May 18, 2019 08:40 AM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- A number of local small businesses say they've been paying for help with their websites, social media accounts and credit card systems that they're not getting.
The businesses contracted with a company called Clever Consulting Group which is located on Dewey Avenue in Rochester.
Four separate small business owners say their margins are thin which means every dime they spend to try and get customers in the door is crucial and they don't feel like Clever Consulting Group is living up to the terms of their contracts.
Until recently, it was cash-only at Wise Guys Diner along Dewey Avenue but owners Luann and Daniel Haessler knew they had to change with the times. So, when a representative from Clever Consulting Group came in with a sales pitch that included a credit card processing machine, they listened carefully.
"They promised to do social media, building a website to get our name out there," recalls Luann.
The Haessler's checked out Clever Consulting's website which was impressive so they ended up signing a four-year contract back in February which required they pay $250 per month for the services. Almost right away, Luann says they ran into communication problems.
"They were going to do this and do that and I 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," she tells News10NBC.
The credit card machine arrived at the diner but Luann says she couldn't get anyone from Clever to come program it and teach them how to use it.
"Every time we set up a date for him to come, it came and went and he never showed up," she says.
The company also missed promised deadlines for the website development and social media consulting.
Sherri Narburgh owns Dewey Beverage. She signed a similar contract with Clever Consulting.
"We're so busy running our businesses, we don't have the time to do the social media... they made it sound so good and if it sounds too good to be true, it is," she says.
Narburgh did get her credit card machine up and running but now she's being double-billed for the fees and hasn't had any luck getting the issue rectified.
Clever Consulting came into Robert Neal's upholstery shop, Recovering Memories, too. He signed up for their services too but canceled almost right away. He has a signed letter terminating the contract yet he received a bill from the credit card leasing company for a machine he doesn't even have.
"I get a notice in the mail saying that I owe them $400 and I say, 'oh no... this is not happening'…I contacted a lawyer, the lawyer basically told me that they're not answering the calls, they're not returning the letters, so there's not much I can do," Neal tells News10NBC.
The Better Business Bureau warns customers on its webpage that Clever Consulting Group isn't responding to its questions either. A spokeswoman for the BBB tells News10NBC they've taken other complaints about the business from other small business owners since last fall.
Clever Consulting Group is literally right next door to Wise Guys Finer and within a 200-yard radius of Recovering Memories and Dewey Beverage.
On Friday, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke visited the location to try and get some answers. No one answer answered the door but a short time later, a man named Jay, who said he was the communications director, called her back.
Jay didn't want to speak on-camera or have his conversation with News10NBC recorded but said that the customers who came to us with problems have communication problems of their own and Clever Consulting is still committed to fulfilling their contracts.
When asked whether he would just be willing to cancel the contracts, Jay said no comment. He also said he is planning to take legal action against the BBB.
Updated: May 18, 2019 08:40 AM
Created: May 17, 2019 06:35 PM
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