The hook: a free seminar touting the nameof self-proclaimed “America’s #1 Real Estate Investor” Dean Graziosi. Thepromise: learn the secrets to real estate investing success. The initialinvestment: books and DVDs. Thecloser: seminars, workshops, and counseling with industry professionals(mentors). The cost: $19.95 to tens of thousands of dollars. The result:reportedly disappointed consumers looking for not only money, but their timeback. After more than a year investigating consumer allegations about thevalidity of the promises made by the Dean Graziosi brand, Better BusinessBureau (BBB) reveals findings on whether a new Dean Graziosi brand is equippedto fulfill promises.
Who is Dean Graziosi?
According to www.deangraziosi.com, DeanRobert Graziosi is a bestselling author known for his long running infomercialseries on late night television offering real estate books. As a real estateinvestor and expert, Graziosi promises to teach the secrets to successful realestate investing using books, DVDs, seminars and workshops. “Profit From RealEstate Right Now,” “Your Town Your Profits,” and “30 Days to Real Estate Cash”are some of the books written by Graziosi, with “Be a Real Estate Millionaire -Secret Strategies for Lifetime Wealth Today” known as one of his best sellers.
In 2002, Graziosi formed DeanEnterprises, LLC that served as a creation and production companyfor his real estate information products and infomercials. The first realestate program was entitled “Think a Little Different” and quickly gainedpopularity across the nation.
In 2003, The Dean Graziosi SuccessAcademy was founded to “teach people, in great detail, the process of realestate investing.” Partnering withProfessionalMarketing International (PMI), Graziosi offered a comprehensive guideto successful investing. In 2006, the name was changed to the Success Academy.
In 2010, Dean teamed up with Insider’sFinancial to deliver live events across America. Due to his well-known name inthe real estate industry, customers eagerly attended the live events - seminarsor workshops - in various states that included Florida, Massachusetts, Indiana,California, Montana, South Carolina, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York,Hawaii, Georgia, New Jersey, Oregon, and Arizona, to name a few.
BBB Business Review Summary:
Starting in 2011, BBB of Central,Northern and Western Arizona (BBB) began receiving complaints about localcompany Dean Enterprises, also known as Dean Graziosi, located at 3901 E.Roeser Road in Phoenix, AZ. To date, BBB has received 22 complaints againstDean Enterprises alleging advertising/sales, billing/collection, delivery,guarantee/warranty, and problems with product/service issues, involving notonly Dean Enterprises but also three other companies with connections to thebrand: Insider’sFinancial, Insider’sEdge, and ProfessionalMarketing International (PMI). Over 20,000 inquiries have also beenreceived by BBB in the last 36 months for Dean Enterprises, more than 10,000 inthe past year.
Currently, Dean Enterprises has an Frating with BBB, on a scale of A+ to F. Even though Dean Graziosi has respondedand resolved the 22 complaints filed against his company, complaints suggestsignificant consumer confusion. Dean Enterprises’ F rating is a result of:BBB’s concern with the industry in which the business operates, number ofcomplaints filed compared to size of business, one (1) serious complaint, andfailure from the business to resolve underlying cause (s) of pattern ofcomplaints.
Specifically, complaints reveal consumerconfusion involving the four previously mentioned companies; confusionconfirmed by company responses to complaints. Dissatisfied consumers submittedcomplaints against the company they thought provided the service or issued theproduct purchased. All four companies have responded to at least one complaintstating the consumer could not be found and must have attended an event orpurchased an item from a strategic or event partner. The company then offers toforward the consumer's information to the “correct” company as resolution tothe complaint, and in most cases, the consumer receives a full or partialrefund. For this reason, most complaints show as "assumed resolved"for all four companies, as BBB assumes the issues were resolved, particularlyif the consumer does not contact BBB again with an update.
“While our end goal was to address theunderlying cause of complaints, a main goal was also to report the rightinformation in our files in terms of what companies were offering what productsand services,” said (Arizona) BBB President Matthew Fehling. “For this reason,it took over a year for BBB to complete its investigation and untangle the webof confusion stated in consumer complaints.”
In an attempt to clarify the confusion,BBB of Central, Northern and Western Arizona met personally with Dean Graziosiearlier in 2013 – in addition to regular communication - where he stated helicensed his name to companies such as Insider's Financial and Insider's Edgefor events, and used PMI for fulfillment purposes.
Complaint Breakdown by Company:
Even though BBB of Central, Northern andWestern Arizona has only received 22 complaints against Dean Enterprises, LLC,Utah’s BBB received 33 against Insider’s Financial and 25 against Insider’sEdge, which seem to have a connection to Dean Enterprises, LLC. ProfessionalMarketing International (PMI) received 302, but not all have a link to DeanEnterprises since they are a fulfillment center for several companies. Morethan 85 percent of complaints against the three companies concern issues witheither product or service or involve advertising and sales issues.
“While complaints have been assigned tospecific companies based on whom they paid for products or services, complaintdetails show consumers have a strong, presumed association to Dean Graziosi,which consumers could find potentially misleading,” added Fehling.
