Scam Education

Math Doesn’t Lie, Even For Housing

House prices as listed by Realtors are now OBSCENE. I mean that. Outright Psychopathic – not merely Psychotic, but Evil, Cruel, Insane, Brutal, Psychopathic.

You are told that every house sells fast. You are told that they sell for outrageous prices (and they do, but not what you think). You are told there are no affordable rentals or sales.

You are being lied to. We are seeing for sale signs for YEARS in front of houses. Outrageous prices are 1/5 of the list price, NOT the list price. There ARE affordable houses, but no way to find them.

There are metrics that EVERY community has to have. If they do not have them, the community COLLAPSES.

The Median Household Income in MOST areas of the US is around $50k. The Census Bureau reports it at $74k and DECLINING. But they SKEW the number to make it higher, by eliminating everyone on Public Assistance (this eliminates about 3/5 of people who are under the Poverty Level, and this accounts for the adjustment). Other experts insist that the Median Household Income for the US is actually closer to $41.5k if you adjust for some housing issues (basement rented to family, two families, two households, counted as one), and some additional income issues (counting earnings from outside the US while residing outside, counting some kinds of savings payouts as income, etc).

So the metric is this:

MEDIAN housing prices (for a basic, comfortable 3 br house) HAVE to be available at 1/100 of TWICE the Median Household Income. That means $1000 per month. For a 3 BR.

Currently they tell you you cannot even get a shabby 2 BR for that,  and many places want you to believe this will get you a Studio apartment (often a remodeled strip motel room). They’ve been pushing this one for a LONG LONG time, and we are too used to rents hurting.

Median Single Earner Household Income is the next lynchpin. That runs at 3/5 of general Median Household Income – or $30k. That works out to $600 per month for a 2 br. Normal, average, sorta comfortable 2 br in liveable condition.

Now, this HAS TO EXIST. If it does not, you have NO minimum wage workers in your communities! You have no earners for less than about $20 per hour – they MOVE OUT because they cannot afford to live in the community.

MORE SO in College Towns, because young families with parent in school CANNOT AFFORD high priced housing, and in fact, Financial Aid just CANNOT go far enough EVEN WITH part time or even full time jobs! School is EXPENSIVE.

If you have no workers in this category, you lose EVERYTHING.

  • You lose hotels.
  • You lose Fast Food.
  • You lose Grocery Stores.
  • You lose gas stations and convenience stores.
  • You lose local delivery.
  • You lose carpentry, framers, roofers, home repair.
  • You lose classroom aids, and MANY teachers.
  • You lose DAYCARE ENTIRELY.
  • You lose production line manufacturing workers.
  • You lose road construction laborers – a few make more, but most not.
  • You lose phone call centers ENTIRELY, and they move out.
  • You lose ALL cashiers, bank tellers, and clerks.
  • You lose office workers of all kinds.
  • You lose lower to mid level government and corporate workers.
  • You lose part time artisans and crafters.
  • You lose agriculture – land prices skyrocket and they move on because they can’t earn enough to cover it. (Industry analysts say this one goes early.)
  • You lose mechanics – most do NOT make big bucks, and those who DO make more than $20 per hour are the exception, and have worked their way up for a LONG time.

Once this begins, it CASCADES. You don’t just lose workers, you lose the BUSINESSES that depend upon them. First, they raise wages, and then, they close their doors.

It does not stop with low bar earners. It reaches into higher tiers because they OFTEN reside with a lower income earner, and they BOTH move out.

The next phase is that Services that a community NEEDS are no longer there.

Wealthy people leave first on the receiving end of things. They just WON’T stay in an area that does not offer conveniences.

The upper middle income leaves next. And once they go, EVERYTHING collapses.

This process rarely completes fully, usually a correction occurs, and housing opens up again. But in the mean time, it can get VERY ugly.

Now, there are various lies out there to “explain” this. It is different in every area, but here are two that we have heard:

  1. Rich people from Salt Lake and California are moving in here and paying half a million for a vacation property.
  2. Rich people are tired of Vegas and L.A (Houston, New York City, Miami, Chicago, Boston, DC, etc)., and are paying half a million for a property to relocate to. This one is regional, with a different city listed for each region.
  3. They are selling for AirBNB.
  4. There’s a factory coming in that is taking up all the housing for employees.
  5. Refugees are taking all the cheap properties.
  6. We are also told that houses “appraise” for ten times their value.
  7. That high interest rates are skewing the markets.

