5 On Your Side

Restaurant Questions 'Bill Collector's' Invoice

Posted November 14, 2007 5:31 p.m. EST
Updated November 15, 2007 12:36 p.m. EST

— 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.