A multi-level marketing scam based out of North Hollywood, California. Formerly known as "High Tech Safety," they do in fact produce legitimate products, which is why they remain in legal business. Their product line includes smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and liquid flame retardant.
Unfortunately, the Better Business Bureau of Southland California believes that this company makes far more money through pyramid scheme-like marketing, where large numbers of people are "hired" and must pay relatively high "application fees." 90% of these people drop out, but the company profits from them either way. Essentially, it works like this:
A "branch manager" puts an ad in the newspaper stating "Office Managers, No Experience Necessary, We Train. $1000/wk, call XXX-YYY-ZZZZ." Sometimes the ads mention the name of the company, but due to their notoriety, most only provide this vague information. Upon calling the phone number, you will be asked to come in for a "job interview," which begins with a 5 minute video explaining the ravages of house fires, and then a 5 minute demonstration in which the "branch manager" sets fire to a strip of paper that has been half-soaked in flame retardant. You must fill out an application, which resembles a job application, yet is loaded with cheesy questions like "Would you put yourself on a list of your ten favorite people?"
After this, you are to be "interviewed," which consists of questions like "are you a people person?" "Have you ever wanted to own your own business?" Even if you give completely bad answers, like "I've had no desire to run a business," you will be "hired," at which point you must cough up $60 for a background check, and "processing fees" for registering me into their computer system. I went through this experience, and would like to say that I promptly stood up and left, yet even after being suckered into a Medical Billing scheme only a year ago, I was in denial and really thought it was a legitimate job, until I "came down" at home and began asking myself why she didn't have a computer in her "office." They tactically arrange for the interview to be within the next two hours or so, giving one no time to thoroughly research them before paying up. At least I had no time, as I had to borrow a suit and get my resume printed out...which they never asked for. Upon getting "hired," I was scheduled to come in for "training" about a week later, and told to "dress professionally," bring school supplies, and bring another $95 as a "deposit" for "training supplies." This seemed suspicious, but I remained in denial until I could positively prove that this was a scam. Had I paid the $95, I would've been $155 in the hole, with nothing to show for it except a plastic case containing the same "demonstration" equipment that the manager showed to me. It's not a managerial position at all -- it's network sales, and one must hawk at least $2000 worth of their equipment (to family and friends, and door to door) before ever being paid on a regular basis.
Looking back, it was insanely dumb to give them $60, but it seemed so normal at the time, and I was so naively hopeful...The office was sketchy in some ways, yet had a professional appearance. A portfolio full of newspaper clippings about firey deaths served to prop up the "moral" role of the company. A year ago, I went to a job interview for a help desk position for a school district. They informed me that upon hiring I'd have to pay $50, but I was never hired. Somehow this experience made it seem "normal" to have to pay to get "registered into the computer," as absurd as it sounds. Luckily, I immediately investigated them, first searching for "Priority One Safety" on AltaVista(tm) and Yahoo!(tm). I found nothing. Not a single shred of evidence as to their existence. I looked for "smoke detectors," "flame retardant," "fire extinguishers", anything that could possibly cross reference to them. Then I decide to check out the Better Business Bureau website, specifically the Colorado one.
Strangely, it had very little information. An address was listed, but it was not the same address I went to. It had the same phone number, and the same name. The business type was "Not categorized," and they had no record whatsoever of positive or negative business standing. Then I decided to check out the Better Business Bureau in California. Their main office is in in Hollywood, and upon looking them up I saw everything I needed to see:
We rate this company as having an unsatisfactory business performance record. The company is running continuous advertisements for management trainees, no experience necessary, with earning claims of $4000 a month. To obtain a position with the company, applicants must pay a $60.00 registration fee and another $95.00 for a sales kit. Complaintants allege the company misrepresented the offer. One complainant (sic) alleges that before receiving management training, applicants are required to meet a sales quota of $2000 which was not previously disclosed.qthe company did not earlier disclose. (sic again, they need an editor...) The company responded to one complaint by explaining they had no obligation to offer a refund and fulfilled their end of the contract...We believe that this company's true business is collecting application fees and fees for sales training kits. Also, office managers are actual owners of the business and not employees of the company. The Better Business Bureau does not endorse, recommend or disapprove of any company, product or service.
There I had it. It was a hoax; a sham. I instantly wanted to do something about it. Here in Colorado, we have "troubleshooter" Tom Martino, a consumer advocate with a radio show, a web site, and a gig on the local FOX news affiliate. I frantically looked up his hotline, and left two rambling messages in an attempt to detail everything. Then I decided to check out his web site, where I discovered that he had already pointed these guys out several times before, and that they had recently changed their name from "High Tech Safety" to "Priority One Safety."
Searching for "High Tech Safety" yielded many negative articles, including one by the Las Vegas Weekly that pretty much crucifies them entirely. (See http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/features/networkmktg.html)
The other good URLs I came up with are:
These guys suck bad. This Saturday, a bunch of suckers will show up there to pay their $95. I am seriously considering printing out an "information packet" (with many copies to spare) and maybe even making a couple of signs in order to picket them and help these poor souls before it's too late. From what I've read, many people have been suckered in, but unfortunately most of them are too embarassed to come out. There have got to be others out there, perhaps we could all network together and protest them nationwide...So what are the rules on picketing, anyway? I can stand on the sidewalk where the cars come in to park, right? Of course I plan on bringing many people, as the "receptionist" looked more like a security guard...