Lies. PROVABLE lies.

First off, there AREN’T ENOUGH RICH PEOPLE IN SALT LAKE AND CALIFORNIA to buy THAT MANY houses at THOSE PRICES. There aren’t even enough of them in the entire US to create a housing crunch in even a single community, let alone in the entire country. (And before we hear the myth that rich foreigners are buying them, you need to understand that rich foreigners don’t exist… Incomes in Europe average FAR lower than the average inside the US, and there are FEWER people living above what we class as poverty level, and FAR fewer living above OUR median income levels. When they buy outside of EU, they buy cheap condos or cabins, but mostly they rent hotel rooms for short vacations because they can’t afford to maintain a second house full time. There are not NEARLY enough of them to affect the housing prices here.)

Second, there aren’t ENOUGH RICH PEOPLE WHO WILL PUT UP WITH SMALL TOWN LIMITATIONS to relocate to the places in question here. They want a CITY. A BIG ONE. Not enough jobs in small towns and small cities to absorb THAT MUCH. Especially AT THOSE INCOMES. And there aren’t enough of them to affect a large town either.

Third, the incomes required here are ENORMOUS. They are in the top 0.000034% of earners in the US. Incomes over $2m per year are RARE, and that is what it takes to keep selling million dollar homes, and it works out to less than 500 people in the US who can afford them. Incomes of $1m per year are a 0.0026% factor. That works out to about 8666 people in the US with that kind of income, and that works out to about 173 per state, only 2% of whom WANT a second home, and even if you tip MOST of them over into a single location, it still is NOT ENOUGH to have more than a MINIMAL effect on a single location. There are not enough rich people to cause this in all the areas it is claimed for. There are even too few who make over $100k to have THAT KIND of effect nationwide, as is claimed, and there is NO WAY they are all going to go to the same place.

Fourth, they don’t buy an EXPENSIVE vacation property. They buy a CHEAP ONE. You can’t AFFORD two huge mortgages, you can only afford one, IF you can afford one.

Fifth, retirees also do not buy expensive. They buy cheap.

Sixth, AirBNB is NEVER a big thing, and it is NEVER lucrative. People don’t generally stay in private rented vacation homes, they stay in hotels. They are suspicious of private rentals for vacations, and they tend to NEVER pay for an entire house unless they overload it with extended friends and family, and leave it a mess. Owners of AirBNB (and former owners) tell terrible stories, and a very high percentage go into foreclosure or they either rent by the year or sell out entirely within 6 months. It just isn’t a way that you CAN make money due to how it operates and how people think about vacations and overnight or temporary rentals. Would you rent a house for $600 per night when you can get a clean hotel room for less than $100? Statistically, only ONE vacation house rents for every 300 hotel rooms. The market would be saturated in this valley with six rented homes, yet people say they are all selling for that… that half the homes here are AirBNB. Not possible.

Factories being talked about, moving into LARGE cities (they won’t locate elsewhere), only need an average of 40 employees. A few larger need as many as 200. NOT ENOUGH to even make a DENT in a fair sized city. 200 employees in a town of 100,000 are lost in the crowd. Heck, that many will have moved out as the new ones move in.

Refugees are the same as rich people. There just aren’t enough of them, and they are not living in low income properties, they are living in flop houses and shelters, and other places while they try to find someone to hire them. The life of a refugee is horrendous, and they lose sponsors as fast as they gain them. There just aren’t enough of them to affect the housing markets anyway, especially in cities  that are not landing zones. This isn’t even an issue in Miami except in about three very small districts, and they are OBVIOUSLY racial communities.

Houses do not appraise for 10 times what the populace can afford to pay for them. They just can’t. Houses don’t sell when people make half the amount of the payment due on the mortgage. Crooked appraisers puff prices to keep the idea of high prices in play.

High interest rates do NOT increase prices of houses. In fact, they DECREASE them, because when interest rates are high, monthly payments and loan costs go UP. They go WAY up. An $800 payment can go to $1100 just from a significant change in interest rates. That means people HAVE to have LOWER housing prices to afford to live.

Even if ALL OF THE LIES WERE TRUE, it still is NOT ENOUGH to affect the entire nation, and we find that these lies are being told in EVERY CITY, and even in the small rural towns. It can’t be true everywhere.

