Recently I noticed this short blurb in Thisweek and sent it to my wife to alert the members of her Farmington-based mom’s group that college aged girls misrepresenting themselves as approved by ISD 192 were attempting to sell books to families in the city. Afterwards another mother posted her personal experience with the girls from Southwestern Company who are trolling neighborhoods in Apple Valley, Farmington and Rosemount from their home base in Rosemount this summer:
I was at a friends house today when this happened. Apparently the girls are college students that are studying to become teachers from Texas AM and doing an ‘internship’ this summer for Southwest books. I asked her some blunt questions (if you know me this isn’t out of the ordinary) about the program. She was careful to say that they aren’t directly related to the school districts–but seem to know a lot about them. They are educational hardcover books for your kids. Nothing really special about them. They aren’t too cheap either. Their goal is to talk to 35 moms a day about the books.
The biggest issues those who have encountered the Southwestern Company booksellers are that they continue to claim they are affiliated with the district when they are not including saying they are interning for the district itself, are selling books recommended by Farmington School District teachers, and that these reps go to great lengths to get information from others in the neighborhood to sell more books to families who really don’t need them.
Basically the representatives of this company prey upon unknowing parents in areas all over the country hoping to use information provided by other parents in the neighborhood to sell books. According to this article in the Decatur Daily News, one sales rep in Alabama took nearly $300 from a family living in a trailer-home who admitted that shopping for books at Wal-Mart was too expensive for them.
From what I understand these Southwestern Company representatives ask questions of all neighbors in a particular neighborhood and learn kids’ names, what grades they’re in, what friends they have, etc and then use that information to coerce others into buying books they really do not need. While small little notes come out from the school district and appear in a paper few people read you end up getting blindsided by a group of young and savvy salespeople who average over $8000 a summer.
According to the Decatur Daily article these sales reps spend 80 hours a week working and their “day off” meeting with other regional sales reps to exchange ideas on how to take people’s money. Southwestern sounds almost cult-like:
Working for Southwestern is more than overcoming fear of rejection. It’s an almost nonstop, 80-hour week that begins with showers at 6 a.m., breakfast and self-motivational reading by 7 and knocking on the first door by 7:59. The knocks, generally 45 households per day, continue till past 9 p.m. Then it’s home to finish paperwork before heading to bed in the home of a host family.
At breakfast, the sales trio reads books like Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest,” Og Mandino’s “The Greatest Salesman in the World” and even “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr Seuss. The latter is to remember not to take yourself too seriously, they said.
After this article came out in the paper alerting residents to Southwestern Company’s tactics, my wife called the Farmington PD to check and see if the girls roaming the neighborhoods of ISD 192 had a valid license from the city. As of her last check the Farmington PD representative she spoke with noted that these Southwestern Company sales reps do not have a license and anyone who encounters them should call the Farmington Police Department’s administrative number directly at 651-280-6700 to report the violation.
But even though they don’t have a valid license they sure do appear professional. According to one Farmington mother, “The girl that I saw did have a badge around her neck, but I only could see the picture of her, it didn’t look like a permit.” So even if they show you something be sure to call the police and double check and make sure they aren’t peddling their wares illegally.
Have you encountered Southwestern book selling reps in the South Metro? If so what was your experience with them? Do you agree that these representatives sound shady and as if they are taking advantage of unknowing parents? Do you believe your neighbors would share your family’s personal information with these representatives? Whatever you have to say, please share your thoughts on the Southwestern Company reps who are attempting to sell unnecessary and expensive books around town.