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
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
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
Also listed in the complaint:
with substantial defects, and selling merchandise with different features
than represented to consumers."
new’ and `complete with U.S.A. manufacturers’ warranty, unless
not authorized retailers for certain manufacturers and that manufacturers
may not honor the warranties.
that it is not in stock nor will it be available for immediate
the merchandise and selling them — when the accessories are either
not necessary or had been pre-installed in the merchandise.
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.
or items returned or exchanged, including cell phone service arranged
by CEW and terminated by consumers.
policy, and charging improper stocking fees .
for some of the county cases in Plainsboro Municipal Court; none has
been resolved. Some consumers, meanwhile, may be weighing their own
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."
Boulevard, Princeton 08540. 609-520-0099; fax, 609-452-7352.
— Barbara Fox
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
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
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.
Michael Brannick, president & CEO. 609-243-9111; fax, 609-243-9150.
Home page: http://www.petersons.com.
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
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."
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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.
David Rikkola, president. 609-395-8300; fax, 609-395-8356. Home
The healthcare consulting firm has moved from Edison.
Park Suite 102, Cranbury 08512. Michael Connors, manager. 609-395-0400;
A battery distributor has moved its distribution and logistics center
from Toledo to Cranbury Business Park.
Kendall Park 08824. Randolph Vaskas, president. 732-940-8770; fax,
A consulting firm providing information technology services to such
clients as AT&T and Lucent Technologies has opened a Kendall Park
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
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.
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.
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.
Boulevard, Cranbury 08512. Howard Stipe, president. 609-860-1000;
The title agency moved from 101 Interchange Plaza.
Suite 223, Princeton 08540-1437. Peter Bronsteen, president. 609-279-0600.
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.
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.
War, he worked at ETS.
Insurance and at Sage Data.
Greater Media’s radio group.
manager for Van Note-Harvey.
with N.T. Callaway Real Estate.
American Cyanamid on Quakerbridge Road.
Corrections or additions?
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