Let’s do some of the math.

A half a million dollar home costs UPWARD of $5000 per month for the payments. We know this.

A $100k home is MEDIAN for a $50k income. And that is a $1000 per month payment.

Landlords and banks BOTH just won’t qualify someone on LESS INCOME for that payment. They REQUIRE $50k to get a $100k loan. If there are variances they are SMALL ONES, not huge ones, so you might get a $100k loan on $42k, but you WON’T get a $200k loan on $50k.

Now, let’s examine the meaning of Median.

It means the MIDDLE OF THE AVERAGE. That means SOME will be higher, and SOME will be lower, but the spread is NOT EVEN. Higher incomes disperse more, and the very high incomes are VERY INFREQUENT. The lower ones cluster in the survivable ranges, and about ONE THIRD have LOWER incomes than median, and about ONE THIRD have CLOSE to Median on either side.

People, there just AREN’T enough RICH PEOPLE in the WORLD to skew housing like you are being told.

So what IS happening?

I can identify only TWO  factors that are not being talked about. And they are big.

  1. The internet is broken. Craigslist is broken, Etsy is broken, Ebay is scary twisted, Google is outright fraudulent and broken (search results are screwy messed up and way incomplete), online real estate listings are outdated and fraudulent, online rental listings are even worse. In short, you cannot look up ANYTHING accurate online for housing, especially rentals. The days of finding a house online are long gone.
  2. Print is broken. There are NO LISTINGS in newspaper classifieds for rentals. There are only puffed and outrageous pie in the sky real estate listings – the majority, by the way, WITHOUT PRICES (always an indication of a con).

This means that DEALS ARE THERE. But nobody knows where. Landlords have forgotten how to promote an available rental. You CAN’T find it except word of mouth, and even THAT is mostly broken. People have forgotten how to personally network.

What we get are Property Management Companies, and Realtors, both of whom are so screwy insane with greed and avarice right now that they JUST WON’T let you rent ANYTHING under “their pricepoint”. And that can be ANYTHING crazy high.

Some of the tricks they try:

  1. They will discount your income – eliminate many legit types of income from consideration as earnings, so you can’t qualify even for a low pricepoint.
  2. They charge an “application fee”, and that can be anywhere from $40 to CRAZY HIGH. We encountered one at $80, when they quoted $40 (then they tell us that it is for EACH ADULT). Non refundable. They disqualify you, sucks to be you, you just gambled $40 or more, and lost. And they KNOW they can just yank you and you will never know the truth of whether they already rented the place and just disqualified you to keep the fee. Yeah, it’s a thing. A BIG one. We consider application fees to be a scam, NO MATTER WHO CHARGES THEM (Yes, you, Century 21, and other major Real Estate companies.) This is also done by companies that HAVE NO RENTALS, they just make them up, and charge fees and disqualify. This is also done by Banks and Realtors for housing purchases, with the same spread of fraud and extortion.
  3. They bait and switch. $975 says the listing on their website. “Oh, that one is $1200.” they tell you. (True story.)
  4. They maintain OUTDATED listings. Everything affordable is still listed, but no longer available.
  5. They want you to fill out the application, but they are REALLY BACKWARD about scheduling a viewing of a rental. Sometimes happens with purchase, but tends to be “look at the outside we can’t let you in” version. Can we say, “Con”?
  6. They LIST the property at one price, and SELL it at another, and then report that it “SOLD” as a $— listing. The sale price is generally LESS THAN HALF of the listing price if it is one of those outrageously high priced listings. You think that you KNOW, because someone at the courthouse who files deeds says this is what is selling and they see it every day. But DEEDS NEVER LIST THE SALE PRICE. Neither does the purchase notice (essentially a bill of sale but without the price listed). It says, “for $10 plus other considerations”, rather than a full price listed. So “comps” you see are ALWAYS on LIST PRICE, and NEVER on SALE PRICE.
  7. Corruption is Rife. Realtors have been taken over by greedy leeches who believe that if they PRICE it high, they can FORCE YOU to pay more, whether you can afford it or not (with the irony that they won’t approve you anyway because your income is not high enough). Once one company starts it, the rest fold and go all in. The world is being run by people who disconnect their “neat idea” from the dysfunction it causes (how else can we explain Colorado’s current love affair with Roundabouts – I mean, we expect this kind of dysfunction in Great Britain, but NOT in America). Get a clue Realtors – you are NOT selling puffed properties like you think you can, and for many of you, NOTHING is moving. We are NEVER prepared to suffer THAT MUCH, to try to make an extortionate payment every month with eviction hanging over our heads if we fail, just so you can scrape 200% of a reasonable sale price. (Many versions of the high price scams, going from crooked breach of contract on sales where the owner gets ripped off, the buyer gets ripped off, and the realtor takes it out of the middle, all the way to involvement of crooked banks or bank loan officers. LOTS of criminal behavior, as well as just merely dishonest, as though there is something such as merely dishonest).

