Community Banks:

Carnegie Move-Out

Law Moves

Start-Ups

New in Town

Expansions

Deaths

Corrections or additions?

Life in the Fast Lane

This articles were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

February 17, 1999. All rights reserved.

Since Consumer & Electronics Warehouse (CEW) opened

at 135 Village Boulevard in Princeton Forrestal Village in July, 1996,

it has staked its marketing efforts on deep discounts on brand name

consumer electronics from computers to air conditioners, cellular

telephones to home office products. Its advertisements are packed

full of low prices and amazing deals. But according to the state consumer

affairs regulators, some of those deals are not as good as they appear.

The Middlesex County Office of Consumer Affairs filed more than 100

charges against CEW in November, 1997, and 18 cases involving eight

individuals are still pending in Plainsboro Municipal Court. Then

last week Attorney General Peter Verniero and Mark S. Herr, director

of the state division of consumer affairs, filed an 11-count complaint

in Middlesex County Superior Court against CEW and a sister firm.

The company and its officers face a $7,500 civil penalty for each

of 11 alleged violations of the Consumer Fraud Act.

The summary of the attorney general’s complaint: that CEW and a sister

firm "advertised and/or sold electronic merchandise to the retail

public through the use of unconscionable commercial practices, deception,

fraud, false pretenses, misrepresentation, or the knowing concealment,

suppression, or omission of any material fact with intent that consumers

rely upon such concealment suppression, or omission."

"If merchants advertise a product, state law requires them to

stock enough of that product to meet customer demand," says Verniero.

"In addition to being unlawful, bait and switch practices are

unfair to customers and to other retailers in the electronics business

who advertise truthfully."

"We cannot allow bait and switch advertising to become an accepted

practice. Advertising products without having the inventory to back

up those advertisements is against the law," says Herr.

The suit seeks injunctive relief, monetary penalties, and restitution

for consumers. Sharon A. McCloskey, deputy attorney general, is handling

the case for the state. Lawrence Cimmino, the director of consumer

affairs for Middlesex County, contributed to the case.

CEW’s sister firm, Princeton Direct Inc. (also known as P Direct Ltd.)

advertised in national periodicals and on the Internet at http://www.pdirect2u.com.

It bore a similar name to Robert Zyontz’s Princeton Direct at 5 Vaughn

Drive. "It was a shock to have another company, in our back yard,

using our name that might stain our reputation," says Zyontz.

"People were calling from all over the country, upset and unable

to get in contact with the company at the number they had been given,

and operators were giving them our number. We called our attorneys;

we have had this name incorporated for 13 years." Zyontz is now

doing business as Princeton MarkeTech. CEW’s Princeton Direct Inc.

was dissolved on October 20, 1998, according to the state.

The attorney general has directed the defendants, at their own expense,

to restore "to any affected person" any money or property

acquired by means of a practice alleged to be unlawful.

Named in the civil complaint are Terrence Oved, Yaniv Hassoun, Ronald

Hassoun, and Ethan Hassoun. In response to a reporter’s interview

request, Oved faxed this statement to U.S. 1:

"Over the years we have serviced and satisfied tens of thousands

of customers, many of them repeat customers. We could not possibly

be in business for one day if even a shred of what was contained in

these charges were true. We are the target of an overzealous regulator

and will fight to protect our good name and reputation. We look forward

to continuing to service our customers and our community."

When CEW opened, it advertised an in-house technical

support department for upgrades and technical questions and offered

90 to 180-day interest-free financing. A spokesperson who did not

wish to be named explained the low prices at that time: "CEW buyers

purchase only deals and are able to pass the savings directly to the

consumer without the inflated cost that most major chains are forced

to add to their products to offset their high overhead and related

expenses. We don’t know what we are going to have from week to week;

it changes so quickly."

