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Feb-23-2010 00:06printcomments

The Southwestern Company - Part 1: Walks Like a Duck, Quacks Like a Duck, Duck

The group operates a web of companies and employs hundreds of independent contractors who are used to disguise their criminal activities.

multi-million dollar McMansion in Nashville, owned by Spencer Hayes
The multi-million dollar McMansion in Nashville, owned by Spencer Hays, a major owner of the Southwestern Company, who has a net worth of $400 million (Forbes). Courtesy: Google Maps

(EUGENE, Ore.) - This is a story about The Southwestern Company. It is based on months of observation of Southwestern Company workers, interviews with many workers, and extensive research into the Southwestern Company, the web of companies related to it, its executives and owners, and their campaign contributions and extensive connections to leading Republican politicians.

The Southwestern Company hires independent contractors to go door-to-door selling educational books across the United States, in Oregon, and in Salem.

The individuals who sell books for the company, who are mostly college students, stay with host families during the summer, while they are selling books. The Southwestern Company, through various subsidiaries, also does school fundraising, sells natural foods and cook books, and operates an investment company.

The Southwestern Company is and has been engaged in a highly organized criminal operation that includes tax evasion, money laundering, illegal immigration violations, labor law violations, and ruthless exploitation of workers.

The mother of a Salem family that has hosted Southwestern Company employees for several years had this to say: “They are all here to make money. They will take whatever they can.”

A Southwestern employee, who worked in Texas for three weeks, told a story of being thrust into a foreign environment. He arrived in Texas with nowhere to stay, and had to go door-to-door, asking people for a room. After three weeks of walking around in the hot sun, begging strangers for their kindness, he was sufficiently traumatized to pack his bags and go home.

He said it was the worst experience of his life.

The Southwestern Company tells its independent contractors that they should work 12 hours a day, six days a week. On the seventh day of the week they are required to spend 8 hours in group activities with their fellow workers.

The Company provides them with nothing. No housing, no pay, no support. Only rules that they should follow and a script for the products they are supposed to sell.

The Southwestern Company’s rules include taking cold showers in the morning to compensate for sleep deprivation. No cell phones and limited contact with family and friends, in order to maintain focus. No eating meals at their host family’s home, or returning to their temporary home during working hours.

These “rules”, which are illegal to impose on independent contractors, are described by the company as “suggestions”. They are enforced by “team leaders", who are independent contractors who have already finished a year working for the company, and get a percentage of the sales from their new underlings.

Independent contractors working for the Southwestern Company have no source of income other than the sales they make. If they do not make their sales, they cannot pay their rent, or eat.

Since the Southwestern Company makes a point of moving its sales agents away from their homes and isolating them from their family and friends, this provides a powerful incentive to maintain the company’s “recommended” 80 hour working week.

The Southwestern Company was built over decades using an all American workforce, but more recently they have shifted their recruiting to focus on Eastern European countries.

Foreign employees of the Southwestern Company pay for their own tickets to the U.S. and their own Visas. In some cases, their recruiters hold their return tickets until they complete their work duties.

The Southwestern Company requires foreign employees to work after their Visas have expired, exposing them to charges for Federal immigration violations. Employees are also required to open their own bank accounts in order to process payments, potentially exposing them to State and Federal money laundering and tax evasion charges.

Bedford Estate in Franklin, Tennessee.

According to the Southwestern Company, these business practices are designed to “build people” by helping them “develop character,” “fostering respect,” “developing aspirations,” and “expecting excellence.”

The Southwestern Company CEO, Henry Bedford, Lives on a multi-acre estate in Franklin, Tennessee, on the outskirts of Nashville. His massive home, surrounded by woods, overlooks a man made private lake.

Spencer Hays, a major owner of the Southwestern Company, is reputed by Forbes to have a net worth of $400 million. He owns a multi-million dollar McMansion in Nashville, along with an apartment at 778 Park Avenue in New York, where units sell for $25 million.

The Southwestern Company operates a web of companies and employs hundreds of independent contractors who are used to disguise their criminal activities. The owners, executives, and former executives of the company, whose collective worth runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars, run even more companies outside of Southwestern’s corporate sphere.

