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The Investigators: door-to-door book/magazine sales alert

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - The owner of a Memphis-based door-to-door sales company with complaints in 15 states said his "thriving" business gives "throw-away" people a second chance.

"Most of my solicitors are 'throw away' people. They have misdemeanors. They don't have high school degrees," said Robert Jackson, owner of Opportunity Sales, Inc., a book and magazine sales outfit headquartered inside Jackson's $500,000 home in Southeast Shelby County. "But they are not 'throw away' to me or to God."

Jackson came forward to defend his business after The Action News 5 Investigators' first report on his company. Back then, the Better Business Bureau had issued its second alert in less than a year on Opportunity Sales, Inc. -- now with 59 customer complaints in 15 states, alleging "high pressure sales tactics" in selling books or magazines "...that were never delivered."

"If there is one unhappy customer, then I am unhappy, too," Jackson said. "My business conducts 75 sales a day, some 22,000 sales a year nationwide -- with underprivileged teens and young adults doing the soliciting.

"I don't have the most honest people in the world. I found (customer) receipts stuffed away in one of our vans once -- receipts that showed people had paid for books or magazines, but the receipts were never filed with us. But for every complaint, there are dozens more who are pleased with our product."

Jackson gave us a list of 14 Mid-South customers he claimed received what they ordered and were pleased with his solicitors. The Action News 5 Investigators were able to reach four of them.

One, the owner of a South Memphis day-care facility, said she was never solicited by anyone with Opportunity Sales, Inc. 

The other three confirmed they did receive the books or magazines they ordered, including a Collierville, TN, man who asked not to be identified.

"I got the Golf Week magazine -- I didn't really even want the magazine. I just wanted to give the guy some money," the Collierville customer said. "He just seemed like he was trying to make a better life for himself."

He said when they completed the sale, a Collierville police officer happened to pull up and shoo the solicitor away from the man's doorstep.

"He asked him to leave," said the customer. "I guess there's no solicitations in Collierville."

Collierville town ordinance #110.20, under the title Peddlers and Itinerant Vendors, says, "It shall be unlawful anywhere in the Town of Collierville, Tennessee, for any person, peddler, huckster, hawker, transient vendor or mobile frozen dessert vendor to sell or offer for sale on the street, public property, private property, from motor vehicles, vacant lots, temporary display stands and all types of transportation conveyances..."

"None of these homeowners were forced to buy," Jackson argued.

Several Mid-South homeowners solicited by Jackson's employees said they were duped. 

Stephanie Smith of Eads, TN, said she wrote a $195 check for several religious books that were never delivered.

Eric Howard of Memphis said he didn't receive his order from Opportunity Sales, Inc., until he complained to the BBB. Only then did Jackson's people ship him his book.

"I paid $85 and got an $8 book," Howard wrote in an e-mail to The Action News 5 Investigators.

"If they didn't get what they paid for from my sellers or me, have them to call me," Jackson said. "I'll give them their money back."

Christine Jones, director of operations for the Better Business Bureau serving the Mid-South, confirmed Jackson requested a meeting to settle outstanding complaints. She also confirmed Jackson kept the appointment with her and the bureau's leadership.

"(In the meeting) we expressed concerns over the nature of complaints that we have received, (including) aggressive sales tactics, non-delivery of ordered magazines and books, lack of responsiveness to consumers and failure to issue prompt refunds," said Jones in an e-mail. "None of his responses alleviated our concerns."

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