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Direct marketers a nuisance for many University students

March 21, 1997

Photo Illustration by Jennifer Paschal / The Baylor Lariat

Elizabeth Case

Lariat Reporter

'Just Say No' doesn't apply just to America's drug problem.

College students are often the target of direct marketers, and the best way to avoid losing money on a questionable deal is to just say no.

Several University students have recently received cards in the mail assigning them a claim number and asking them to contact Prize Redemption Center.

Nicole Stone, an Austin senior, said that she called to claim her prize and the company, Network Direct, Inc. NDI, said 'We're not in that area now. Call back in three weeks.'

When she pressed further, the representative said that the card was an invitation to a NDI meeting where everyone who attended would receive a free prize with no obligation.

These free prizes included a home computer, a trip to the Bahamas, a color television, a long distance calling card and a Sony CD Player.

Such extravagant promises sound to good to be true.

'How can a company offer such expensive free gifts? What if 100 people show up? Do they all get vacations?' Stone asked.

When questioned, a phone operator at NDI said simply that everyone who comes to the meeting receives a gift.

'It is easy to fall for a free gift,' said C.J. Pederson, president of the Waco Better Business Bureau. 'Do not participate in something based on the free gift.'

NDI is a computerized shopping center that says it sells anything from 'sunglasses to automobiles,' an NDI representative said.

NDI handles direct advertising for companies such as Sony and Macintosh, an NDI representative said.

Calls to the 800 number revealed phone operators who responded to questions about the company by saying, 'It's not like a prize thing.' All the student has to do, said the NDI representative, is attend a 45 minute meeting.

'The only obligation is time,' representatives said. They also said the company would be back in the Waco area in a few weeks.

In an telephone interview Tuesday, the manager on duty said that the records had been erased from the computer.

The manager said that NDI had been around for 23 years, and students were familiar with it.

The company targets juniors, seniors and graduate students. She said that they have approximately three to four meetings a day with about 17 people at each meeting. However, she said that they did not have the names of winners in the Waco area.

One University student had a positive experience with NDI.

Dan Pellegrino, a senior from Blue Springs, Mo., called as soon as he received the card in the mail. He went to a meeting with four other people and his claim numbers matched the cruise to the Bahamas.

Pellegrino's cruise and two nights in a hotel in the Bahamas are paid for, a value of $550. All four people at the meeting won, said Pellegrino, but at an NDI meeting last year, only 20 percent of those that attended left with a prize.

At the meetings, NDI shows a slide presentation that promotes their 'club' which allows members to buy quality merchandise at wholesale prices. The cost of membership is around $1,000.

Another marketing technique is door-to-door selling. Companies hire advertising agencies that send out salespeople with the intention of spreading their company's name to as many students as possible.

Door-to-door salespeople target University students, selling anything from magazines to car services.

Merridy McKibbens, a Harlingen junior, has a 'No Soliciting' sign on her apartment door.

'It is annoying. They just start talking and you can't get a word in. You want to say no but don't want to be rude. They still come by, even with the sign.'

McKibbens says that every week sales people come by her apartment to sell her magazines, newspaper, and more recently, pictures from Russia.

'The magazine salespeople are usually trying to earn money for a trip, and they try to make you feel bad when you don't buy,' she said.

University students should know that a sales person needs a permit from the Waco Police Department in order to sell door-to-door, said Pederson.

If you buy a magazine, do not write the check to an individual. Always make it out to the magazine company.

Don't feel bad about telling a salesperson to come back in a few days after you have checked their references. A reputable salesperson will welcome a background check, Pederson said.

Amanda Polasek, a junior from Georgetown, said that when she checked out a salesman who tried to sell her car services, she found out that he had lied.

Polasek had accidentally let the man into her apartment, thinking that it was her new next door neighbor. He had hidden his pamphlets under his coat and was very congenial. Once he realized there would be no sale, however, he was rude and verbally abusive.

'When will salespeople realize that it is not the customer's job to provide them with a sale, but it is the salesperson's job to provide a service for the customer?' said Polasek. 'It seems like they are taught to be pushy.'

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