The Southwestern Company donates heavily to the Republican Party. Their executives have given thousands to the likes of John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and Lamar Alexander: some of the most influential Republican politicians of the last two decades.

Former Southwestern Company employees include Jeff Sessions, U.S. Senator from Alabama; Marsha Blackburn, U.S. Congresswoman from Tennessee; Rick Perry, Governor of Texas; and Ken Starr, the infamous “Whitewater Investigator” of Bill Clinton.

The Southwestern Company is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. The company started out selling Bibles door-to-door. The connections of their executives and employees to evangelic Christian organizations remain strong. The connections they share are largely the same as those of their Republican politician friends.

In Part 2 of this series, “A RICO Case,” I will lay out the evidence and arguments that demonstrate a widespread and ongoing pattern of racketeering activity by the Southwestern Company that includes multiple levels of tax evasion, money laundering, and false income tax reporting.

In addition, I will provide evidence of organized and intentional violations of U.S. immigration laws.

In Part 3 of this series, “Web of Deceit,” I will connect the dots between the dozens of shell companies, political action groups, multi-millionaires, Republican politicians, and evangelical Christian groups that make up the web through which the Southwestern Company asserts its influence and extracts its illegally gained profits.

Editor's note: This story was modified on 24 Feb. 2010 with various changes to meet the needs of a retraction demand from this company. To learn more visit: Retraction: The Southwestern Company - Part 1: Corporate Mafia Business/Economy Reporter Ersun Warncke is a native Oregonian. He has a degree in Economics from Portland State University and studied Law at University of Oregon. At a young age, his career spans a wide variety of fields, from fast food, to union labor, to computer programming. He has published works concerning economics, business, government, and media on blogs for several years. He currently works as an independent software designer specializing in web based applications, open source software, and peer-to-peer (P2P) applications.

Ersun describes his writing as being "in the language of the boardroom from the perspective of the shop floor." He adds that "he has no education in journalism other than reading Hunter S. Thompson." But along with life comes the real experience that indeed creates quality writers. Right now, every detail that can help the general public get ahead in life financially, is of paramount importance.

You can write to Ersun at:


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Casual Reader August 2, 2020 4:35 pm (Pacific time)

This article is well dated. 

David March 20, 2020 9:16 pm (Pacific time)

This article is ridiculous. I worked with Southwestern during two of my college summers because I would learn value skills and lessons that serve me to this day, and it paid far more than waiting tables, life guarding, or working construction/mowing lawns back home. My brother sold with the company as well. The Southwestern Company started as a publishing company in mid 1800s to print Bibles after nearly all southern publishing companies were closed due to the Civil War. In the 1860s it became a college program for college students to make a non traditional living during their summer months, and gain valuable skills that cannot be taught or learned in a classroom. The internship exist to this day. Over the past 150 years Southwestern has funded, and helped launch several other legitimate businesses - most of which were founded by graduates of the program. The program, although non-traditional, is totally legitimate, unlike this article.

EDITOR: David, Thank you for your feedback. It is so unfortunate that more people haven't had your positive experience with the company. Let's hope for the best.

Vic April 4, 2017 5:15 pm (Pacific time)

I have worked for Southwestern Advantage for 4 years and I have loved the experience! I have grown a ton in the process, broke all my belief barriers, and learned to not be a victim in the process. I learned to work for my success and really learned the value of treating people well. Southwestern is not for everyone and that is okay! Ultimately, if you had a bad experience, you probably did not work hard, did not prepare properly, and were not coachable. I am sorry, but everyone who goes through sales school knows that is what is takes and they do an amazing job at making that clear. So my experience with Southwestern has been well worth my four years and many more and the years my sister and brother, and future kids will put in.

Shari March 6, 2017 6:12 pm (Pacific time)

I worked for the Southwestern Company in college, and it was a great experience. It did require hard work and presented it's challenges, but there was a lot to learn and a great deal of support. We basically ran our own businesses and we were taught how to do this. I learned a lot, and I was placed in markets that were safe for me to sell in. This isn't a job for everyone, I happened to be a hard worker then and stayed focused on being productive. I learned a lot, I loved meeting the families I sold to and the books were very useful. I have a set for my children today. I don't know of another job that required the same sincere level of hard work and discipline, but it was good for me. I was very well informed of the process and commitment before I sold, and nothing was a surprise. I am still in touch with my host family today and they were also very impressed by our tenacity. I can't speak to the tax evasion and money laundering allegations of your article, but from my vantage point, it was a rather fair and honest business.

