5 On Your Side

Restaurant Questions 'Bill Collector's' Invoice

Posted November 14, 2007
Updated November 15, 2007

— Operating seven restaurants, Rocky Top Hospitality gets a lot of invoices. But a recent phone call to one of the eateries about a supposed bill got a lot of attention.

“It just made me very angry,” said Liz Wallace, who handles Rocky Top’s corporate affairs.

The call was from a company claiming Rocky Top owed $275 for an ad in the Sheriff's Journal out of Austin, Texas.

“They spoke with my assistant, Amy, and proceeded to tell her that the bill was overdue and they wanted to come in and pick up a check,” Wallace said.

When questioned, the supposed "bill collector" faxed an invoice – complete with a manager's name and a "Past Due" stamp.

Wallace jumped on the Internet. She found a recent news story about the Sheriff's Journal billing another company that said it hadn't placed an ad. She called the collector back.

“He stuck with his story, the same claim that it was an overdue invoice, and I even confronted him and said, ‘I know your publication doesn't exist,’ and he just, he really didn't have much to say at all,” Wallace said.

Wallace called North Carolina's attorney general and local law enforcement. She then called WRAL’s 5 On Your Side, which contacted the Texas attorney general.

A spokesman said they've received calls from businesses across the country about Sheriff's Journal. He wouldn't talk about whether the Sheriff's Journal is under investigation, but said the Texas attorney general has shut down similar businesses in the past.

Wallace said she just wants to get the word out because she’s concerned other businesses could be taken by this.

“Absolutely. Absolutely. Especially if they want to come out the same day and a manager simply wants them to stop calling, because they did call multiple times,” she said.

WRAL's 5 On Your Side called the 800 number on the invoice and was promised twice that someone would call back. No one ever did.


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  • aquamama Nov 15, 2007

    shine, great idea!

  • 2tallman Nov 15, 2007

    Why doesn't WRAL give out the 1-800 number that was on the bogus invoice and let's all call them at least 3 times a day. I think in this case turn around is definitely fair play............

  • IzzMad2016 Nov 15, 2007

    The Official Yellow Pages does this as well -- people think it's the Bell South Real Yellow Pages that's calling. This exact scenario happened to a friend of mine this past year. They claim to have all calls recorded and will queue it up for the "victim/customer" but never produce the tapes as a show of proof that someone bought their bogus advertising.

  • AKA PikeMom Nov 15, 2007

    It was kind of slick for a shyster.

  • Z Man Nov 15, 2007

    In a perfect world she could have helped the authorities. But the few times I called the police they chastized me.

    Once someone had a spare car key and drove off from our shop without paying for their tune-up. I told the cops there were a batch of out-of-state tags in the trunk as a possible additional incentive for them to find the drive-off. They chastized me for not reporting the tags as soon as I saw them. They said said there's nothing they can do. I guess they hadn't had their Dunkin Doughnuts yet.

    I've had other similar incidents. Kinda discourages one from contacting the authorities.

    But she could have tried anyway.

  • shine Nov 15, 2007

    I use to have this happen all the time.. Most of the LE stuff is a farce. I have also had several advertising companies that I have listed with ( although I have never seen the magazine I am listed in ) .

    Basically - just tell them you are not going to pay it...... if they fuss tell them to sue you - of course they have to do it in the county that you are operating in.

    We have a policy that nothing can be purchased unless it comes out of petty cash without a "purchase order" number. If you don't have printed orders with purchase numbers on them take a simple composition book and start a numerical procession just like check number. Be sure as people call to document your purchases to the the correct numbers.

    When jokers like these in the article call - we just ask for their purchase order number...... when they can't give us one we kindly explain they have made a mistake - and gracefully hang up the phone. .... Usually they don't call back.

  • BlowupDollWithChatAmbitions Nov 15, 2007

    Send someone by, then have the police waiting to arrest them on the spot if they cannot prove that the company exists and that the bill is legit. Or work with the attorney general about a sting operation, then getting the person to come and pick up the check. Franky, I like the abseball idea better though. :)

  • naturalborncitizen Nov 14, 2007

    Tell them to come by, when they get there introduce them to your baseball bat