Even as far as Detroit Public Schools corruption is concerned, Norman Shy is certainly one of the worst offenders. For many years, his company Allstate Sales was a vendor for DPS, where they were selling them school supplies.
Unfortunately, Norman Shy was in cahoots with a dozen DPS principals and administrators. He provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks in order to become a DPS preferred vendor, and he profited handsomely from his corruption. Now, at 74, he is facing several years in prison.
One thing I haven’t seen in the news, however, is the corruption in his family. To be specific, Lawrence (Larry) Shy, who has operated Shy Enterprises here in Ann Arbor for many years now. Shy Enterprises is a Kirby Vacuums distributor, and a cursory Google search of “Larry Shy” or “Shy Enterprises” will show you that the son is almost as corrupt as the father. The first page of Google searches is basically Better Business Bureau complaints, and even some dedicated websites bent on exposing how shady Larry Shy was/is.
When I was a teenager, I saw a “$400/week” job posting in the newspaper (remember those?) classifieds. Of course, the job postings were purposely vague. One way you could always tell it was a Shy Enterprises job posting was if it said “Sports Minded People Wanted”, as if selling overpriced vacuums was some sort of sport. The job postings would never quite explain what the job actually entailed. Either way, a promise of $400 a week was a lot in the late 1990’s, especially to a broke homeless teenager. Screw it, I said, and I went to apply.
I got to Shy Enterprises, and the 5 minute interview process was just as vague. The hiring representative still didn’t specify what the job was, only that it was in sales. She told me to come back the next day.
So I returned, and Mr. Shy was kind enough to have ordered some pizza for the dozen or so prospective employees. We ate and socialized, watched films that bragged about company trips and huge paychecks, and then Mr. Larry Shy finally graced us with his presence.
We found out that the $400 per week was only for the first week, and only if you made a minimum amount of sales. All income afterwards was commission based, with no base pay. The job turned out to be driving around cold-selling Kirby Vacuums, which sell for thousands of dollars and performed no better than vacuums for fractions of the cost. Examples of ways to impose high pressure sales tactics were discussed and encouraged. Financing was available for the people who didn’t have thousands of dollars readily available to spend on a vacuum cleaner. We were also expected to cold-call on the phone to find prospective leads. I looked around at my fellow interviewees, and figured that few, if any, of us were actually going to take this job.
Personally, I stuck it out for 2 days, where I made a few cold calls but never got to make in-person sales pitches. After that, I quit out of frustration and a need for a legitimate paycheck. I would later hear that Larry Shy would refuse to pay commissions due to his employees, and would withhold paychecks for no reason whatsoever. He did talk a good game though, and he still must be as conniving if he is still in business. As of the writing of this article, Shy Enterprises is still a licensed Kirby Vacuum distributor, and his address is at the exact same Ann Arbor office park that I walked into to apply almost 20 years ago.
Norman Shy has been screwing Detroit for many years, and his son Larry Shy has been screwing Ann Arbor for many years. I am a true believer in karma, and what goes around will come around. It came around for Norman Shy, and eventually it will come around for Larry Shy.