The state alleges that the two firms used "Bait and Switch"

techniques, including, as the complaint reads, "advertising merchandise

as part of `huge inventory’ or `over one million products ready to

be shipped’ when in fact they had little or no inventory of advertised

products." Another method, the complaint says, was to misadjust

computer monitors or video cameras on display so as to appear to be

of poor quality, thus influencing consumers to buy a more expensive

model.

The state objects to the use of small typeface at the bottom of the

page, in contrast to large typeface prices at the top of the page.

Examples of misleading by typeface include, the complaint said, information

on zero interest financing offers, return policies on items, that

prices were valid only with the ads, and requirements for delivery

and installation.

Another dispute regarding advertising: Computers qualify as home appliances

when it comes to the requirement that the brand name and model or

serial number must be listed next to the selling price. Also a must:

the former selling price and the basis on which the former price was

established ("our regular price" or "a competitor’s price"),

and this must be "in close proximity" to the sale price. The

complaint alleges that CEW ads did not state the reference or basis

price.

Also listed in the complaint:

"Selling used merchandise as new, selling new merchandise

with substantial defects, and selling merchandise with different features

than represented to consumers."

"Falsely advertising electronic merchandise as `brand

new’ and `complete with U.S.A. manufacturers’ warranty, unless

otherwise indicated.’"

Failing to disclose to prospective consumers that they are

not authorized retailers for certain manufacturers and that manufacturers

may not honor the warranties.

Failing to disclose, before the customer buys the merchandise,

that it is not in stock nor will it be available for immediate

delivery.

Representing that certain accessories are needed to operate

the merchandise and selling them — when the accessories are either

not necessary or had been pre-installed in the merchandise.

Advertising a computer system as factory direct from a

particular manufacturer when the system consists of components from

various manufacturers, or when the system has been reconfigured or

refurbished and/or upgraded, thus voiding the manufacturer’s warranty.

Improperly billing consumers credit cards for items not purchased,

or items returned or exchanged, including cell phone service arranged

by CEW and terminated by consumers.

Failure to deliver bonuses as promised.

Denying refunds, misleading consumers regarding store refund

policy, and charging improper stocking fees .

Failure to honor rain checks within 60 days.

Failure to display written warranties in a conspicuous manner.

Judge Richard Knecht is trying to schedule a motion this week

for some of the county cases in Plainsboro Municipal Court; none has

been resolved. Some consumers, meanwhile, may be weighing their own

scales.

Bill Hawkins, owner of New Directions Public Relations, based in Princeton

Forrestal Village, says he bought two items at CEW and had no problem.

"I didn’t need to return an item or need to make good on a warranty."

But, says Hawkins, "I’ve always been wary of things that sound

too good to be true; generally they are too good to be true."

Computers and Electronics Warehouse: CEW, 135 Village

Boulevard, Princeton 08540. 609-520-0099; fax, 609-452-7352.

— Barbara Fox

Top Of Page
Community Banks:

Now, Lambertville

There has never been a better environment for banking

than now, says Patrick Ryan, founder and chairman of Hopewell Valley

Community Bank, which started functioning as a full service commercial

bank this Tuesday, February 16. And another bank, the Lawrenceville-based

Village Financial Corporation, is offering common stock at $10 per

share. The net proceeds from the public offering will be used to capitalize

Village Bank, the company’s proposed federal savings bank subsidiary.

Meanwhile, the New Jersey Bankers Association (NJBA) has announced

that it has accepted a new bank charter application for a bank in

Hunterdon County. If the application is approved, Main Street Bank

of New Jersey will be located at 39 Bridge Street in Lambertville.

Community banks, with their emphasis on personalized service, have

attracted a lot of investors these days. Hopewell Valley will open

with a solid capital base of $7.8 million invested by 441 shareholders.

James Hyman, a Rutgers University graduate and former CEO of the First

Community Bank in Clinton is first president and CEO. The bank opened

with 10 employees at its temporary Pennytown Village office on 145

Route 31. The bank hopes to relocate to its 3,600 square-foot facility

at 4 Route 31 this summer.

