--con'tre·pre·neur'i·al·ism or con'tre·pre·neur'ism n.
Today, I'm coining a new word, to describe people like Robert Metzler, president of Allstate's of America, Inc., a Miami, company which I have had the misfortune to deal with.
Although Metzler, may be the world's first contrepreneur, he is not necessarily the best, or even the first contrepreneur to exisit, but simply the first to be described by this term which combines the term "con man" with "entrepreneur".
I believe we need a term for this kind of business person, because, although they are in the minority, we all have had, or will have an encounter with this type sometime in our lives and unfortunately the bad taste which we are left with as a result of such an experience, tends to seriously taint our feelings about business people as a whole.
After having my experience with Bob Metzler and his company Allstate's of America, Inc., located in Miami, I had considerable difficulty in comprehending how such a deceitful operator could continue to operate for 34 years, as Metzler claims. (Or was his 30 plus years in business just part of his story?)
As I thought about this, and gathered more information in my quest to seek some retribution from my dealings several things became clear to me that explains how a person so unethical can continue to operate for such a long period with impunity.
Metzler acquires discarded, replaced or damaged automotive service machinery and equipment, cleans and paints it, and resells it as supposedly reconditioned, tested and guaranteed equipment. In this sense, he is providing a wanted service to the owners of the obsolete equipment, taking it off their hands and providing them some payment for it.
Next, he specializes in exporting. A significant portion of what he sells is shipped out of the US, to countries where equivalent new equipment would be considerably more expensive than the used alternatives he offers.
Most of this equipment is heavy and bulky. Shipping it is expensive and the importation of these things into their destined markets is both fraught with red-tape, and expensive duties and taxes.
There are no existing laws or agencies which regulate and enforce standards of quality, warranties and general compliance with sales/purchase agreements. Agencies such as the Miami Better Business Bureau (which rates his business with it's lowest "F") and the State of Florida's Consumer Affairs Office, do not have any authority to do anything apart from attempt to communicate with the business and request a voluntary reconcilliation. This is in spite of the fact that the BBB has a long list of un-resolved complaints against this business.
According to Detective Kenneth Joseph with the Economic Crimes unit of the Miami Police, no US police force would respond to any complaint against Mr. Metzler as long as he shipped something -- anything -- in return for payment.
While the cost of most of his equipment is expensive, much of it running to several thousand dollars per item, it is not a mass market and the absolute total value of his transactions is not large enough to justify the cost of legal action either on an individual basis or even as a class action. The cost for a foreign complaint to attempt court ordered resolution in small claims court is prohibitive.
The fruits of Metzler's fraud are not of much interest to any news media who would reach other potential victims. This is no mass consumer problem or multi-million dollar fiasco that affect thousands. Local news media are likely to turn a deaf ear to reports of wrong doing because the only outcome would be loss of local jobs and purchases from local businesses. National and international media are too sophisticated to focus on a miniscule ripple in a distant, backward nation who should be thankful that cast-off American products are available in the first place.
So there you have it, the formula through which for anyone with limited scruples to find a lucrative niche .
- Provide some limited service to somebody in the community.
- Caters to a hungry market which is outside the base community.
- Sells products which involves considerable extra expense to receive.
- Operates in activity in which there is no regulation.
- Police have no jurisdiction.
- Legal action involves high costs.
- Scale small enough that news media are not interested.
The internet now offers us some tools which may help to make these contrepreneurs better known. Two that I know of are Ripoff Report, and My 3 Cents which allow individuals to publicially expose these kinds of operations. I encourage everyone to use these kinds of opportunities to avoid falling prey to contrepreneurs and to spread the word so that the world becomes more aware of their activities.
Anyone who is interested in the sordid details of my dealings with Metzler and Company can find them at: