Incensed; 'reward' company closes, 60+ without work
Story by Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- For almost eleven years, Chattanooga-based Incentium (formerly VIP-Gift) had built its business by helping other businesses develop
reward programs for loyal customers and employees.
Its credo, as of 2008, was "motivating with choice, inspiring results."
But for Call Center manager Cally Neal, and more than sixty co-workers at corporate headquarters on Cherokee Boulevard, actions speak far louder than words.
"For the past couple of days we've watched executive and management load their vehicles with their personal belongings and we really wondered what was going on," Neal says.
Neal, and her co-workers had their answer by mid-morning Wednesday. And started loading their belongings too.
"Told us turn in our badges, or company phones and said 'you can go home for the day," Neal says.
"Which, basically, is the rest of our lives."
Except, her job required one final duty; record, for company voicemail, the same message that greets visitors to Incentium's web site:
"Due to difficult business and economic conditions, Incentium, LLC (the "Company") was forced to permanently cease all business operations effective February 9, 2011. Company assets will be liquidated in an orderly manner for the benefit of its creditors."
"I told them you guys better hope I don't ad lib this at all," Neal says wryly.
"But I read exactly the script that they gave me."
Apparently, Incentium has given some of its now-former workers incentives to stay silent; severance packages. No one will say how much.
Beyond that, workers say, there's no safety net. No more health insurance. No out-placement help, finding another job.
Neal says Incentium had two layoffs last year, but had starting hiring temp workers last month. Most employees though the owners had lined up a new major investor
"Whatever it is, I guess, the investor pulled out," Neal said.
"That was the final straw."
Personally, Neal says Incentium's final insult has been to station a Chattanooga Police officer on-site, during and following the announcement of closing.
Such precautions are standard operating procedure for many companies who terminate workers.
"There they are, throwing us out and they're saying 'oh, by the way. we don't trust you. We've got police here in case someone decides to go postal."
What if you have a gift package through Incentium?
Eyewitness News has tried, repeatedly, to reach its Chattanooga managers. No returned calls.
We've called its equity investors. Summit Partners hasn't returned calls.
Bridgescale Partners referred us back to Incentium's web site.
We tried to reach Hamid Andalib, the restaurateur who founded the original company VIP Gift.
His Chattanooga telephone has been disconnected.