Manhattan Model Search
Complaint Letters


To Whom It May Concern:

I was recently scouted at a model search, The Manhattan Model Search, and I wanted to know if they were a scam.

If you have any info, please email me back. I want to know before I make the trip to their regional model search next month.

Thank You.

R.J.


Hi R.J.,

While nobody has written to Modeling Scams with complaints about The Manhattan Model Search, there is a consumer report from WFLA, News Channel 8, published online.

The report is dated April 1, 2001, and includes an interview with the president of The Manhattan Model Search.

Craig Strauss said he took over the company six months prior, and he was attempting to deal with consumer complaints; the consumer complaints included files at the Better Business Bureau.

You'd have to look into the complaints and determine if fundamental changes have been made, and the BBB is now satisfied, and make sure the comments were not made simply to deal with the press.

Also find out if they hang up on you when you ask, "Can you give me any references of people who have come to these seminars you put on that have actually received some work?"

The report quoted the parent of an aspiring model who said Manhattan Model Search offered modeling classes:

"When you go to the first event, that's free. But they suggest in the brochure, while you're there, to take the classes they offer. They even have photographers who can take pictures if you need them. The fee for this weekend's classes is $350."

Modeling classes are often scams, as much as $350 for a weekend. You would want to know if what they teach is not available elsewhere, and if it is really useful, or not.

One internet forum post responded to a question about The Manhattan Model Search, saying:

It's a waste of time and money. When you are "selected" to proceed to the next round of the Search, it requires thousands of dollars... to be seen by a handful of agents...
 
You can just as easily plan a trip to New York or Miami or wherever yourself, for less bucks, and be seen at an open call.
 
There, you'll be looked at with 1/100th the competition... and by bookers...
 
Even better, find an agent... who's a legitimate mother agent. They have experience placing the models they represent with major market agencies, and don't charge you a thousand bucks to attend a cattle call to do so.
 
Ask yourself this... if Manhattan Model Search really thought you were gonna be "discovered," why wouldn't they sign you to a mother agency contract themselves, and keep a 5% kick on what you do?

These are good points, and basically express conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom says go to an open call at a local modeling agency.

Flying or travelling a long distance to a competition, convention, or anything similar can be expensive, and still not really raise your chances of being seen and signed.

One website includes a useful primer for aspiring models by Blackwood-Steele, a major modeling agency based in New York with hundreds of Manhattan models.

Although you may want to check with the company to verify if what was published is in fact true, they say:

We do participate in model searches and have agreements with... Manhattan Model Search... to appear at their searches throughout the country.

If this is true, Manhattan Model Search may not be a scam, at least in terms of one aspect of its advertising. But it could be a waste of money.

Note the BBB record said: "This firm does not currently qualify for the Bureau's highest rating. This firm is not a licensed modeling agency and cannot actively seek out employment for models."

There isn't a clear definition of what is a modeling scam, and what is just a waste of money, although finance-related modeling scams are always a waste of money.

But it seems to make more sense to use modeling competitions and large national open calls in far away places as a last resort, after all other (cheaper) options (local agency open calls) have been exhausted.

Sincerely,

Redacted Info


To Whom It May Concern:

I went to one of the local Manhattan Model Search events in town, and I was selected. So were about one out of three of the people who were there.

A model scout would be a little bit more selective. Assuming there are about 10,000 models doing real work in the country, we're talking maybe a 1/30,000 selection in the population. Maybe 300,000 people say the commercials. So of the 150 who attended, no more than 10 —maybe 30 to give a 3:1 slop factor, would be picked.

There's a natural tendency to overselect, if you're going to be asking your prospects to fork over upfront money to attend a conference as exhibitors (which is basically what you're doing at the regional model selection event).

A good model scout shouldn't need to require any upfront money from prospects, if they're doing their business right, notwithstanding the logistics of setting up a convention and all.

If they were more selective, the agents would be getting a better draw, and they would certainly be forking over the upfront cash themselves.