Oleschool Bookie November 19, 2016 5:21 pm (Pacific time)

Tough Job ! I did it one summer in 1976 - the best of times and the worst of times. Yes, the experience is golden, if you can survive - hey I'm still impressed 30 years later ! But, having a young college student in their teens, hundreds of miles away from family and friends, knocking on doors trying to sell a strange product to strange people who are not interested - is perhaps irresponsible. Yes you do learn how to survive ... literally as a homeless person with no support system other than a few co-workers, really strangers to you, offering hope and motivation but their real goal is to keep you working to make them $$. It's an unforgettable experience and will change your life. Overall, I'm perhaps better by the experience and the life lessons it teaches, but I would not recommend the occasion to family or friends. Hey, join the Arm Services or Peace Corps !

Don Taylor June 6, 2016 1:24 pm (Pacific time)

Absolutely the toughest "job" I've ever had. I worked with Southwestern 4 summers while in college and I finished school with ZERO debt. I never took a student loan, but worked hard to pay my way. Southwestern enabled me to do exactly that. And no, I DIDN'T have a scholarship for my college. And no, my parents couldn't afford to pay for my college (Dad helped me with 1/2 of my first quarter of college, but told me I was on my own from there). Where does a young person learn to be self reliant, to be courageous, courteous, to be a business manager, and to be mentally and physically tough enough to persevere in life? Where does that student learn how important it is to be totally reliant upon YOURSELF? To never depend on handouts from family, friends, strangers, or the GOVERNMENT? Southwestern is one of the few places a young person can get that education. Here is a company that gives you an opportunity to become a "STUDENT MANAGER" AND AN "ORGANIZATIONAL MANAGER" even before you become an ADULT.I don't think they offer a course in college on total self reliance (I could be wrong). I am personally acquainted with Henry Bedford and Spencer Hays. How well do you know them, Ersun? Perhaps Ersun should KNOW someone personally before launching into character assassinations. When a group of us (Southwestern "bookmen") were involved in an accident in Mexico, I personally received a phone call from Spencer Hays (that was before cell phones and there was ONLY ONE long distance phone spot in Santa Rosalia, Baja, MX. He was checking on me after one in our group (the one that was directly involved in a motorcycle accident) was airlifted to San Diego and the others boarded a train back to the US leaving me there to take care of post accident details (at my choosing because I spoke enough Spanish to do that). I have known Henry Bedford for many years and know him to be of the highest integrity one could ask. Perhaps Ersun spent some time "on the bookfield," but couldn't summon the intestinal fortitude and the commitment to succeed for one full summer in one of the toughest jobs known to a college student. If you want to blast Southwestern, I guess you should also blast Earl Nightingale, Albert Gray, Mort Utley, Dave Ramsey, and a host of other well know people that teach "success in life" principles. They all are/were supporters of Southwestern, and their writings are recommended readings by Southwestern directors, officers, and managers. Over the last 160 years, MILLIONS of college students have benefited greatly in their life, family, and in their careers as a result of the life enhancing philosophies they learned at Southwestern. Southwestern teaches a young person early in life that hard work, being frugal, developing "STICKABILITY," and learning to depend on yourself is paramount to having a successful life. Yeah, telling yourself daily "I FEEL HEALTHY, I FEEL HAPPY, I FEEL TERRIFIC" and " I CAN, I WILL, I'M GOING TO," and a multitude of other self talk slogans has a positive effect on your daily life, your productivity, and creativeness. Southwestern teaches you that YOU and YOU ALONE are responsible for how your day or how your LIFE turns out. They teach you that the world is NOT INTERESTED in the storms you encountered. They are interested in "DID YOU BRING YOUR SHIP TO PORT?" C'mon Ersun. Suck up whatever is bugging you about the successful people that have come through the ranks of Southwestern.

