This writer first heard of Midwest Direct–now known as American Direct after a change in ownership–when my shoulder was injured for an extended period of time after working in health care for many years. Since nurses often get burned out and I was off anyway, I saw a newspaper job posting that sought marketing help at up to $15.00 an hour, so I decided to check out the position.
Midwest Direct had just opened a branch in my town and was working with a skeleton staff. The company’s owner explained the available position would consist of reading a small script over the telephone to potential customers and getting peoples’ names and addresses, so the company could invite the people to come to see their new. local store. It seemed easy enough; I wouldn’t be selling anything, and the script looked relatively harmless. I was just telling people about the store’s being new to their area and asking them if they wished to receive in the mail an invitation to our store along with a key for a chance to win a new car. Interested people would then receive via mail their invitation to the store and their chance to win a new car, too. The script directed me to ask the party on the telephone if it would be all right to mail said items. The company’s script instructed me to obtain the party’s name and address quickly. At first everything seemed legitimate; however, I soon learned the whole business and how it really worked.
Being an individual eager to succeed, I was interested in learning all I could about the company and its owner. I learned about my position and the company’s methods of operation. Midwest Direct–now known as American Direct–was sending people the invitations to the store. After approximately three (3) days, the people would be contacted again and asked whether they received their aforementioned invitation. Further, the people were asked to set up a time to come into the business and try their key for a shot at winning the car. The company instructed their appointment setters to press the people to come by assuring them they would receive a gift regardless of whether they won the car. This free gift was guaranteed to the people simply for coming in and letting American Direct show them the new store. This extremely high-pressure sales pitch consisted of frequent calls to push people into making an appointment to try their key for a chance at winning a car, which got the people to come into the store.
Naively, I still believed the pitch was relatively harmless since people did get some sort of free gift and they still got to choose whether they came in. I felt the customer’s free will was intact. Midwest (now American Direct) was just a telemarketing business doing their own marketing from the Commonwealth of Kentucky for their new store in the State of Ohio. However, I soon learned that neither the company nor its telemarketing was not completely upfront about everything–with not only the parties being contacted by phone but also with the employees working in Kentucky. Unfortunately, since I had quit my nursing position for some much-needed time away from nursing, this job was my only source of income, and I ultimately expected this job’s better hours would be much easier on my family. Walking away from the position was not an option for this single mother. I knew eventually I would go back to nursing; further, I reasoned this type of high pressure and dishonesty exists in almost every telemarketing business situation anyway.
My dire need for money to provide for my family kept me in the position and working for the company. I moved up in the company as positions came open partially because I was really good at getting people into the store. First, I was quite personable, probably a trait from nursing, and secondly, I was learned and came across as honest and trustworthy on the phone. People seemed to take to my voice and personality. I quickly moved up through write-ups–where the telemarketer gets parties’ names and addresses–and eventually moved through the appointment-setting department and into management. Appointment-setting was definitely my forte because people would listen to me tell them all they had to do was come in, see the store, and at the very least receive a free vacation.
By the time I became a manager, I was extremely knowledgeable about all tactics used, including shady business practices; it was hard not to be critical; however, one doesn’t just walk away from a job because one dislikes it–especially if that someone is a single mother without another job lined up.
As time passed, American Direct had grown extensively, and as a manager, I along with a few other management personnel oversaw a very lucrative, approximately 50+-employee Kentucky telemarketing business. Then there was the Ohio store, which moved around the state after drying up the market in each local area. This business was improving its skills and growing at exponential rates. However, as I said before, both customers and employees were oblivious to the real nature of the business.
The odds of receiving American Direct’s key and gifts ended being smaller than the odds of winning the lottery since rarely did anyone actually win any real gift; most of the time this was based not so much on luck but rather that periodically the business had to have a winner to look totally upfront. The main gift given out to everyone attending the store sales presentation was the free vacation. However, the free vacation was a brochure with a number a customer could call and, if lucky enough, could use, yet it was not totally upfront. Either it was an accommodations stay voucher for a time-share sales pitch from a vacation area. I unsure how it all played out for the customer, but sitting through another high pressure sales pitch would not be my idea of a free vacation. Furthermore, these vacation brochures were already available to the public without coming to our store; all anyone has to do is look on the Internet to find plenty of them.
The main point of the Kentucky store, however, was to get the customers into the Ohio store front, and once they were there, another total division of the marketing, which most people were totally unaware of, revealed itself. From a waiting area customers would be taken back to another area in groups and given a sales pitch on how stores do retail mark ups and how by joining American Direct, they could get merchandise at wholesale prices. This sales pitch given was only good for the immediate time period. The company alleged this was a chance of a lifetime to get this type of offer, and after all parties could save big by not paying retail prices like most other people do when they go to regular, big-name stores. The only thing customers had to do was sign up as a member of the American Direct Buying Club, once known as Midwest Direct, and they could then buy a supposedly vast quantity of merchandise completely wholesale straight from American Direct.
Most people coming to the store expected a store and merchandise galore; however, in truth, there was a showroom and some items, but the whole idea was customers would be buying from the companies through a supposedly large array of wholesale merchandise catalogs. Once customers had paid, items would then be delivered to be picked up by the customer, much like the old, retail catalog stores of yesterday. This buying club would allow the customer to save large amounts of money over a period of time on their purchases.
The only drawback was paying for their upfront membership to American Direct that they could either pay at once or in installment plans. This amount was to most people,quite large; move over, after signing the contract, it could only be canceled for just a few days, or the customer was bound to the contract’s agreement to pay. For most people it was quite breathtaking to have only this limited time frame to make these decisions; it seemed to make sense to most people, for everyone enjoys saving money.
The major discrepancy with American Direct, Midwest Direct, or most any buying club is how much will one have to buy to get one’s money’s worth. Speaking for myself, I haven’t needed to purchase more than just one stove, refrigerator, etc. Over time it would take someone needing to refurnish their home completely to get their money’s worth from buying into the club. Further, it was my experience with American and Midwest Direct that they could never get all I was looking for in purchases, so then I, as a customer, had to make an alternate choice from the original item that I was shopping for, or the customer would have to purchase that item elsewhere if it was unavailable.
While I no longer work for American Direct and have been back nursing for quite some time, my impression of American or Midwest Direct is that perhaps some legitimate buying clubs may deliver, but most buying clubs–especially ones that fall into this category–are a complete waste of time and money and should be researched thoroughly. After reading the Internet and Better Business Bureau’s warnings and information on buying clubs in general, most would have to admit that it’s buyer beware; if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Parties buying into the club will likely never be satisfied with their membership.
I remember thinking the prospect of a buying club where someone could purchase merchandise wholesale versus retail was a great idea; everyone knows retail prices are marked up, so the store can make a profit. Buying into a club in the hopes of being able to use the membership is not a bargain after all, One must read the fine print on the contract and see all the catalogs before signing or one may be quite disappointed with what merchandise is truly available.
References for this article include: www.crimes-of-persuasion.com, Better Business Bureau, Merchant Circle , You Tube and Ryananddebi.com