Bleeding between the lines

October 29, 2012 at 9:21 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

Don’t let print media put the bite on you.

A while ago, my friend thwarted a costly deceit from a corporate reference book publisher. I tell the tale in case they try the same stunt on your business.

Pat* from the publisher called Fran^ my friend, asking her to approve her firm’s listing in the new edition. Pat called again a few hours later, saying the deadline was that afternoon.

Fran looked at the layout, then at the quote. Though new to her role, she felt $2,300 was expensive to list one head office and a string of stores.

She queried Pat, who assured her the layout was the same as last year’s.

Fran checked the current book, to find this wasn’t true. On the contrary, Pat had unilaterally added heavy bolding, subheaders and a web address to the new layout. Each ‘enhancement’ was priced at several hundred dollars.

Fran asked Pat to remove these unwanted items.

Pat replied, ‘That’s the format we use now’.

Fran rang her predecessor, who vehemently confirmed her suspicions of deceit.

Fran challenged Pat, who instantly backpedalled.

With the unrequested items gone, the new listing cost just $270; a saving of $2,030.

Tricky times bring out the best and worst in companies. Keep your eyes open and/or give your admin people a heads up.

Paul Hassing, Founder & Senior Writer,

* Not his real name.

^ Not her real name.

Comments to date:

  1. Kate James

    March 20, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    It’s disappointing to hear stories like this Paul. You’d think that most businesses these days would be savvy enough to know that taking care of the customer and integrity in business is everything. The research I’ve read is that we share our negative experiences about ten times more than we do our positive ones and we pass them on through our networks – that’s a lot of bad press you stand to generate with one unhappy customer.

    Having said that, my own experience is that there are loads of fabulous people out there in small business and my own personal motto is that if a supplier doesn’t delight me, I move on!

  2. Sonia Cuff

    March 20, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    An electronic take on this – beware of companies offering similar urgent renewal deals on your internet domain name, or listings in internet catalogs .. quite often these are expensive scams. If in doubt, Google the name of the company that has contacted you and see what you find in the results.

  3. Paul Hassing

    March 20, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    You’re dead right, Kate; negative customer outpourings more than outweigh the spoils of skulduggery. Thank you for your comment too, Sonia; I completely forgot to mention that. Great additions! :)

  4. Internet Strategist

    March 20, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    In the past such dishonest companies probably felt that there were plenty more people they could take advantage of that those who caught them couldn’t warn. That IS still true; however, sites like Twitter can make negative publicity reach much further.

    That is good news for us – and from experience I will tell you it won’t stop this type of deceit because dishonest people will always continue to be dishonest even when caught.

    When I had many clients I asked them not to spend ANY money online until they ran the idea past me first. I did this after one famous black hat SEO company conned a Mennonite family business I was working with into buying their services. They linked them into porn and gambling sites!

    Thankfully I spoke with them just after they had agreed to buy the services. When I saw what had been done I was able to remove the links and restore their Web site from a backup copy I had. Then I advised them to immediately reverse the credit card charges.

    That company was famous among SEOs, had dozens of unresolved BBB complaints and had moved to another state to start a new file. They were so bad Google actually banned all their sites and those of all their customers and published their name(s) online. (Many names to stay ahead of their reputation!)

    There is one simple thing to remember: the best companies and consultants are far too busy to be cold calling or sending SPAM emails or phony bills. If you want to buy ads or consulting work ask for recommendations, read company reviews online, search for the company name and product offerings online and at least skim EVERYTHING you find. (PR companies know how to push complaints way down in the search engines because most people don’t go more than a page or two into the results!

    Check with the online version of the BBB. Also do searches using +”company name” +complaints and +”company name” and +scam to find complaints. There are numerous sites that post complaints against companies you can visit too.

    This particular SCAM is hoping that the person who pays the bills in a company is not the same person that orders the advertising. I bet that works in medium to large companies which is probably why large companies use P.O. numbers to track bills from outside vendors.

    There are many totally free online Local Listing Directories now. Every business should be listed in as many free, legitimate directories as possible. The link I’ve used in this comment will tell you more about them, how they benefit both the public and businesses.

    That post provides links to a form to make it easy to gather all the information you’ll need for your listings, tips on how to create the most effective ads, and links to all the free directories we recommend. For those who don’t want to do it themselves we might even be talked into doing it for you even though it can be very time-consuming to do it really well.