Cat August 3, 2015 4:28 am (Pacific time)

I worked for this organization for one summer in college. Not only were the techniques employed by the student leaders controlling, they were dangerous - one student was killed in a car accident when he fell asleep behind the wheel during an 88 hour work week. The cold showers, working hours, rituals, etc. are touted as suggestions, but in reality, there is enormous pressure to conform to group practices. The extreme hours, sleep deprivation, ritualistic behavior and limited contact with friends and family are well known mind control techniques employed by a variety of extraordinary groups, otherwise known as cults. This is a dangerous organization that will leave you with empty promises and empty pockets.

Bill June 1, 2015 11:06 pm (Pacific time)

Fascinating how all of these questionable companies like Southwestern and Amway always have ties to corrupt Christian-Republican politicians.

am October 21, 2013 9:33 am (Pacific time)

you want a fact about southwestern. I worked for Athlon Sports and was made fun of because I used to have cancer, by an illiterate racist moron who used to make fun of me because I used words he had never known before. I will say this about Spencer Hays..he's a very nice man. If only I would of complained to him, instead of Bryce Wells, I wouldn't of been fired and escorted out so that I wouldn't tell anyone else I was being fired for complaining about racism. For a year and a half, I put up with this daily pack mentality of let's make fun of the foreigner because we're insecure about our own lives. I never knew how someone could actually want to kill themselves, until I looked out into the ground below while walking back to my office..and stood there for 5 minutes and gave some serious thought to ending it. After all, these were people who MADE FUN OF ME BECAUSE I USED TO HAVE CANCER. They had these evil smirks and would take joy in my pain. I know this sounds hard to believe, but it's all true. WORKING AT ATHLON SPORTS WAS THE MOST AWFUL EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE AND I WOULD NOT WISH IT ON MY WORST ENEMY. Riley Hamilton, an illiterate hill billy, and Michael Mccracken an insecure geek who just joined in on the fun and told me I was delusional and that everyone liked me, made my life a living hell on a daily basis, for their own entertainment. And I will never forgive or forget this,and am TRAUMATIZED still to this day.

Mike July 5, 2013 9:02 pm (Pacific time)

I wrote and then discarded a long letter, which was a result of my reaction to this article. But instead of asking you read that, I suggest the corporate counsel of the SW company and this newspaper talk about facts and responsibilities. Also, I would ask the author to reflect about what motivates his political outlook and apparent animus.

David June 21, 2013 7:26 pm (Pacific time)

Yeah, buddy...I guess you could say some pretty nasty things about a company if you want to. Truth be told, my manager (let's call him ruthless criminal A) never once told me I had to do anything. In fact, he suggested I change something with my team if I thought it would be better, as long as the group maintained the same schedule. Further, as independent contractors we are released from much of the liability that could get us fired- not working the way a boss wants us to, not hitting our quota. It's interesting...beyond that they taught us many of the ways we can correctly and LEGALLY write off tax breaks for being a 1099 contractor who is traveling- otherwise, if we stayed in the same state we would not enjoy the benefits of having those tax write offs. Perhaps you have never been beautifully self-employed. Finally, I made over $40,000 in 12 weeks. With nothing but a bag and a receipt book. Every customer I sold to was a real family with real kids who used the products- for example I had to run back to a house I just delivered books to because I forgot to leave them a second receipt copy. The kids were already on the floor with the math section open doing a worksheet. IN THE SUMMER. Perhaps you should change the subject to "Why Southwestern is not for everyone, and probably not for most." Much love.

Amy March 8, 2013 10:13 am (Pacific time)

Hey all, I am truly saddened by this article. We all know that there are some who didn't make great money selling books or maybe didn't stay for the entire summer. I applaud everyone of them that put their best effort forward. I find it funny that the author of this article would make such claims. People quit jobs all the time and find new ones. I worked with Southwestern for 11 summers and if you asked me was it hard...absolutely. Was it challenging? Yes. Did I make money? Yes. Was I a top salesman? No. Did I pay for college? yes. But, I have to agree with one of the previous comments. This writer is speaking of something he never did. Have I ever had a difficult time finding a job after I moved on...never. The principles that Southwestern taught were priceless and no money could ever replace that. The families I met and states I lived in were awesome and I love the people that I met in each of those states. So you all know - people are trained well. I say thank you to Southwestern and all of the leaders I ever had and all of the students I ever got to work are a class act! Have a blessed day!

dave rogers November 14, 2012 4:29 pm (Pacific time)

Hey i only made $15,000 in 3 months doing this job. I guess that's not that cool is it.

