Posted on November 8, 2011 at 12:14 PM
Wednesday, Nov 9 at 4:25 AM
(KMOV.com) -- The Better Business Bureau is encouraging St. Louis businesses to be on high alert if they receive phone calls from the Texas-based sports marketing company selling advertising on school t-shirts.
A restaurant owner in University City said someone from Victory Sports out of Irving, Texas, called him in October and asked if he would be interested in buying an ad to be imprinted on, what the company called, "spirit" t-shirts for area schools.
According to the restaurant owner, the Victory Sports salesperson told him the company had an agreement with Normandy High School to print the shirts for the school. Normandy High School's athletic director said no such agreement was arranged. Officials with the BBB said at least three other businesses in the University City Loop area have been contacted by Victory Sports.
The Better Business Bureau gives Victory Sports an "F" grade. In 2010, the Dallas, Texas BBB issued a news warning, alerting small businesses to watch out for telemarketing calls from Victory Sports and another related company named IMG Integrated. IMG Integrated also holds an "F" grade from the BBB.
The BBB said they have received numerous complaints from small businesses nationwide, alleging the companies used misleading sales and tactics, supplied poor quality products and delivered products late or not at all. Complaints also alleged that representatives of Victory Sports said that the company had agreements with schools to print shirts and other items when it did not.
Victory Sports sent the BBB a copy of what appeared to be a two-year agreement with the former athletic director of Normandy High School to provide t-shirts, concession cups and seat cushions free of charge to the school. BBB representatives said that agreement expired in June, 2011.
Such solicitations are not unusual. Last week, Mike Williams, principal of School of the Osage High School in Osage Beach, Missouri, said a businessman in that area was recently solicited by another Texas business to purchase advertising on a rally towel. The salesperson for that business implied the company had a relationship with the school when it did not, Williams said.
Last year, St. Louis area prosecutors warned local businesses to avoid yet another Texas marketing company, Jam Sports Marketing of Austin, Texas. That company allegedly took nearly $300 each from at least nine south St. Louis businesses. The companies were to have their ad appear on 1,000 t-shirts to be distributed to students at Webster University. According to university officials, Jam Sports had no authorization and the university had made no agreement to have t-shirts printed. University officials said they did receive about 200 unsolicited, poor quality shirts from the company, which were never distributed.
The BBB offers the following tips for businesses solicited to buy advertising space:
• Deal only with reputable companies with good track records. Unethical businesses have been known to collect money for ads that never appear or which see only limited distribution.
• Get any advertising contract in writing and make sure you understand it before signing the agreement.
• Withhold a portion of the payment until you are satisfied that the ad seller has met his or her obligations.
Contact the BBB for Business Reviews at www.bbb.org or 314-645-3300.