Saturday, January 27, 2007



A former Mizzou theater major received a postcard for an audition at Images of St. Louis. He told the Better Business Bureau (BBB), “After the auditions they selected people to sign up for classes. I was surprised because they did not advertise classes.”

He signed a $4,150 contract with Images in June 2006. He explained, “You pretty much had to take the classes if you wanted to work with them as their client.” After attending the classes he felt the classes were different than described in the course syllabus. He cancelled the contract in mid-August, after paying $1,061. Images forgave the balance of the contract.

During its 36-month reporting period, the BBB received 16 complaints and reports against Images of St. Louis, a modeling agency. The BBB logged more than 10,000 requests for a reliability report on the company in the past 36 months. Complainants primarily allege the company engaged in misleading advertising and sales practices.
Missouri’s secretary of state Web site lists SBS Enterprises, Inc. as the owner of Images of St. Louis, 711 Old Frontenac Square, Frontenac, Mo. SBS Enterprises also owns the John Robert Powers name and franchise of the national modeling school system. Nancy Barrett is the president of SBS Enterprises, according to the secretary of state’s Web site.

A St. Louis County mother, now working for the BBB, told the BBB she contacted Images in August 2006 after seeing the company’s ad for a casting call in a local newspaper. She said that Images requested a second interview for her 4-year-old son. After the call back she said she was told her son had a “great look and personality”, but they wanted him to take acting classes and set up an appointment for a photo shoot. Headsheets cost about $300, and the classes cost thousands of dollars. “I told her I didn’t have that kind of money to spend on pictures. She asked me if I had a family member I could borrow the money from. I told her no,” the mother reported. The Images representative continued to pressure her.

The mother was contacted by another Images representative in mid-December 2006, who said they were searching for kids for an audition with Ford Modeling Company. “I asked her if I would still need to have his pictures taken and purchase the headsheets from them first. She said I would. I would have to pay $395 for the photographer and photo processing. I asked her if I could take my own black and white photo of him. She said no the pictures needed to be professionally done by them,” the mother said.

A BBB “shopper” took her 4-year-old son to an audition at Images in late December 2006. During the first interview she said she expressed concern that acting might not be right for her son, as he tends to be shy. One of Images’ representatives replied to the mother that her son was not shy, just slow to warm up.

She said she called Images the following day and was told they were very interested in using her son, and the representative thought “he was absolutely adorable.” She said, “She gave me the option of placing him in the beginner program but he would only get secondary roles, or he could go into training, which for his age would be the Tiny Tots Program, which would open all doors.” The mother opted for the beginner program, and was told her son needed headshots and they were adamant that she pay for them that day, at a cost of $395. She did not return.

A Ballwin woman contacted the BBB after taking her infant daughter to Images in December 2005. She said, “They told me they had clients who were interested in my daughter, that Sears Portrait Studios was looking for babies, and they wanted to get her

picture to Sears right away. I asked if I could use my own pictures. The representative said that to be represented by our company you have to use our photographer for the headshots.” The mother reported paying a $395 print fee for headshots of her daughter, but felt the pictures were not representative of how the baby photographed for other photographers. “I was told that a couple jobs would pay for the pictures and that there were several clients interested in my daughter. It’s been almost a year and my daughter has not gotten a single job,” she said.

Nancy Barrett told the BBB that “In our ego business, we document every detail in writing and have people sign exactly what will be happening.” Ms. Barrett stated that the company does not guarantee job placement and that “everyone is told they can use any source for pictures and training.”

The BBB warns that questionable talent and modeling agencies often:

· Ask for up-front money, which may be called “registration,” “consultation” or “administrative” fees. Normally agents work on commission. They don’t receive any money until you are paid for doing the work they have obtained for you.

· Pressure you to leave a check or cash deposit or sign a contract immediately. The agent may insist that you take acting lessons at a particular school or from a particular teacher, or may try to sell expensive photographs, audition tapes, or other services or materials offered by someone the agency suggests. An agent’s time should be spent finding work for his or her client, not selling products and services.

· Display pictures of famous models or celebrities on the walls to make you believe they are represented by that agency, although they are not.

· Use names which sound familiar to similar well-known agencies. Fraudulent companies will sometimes do this to give the incorrect impression that they are connected to a legitimate agency.

· Place phony ads in the help wanted section of newspapers that say something like, “new faces wanted” for commercials, movies or modeling or claim that “no experience is necessary.”