PORTLAND, Ore.— A 98-year-old Portland woman was charged more than $1,000 for trash bags.
Virgina Ranken received 30 rolls of plastic bags after getting a phone call from a company named American Disabled & Disadvantaged Workers.
“You feel sorry for them. If you can help them you do,” said Ranken.
The Indianapolis based company claims to provide job and training opportunities for adults who are disabled and disadvantaged.
Make no mistake though -- it’s not a charity. American Disabled & Disadvantaged Workers is a for-profit telemarketing business that sells trash bags, light bulbs and greeting cards at a tremendous mark-up compared to retailers.
“They’re just taking advantage of her,” said Ranken’s grandson-in-law, Brian Wilson, who unpacked the box of white trash bags. “They’re not stretchable. They’re not scented. They don’t reduce odors. They don’t do anything special. It’s just a garbage bag.”
Inside the taped-up cardboard box from American Disabled & Disadvantaged Workers, Wilson discovered an invoice for $1,199.49.
“Steam came out of my ears. It was like a cartoon,” said Wilson. “I was mad!”
One of a series of invoices ordering Rankin to pay for trash bags
Wilson contacted the company by phone. He said customer service demanded that his 98-year-old grandmother-in-law pay her bill for the 30 rolls of trash bags.
“I’ve never had that many bags before, “said Ranken. “You look at them and think, what am I going to do with all of these?”
Records show American Disabled & Disadvantaged Workers has been the focus of more than a half-dozen consumers complaints in Oregon and Indiana. Most of the complaints were closed after disputes were settled, although no specific details were provided.
In May 2014, a Lebanon woman filed a complaint against American Disabled & Disadvantaged Workers with the Oregon Attorney General’s office. Eileen McHill said her then 93-year-old mother had been charged $79 for two rolls of garbage bags. The company also sent her mother boxes and boxes of light bulbs, explained McHill.
“My mother didn't want the product. She had too much of the product," said McHill, who reluctantly agreed to pay American Disabled & Disadvantaged Workers, fearing the dispute would end up in collections.
“I think they are preying on people, elderly people, who want to do a good thing and want to contribute to a good cause," said McHill.
Indiana state records show American Disabled & Disadvantaged Workers incorporated as a business in January 2013. Court filings show multiple state tax warrants have been filed against the company between July 2014 and June 2017.
“Typically when a company is issued a tax warrant from the State of Indiana, it was the result of a tax liability that went unpaid and/or the company failed to meet a filing standard,” explained Emily Landis, spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Labor, in an email to KGW.
The owner of American Disabled & Disadvantaged Workers, Joshua A. Gilbert, did not respond to KGW’s requests for comment. KGW called the company’s Indianapolis office on three separate occasions.
Gilbert has been responsive to two complaints filed with the Oregon Attorney General’s office. In both cases he defended his company.
“We hire disabled workers to package products like trash bags, light bulbs etc. We are not a charity. We are a company that employs disabled people. We are a real company with real disabled people working here,” wrote Gilbert, in an August 2 email to the Oregon DOJ.
The owner of American Disabled & Disadvantaged Workers explained that 98-year old Virginia Ranken “has been a supporter of ours for several years.”
In the email, Gilbert attached copies of paid invoices from Ranken totaling $1,981.25 for orders of trash bags, light bulbs and other products.
“She has ordered 8 times in the last 4 years and paid each time without incident until the most recent order,” said Gilbert.
The company owner warns Ranken needs to pay for the latest order of trash bags or pay to send them back. If she doesn’t, American Disabled & Disadvantaged Workers threatened to report the 98-year old to a collection agency.
Published Aug. 8, 2017