  5. Mike Williams

    March 22, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Sometimes you wonder what this type of deceit will do to the employee’s credibility and whether they actually think of this before they go ahead with the deceit. I was recently told by a colleague that ethics in business was closely associated with planning and analysis. In other words you need to plan how your actions will appear to others and whether the resulting perception is ehtical or appropriate. I think Pat has failed to plan or analyse in this case, as do many business owners.

    More importantly, it can be the inadvertent actions that appear to be deceitful or at the very least poorly thought out, that can do so much damage to a business owner’s reputation. Perception is reality – especially in such a fast-paced digital world.

    Great post!

  6. Paul Hassing

    March 22, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Thank you, Mike; your perspective adds an interesting layer to this discussion. :)

  7. Paul Hassing

    March 23, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Internet Stategist, I continue to be amazed at the time and care folk like you put into your comments. You make this debate richer and I’m grateful. See you on Twitter! :)

  8. Internet Strategist

    March 24, 2009 at 5:56 am

    Thank you, Paul.

    I suspect that ethical people don’t realize the high percentage of dishonest companies and people in the world. Whether something “looks” ethical isn’t even much of a concern to them. The current melt-down should be evidence enough of this. There is an excellent video of Enron employees bragging about being able to manipulate the stock prices by intentionally causing blackouts. Obviously they didn’t realize how unethical THAT was.

    Back when the IBM CEO and Executives decided they deserved their employee’s pensions more than the employees did, they were also actively selling off the most valuable assets of the company and eliminating their most experienced employees. What they were doing was obviously going to seriously damage the long-term success of the company.

    I finally realized they didn’t care because they didn’t plan to be around that long. Their plan was obviously to “take the money and run”. What happens to CEOs and Boards that behave like this? They move on to the next Corporation they can raid just in time to let the next CEO get the blame. They write books about them and make them heroes and role models. They even had the accounting firm that showed them how to steal our pension funds on video saying we wouldn’t realize what they’d done to us until it was too late.

    What they didn’t realize is IBM had brilliant employees and many of them had advanced degrees that were not related to their IBM careers. One Software salesman was an actuary and he spent his own money to rent a hotel conference room and explain to anyone who showed up what had happened. Another engineer had a law degree and he was involved in suing. The employees won because cash pensions were clearly illegal – and over 200 corporations used them to steal their employees retirements anyway! They will likely never see a dime.

    They also didn’t realize that by then most IBM employees had private Internet accounts, cell phones and knew how to contact each other quickly. We quickly had the largest Yahoo! message board ever and collaborated with employees of other Corporations. We also hoped to work with our International counterparts to keep Corporations from pressuring employees in one country by threatening to move plants somewhere else.

    I knew then I would either have to be the next Norma Rae in a company where we had all been taught to be extremely anti-Union or leave. Only employees with Union contracts have any recourse when their companies take away what had been promised them in writing. I resigned and walked away because once you can not trust someone it makes no sense to continue working with them.

    Why be surprised when AIG passes out millions in bonuses or CEOs who bankrupt a company float down on their golden parachutes? They are following the plan they had all along. If anyone truly believes the S&L scandal, stock market crashes, and the current housing market bubble were surprises there is probably someone waiting to sell them a bridge in Arizona as I type this.

  9. Paul Hassing

    March 24, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Another fascinating insight, Internet Strategist (IS). I’m beginning to see why you conceal your identity. Your background is as intriguing as your comments; please keep them coming! :)

  10. Paul Hassing

    October 16, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    This problem seems to be getting worse:


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  1. That’s probably the first example I’ve seen, Paul, that is from a real company with a real connection to the intended payer (mark, dupe, whatever term they use). They (or at least Pat if not the entire company) obviously think we’re all too stupid or hope we’re too busy to spot the ad was different to last year’s.
    Unfortunately I’ve witnessed too many examples like that that are just completely fabricated. And I know from a client who runs such things past me (thanks goodness!) that they are effective as I have to say ‘no!’ – and the staff at my client’s offices are always shocked when I get them to read it carefully and realise it is a scam but cleverly worded to be honest (if you read the finest of fine print).

    • Hi, Tash! Yep, this is a realio trulio company alright. I don’t like to name names but you needn’t think too hard who it might be. All the more reason for them to play with a straight bat.
      You summarised the problem neatly. Though sad to hear you’ve seen it too, I’m grateful for your validation of this sneaky practice. Best regards, P. 🙂

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