I just received an email from a member of our forum questioning something sent her by an online organization which said that she had been a member of that group since 2007. This came as a surprise to her since she didn’t think the organization had been in existence way back then. I, too, remembered when the organization was founded in 2009. The domain name wasn’t even registered until March 2009.
The question reminded me of a post that I made on this blog many years ago. Perhaps it is time to repeat it.
Regardless of what the industry is, honesty is important to credibility. Most of our customers know little or nothing about us when they discover us on the web. Many people believe anything and everything they read believing that if it is written, it is gospel. Unfortunately, that leaves these individuals wide open to the possibility of being misled and even taken advantage of daily.
It’s up to each of us to portray ourselves as honestly and accurately as we can. Many potential customers are skeptical of the internet as it is. When they discover something that doesn’t ring true, it can be devastating to us as a business. If you’re one of those who believe everything you read, I think you’ll find this long-ago blog post interesting to read once again:
“As more people lose jobs or income, more and more scams–or less than honest opportunities– are appearing on the internet. As a professional writer, who personally knows a lot of other writers, let me say that you should NEVER believe everything you read. As someone once said, “Don’t believe most of what you read, and only half of what you see!”
Talented writers, professional motivational speakers, and website entrepreneurs can be very creative. They can even create a whole new person and make you believe that they exist. Unfortunately, anyone can say anything on the internet as long as it doesn’t libel someone else.
What does this have to do with gift business owners who are Creative Gift Entrepreneurs? A lot!
How many times have you received emails telling you how wonderful a particular product or service is and how great the person behind it is? We all have at one time or another. Most of us regularly receive emails offering to put us on page one of the search engines if we only hire them to optimize our website. Or how about the minister wanting to buy large quantities of a particular gift if you’ll only let him know how to pay you? There are many scams– and the internet is a gold mine for scammers and those who are less than honest.
Innocence or Deceit — Which is it?
A person, that wants to impress potential customers, can even create a whole different personality and resume for themselves in order to lure you into their web of deceit. Sometimes it’s very innocent as in the example of the gift basket entrepreneur who has created a “twin” to handle the marketing aspect of his business or the business owner who has created an “assistant” to handle the customer service and email responses. There’s nothing wrong with either of these creations.
But other times, it’s not so innocent, particularly if the person is trying to take your money for a product or service that doesn’t exist. The statement “Buyer Beware” is very true of any internet website or email wanting to sell you something.
How to Protect Yourself?
How can you protect yourself? It can be difficult as folks, who do this, are truly creative entrepreneurs. Their background and experience and even testimonials can sound so convincing that any of us can be easily fooled. But, unless you are personally familiar with a particular person, product, or service, ask someone that may be more familiar with what you are considering. Does their resume include speaking and writing experience? If so, ask for references and check them out. Do they include testimonials? If so, ask for names and phone numbers and check them to see if they actually exist. Even then, a reference may be a “friend in on the kill.”
In today’s internet age of internet marketers trying to make their living as affiliates for other companies products, once you get on mailing lists for several of these you’ll start receiving many duplicate emails telling you how wonderful the product is and why you should buy it. I get these daily. How many of these people actually use the products they are pushing? Most are just trying to transfer the bucks from your pocket into theirs.
If it is a website, check the domain name and see when it was first registered. You can do that easily at Godaddy.com or any other website where you can buy domain names. If it is brand new, I would be a little suspicious. It could be legitimate or it could be someone out to make a fast buck before disappearing.
If it is an opportunity or product related to your own industry, it’s easy enough to ask others who are familiar with the industry what they know about a particular person, product, or service.
But, as I said, anyone can say anything or even create a whole new persona on the web. I could tell you that I’ve published ten books about the gift basket industry and they’ve each sold over a million copies. That would be a lie but you would have to do some research to discover that it is untrue. I could tell you that I’ve been a speaker at The Basket Connection Convention in Orlando and again in Atlanta and Vegas, that I was a regular staff writer for our trade magazine, Rave Reviews, since it began. That would all be true and could be checked out with anyone who is familiar with our industry.
So, if you are considering spending money for a product or service that you are unfamiliar with, check it out. It could be the best thing since sliced bread or it could be someone anxious to take your money in exchange for little or nothing.