The complaint summary below is areflection of issues presented by consumers who purchased a product/service orattended a seminar/workshop because of the presumed association to the DeanGraziosi brand.
Issues with Books, DVDs, and Online Products
A recurring theme in complaints relatingto products involve unauthorized, recurring charges after product purchase. Onecomplainant stated she was charged $39.95 for more than six months without herknowledge after buying a book advertised for $19.95. In her case, she orderedthe book after watching an infomercial wanting to learn the secrets to realestate investing, while others purchased the products at seminars orworkshops. Other complaints claimissues returning unwanted merchandise and obtaining a refund.
Issues with Seminars, Workshops, and Coaching
Complaints about free seminars claimmisrepresentation of the information to be provided and that Dean Graziosiwould be present. The free initial 90-minute real estate investing seminar isadvertised as a complement to books and other information, promising consumersthe ability to learn industry expertise that will result in real estateinvesting success. To entice consumers to attend, free digital cameras, MP3players and tablets are used as incentives. However, several complainantsallege not receiving the promised free items, with a few obtaining them onlyafter filing a BBB complaint.
“On the invitation it was promised thatthose attending with a reservation would receive as one of the gifts a free MP3player or video MP3 player,” said a complainant. “After the seminar, we wereonly given a request form to fill out and send, not the promised items. To dateand after several calls...only one cheap camera has arrived.”
Other complaints state the free seminarsrun longer than advertised and do not provide information on real estateinvesting. Instead, they serve as a segue to gather consumer information suchas salary and retirement numbers, along with available credit.
“At the seminar, all the participants arespoken to separately by the Dean Graziosi people to find how much money youhave to invest in the program they are selling,” stated a consumer. “We aretold there is to be no networking during the seminar or we will be asked toleave, but after the seminar was over, my husband and I spoke to a few of theparticipants in the parking lot and discovered…two people who spent $3,000 and$6,000 received the same program me and my husband purchased - we paid$12,000!”
Complainants also claim the free seminaronly serves to enroll attendees for a 3-day workshop costing $1,997. As anincentive, attendees are told that if they make a certain amount of dealswithin a specific time period employing the techniques learned at the 3-dayworkshop, they will be reimbursed for its cost. However, consumers allege thereare additional costs associated with obtaining a “deal”’ that are notdisclosed, making it difficult to meet the requirements of what the companyconsiders appropriate. Hence, consumers report feeling misled after paying andattending the 3-day workshop since they’d hoped to learn real estate tactics tohelp them cover the workshop cost.
“After attending their 3-day workshop atthe cost of $1,997...it was then revealed that you would have to spend another$495 to buy an LLC to use Insider’s cash to purchase property,” stated aconsumer. “Then it was revealed all the mistakes you can make if you try to doit on your own with only Insider’s cash customer support line. That what youreally needed was the 3 days of training in Las Vegas with one mentor to workwith at the cost of $40,000.”
Attendees of the 3-day seminar claim theyare encouraged to purchase additional products necessary to succeed. One of theproducts is a package that includes coaching from an industry expert. Based oncomplaints, packages presented at the 3-day seminar cost between $20,000 and$50,000. Issues reported by consumers include the inability to get in contactwith the assigned coach or mentor, resulting in no gain from the packagepurchased.
On more than one occasion and in severalcities, staff at local BBBs attended the initial free seminar and found manyconsumer allegations to be true. It appears consumers who attended the freeseminar are pitched the 3-day workshop. Dean Graziosi was also not present atany of the seminars attended by BBB staff.
BBB also found that upon entering theseminar, consumers are asked to provide personal financial information such asnet earnings and 401k balances, which consumers should always exercise cautionin sharing.
BBB did not attend the 3-day workshop orany other programs offered by Dean Graziosi, nor were any products purchased.
After reviewing Dean Graziosi’sadvertising materials and attending the initial free seminar, BBB challengedclaims concerning testimonials and endorsements, business name and trade style,and general consumer confusion regarding the business’ products and services.While the company promised to address BBB’s concerns, and some have beenaddressed, only future consumer interaction with the brand will indicatewhether the company resolved the underlying cause of complaints.
“Even though not all concerns have beenaddressed by Dean Enterprises, recent communication indicates the company iswilling to work with BBB to resolve the underlying cause of complaints in anattempt to improve the Dean Graziosi brand,” said Dory Gosar, BBB TradePractices and Investigations Manager. “We appreciate the company’s willingnessto work with BBB and allowing us to live our mission of improving marketplacepractices.”
Particularly, Dean Graziosi indicated hewould stop licensing his name to other companies as of mid-November 2013,specifically Insider’s Financial and Insider’s Edge. While it is unknownwhether other companies have stopped using Dean Graziosi’s name, his websitecontinues to advertise live events. Graziosi stated he would conduct liveevents under his own name moving forward and address BBB’s concerns relating toconsumer confusion. BBB has not received a complaint against Dean Graziosisince October of 2013.
Consumers may contact BBB to reportissues involving the Dean Graziosi brand at 602-264-1721 or www.arizonabbb.org.