The BBB Serving Western VA has received information from a local business targeted by a questionable advertising sales group called API, or Advantage Promotions, Inc., based in Charlotte, N.C. Area businesses are being contacted by a company representative offering to sell advertising space on local high school posters, calendars or magnetized team schedules.
In the sales pitch, the company claims that the school’s athletic department, booster club or administration has given them the business’s name in order to solicit their support. Although the company implies that they have an agreement with the school to solicit such support, the local business that was contacted was given incorrect information regarding the name of a local section of Roanoke and the wrong name of the school athletic director. Fortunately, those were all the red flags the business needed and did not place advertising. The company is using the names of area high schools in their advertising pitches without the authorization of the schools. This company (along with dozens of similar businesses across the country) has made a lucrative business out of targeting small merchants eager to support their local schools and teams.
In the past, the BBB has seen this type of offer produce complaints regarding misrepresentation of the offer, failure to produce advertising, and unauthorized bills for advertising. BBB warns businesses to beware of phone calls and/or invoices in the mail from this company or others.
“Business owners who want to show their support for local schools or sports teams can easily be taken advantage of by this type of offer,” said Julie Wheeler, BBB president. “The BBB advises businesses who are approached for any advertising offer tied to a local school or team to check out the offer with the school before proceeding.” All too often, there’s no formal agreement with the school and no guarantee the advertising items will be distributed.
Before purchasing advertising from a company you are unfamiliar with, ask yourself:
What is the total cost of the ad? What will it look like & can you proof it before its distributed?
- How many items will be produced, and how will you know the items will be distributed?
- Where is the company located and are they able to distribute the items in your local market?
- Who will benefit from your advertising and what portion of the proceeds go to the school?
If the answers you get are not satisfactory, talk to the school and find out if there are other ways you can support their activities, such as a direct donation to a local PTA, booster club or foundation.
If you have received a fraudulent advertising invoice or phone call, or if you have sent money to pay for an advertisement which you now realize is a scam, you may wish to file a complaint with the BBB. Remember to check with the BBB before agreeing to this type of offer, or any offer from a company with which you are unfamiliar.
– Submitted by Angie Adams