The Manhattan Model Search sales pitch was "you could spend thousands flying all over the country to hook up with big-time agencies, but we'll save you bucks and hook you up at ONE site for much less."

In fact, there are five agencies in town, alone, and all I really need to do is send them off a cover letter and snapshots.

The Manhattan reps made a big deal out of pointing out that a scout with a good eye or a prospective agent can spot the draws on sight.

Well, then, fine. They should be able to tell by looking at the photos then. No airfare for that, even if you send off letters out of town. And if you're getting callbacks on that, airfare is ultimately going to be the least of your worries.

They moved the price down to $450, state that 50 agencies will be at the regional model search, have listed those who were at the last couple years' regionals (example: Ford, Arlene Wilson, NBC Television even, etc.).

It's driving distance away, so no major overhead on hotel stays, airfare or the like... except that the scheduling of events means you're getting up VERY early in the morning if you don't stay overnight the previous day.

There's a money-back guarantee —but with a 30-minute time window. And payments by cash only —not even credit cards (why not?).

No queries were made by Manhattan on WHAT area you intended to specialize in. It's completely generic, although they said they made their selections with some area of specialization in mind when they select you.

The conference is NOT geared toward anyone who is already familiar with the business. It's nothing more than a teach-in to get facts that a mere afternoon's search over the Internet will get you more of. As someone already familiar with the business, I will not benefit from this.

For all practical purposes, it's a trade show expo and you're paying a fee to be an exhibitor. The only difference is that you're the ones doing the walking around, while the prospective buyers are sitting down.

Given that 50 people are going down there, when only 10 should be, you're looking at 5:1 odds against —unless you're really that damn good. That is 5:1 against getting any callbacks at all out of 50.

The only benefit I'd be getting out of it is direct face-to-face feedback one level of indirection closer to where I need to be. I'd rather have someone telling me to my face whether I'm suited to the business —especially when there's 50 opinions to sample at one time —than to get the feedback the hard way by the deafening silence of the lack of response to the cover letters.

So, I might consider playing the game their way and shelling out the bucks, just to get the direct feedback and to do networking at trade show expos like you should when going into a new career.

But that would be IN ADDITION TO sending out cover letters to local prospective agents (who won't be there), and maybe a select few out of town. I really don't like being 2-3 levels of indirection away from where I need to be.

If you're a total newbie or don't have the bucks to shell out, then it might be better just to send out cover letters to local agencies and work your way out from there —and to do your research, both on the business and on yourself to determine where you want to specialize.

And, anyhow, there are scouts hidden amongst us all over the place serving as feelers for all those agencies. They're doing their job right and they're not asking you for any money up front.

If you get out a lot and if you're really well-suited (for whatever segment of the business in question), then you would have been noticed by now. It's their job to find you.

M.H.


To Whom It May Concern:

I recently attended an open call in Chicago, IL, for Manhattan Model Search.

They do charge a fee to attend their Regional Model Search, but they made it very clear to us that we can pursue this business on our own by going to NY, Los Angeles, or Miami.

The woman, Kathryn, said that the truth is that we do not need Manhattan Model Search, we need an agent, and MMS is one way to pursue this business.

She also said "there are no guarantees."

I have attended other open calls, and they were not as upfront and brutally honest as MMS was. They deserve some kudos for that.

Manhattan Model Search is a mother agency that receives the 5% commission. They tell us that sometimes they make money at their conventions, sometimes they don't.

I work in advertising and I know that radio and TV ads cost a fortune. I'm sure it costs them a pretty penny to put the conventions together. At least they tell us that.

I'm going to their event on Sept. 8th.

Maybe I am wrong, but I see this as an opportunity to be seen by 50 agents in one day. That is very hard to do on your own.

Plus, I would spend far more than $450 to fly to New York, Miami, and LA.

This is not an easy business to get a foot in the door, so I am glad I attended the open call, got selected, and have this opportunity.

God bless you,

D.Q.


