Thursday, March 18, 2010
Rough Road For Treasure Hunters Company
News or faux news?
Treasure Hunters Roadshow is in town. Paying top dollar for gold coins and other collectibles.
At first glance it looks like a news story. There's a byline with the words in bold print, STAFF WRITER. But look closely. The "STAFF WRITER" works for the company featured in the article. Across the top of the full page display the words "Paid Advertising" are repeated.
According to the Better Business Bureau (Link) the BBB asked THR And Associates, the company behind the Treasure Hunters Roadshow, to modify its advertising because originally the "advertorial" appeared to be an article of interest. I suspect the "Paid Advertising" iteration across the top of the page and the notice, "Paid For By THR And Associates, Inc." on the bottom reflect those modifications.
While the BBB has given THR a rating of A minus, on a scale from A plus to F, it does note that it had to ask for the removal of the BBG logo from THR's website because the company is not a BBB Accredited Business.
Normally I'm indifferent to full page ads that appear in the Press-Republican. For three days such ads have been really pushing the services of the Treasure Hunters Roadshow. But the company also got a news brief -- what appears to be a real article -- under Home And Garden Briefs in the Monday, March 15, 2010 edition of the PR (Page A6). For someone like me, I could spot that it was nothing but a canned press release from the company discussed in the "article." One clue: no byline by a PR staff writer.
When it comes to newspapers, the separation of church and state is supposed to be editorial and advertising. That news brief was a breach to me.
So time to log on to the Net and Google the keywords "Treasure Hunters Roadshow." When typing in those words Google offered other search phrases:
-- treasure hunters roadshow rip off
-- treasure hunters roadshow scam
-- treasure hunters roadshow checks bounce
Of course, just because someone complains on the Web doesn't necessarily mean what they say is valid or still holds true. For example, THR manager Tony Enright has stated that the bounced check situation was due to an error by the accounting firm his company had been using. (Link)
There's a wealth of material out there, good and bad, about THR And Associates / Treasure Hunters Roadshow. One newspaper article that caught my eye was an investigative piece by The Examiner, The Independent Voice of Southeast Texas, dated 1/14/10. (Link)
The article by News Editor Jerry Jordan, "Treasure hunters or gold diggers?," details how a month-long investigation by the Examiner revealed that the Treasure Hunters Roadshow wasn't paying "top dollar" for coins, antiques, and other similar items. Newspaper employees went to various TH Roadshow events in the Beaumont, Texas region and found the offers were only a "small fraction of the actual value of precious metals and other items." The Examiner presented the same items to a local pawn shop that "offered three times what THR was giving as its best deal."
My admittedly brief investigation via the Web can't begin to address all the issues and complaints regarding the Treasure Hunters Roadshow. But it does lead to a couple of questions:
1. Does the Press-Republican know how to use Google?
2. Is the Press-Republican in dire financial straits to the point where the separation of editorial and advertising has broken down?
Maybe I'll have to use Google to find out.