Been there, done that September 25, 2012 3:57 pm (Pacific time)

I am from Europe I have been to this summer job! Reading this article now sounds sooo funny :D cuz everything is turned around soo much that you cant not laught

Melissa September 13, 2012 8:05 am (Pacific time)

After reading this article I'm really saddened to see how people don't take blame for their own actions. I just completed my first summer and absolutely sucked at selling books but had the time of my life. I sold in Tennessee and had the chance to meet some amazing families. I actually have Southwestern products from when I was in high school and guess what...I actually used them and they actually helped. The one complaint that most of you are talking about is the $19.95 charge every month. That is for an online "tutoring" website designed to give your kids more of an advantage with school. Before your card is charged, you're sent two emails saying that your card is going to be charged. Also, during the summer I was never forced to do anything. Yes the managers gave suggestions, but you don't have to eat pbandj every day, don't have to work 80 hours a week, don't have to take cold showers. It's just silly to me that people who have done this internship act they were forced to do something or you were fired. I worked about 90 hours a week because I wanted my resume for future jobs to look awesome. The people who have done this internship for a few weeks and then quit have no ground to complain about it. You quit and didn't finish. That's like dropping a class and saying it was the professor's fault. This job is hard! They told us that a million times before we signed up for it. They also tell you that you have a chance of making no money. You run your own business and earn based on how hard you work. I would recommend this internship to any college kid because it shows you your weaknesses and that nothing in life comes easy. Coming back to college after a summer, I have no problem getting jobs and internships that pay well over minimum wage just because I tell employers I did a summer with southwestern. Before you go bashing something that you, the author, have never done you might want to look at the majority of the positive reviews of this internship. You'll quickly notice that people who didn't finish the summer or didn't make a ton of money are the people who complain. Go figure. I only made $2,000 profit after the summer but it was totally worth it. I hope that other college kids will look past this ignorance and give this internship that will change their lives for the better a chance.

s.mason September 1, 2012 12:26 am (Pacific time)


Cathy December 12, 2011 2:03 pm (Pacific time)

For those who call this a great company - why is it okay to debit someone's bank for a service they didn't agree to? If I honestly believed any of these "positive" stories, I would say that working for thieves probably isn't a Christian and honorable choice for a summer job. Maybe you should rethink your job choice for next summer.

cathy December 12, 2011 1:55 pm (Pacific time)

Alison, they got me too! You don't happen to live in Colorado do you? I noticed they debited my account on the 9th as well and I never authorized this either - but apparently I was dumb enough to pay with a check.

Alison December 9, 2011 3:04 pm (Pacific time)

Well...I believe the BS. I just got scammed by them. All of a sudden 19.95 started coming out of my account. Not sure how they got this info...but I NEVER agreed to it!!!

Chris Utley December 7, 2011 1:55 pm (Pacific time)

It makes me chuckle reading responses to this article and how they go back and forth, but honestly why would this many people make up "stories" about the company.  They tend to sound repetitive which means there is a flaw in the Matrix some where, I'm sorry to say.  Here is a quick question for those of you who are bashing this author... If Southwestern made you men and women of character and respectable people then why do you go about the internet calling authors "dumb, liar, ignorant" that sounds pretty immature to me.

Lee November 21, 2011 3:25 pm (Pacific time)

I ran across this ridiculous article by accident. Probably one of the dumbest articles ever penned. I worked for SW for 6 summers during college. Hardest work I've ever done (and I've worked on a farm growing up, served in the military and started my own business). Criminal activities!!?? This author is a total joke.

Editor: That's funny, based on the email we have received from former employees of this group you are also very unique.

Charlie September 29, 2011 10:50 pm (Pacific time)

This company has been fantastic. I have sold these products for three summers and have earned enough to pay my way through university as a result. I am given confidence in my managers as regardless of their level in the company, they have all sold books just like me. I recently met the president of the company, he took the time to take interest in my personal sales and offer me advice. I have indeed been challenged by the 80 hour weeks every summer. But have learned that in life, those who work hardest do well.

