Local News

Women's Conference Not What It Advertised, Some Say

Posted September 22, 2005 7:29 a.m. EDT

— Thousands of women across the Triangle saw it in their mailboxes: a hot-pink announcement inviting them to see celebrities and improve their lives. Some get in free, while others paid $70 for a seat.

The invitation was for the American Women's Conference, which advertises itself as the "No. 1 women's conference, developed by women for women."

The conference was in Raleigh Wednesday at the North Raleigh Hilton. Men with headset microphones were working the stage selling everything from the stock market to memory tools. It left some of the audience members wondering if it really was what the invitation advertised.

"They're funny, excellent salesmen, but they were definitely selling something," said Andrea Vassilos, who attended the event.

The items for sale included a two-day seminar on the stock market for the reduced price of $3,000.

The VIP ticket promoted speeches on building relationships and self-discipline. Vassilos says that was included, but at the same level as the sales events.

"The relationships were talked about by women for about 15 minutes out of the four hours," she said.

Plus, the invitation promised three of the nation's "greatest celebrities in person." WRAL was told that only one celebrity was in attendance -- Kari Michaelsen, a former child star from the 1980s show "Gimme a Break."

"The whole day is an empowerment day for women," Michaelsen said.

She also said the conference delivers what the invitation promises and adds that she is not selling a thing except inspiration.

"Because we all need to have success in all of those areas to have a balanced happy life," she said.

The Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina worries the invitation is misleading.

"They should not disguise the offer as some invitation to a motivational seminar," said BBB's president, Beverly Baskin. "The bottom line is they were selling information, selling packets, materials, products and services and that is not spelled out in the invitation. What we're concerned about is that any advertisement be truthful and straight forward."

Baskin says she would not qualify Michaelsen as one of the nation's greatest celebrities as the invitation promised.

"If I went expecting to see three major celebrities, I'd expect to recognize at least two of them."

The American Women's Conference is registered under a number of different names. There are no local complaints, but the company does not have a good track record with the Better Business Bureau in Utah, where it is based.

Customers have complained about the advertising and trouble with refunds. An affiliated conference also falsely claimed to be a Better Business Bureau member with an impeccable record.

Andrea Vassilos says she did get some valuable information from the event. She even bought a DVD to improve memory.

While the BBB says there may be good information at seminars like these, it is important for the consumer to know exactly what a company is selling before they buy into it.