Some advice for Bay Area job seekers

March 28, 2008 7:24:07 PM PDT
If you saw an ad for a government job with good pay and benefits, you might run down to get in line.

The ad says jobs are open. But then you find out it'll cost you some money.

So are you sure you're applying for an actual government position? Two job seekers learned the hard way.

Nineteen-year-old Lashawna Alexander needed money right away for college textbooks. So she scoured the local Pennysaver for a job, and an ad caught her eye.

"It said post office hiring right away so I said wow it's the post office is hiring let me go see," said Lashawna Alexander from Hayward.

Lashawna called the number and was told to report to The National Employment Center in San Leandro. But it wasn't as official as it sounds.

"It wasn't the actual post office, it was a company," said Alexander.

Lashawna wound up signing a contract for study materials to prepare for a postal service employment exam. The cost? $395 dollars.

That was an awful lot of her savings, but Lashawna really needed that job.

"I got $395 dollars out of the bank. Cash, cash, yeah," said Alexander.

All she got for that money was a manual. It had the words "United States" and "postal service." a big flag too but Lashawna says it was "not" helpful.

"There's no clear directions, or no clear instructions on what you do," said Alexander.

Craig baker of Newark answered the same ad.

"I was led to believe they had connections through the post office," said Craig Baker from Newark.

He paid the $395 dollars too.

"I expected at least they'd teach you something and they'd set you up with a job," said Baker.

But Craig says he got no help. He went online and found the job he was supposed to test for was already filled.

"They said the announcement was closed and they were no longer taking applications," said Baker.

Lashawna says there were really no jobs for her either.

"I was very angry so what my grandma did was call 7 On Your Side," said Alexander.

"It's hard to say without a full scale investigation whether this company is being fraudulent or maybe just being deceptive and misrepresentative," said U.S. postal inspector Kristine Kearney.

That's postal inspector Kristine Kearney.

"Using the words United States and postal is going to make the average person think it's coming from us when in fact it's not. The postal service generally doesn't advocate that you use these companies or services," said Kearney.

She says the companies have no inside information about job openings.

Anybody can find that online, and the postal service already provides study materials for every job applicant -- all for free.

The Postal Service put out this consumer alert, warning about companies that advertise government jobs.

"Be careful of who you send money to. You're better off going to the post office and asking if there really are jobs in your area," said Kearney.

We went to the National Employment Center and found it mostly empty.

Manager Gary Arce did not want to appear on camera, but he gave a statement saying: "The ads are not misleading. The company explains the contract before anyone signs up, and the contract includes other services like test taking lessons."

The company did agree to refund all $395 dollars to both Craig and Lashawna, saying Lashawna had tried to cancel within the three-day grace period and because Craig was dissatisfied.

A good rule, if you're looking for a job, you should never have to pay anybody to get it.

RELATED LINKS:

United States Post Office Career Opportunities
United States Post Office Exams


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