Local Business Owners Fall Victim To Marketing Scam

Local Business Owners Fall Victim To Marketing Scam

By Jennifer Kraus. CREATED Aug 23, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Friday was opening night for high school football -- and football season means parents and boosters spending a lot of time trying to raise money for the teams.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered that at Hillsboro High School, they're having trouble doing that because outside companies are now trying to do the same thing.

Hillsboro High School's football team gets a lot of help from some of its biggest fans - parents and boosters who make up the school's Quarterback Club.

"It's been our job to solicit all of the funds for the football program -- feeding them, training equipment, anything extra that Metro doesn't pay for," said the Quarterback Club's Renee Vaughn.

However, Vaughn said many businesses in the area have turned them down recently because they said they had already given to Hillsboro's football team, paying to advertise on Hillsboro spirit items like t-shirts, seat cushions, and cheer towels.

But Hillsboro isn't selling these items -- outside marketing companies are. And they're telling business owners that they're working with the school and by buying these things, the business owners will be helping the kids at Hillsboro.

Dan Cantrell, owner of Fuzziwiggs Candy Factory at the Green Hills Mall, told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, "She (the marketing company representative) said that 100% of the money would be going to the school."

That's why, he explained, he was more than willing to spend more than $550 to put his store's name on a t-shirt and banner.

"I wanted to be a good neighbor. I wanted to help my community," Cantrell added.

But none of that money went to the football team. Vaughn with the Quarterback Club said, "We don't see a dime of it."

Hillsboro Principal Dr. Terry Shrader told NewsChannel 5 Investigates, "This is not right. These people want to give money to us. They want the students to have the benefit. And there's a third party out there taking the money away from students."

Shrader said the school has not given any marketing company permission to solicit on behalf of Hillsboro.

He said Hillsboro does not get any money from these companies. But from time to time, these companies do send the school boxes of these spirit items with advertising and business logos on them.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Shrader, "Do you want this product?"

He emphatically answered, "No!"

Business owners are told the school sells the items during football games.

But the Quarterback Club says that's not true either.

"We can't sell those items. We end up giving them away, throwing them in the stands. They make us no money," Vaughn explained.

Candy store owner Dan Cantrell couldn't believe it and said he was pretty upset when he learned he'd been misled. "What it did for me though was make me so skeptical," he recalled.

That is especially concerning for the folks at Hillsboro who said the school relies heavily on the generosity of area businesses.

They figure businesses spent at least $10,000 on these products and said it's a shame that money never made it where businesses thought it was going.

NewsChannel 5 has learned that one of the marketing companies is now asking business owners to advertise on a sports bottle for Hillsboro's basketball team. Again, that is not sanctioned by the school.

Hillsboro's principal said if someone asks you for money, make sure they have a letter from Hillsboro on the school's letterhead with his signature on it, and if you're still not sure, feel free to call the school.

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Jennifer Kraus

Jennifer Kraus

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Jennifer Kraus is NewsChannel 5's Weekend Morning Anchor and a member of NewsChannel 5's award-winning Investigative Team.