D.,

You said: "They made it very clear to us that we can pursue this business on our own by going to NY, Los Angeles, or Miami."

Did they also make it very clear to you that you can SEND your pictures to NY, Los Angeles, and Miami? Did they also make it very clear to you that THEY can send your pictures to NY, Los Angeles, and Miami?

You said: "The woman, Kathryn, said that the truth is that we do not need Manhattan Model Search, we need an agent, and MMS is one way to pursue this business."

This is very true. You do not need a model search to find the mailing address of agencies in NY, Los Angeles, and Miami.

You said: "She also said 'there are no guarantees.'"

That disclaimer is used by almost everyone and does not mean a lot. We already know this. It is small comfort if there is no money-back guarantee.

You said: "I have attended other open calls, and they were not as upfront and brutally honest as MMS was. They deserve some kudos for that."

Really? Were they as up front as MSA? NYC Fame? Did they not tell you their failure rate? Why do you think they deserve some kudos if Manhattan Model Search, unlike Model Search America and NYC Fame, does not include its success rate in its BBB record?

Saying "there are no guarantees" is not the standard of being up front. If a model search does not communicate its success rate it is not being up front. Why do you think the BBB record for two model searches includes the information?

You said: "I work in advertising and I know that radio and TV ads cost a fortune. I'm sure it costs them a pretty penny to put the conventions together. At least they tell us that."

Whatever they paid in advertising is not the issue. Besides, their books have not been audited, so there is no reason to believe what has not been substantiated.

You said: "I would spend far more than $450 to fly to New York, Miami, and LA."

That is the tired sales pitch. How much would you pay to fly your pictures to New York, Miami, and LA?

You said Manhattan Model Search provides an opportunity "to be seen by 50 agents in one day."

So let's say there are 50 agents who are going to attend the convention. Why doesn't Manhattan Model Search send pictures of the potential models to these 50 agents BEFORE the convention?

Each person would only have to pay for 50 pictures (headshot) or 100 pictures (headshot and bodyshot). These would be Polaroids, not professional pictures, because the agencies want Polaroids, not professional pictures.

How much would it cost the aspiring model?

Your claim was basically the same as what another aspiring model wrote. She used the same sales pitch; then I countered with the photos first idea.

She changed her mind. She decided to forget about the model search and contacted the modeling agencies directly. Some she sent her pictures by email; others she sent her pictures by mail. She bought some Polaroids. Total cost: $12.

Redacted Info


To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to know if Manhattan Model Search in NY, NY, is a legitimate company. They scout you then tell you to go to Buffalo, NY, for their regional model search to be presented to the likes of Elite, Wilhelmina, Ford, Columbia Tristar, etc.

There is a workshop given by Sharon Magic Jordan for $60. There is a charge to attend the model search: $450. There are additional costs for a room.

R.V.


R.,

The BBB record for MMS said: "This firm does not currently qualify for the Bureau's highest rating. This firm is not a licensed modeling agency and cannot actively seek out employment for models."

Did they not tell you that you can send in your pictures directly to Elite, Wilhelmina, Ford, etc., at no extra expense? Do they offer to send them to these agencies to be screened before you pay and go?

Most all agencies do not ask to see aspiring models in person if they do not live near the agency until after they have first reviewed their photos submitted by mail. You can send them Polaroids, not professional pictures.

Redacted Info


He did tell us to go to their regional search, then present the pictures. He never told us we could submit pictures directly to the modeling agencies.

He told us to attend their regional model search we had to pay a $450 fee, then you walk a runway in front of modeling agents.

He promised to refund the $450 if you follow the rules on the money-back guarantee paper that Mr. Strauss handed out September 14, 2002, at the Ramada Inn in Watertown, NY.

Their pamphlet had a Chamber of Commerce mark. There is a website: www.manhattanmodelsearch.com.

Thank you for the information. We won't be attending. I am just sorry I listed my phone number on their application form.

I hope you can save other people from wasting their hard-earned money. By the way, this was advertised by radio.

R.V.


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