My Experience in a 3HO Boiler Room

November 1999
By F. Kaur

The first time I had ever seen or heard of the boiler room businesses of 3HO was in the mid-70's. I was visiting a friend who lived in the Sikh Dharma community in LA. The night I arrived, my friend invited me to go along to work with them the next day and hang around with them there. They only worked a few hours and were done before noon. Normally, we would go to the 3HO customary early morning services as at the ashram. In those days, ashramites got up at 3:30 a.m. and went to a 3HO ashram to do an hour of yoga and an hour of meditation followed by a spiritual service. My friend said we had to skip the ashram routine and go to work at 4:30 a.m. hitting the phones early for the telemarketing business known to us as "GRD Enterprises" or Guru Ram Das Enterprise.

When we arrived, there were men and women sitting in small cubicles, all 3HO/Sikh Dharma members, doing some sort of phone rap to people on the other end. They were saying things like, "Hi, this is Bob Thomas (Mary Thomas) with your copier machine company and we are having a sale on toner and I see by our records that it's about time to send you another shipment. We are also giving a free gift if you buy more than the usual…now how many bottles can I send to you today?" The truth of the matter was that there was no "Bob or Mary Thomas" instead it was some Sikh Dharma guy with a long beard and a name just as long and unpronounceable. There was no customer order in front of him, just a page from what looked like the local phone book in front. He was just going down the page, office by office, making a sales pitch for copier toner. This was going on all over the room.

I sat around a watched the action for a while and was then asked if I would like to meet the boss, Hari Jiwan Singh. Sure, I said and I was taken to his office. It was rather cramped and small but he didn't hesitate to ask if I would like to jump on the phones and make a few extra bucks for a few hours in the morning while I was in LA. He proceeded to tell me some sob story about coming to LA broke and no one would hire him and he had to sell pencils over the phone and what a valuable lesson in American capitalism this all had been, but now, he was the owner of GRD Enterprises!

Little did I know that Hari Jiwan Singh probably told that story to everyone who walked through the door as all were considered potential moneymakers for the business. Little did I know that he probably never went without a meal as he was from a wealthy mid-western family and there was talk that he had a very large trust fund supporting him and his lifestyle. And, as time went on, just about everyone in Sikh Dharma knew the story of Hari Jiwan Singh; he was very to open and very not shy verbalizing his parents' wealth and their generosity toward him.

I decided to give the telemarketing job a whirl as I could always use extra cash and it didn't seem like it would hurt or interfere with my morning spiritual practices for just one week. And besides, I could justify working there as GRD Enterprises because it had to blessed by Yogi Bhajan or these guys wouldn't be here and instead would be doing yoga. Right?

I was taken to a cubical and given a copy of the rap sheet (scripted dialogue) that I could learn to repeat over the phone, selling secretary's toner for office copiers. Standard telemarketing procedure, so it seemed. But A member of the 3HO community later told me that the toner was definitely inferior, cheaper than the produce sold by major copy companies. I was also told that there was no "free gift" either. I also found out that businesses that purchased from GRD were being billed incorrectly and that the GRD product was being sold at a much higher than normal market price

When I asked one of the GRD principles, Siri Ram Singh about what I heard, he did not deny it. To the best of my recollection, he admitted that this was just business as usual and the office workers GRD sold to did not know the difference between toner brands. He added, most large offices buy supplies all the time and they really don't pay attention to cost as the person ordering, usually the secretary, never sees the shipping statements or invoices. As to the gift, most forget about the gift, think we forgot, or assume someone in shipping kept it--instead of sending up to the secretaries in the office. Besides, he said, we, 3HO members needed to make that money for the Dharma and this was the fastest and best way to do so. Furthermore, we were employing ourselves so that we didn't have to work "outside" the family. Also, Yogi Bhajan wanted people to learn how to do the job of telemarketing, as it was a way to learn and adopt a professional attitude like his and Hari Jiwan Singh's.

I also found out there was another branch of GRD, however, that kind of work was not for the women or the producing phone workers. That was the "Dumpster Crew." The crew was comprised of men who were sent to the alleys behind large high-rises to pilfer through the dumpsters and find invoices, They were looking for lists of names used by the businesses from those offices within the high rises. GRD then used the dumpster print outs as phone leads, as they were much more informative than cold calling from phone books.

And so it went for years and years. We often heard rumors in the 3HO community of complaints and the unfair business practices at GRD. There were also rumors that the State of California was going to close GRD down at any moment. It never happened until the late 90's. Not until they added a gem stone scam to the phone room and then the FBI finally put a stop to their business practices.

My career at GRD was a very short-lived and I didn't make any money. I always wondered how these so-called "Sikhs" kept at it all these years knowing that the work was dishonest. And, was the name of the business was actually "Sweet Song" all those years? We were never told that fact!

I wonder about the children of the business owners who were the recipients of daddy and mommy's "hard work" and how they would feel if they knew the entire business was shut down by the FBI due to a long list of illegal activities perpetrated by their parents?

I also wonder why there was just a slap on the wrist of $100,000.00 fine and no jail time as telemarketing scams are Federal offenses and do call for stiffer fines and penalties in most cases?

After all, the telemarketing business surely made much more than the amount fined over the 20 plus years they were taking exploiting others in an unethical and illegal manner.

And what about all those who worked at GRD/ Sweet Song for years and the large amounts of money they secured? They had to have known it was a scam, yet, they didn't get fined for their part in the business. I'm sure they rest well at night knowing they escaped the FBI and that responsibility fell elsewhere.

Copyright © Rick Ross

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