Village Bank, to be headquartered at 590 Lawrence Square Boulevard,

on Quakerbridge Road, with a branch office on Route 31 North in the

Pennington Point complex, is expected to open for business in mid

to late spring after the conclusion of the stock offering, says Kenneth

J. Stephon, president and chief executive officer of Village Financial

Corporation. Call 609-689-1010 for the prospectus about the stock

offering.

With technology costs starting to come down, both banks think they

can stay small to serve the community in a personal way yet offer

up-to-date high tech products. But, says Stephon, "our orientation

and regulatory structure will be different from Hopewell Valley’s."

Village Bank will operate as a thrift savings institution and serve

homeowners in West Windsor, Hamilton, and the part of Lawrence that

lies on the east side of Route 1. "The purpose of a thrift charter

has always been to help individuals and families to get funds for

home ownership, and we expect to maintain that tradition."

Stephon, who has an MBA from Rider, emphasizes that whatever mortgages

Village Bank writes, it will also service. "Customers get disgruntled

when they decide to do business locally and they end up doing business

with someone they have not chosen to do business with."

— Teena Chandy

Top Of Page
Carnegie Move-Out

Here’s a rare, reverse move involving a Princeton office

center: By March, 2000, Peterson’s is scheduled to move out of the

Carnegie Center and to nearly double its space as the lead tenant

in a new 120,000 square-foot, three-story building at Princeton Pike

Corporate Center. Brandywine Realty Trust owns the center, which now

has 52 acres with three buildings totaling 390,000 square feet, and

approvals to build three more buildings with 360,000 feet.

Brandwyine Realty Trust bought the 10-year-old park property from

DKM Properties in March, 1998, for $50.7 million or $130 per square

foot. Gerard H. Sweeney is president and CEO of the real estate firm

based in Newtown Square Pa.

Peterson’s 300 full-time employees — up from 200 four years ago

— will have similar amenities to those they enjoy at the Carnegie

Center, including a full-service cafeteria and an exercise center.

The firm, which moved to the Carnegie Center during the tenure of

its founder, Peter W. Hegener, was purchased by the Thomson company

four years ago. Last fall Hegener stepped down as CEO. Peterson’s

publishes books, data bases, and software for lifelong education and

career guidance, and also provides admissions and enrollment support.

It will plan its 62,000 square foot space to have fewer cubicles and

more open space, appropriate for a publishing company that is changing

its focus from individuals editing books to team members collaborating

on online publishing projects. One of recent projects was a joint

venture with Educational Testing Service, GradAdvantage, that allows

graduate students to register online.

Peterson’s, 202 Carnegie Center, Princeton 08543-2123.

Michael Brannick, president & CEO. 609-243-9111; fax, 609-243-9150.

Home page: http://www.petersons.com.

Top Of Page
Law Moves

Laura M. Le Winn, Attorney at Law, 4454 Route 27,

Kingston 08528. 609-924-0151; fax, 609-924-0615.

Laura Le Winn, who practices appellate law in all areas, maintains

her main office in Cranford, but now she has opened a pied a terre

in Kingston.

A graduate of Wellesley College and New York University Law School,

"the first lawyer in a family of doctors," she is the chair

of the New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners, a trustee of the New Jersey

Bar Foundation, a trustee of New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal

Education, and a frequent lecturer on appellate practice.

Just what is appellate law? "I come into a case after the trial,"

says Le Winn, citing employment discrimination, matrimonial, personal

injury and medical malpractice, and commercial cases as being among

those she covers. "Someone is dissatisfied with the verdict. I

look at a record that has been created to see what, if anything, went

afoul of the law or what went wrong."