MC July 29, 2011 2:47 pm (Pacific time)

I have just quit working for the SW company this summer. The company was an absolute joke. As a Bulgarian student i had to pay a lot of money to get here. Only to be met by a lack of sleep, lack of food and no help whatsoever from the managers of the company who were tasked with brainwashing us to believe that what we were doing was a 'good thing'

Barry June 3, 2011 1:28 am (Pacific time)

FromSeattle July 15, 2010 2:32 am (Pacific time)
" I myself wish I never spent a summer of my life with them. I ended up using a lot of my sales for all my living expenses and trust me it wasn't luxurious. They insist you spend $20 a week on food. I was eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Southwestern is not helping anyone out but themselves. Don't be fooled students. I feel bad for the foreign student the most."

This was exactly my story. I owed money at the end of the year. Unfortunately I was a slow learner and came back to try to do it again the next year. I could not stand peanut butter and jelly for at least 4 years after my experience. The worst thing is that they expect you to pay for everything. I worked for Cutco also. If you won a trip Cutco actually paid for it.
With the Southwestern Company, you are only winning the chance to go, You still wind up paying for the majority of your reward.

And if you owe money like I did, does the Southwester Company take any responsibility for the hardship, no. They demand their money, that is why you have to get a cosigner before you go out. My parents actually had to pay the company because I was also using the money I would bring in to live off of, errr by pbj to get me through the next week.

This company is a huge lie.

dj April 2, 2011 9:03 am (Pacific time)

this is ridiculous, far fetched and an article of lies... The Southwestern companies are some of the best run most legitimate companies in our country.. I have been working with the companies since I was a college student in the 90s. They are one of the most reputable privately held companies in the United States...

Editor: Right, and we have some real estate in Florida for sale, looks great at low tide....

Luis Lazaro March 2, 2011 9:35 pm (Pacific time)

this is the most ridiculous article i have read. I just finished my first summer with southwestern. I worked 82 hours a week in Indiana, where i was totally out of my element.It was by far the most challenging thing that i have ever done, but also the most rewarding. Thanks to Southwestern i am able to pay for my school, and im way more confident than i have ever been, and im not worried about getting a job after college . So of course im going back for a second summer.

Jake D. February 9, 2011 7:22 pm (Pacific time)

When a student gets a bad grade in the class, what do they do? Blame the professor. I feel terrible for any candidates that read a few bad experiences that blame the company and close their minds to the best opportunity I know of. What's the job market look like? Do you think a college kid going through this experience would make them stick out in an interview? I can't wait for my second summer.

Travis Lopes January 17, 2011 5:47 pm (Pacific time)

The Southwestern Company provides the students that work in the program with a week of sales training, lodging in subsidized hotel rooms for 6 nights in Nashville, free samples, order pads, and supplies for running a business at the onset of the program, free credit card processing services, free customer service representation, free processing of sales tax collections and redemption's, and a support structure of managers who take nightly stat calls and give personal conferences to students each week in an attempt to help each first year student succeed. I have been an "organizational leader" for the past 4 summers and have personally bought disheartened students greyhound bus tickets to home with money out of my own profits so that, if that is the choice the students want to make, they can have a dignified end to their summer. This summer, one girl in my organization spent so much of the money that her customers gave her (in essence stealing money from the company that should have been used to purchase her customer's books) that she finished the summer owing over $2,000. I rallied the other managers and first year students in our sales group and we ended up covering all but $100 of the cost for our friend. I think you are being unduly harsh on a program that has produced current and future leaders and strives to help young people become the best version of themselves through hard work. Commitment in the face of conflict yields character, and that's what students learn at a young age in the Southwestern program. If that is a bad thing, then I personally apologize. The students in the program are extremely well rewarded for their efforts making 40% commission on everything they sell. This summer I had a team of 9 first year students. 8 of them stuck out the program, earning a combined profit (for themselves) of $84,625. My highest student made $22,000, the lowest who finished the summer still made almost $4,000. Does this sound like exploitation to you? None of my students, even the one who did not complete the program, regrets his decision to work with me this summer. Obviously, this reflects my personal experience, as each manager in the program has varying levels of commitment to the success of their first year students. However I think it is unfair to make generalized statements and paint a broad picture with allegations and veiled undertones that are just not correct. For example, Spencer Hayes, who you mention has a McMansion in Nashville and a condo in New York is a self made billionaire who started with nothing as a sales man in our program. He is an example of the fact that with hard work you can achieve so much more than you thought was possible, and that's what the Southwestern Company is about.

