Street Talk

Street Talk: Scammers play fair

Greek to us.

July 3, 2015
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With all the rich Nigerians, “Microsoft support” people and pharmaceutical “doctors” stuffing in-boxes and calling landlines, one might think businesses are somewhat immune to scam artists.

Not so, according to the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

LARA is warning Michigan corporations and LLCs that a “non-governmental entity” called Division of Corporate Services is trying to collect a $150 fee to prepare corporate meeting minutes.

The misleading compliance solicitation implies that Michigan requires corporations and limited liability companies to complete a 2015 Annual Minutes Form and is designed to look like an official document — but it is not.

“Beware of mailings that may appear to come from the state of Michigan offering assistance in performing non-existent or non-required services,” said Shelly Edgerton, chief deputy director at LARA. “Our corporation customers should only respond to correspondence from LARA. No such letters are being sent from the LARA Corporations Division, no matter how official they may look.”

Michigan businesses are receiving an official-looking “2015 Annual Minutes Form.” She said the form implies the recipient is obligated to complete and return it with a fee payment for the preparation of corporate meeting minutes. The accompanying instructions for completing the form list a return address at 3105 S. Martin Luther King Blvd., Suite 317, Lansing, MI 48910.

In 2012, 2013 and 2014, LARA warned of similar scams requesting $125 that involved a company with a similar name and an address in Lansing. Obviously, the price of fraud is going up.

“Annual meeting minutes for Michigan corporations are best prepared either by corporate officers, directors, or by a business attorney, but are not required to be filed with our Corporation Division,” Edgerton said. “This is not to be confused with the legally required annual report or annual statement which can be filed online along with the applicable fee to the state of Michigan.”

Similar solicitation mailings have occurred in other states including California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts and Texas.

Edgerton said these scamming entities operate under identical or similar names and generally request payment fees ranging from $125 to $239.

Legal livery

Here’s an idea that will surely pique the interest of 63rd District Court Judge Sara Smolenski. It would seem to be right up the alley of one of West Michigan’s more progressive legal arbitrators.

Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh last week announced the suburban Detroit county will soon begin offering use of ride-hailing business Uber to get jurors to and from the courthouse.

The pilot project will allow residents who receive a jury summons up to $20 for a ride each way or $40 round-trip to and from Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens.

Saubaugh cited concerns among potential jurors regarding parking and driving in bad weather as possible deterrents to timely service.

She said the 60-day pilot project is putting “innovation into the justice system.”

No word yet on any reaction from French taxi drivers, or those in Macomb County for that matter.

Flower power

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is reporting new attendance records for the month of June, and it’s pretty easy to see why.

The new eight-acre Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden opened last month, pulling 80,000 visitors to the gardens — 25 percent higher than any other June on record, including 2010 figures during the blockbuster Dale Chihuly exhibition and the 2004 opening of the popular Lena Meijer Children’s Garden.

“Since the Japanese Garden is a permanent addition to Meijer Gardens, we’re very much looking forward to seeing more visitors throughout all of the seasons,” said Steve LaWarre, director of horticulture. “This garden’s appearance will really change with the fall colors, blanketed in snow, and with fresh, new growth in the spring. Guests can expect to see something new every time they visit.”

The Japanese Garden opened to the public June 13 and features traditional components such as waterfalls, elevation changes, extensive boulder placement, authentic Japanese structures and a functioning teahouse, as well as a Zen-style garden, a Viewing Hill and contemporary sculpture. Major works by Anish Kapoor, Jenny Holzer and Zhang Huan, among others, are now on view.

Meijer Gardens draws more than 600,000 visitors annually.

Hold the phone

Midwesterners are an impatient lot.

People in America’s Midwest are the least patient in the country when it comes to waiting on hold during calls to businesses, according to new research by PH Media Group, an audio branding firm based in London.

A study of 2,234 consumers discovered only 53 percent of respondents in the region are prepared to wait longer than one minute on hold, which should act as a warning for businesses that leave customers hanging on the phone.

Customers in the Northeast received the title as most patient in the country at 57 percent holding for more than a minute.

“Traditionally, waiting on hold is perceived as an annoyance for customers, and it appears people in the Midwest are particularly quick to hang up the phone when placed on hold,” said Mark Williamson, sales and marketing director for PH Media.

“This only further emphasizes the need for businesses to handle calls in the best possible manner and ensure customers are kept engaged and entertained when they do have to be placed on hold for any period of time. Poor quality audio messages, beeps or silence will only serve to test their patience. Companies should instead give careful consideration to how they sound over the phone, combining voice and music that reflects their brand with informative, targeted messaging.”

The survey also discovered women are more patient than men, with 60 percent willing to remain on the line for longer than a minute, compared to 49 percent of men.

People were also found to become more patient with age. Fifty-nine percent of 45-to-64-year-olds are prepared to waiting more than 60 seconds, in contrast to half of 18-to-34-year-olds.

Greek tragedy

As has happened so often for the past few years, stock prices rode a rollercoaster last week.

Robert Genetski, a Saugatuck-based economist and frequent Business Journal contributor, said U.S. stock prices fell roughly 2 to 2.5 percent in one day mid-week, and even more for much of the rest of the world.

Greece managed to avoid any decline since its stock market and banks have been closed. Hmmm, see the correlation here?

“Given the size of its economy, there is no reason that country’s problems should have a significant effect on the U.S. or even on the rest of Europe,” Genetski said.

He said Greece represents the “progressive” movement on steroids. Government spending, regulations, taxes and debt are horrific.

Genetski said Greeks are getting a taste of their economic future. He said any country turning to a so-called “progressive” leader, whether Argentina, Venezuela or Greece, has the same outcome — a downward economic cycle accompanied by serious financial pain.

“In spite of the sharp effect developments in Greece appear to have on external stock prices, the main damage from Greece’s policies will not be on the rest of the world. Rather, it will be the financial pain inflicted on its own people.”

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