Appellate courts differ from others in that no one is examining or

deposing a witness in real time. "I am not strategizing as I go

along as litigators often have to do," she says, "I am working

with a frozen record that the litigators have made. That record is

my ammunition for trying to get relief for a client on appeal. If

everything goes right, nothing should come in from outside the record

that will influence the result — there will be no surprises."

The state has nine appeal panels with four judges each, and Le Winn

says she has argued cases before most of them. "I know what kinds

of things will get attention in the appellate court — the things

you have to show and the arguments you have to make," she says.

If she successfully proves there are grounds for appeal, she turns

the case back to the original lawyers for the next stage.

"Most of my clients are other attorneys," says Le Winn. "It

is better to have someone objective come in and look at the record

and see what if any claims of error can be made. Trial attorneys get

wrapped up in their cases. Sometimes it is not as great an injustice

as the attorney who has been in the heat of battle thinks it is."

Frances M. Merritt, Attorney at Law, 4454 Route

27, Kingston 08528. 609-924-7753; fax, 609-924-7743.

"Mediation is the coming field," says Frances M. Merritt,

who opened her law practice in January. A psychology major at Rutgers,

Merritt earned a master’s degree in music from Westminster Choir College,

where she taught voice and pedagogy for three years before going to

Rutgers Law School in Newark. She spent 11 years in Princeton with

two firms — Katzenbach Gildea & Rudner (now Fox Rothschild) and

Wills ONeill & Mellk, before opening her own practice for family and

divorce law and mediation. She is just back from a self-funded sabbatical,

a year-long intensive mediation course at Woodbury College in Vermont.

Top Of Page
Start-Ups

Telos Solutions, 32 Baldwin Street, Pennington

08534. Fred Bartl, president. 609-730-0889; fax, 609-730-9508.

The speed at which people figure out what is happening in the marketplace

makes all the difference between success and failure of their enterprise,

says Fred Bartl, president of Telos Solutions, a marketing consulting

firm founded late last year. Small companies often need outside expertise,

he says, to help them stay ahead and accelerate profitable growth.

Bartl majored in economics at Harvard, Class of 1963, and started

his career in the telecommunications industry working with the national

marketing program at AT&T. Prior to starting his own consulting firm

Bartl was director of business marketing for the Public Service Enterprise

Group.

Small companies make up almost 90 percent of businesses in the United

States today, says Bartl. "They face critical challenges in planning

and executing business and marketing strategies but often cannot afford

to hire a big consulting company. Telos is focussed primarily on small

to medium sized companies in the capacity of advisors, consultants,

and interim executives."

A set of critical factors unique to each company determines the potential

for profitable growth, Bartl says, and "discovering them starts

with asking the right questions. The answers are the foundation from

which to create successful business development initiatives."

"Successful business outcomes are rooted in understanding and

satisfying customer wants better than competitive alternatives,"

says Bartl. "They hear and reflect the voice of the customer in

their business, marketing, and sales plans."

Top Of Page
New in Town

Ameriquest Mortgage Company, 3150 Brunswick Pike,

Crossroads Corporate Center, Suite 330, Lawrenceville 08648. Rob Monaco,

manager. 609-406-7997; fax, 609-406-9669. Home page: http://www.ameriquest.net.

This mortgage company added a branch office at Crossroads Corporate

Center last December.

Don Step Inc., 116 Stanhope Road, Princeton 08540.

Duane P. Howell, tax specialist. 609-419-1010; fax, 609-419-1444.

The headquarters of this 20-year-old full-service accounting and tax

preparation firm has moved from New York to Princeton; three people

work at this location and branch offices are scattered across the

country.

Fema Electronics Corporation, 12 Stults Road, Suite

103, Dayton 08810. Bob Cheng, president. 609-409-1720; fax, 609-409-1721.

Fema manufactures LCD and LED displays and moved to Dayton from Edgeboro

Road in East Brunswick last year.

KA Consulting, 2540 Route 130, Cranbury 08512.

