this year. The attorney general’s office
    has recorded 19 complaints about SVT.“It almost seems like it’s becoming
    more and more blatant,” Smith said.

    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 of
    Jefferson City received a Columbia business license in August 2008.

    Costello, a human resources administrator for Michigan-based
    Plast-O-Foam LLC, received a call from an SVT representative in November
    claiming to have already spoken with one of her co-workers. Costello
    purchased small amounts of goods such as pens from SVT after hearing it
    was closing its offices in Michigan and moving to Missouri. She was
    quoted attractive prices, including 39 cents for a dozen pens.The order,
    which came in three boxes weighing about 50 pounds each, ended up being
    39 cents per pen, and the total invoice was a whopping $1,509.

    is seeking to return the unwanted items.
    “The most I’ve ever spent
    on office supplies was $600, and that was when I ordered a whole bunch
    of ink cartridges,” said Costello, who estimated the price of the
    supplies from SVT was roughly four times what she pays elsewhere. “This
    is way, way out of line.”