Scott November 12, 2010 10:59 am (Pacific time)

Okay so this is definitely the stupidest thing i have heard...the lady buying things to support a student, you have no one to blame but yourself, if paid attention when the student was talking and going through the presentation, you wouldnt have ended up with something you didnt want, don't blame the company, blame yourself..And for all those that complain about how hard it is, dont act like the company or its student managers lie to you about that. It is always straightforward,the hardest thing you will ever do. Quit complaining about having to work hard...this is exactly the reason this country is experiencing a recession because of idiots who dont want to work hard and make a living. Life isn't easy, get out of your comfort zone and go make something of yourself.

kari C. July 21, 2010 5:16 am (Pacific time)

Well it sounds like running a business, which if you ever have you start from the group and and work a lot of hours to have a better income than the average job or in this case summer job. I have a good handful of friends who have done well and paid for school this way. They definitely came back more responsible.

FromSeattle July 15, 2010 2:32 am (Pacific time)

This company is very manipulative and makes you believe that you can go out there and get your own housing from strangers. The only problem is, is that there is no back up plan. It is what it is. Its a huge set up for failure if you don't have the financial backing to support yourself. I spent my first 8 weeks in hotels. Not any hotels but ones with drugs and hookers all around us, because it was cheapest. The money I saved up for a new car went to that. I know a lot of friends who wished they never had been "recruited." I myself wish I never spent a summer of my life with them. I ended up using a lot of my sales for all my living expenses and trust me it wasn't luxurious. They insist you spend $20 a week on food. I was eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Southwestern is not helping anyone out but themselves. Don't be fooled students. I feel bad for the foreign student the most.

Keri June 9, 2010 1:26 pm (Pacific time)

Almost every summer I have purchased books from this company. Not because they are so wonderful, but mostly because I want to help out the foreign exchange students. In fact, my kids rarely even open these books. Last summer I again agreed to buy some more books. However, I was very clear I did not want to make any other purchases and I did not want to be signed up for any additional books. Five months later a book arrives which I did not order. I returned the book and requested not to be sent anything else. Now I find out they have started charging my credit card $19.95 a month for some kind of on-line service I never ordered! This company is extremely deceitful and is using very aggressive and in my opinion fraudulent sales tactics. I would caution people to stay away from this company and do not make any purchases with them. They are like a nasty virus you can’t get rid of!!!!

Corey April 12, 2010 6:54 pm (Pacific time)

Thanks for this article. I got a suspicious phone call yesterday that said someone within the Marketing dept. at the University (which I'm a student in) "referred" me. So, I went to an info session and they told me how great it is and that I would only have to work 80 hours a week and it's a super selective process in which the choose "only the best candidates". I have an interview with them on Wednesday and they told me I would be leaving the day after graduation if they liked me. I've been approached before by Amway people and I got that same feeling. After typing in "Southwestern textbook review" and many a similar page came up (including this one) I think I know my answer to their offer. Thank you so much for providing a lost and confused upcoming graduate with some insight into the background of this company.

Jeff Kaye~ February 23, 2010 6:58 am (Pacific time)

Great job, Ersun; exposing fraud is always a good thing. Your descriptions of this organization's "business practices" are remeniscent of many a fanatical cult, in that its "members" are required to give up nearly everything they have to benefit the leadership. Very scary stuff, but I get the feeling there's a lot more of this going on than anyone is aware of. The use (abuse, really) of immigrants for these types of scams is particularly egregious, as these people are more susceptible to coercion and bribery to maintain their immigrant status. I'll be looking forward to your follow-up and finale.

Josh A. February 23, 2010 5:38 am (Pacific time)

Second rate bible thumping pigs. Most foul swine, ripe for a liberating story of defeat against them. I see their satanic blood-red-and-black eyeballs quivering with a murderlust against their own church quire. (okay I think I was channeling Hunter S Thompson for a second...)

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.