Scams to make you feel cool
NOTE: I received a legal notice from a representative at www.cybertriallawyer.com telling me to remove this page. I will not do that even with threats of legal action because I believe in the statements below. I will concede the following point--the term "scam" can be interpretted in many forms; I suppose that Manchester Who's Who may or may not be a scam in the legal sense -- but in my personal life I would call it a scam to anyone asking for personal advice. As such--all readers may interpret my opinions as they see fit. [end note]
We all have egos, or at least I do (or so I'm told). Overall it appears that an ego is both necessary and dangerous. It is the source of our perspective on the world around us; it is also the creature that moulds our goals, actions and interpretations.
I have to admit that I have fallen victim to a couple scams in the last few years—as a direct result of my ego. Actually, I didn't fall to the level of victim… but I got deceived just enough to be tempted into victimization.
The first scam was that by Poetry.com. Maybe Poetry.com's marketing scheme is not exactly a scam, since it is not doing anything illegal; but I believe that they mislead and seduce young poets in an unethical manner.
My poem He Whom I Know was published in a Poetry.com book a couple years ago; I didn't actually get scammed because I wasn't fooled by the marketing hype—Poetry.com promises any poet a place in the publication. In fact, the publishers choose a set of selected poems to publish… then insert anyone's poem into the front of a couple copies of the books—then sell that copy to the honored front page poet.
He Whom I Know actually was published, but the majority of poems that get "published” in this manner go in only a single copy of a publication. Thousands of copies are sold—all identical except the front poem.
Some have gone so far as to blast Poetry.com for this tactic. But if you can get past the marketing hype and realize that Poetry.com is trying to sell you your own work, you can't get duped. Besides, some people might actually want to pay to see their poem "published" in this manner.
For me, Poetry.com's tactic wasn't so bad because my poem actually was chosen for the larger publication and reached thousands of people around the world; but I received emails from some poet's who had bought into the ploy, thinking their poems were being published around the world—then found out that their poems only appeared in the copies they purchased for themselves.
Manchester Who's Who
More recently, I received a letter in the mailbox (the paper-and-stamp kind) with an invitation to accept an appointment as a "biographical candidate” in the Manchester Who's Who registry of "accomplished individuals”. I checked out their website and found that it looked rather sleek and contained some biographies on well-known businessmen.
So I made the effort of accepting. I thought that it must be some kind of honor. Then I received no reply and figured that I must not be that accomplished after all.
Then one day I was at my desk writing when I received a phone call from a fairly professional-sounding woman. The conversation that followed went something like this:
Lady: "Hello Mr. Olson. Let me be the first to congratulate you on your acceptance into the Manchester Who's Who Registry. We want you to know that we have selected you on the merits of your work and accomplishments. After our team of researchers has reviewed your accomplishments, we find it a great honor to include you in our directory.
"First let me personally congratulate you on your fine work. After your acceptance into the Manchester Who's Who Registry, you will be part of a network of professionals and distinguished individuals who stand out in their respective fields.
"As part of your membership, you will be eligible to be published in our online registry as well as physically published directories. Your biography will be available for other professionals around the world to view. This is an excellent networking tool.”
I was now feeling very warm and fuzzy inside. Wow… they think I'm a really outstanding person!
The lady then interviewed me—something that was weird because I have done hundreds of interviews over the years as a journalist, but never from the subject's side. She asked me to explain how I became so accomplished in my field, how I became so successful, etc., etc. I took a deep breath of pride and spewed out all the things that make me so cool (and left out all the things like my success has not made me rich and Larry King has yet to call and do an interview of my life).
She asked, "Will you be using your membership for networking or credibility?”
I explained that I would probably be using it for both. "Being I high school drop-out, I have always had to struggle with public opinion on my credibility…”
I spent thirty or forty minutes talking to her, feeling very proud, when she said, "We offer two levels of membership.”
Suddenly, the whole interview changed perspective for me and I kind of zoned out while she explained the differences between their lifetime membership and lesser membership. I heard something about "eight ninety-nine” which was almost ninety times more than a ten-dollar filing fee.
She said something about plane tickets and networking opportunities and a really cool certificate of membership and media kits to share with media about my accomplishment.
I shyly interrupted, "I am not so sure about this. I was under the assumption that I was being honored with a recognition instead of being sold something.” I wondered how a certificate I paid for was going to add credibility to my name.
She said, "You are honored with being grouped with executives and professionals from around the world.”
She then started telling me more about the membership benefits.
I said, "I don't think I really want to do this. I will have to think about it.”
She seemed taken aback. "This isn't an offer that we can negotiate. We have thousands of professionals to deal with. We can't take the time to negotiate with potential membership. It's a one-time deal.”
She then said, "Will you be paying with Visa or MasterCard?”
I said, "Well, I don't think I am interested right now.”
She said, "Let me tell you what… I have the authority to place you on a list here and reserve your plane tickets.” She told me that this was too good of an opportunity to pass, and that she would lessen my membership from the lifetime membership (the one I must have agreed to spending close to a thousand dollars by saying I'm not sure if I want to join) to the short-term membership.
I tried to back away further, but she pressed harder. "Is it the cost? We don't want you to miss this opportunity because of the cost. I tell you what—I can give you the rate of a charity organization! This means that you get all the standard benefits, but pay the rate of a charity organization.”
"No,” I said. "I don't think that I am going to join right now. I will look into it some more before I make a decision.”
She said, "If you have already looked at our website, then there is really nothing else to learn.” She sounded like Adolph Hitler's mistress who hadn't had sleep or sex in a month.
"I'm sorry. I'm just not interested right now.”
By now I had been contemplating being a little more obvious in my decision by hanging up, but she beat me to the punch.
There are a lot of scams out there. Some of them take advantage of people's generosity, kindness and trust—such as cons that steal the money from elderly folks. Some cons take advantage of people's stupidity—like the sites that ask you to donate a dollar to save a captive bunny from being murdered by a psycho. I don't think that I could ever fall victim to those kinds. Unfortunately, I fall into that category of humans that is susceptible to cons that play on ego. Luckily, I dodged the bullets so far. Maybe I won't learn completely until a con-man finally cuts a few inches (or feet) off the top of my ego hat
[Added on 1-25-07] The company called Cambridge Who's Who, which is a merger of Manchester Who's Who and Empire Who's Who, has now filed a lawsuit against me for $7 million because of this article with the aide of CyberTrialLawyer.com. I feel that this lawsuit is frivolous and malicious.
[Added Note - April 2008] The lawsuit has now been dropped. It was settled out of court. I am unable to give more details about the case due to a confidentiality agreement. Please forgive me if I do not reply to inquiries about the case.