It's a simple case of mistaken identity. But it has become an identity crisis.
So says VSI Fasteners. The 35-year-old, Stanton-based company said Thursday that its reputation is being unfairly tarnished because it is being confused with VSI Corp. and that firm's subsidiary, Voi-Shan Industries of Culver City.
VSI Corp. and two Voi-Shan employees pleaded guilty two weeks ago to charges in federal court in Seattle that they falsified product test results for fasteners used in commercial and military aircraft. They agreed to repay $18 million to the government.
But VSI Fasteners, which supplies household fasteners to hardware stores, feels that it's being punished too, even though it has done nothing wrong and has no connection to VSI Corp. A flood of outraged callers--customers and suppliers--have ignited VSI Fasteners' phone lines.
"One of our regular customers refused to talk to our sales representative because he thought we were 'ripping off' the government," said Arnold J. Scribner, president of VSI Fasteners. "We called the individual and explained the situation, and he fortunately understood."
VSI Fasteners' woes are not unique.
The controversy over ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons forced Laguna Hills-based Fluorocarbon Co. to change its name to Furon Co. last year.
And John Keating's Lincoln National Bank in Encino recently changed its name to California United because it was being linked to Charles Keating's failed Lincoln Savings & Loan in Irvine.
But VSI Fasteners wants to keep its name. So the company is spending $20,000 on a public relations campaign to let the public and the hardware and home-improvement stores to whom it sells nuts, bolts and screws that it isn't associated with VSI Corp.
Ironically, the similarity in names exists because VSI Fasteners and VSI Corp. were once owned by the same company--Fairchild Industries Inc. in Chantilly, Va. But Fairchild sold VSI Fasteners in 1985.
"The only connection (now) is in those three initials," said Derwin Cugley, vice president of marketing for VSI Fasteners. "And that's our dilemma."