July 30, 2019 06:10 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- The complaints are piling up against a local consulting group that small businesses say isn't delivering on promised and paid-for help.
News10NBC first told you about Clever Consulting Group back in May after a number of local businesses came forward looking for help. After paying thousands of dollars for credit card machines, website development and social media help, they told News10NBC that Clever Consulting Group didn't deliver.
News10NBC has since learned that the complaints go beyond just small businesses here in upstate New York. Clever Consulting Group has a location along Dewey Avenue in Greece and it had a second satellite location in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Since News10NBC's original story aired, we've heard from six businesses in the Carolinas with similar complaints against the company. They all have similar stories. They say the pitch from Clever Consulting Group was smooth and the company seemed excited to help their businesses grow but once the contracts were signed, the problems began.
Back in May, News10NBC sat down with a number of small businesses including WiseGuys Diner, Dewey Beverage and Recovering Memories. The owners of all three told us they were having trouble with the Clever Consulting Group.
"They were going to do this and do that, could never get them to come over and talk to me. If I went over there, they're always in a meeting or on the phone," says Luanne Haessler the Manager of WiseGuys Diner.
At the time, a spokesman for Clever Consulting Group told News10NBC that the customers didn't have a full understanding of the services they signed up for but promised to work to make them happy. Since then, the small businesses tell News10NBC not much has changed.
Michael Seaton and Glo Kearns are RE/MAX real estate agents in North Carolina. Both of them signed up for services with Clever Consulting Group at the end of 2018.
"We can make you the best website out there and I was like 'great, fantastic, I don't like social media, don't know anything about building website, perfect'," recalls Seaton about being approached by Clever.
But as soon as the ink on the contract was dry, they say they ran into issues.
"It's almost like they flaunt the fact that they're going to tell you one thing, they're going to get you to sign something else and they don't care. He could just as easily tell you the sun will come out tonight and expect you to believe it when you're looking at the moon," Kearns tells News10NBC.
Clever Consulting Group's website is impressive. There is a whole section of testimonials from customers raving about their services. So, as News10NBC continued its investigation, we reached out to try and talk with those customers. Mike Harvath is quoted on Clever's website as the president of a company called Revenue Rocket Consulting. His picture and job title are accurate but he tells News10NBC he has never done business with Clever Consulting Group or its owner, Terry Dorsey.
"We've never, either on the customer side or on the vendor side, ever used Clever Consulting, don't even know those guys…I was shocked to see my "testimonial" on their website…I've never in our almost 20 years of being around, ever had something like this occur," he tells News10NBC.
News10NBC also confirmed that another man quoted as "Walter, the owner of Latin Tools", is not in fact named Walter and does not have any connection to that business. We spoke with another woman named as "Morgan, the owner of Queen Rebellions", who tells us her actual name is Jeanie. She is an author and has never done business with Clever Consulting Group.
When News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke visited Clever Consulting Group's Dewey Avenue location again on Tuesday, looking to speak with owner Terry Dorsey, an employee who answered the locked door said she'd be right back and never returned. She later called the Greece Police Department who responded to ask Lewke to leave the property.
The two phone numbers listed online for Clever Consulting were temporarily disconnected when News10NBC tried them on Tuesday. But Terry Dorsey did return an email from News10NBC late Tuesday afternoon. His statement read:
"We thank you for reaching out to us as there are in fact two sides to every story. In any service based business, communication is critical on both sides. Any client that we onboard is contacted immediately to set proper expectations and for us to commence work. The Marketing and Advertising industry, with any firm, is not an overnight success. Participation and communication is critical. Unrealistic expectations begin when one party of the transaction does not communicate with the other. Our services are intended to be affordable, personable, and often are at or less than what business owners were spending for one of our services alone. Merchants that take advantage of our strategic cost reduction program, who communicate with us effectively, and take ownership of their part in the partnership, have led to an opportunity for significant progress for their business. Our organization is staffed 5 days a week from 9am-5pm. We as an organization are accessible in multiple ways including phone calls, emails, and often contact our clients by text as we don't want communication on our part to hinder the performance promised. The Complaints that you refer to, are unfortunate, as in nearly every case, the business owner either didn't give us the opportunity to render services as contracted, communicated poorly or not at all, or instead of contacting the company directly, reached out to other channels. Any business owner who contracts with us goes through a rigorous onboarding process which includes meeting with one of our business associates IN PERSON, e-signing of the agreement from the business owners' email which access can only be obtained by identity verification, 2-3 Verbal Calls by a Third Party organization, and in some cases, an on-site inspection from a third party company, funds deducted from business owner account, and an onboarding call with our art department. Business owner further understands that the contract is legally binding and non-cancelable which is noted on the agreement that is signed. We undergo these processes for transparency and understanding of the partnership. There are commitments that are to be performed under the agreement on both sides. Businesses are contractual with the company and not any one employee. Despite poor communication on the business owner, we continue to reach out to clients in an effort to exceed expectations. At all times, we have been ready, willing, and able to perform the services contracted. The greatest asset we have is that we are the only marketing and advertising company that can essentially perform our services for $0. In many cases, we are able to provide our services, and save them enough money to allocate to other impactful business expenses. Website, SEO and Social media Services are services that every business owner needs in 2019 and beyond. We can provide examples of clients that not only took advantage of our cost reduction program for their marketing and advertising but are growing their businesses today. The reason we are in business is to help business owners grow with minimal risk and maximum reward. As stated above, however, this can only be obtained with proper communication, proper expectations set, and realistic timelines. As always, we are ready, willing, and able to review their agreement, services, and perform what has been contracted. We applaud Channel 10 for their commitment to the Business Community and bringing these types of concerns forward. Likewise, We are committed to the Business Community and will continue to aid business owners with challenges surrounding their digital media needs and more within their respective markets."
News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke followed up with a request to interview Dorsey on camera. He said he was out of the office. When asked about the testimonials, he responded, "I believe you may be pulling information from our test site and not our actual site….there are place holders for the testimonials on our test site from WordPress examples that you may be pulling. The testimonials are accurate but the placeholders are the name and pictures…We are awaiting pictures from our business owners."
Dorsey then went on to say, in his emailed response to Lewke, that he's "taken action against customers who in an effort to try to get out of their commitments have joined the bandwagon including cease and desist and defamation lawsuits." He also added that there have been employees who, for their own benefit after being terminated, have gone back to clients and told them untruths.
Dorsey says his company has reached out to the nine clients that have expressed dissatisfaction and have gone through their agreements with them.
Those clients that contacted News10NBC are still unsatisfied and tell us they are working with the attorneys general in their states.
Created: July 30, 2019 06:10 PM
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