In 2019, CBS’ hit series, NCIS spotlighted a fictional character named Midas Mike who taught a ‘mobile home millions’ [SIC] course that seemed eerily like partners Frank Rolfe and Dave Reynolds “boot camps,” “bus tours,” and Mobile Home University (MHU). More recently, a CBS affiliate in Colorado did an investigative report on what a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) official Richard Cleland said on camera sounds like a deceptive trade practice beyond deployed by “Frank and Dave” and their team members against unwitting consumers.
In a phrase, the allegation is that prominent Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) National Communities Council (NCC) member Impact Communities has attempted to deceive consumers using gamed or faked “consumer reviews” that aren’t written by residents at all.
If that new allegation that has drawn a CBS affiliate’s investigative report sounds like another violation of the so-called MHI/NCC “Code of Ethical Conduct,” why would the Arlington, VA based trade group treat this purported violation drawing FTC attention any differently than others by “Frank and Dave” enterprises?
The viral John Oliver video below prominently features Frank Rolfe, but also spotlights other companies, all of which have MHI ties. Coincidences?
Not unlike former MHI Chairman Nathan Smith and his partners renaming the tarnished brand SSK Communities as Flagship Communities, “Frank and Dave” have rebranded RV Horizons as Impact Communities. What they don’t say is that their name suggests the sobering reality: it is the residents and ethical operators who are “impacted” by the tactics that MHI’s Code of Ethical Conduct calls out but doesn’t enforce. Who says? An MHI affiliate as well as an MHI board member to MHProNews. A MHEC executive who is an MHI affiliate said he doesn’t even expect MHI to enforce the code of conduct. Is it another case of MHI/NCC window dressing, head-fakes, and razzle dazzle?
If MHI leaders don’t get it that this pattern of tolerated misbehavior may have contributed to the recent murder of a manufactured home community manager, why would the recent tragedy reported in the article linked below be handled any differently than other tragedies that have harmed numbers of residents in a manner that assures more investigative reports like the one from award-winning journalist Rick Sallinger for CBS4 in Colorado?
This report will next spotlight he video and pull quotes from the new CBS4 investigative report. Several insights as well as pull quotes from that source will be followed by additional information, MHProNews Analysis and Commentary.
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4)– A national company headquartered in Colorado has shut down an internal contest after a CBS4 investigation found employees posting favorable online reviews for their own firm. Colorado-based company Impact Communities owns more than 180 manufactured home communities. CBS4 journalist Rick Sallinger asked a resident, “On a scale of one to five how many stars would you give this mobile home community?”
“I am not going to answer that question, I have to live here,” the Impact Communities resident replied.
That resident is reflective of problematic reviews from ex-employees as well as residents of Impact Communities, or RV Horizons prior to their rebranding.
Perhaps for that reason, a contest was offered to encourage comments – not for residents, but for the Frank and Dave led firm’s own employees. Impact Communities offered a $2000 cash prize for more five star reviews on Google.
Employees jumped in, said Sallinger.
“My company is having a HUGE contest where I can make tons of money! Could everyone go and give me quick shout out and a 5-star review,” one worker posted on their Facebook page.
“I’m hijacking my husband’s phone tonight to give all of you another review. If I see any other kids I’ll grab their phones,” an internal email read.
Sallinger asked an Impact employee who had his face obscured, “Were employees told to disclose that the reviews of the company were by their own employees?”
That staffer’s answer was an emphatic, “No,” as their video posted above reflects.
Sallinger contacted the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, “If they are not disclosing that they work for the company they are reviewing, is that deception?“
Richard Cleland, with the FTC Division of Advertising Practices replied, “It’s been our position that yes. It’s deceptive practice not to disclose if an employee is posting a review of a company and not disclosing.”
Impact’s CEO Dave Reynolds told CBS4 by email they were supposed to get reviews from customers and thought, “they had done everything by the book.”
However, the same whistleblower employee claims some of the company’s top management wrote some reviews themselves.
Sallinger advises people to be skeptical of positive reviews posted on Impact Communities.
Note that Reynolds denied colluding with MHAction in a statement to MHProNews about another tactic that purportedly is as or more devious. When Rolfe and Reynolds and a colleague were asked by MHProNews to react to this CBS4 investigation, they declined comment.
Additional Information, MHProNews Analysis and Commentary
A former Clayton Homes manager recently posted this interesting video on LinkedIn.
But note how little attention is paid to manufactured housing in that video? Sharing such ‘feel good’ items may give some brief escape from the vexing reality that manufactured housing – a good and necessary affordable housing product praised by a rival factory producing trade group – is nevertheless being undermined by people inside our manufactured home industry that are using the MHI as group cover. Who says? That’s the clear meaning of that same rival trade group’s executive director, Tom Hardiman of the Modular Home Builders Association (MHBA), who ripped MHI for deceptive practices.
Deception by MHI. Deception by Frank and Dave and other MHI members. Harm to manufactured home owners and to ‘white hat’ independents. Is there a pattern emerging there?
Our industry is stuck in low gear due to corrupt practices that have covered in mainstream media, but which other than MHProNews and MHLivingNews are glossed over or ignored by our industry’s so-called trade media.
Those others in manufactured housing trade blogging or publishing are routinely ‘on the take’ and ‘rewarded’ by MHI and their ‘big boy’ members. The connection and money trails between MHI and their blogging mouth pieces are there to see for those willing to look at the evidence.
MHARR is correct in saying that there is a need for a new national post-production trade group. What they may imply but don’t always explicit say is that such a trade group would have to be by and for ‘white hat’ brands that care about business ethics.
NAMHCO – the National Association of Manufactured Housing Community Owners – may well have had the right idea in starting a new trade group, but sadly executed their plan in an arguably flawed manner.
- One mistake by NAMHCO was arguably hiring an ex-MHI vice president to be their lobbyist.
- Another was to ‘team up’ with MHI and Prosperity Now, after MHI’s former chairman trashed them publicly.
The tragedy of the weaponization and undermining of the American Dream of affordable home ownership gone awry is illustrated time and again by companies and organizations affiliated with MHI.
It is clear that the Impact Communities expose was possible due in part to CBS4 having a whistleblower inside the firm who provided journalist — with evidence of the alleged deceptive trade practices. MHProNews has similarly benefited from tips from whistleblowers who often choose to remain anonymous.
For clarity and accuracy, once more MHProNews notes that not every company or every professional working for these brands are like those exposed by reports like the one above from CBS 4, John Oliver, or others. Some of our tips come precisely from those inside those brands and wayward nonprofits.
The oncoming election is sucking up much of the oxygen and will for a time. But once the dust settles, if the right outcomes occur, and ‘establishment,’ ‘crony capitalism’ allies, and ‘deep state’ types in the federal government or elsewhere get rooted out, there is hope that such devious tactics that only harm the manufactured housing industry’s white hats and deserving consumers are properly addressed.
If this were a rally, one might start hearing the crowd chanting, “Lock them up! Lock them up!”
There is always more to know. Stay tuned with the runaway largest and documented number one most-read source for authentic manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing.
For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
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