David Rikkola, president. 609-395-8300; fax, 609-395-8356. Home

page: http://www.kaconsults.com.

The healthcare consulting firm has moved from Edison.

Ryder Logistics, 1 Capital Drive, Cranbury Business

Park Suite 102, Cranbury 08512. Michael Connors, manager. 609-395-0400;

fax, 800-628-6124.

A battery distributor has moved its distribution and logistics center

from Toledo to Cranbury Business Park.

SysFour Solutions LLC, 3530 Route 27, Suite 203,

Kendall Park 08824. Randolph Vaskas, president. 732-940-8770; fax,

732-940-8780.

A consulting firm providing information technology services to such

clients as AT&T and Lucent Technologies has opened a Kendall Park

office.

Turtle Bay Institute Inc., 195 Nassau Street, Princeton

08542. Robert Weekley, president. 609-688-9640; fax, 609-688-9644.

Named after an area on the East Side of Manhattan, this firm does

marketing research and business consulting in consumer products, high

tech, and medical areas. It designs and executes research studies

and does executive interviewing, says Kathleen Murphy, vice president

and co-owner. After 20 years in Manhattan it moved to Princeton last

year.

Uniform Code Council, 1009 Lenox Drive, Lawrenceville

08648. 609-620-0200; fax, 609-620-1200.

The Uniform Code Council sets the standards for and distributes UPC

codes. It is moving to Lenox Drive from Dayton, Ohio.

Unique Homes Magazine, 327 Wall Street, Princeton

08540. Rick Goodwin, publisher. 609-688-1110; fax, 609-688-0201.

Rick Goodwin moved the editorial offices for his bi-monthly magazine

from New York, to be closer to his home in Pennsylvania. The magazine

has an international distribution and offers information about luxury

real estate available in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean,

and Europe. Founded in 1970, the magazine has a staff of nine and

occupies 3,000 square feet at Research Park.

Top Of Page
Expansions

I Vision, 666 Plainsboro Road, Suite 1120, Plainsboro

08536. Ajay Sharma, director. 609-936-1101; fax, 609-936-1107.

This software development and consulting firm had temporary space

at 5 Independence Way and is expanding from 10 consultants to 25 at

Princeton Meadows Office Center. Part of Globesyn Technology based

in India, it started U.S. operations in May, 1998.

Premier Abstract & Title Agency, 1006 Eastpark

Boulevard, Cranbury 08512. Howard Stipe, president. 609-860-1000;

fax, 609-860-1001.

The title agency moved from 101 Interchange Plaza.

Princeton Economics Group Inc., 707 State Road,

Suite 223, Princeton 08540-1437. Peter Bronsteen, president. 609-279-0600.

URL: http://www.econgroup.com.

These consultants expanded from 2,500 feet on Village Boulevard to

3,500 feet at 707 State Road, and the phone and fax (609-279-0201)

are new. The group does antitrust and general litigation consulting

for law firms.

Project on Ethnic Relations, 15 Chambers Street,

Suite 435, Princeton 08542-3707. Allen Kassof, president. 609-683-5666;

fax, 609-683-5888. URL: http://www.netcom.com/~ethic/per.html.

The private nongovernmental organization is moving from Palmer Square

to 15 Chambers Street. It works in central and Eastern Europe and

the former Soviet Union.

Top Of Page
Deaths

Frederick A. Eoff on February 5. A veteran of the Korean

War, he worked at ETS.

Susanne L. Vliet, 48, on February 7. She worked at Continental

Insurance and at Sage Data.

Thomas Milewski, 49, on February 8. He was president of

Greater Media’s radio group.

Martin W. Knudsen, 65, on February 9. He was a consturction

manager for Van Note-Harvey.

Eleanor S. Young, 74, on February 11. She had been a realtor

with N.T. Callaway Real Estate.

Michael J. Beres Jr., 56, on February 12. He worked at

American Cyanamid on Quakerbridge Road.


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