Work it out. The math HAS to work, or it is DECEPTION.

What we are being told is NOT TRUE, no matter who insists that it is.

But I suppose the high prices do have more gossip value than the real world. I am ever shocked at how many people would rather believe the lie than to apply some common sense and math to see the truth and possibly see a solution.

Etsy Fail

I had a product to sell. I finally decided to give Etsy a try.

Created the shop just fine. Loaded product. shop went live.

Minimal traffic. I have to market it, I know that.

Then the backend. You have to put in your bank account info. We expect that.

But it won’t validate. It says I have to sign up for Plaid. A third party payment gateway that I have not heard of yet.

Plaid does not like my bank account. It says give it another one. Yeah… right. I’m just gonna open my wallet and give them ALL my accounts? I have this funny smell in my nose. Sorta like fishy.

The thing is, they ALREADY deposited ONE deposit into MY bank account. They have to do two to validate. They already told me that when I entered my info in the OTHER Place. NOT where they want me to sign up for Plaid.

And I can’t validate. They only deposited ONE deposit. No place TO enter in the info until I am cleared by Plaid.

Upshot is that they can BILL me, but they claim they cannot PAY me. They have enough information to satisfy themselves that they can TAKE money from me, but not enough information to GIVE money to me if my goods sell.

And they DO take the fees. $5. For LESS than one month of nothing.

I closed the shop after three weeks. No way to do business there. So I removed ALL of the goods from the shop, and followed the procedure to close it. They inform me it can take a few weeks for them to do that.

It is nearly a year later, and I am STILL receiving emails from them. “This Week In Your Etsy Shop” emails.

I don’t have a shop, Etsy. I closed it. You failed. You failed to give me a platform that I could use to do business.

Something still smells fishy about it.

Exploit On eBay – Breaking News Today

eBay is experiencing user account blocks, where username for an account is non-functional. You are greeted with “Oops, that’s not a match.“. This is NOT eBay’s error message.

You cannot login, nor can you do anything about it, because you cannot get past the username, and there is NO forgot username function anywhere.

This is a lockout exploit.

If you have an eBay account, watch for anomalies, and be careful who you deal with, and the details you reveal in order to resolve the issue.

It Isn’t Worth It, Google

Every time I login to my Google AdSense account, I am greeted by dire warnings that if I don’t put an ads.txt file in every one of my AdSense sites, that my earnings will be at risk.

At risk of what, Google?

Going down?

You already did that!

You already did that so hard that nobody makes more than a few dollars where they used to make a hundred. Or a thousand.

You already annihilated the income of literally millions of small business owners who partnered with you, to make YOU rich, and to make them financially stable.

They kept their part of the bargain. Why didn’t you?

I don’t see how my earnings could be more at risk than they already are! You’ll punish me whether I put the thing in or not.

And then there’s the robots.txt file that Google notoriously ignores. This tells us that if we DO put one in, and you ever give us a reason to actually want to use the thing, that you’ll ignore it also. (‘Cause the reason you give me to put one in is really silly, and a waste of my time, since if someone DOES rogue my ads, they aren’t going to be stopped by THAT, any more than YOU are stopped by a robots.txt file.)

Not worth the effort, really.

Someone suggested to me that Google may penalize my account for having written this.

Seriously?

Would I honestly NOTICE?

‘Cause Google has just about run out of leverage when it comes to withdrawing any benefit to the browser, the publisher, or the advertiser.

And we won’t even get into the two-way usage terms which WE have to abide by, but which THEY will not!

Turning Down the Unwanted Customer

With recent news regarding the infamous (and I mean it) bakery attack by individuals who cried that their rights were violated because the bakery owner denied their request for a “wedding” cake, I find that there is a commentary that NEEDS to be made. And a strategy that I have used, which is effective.

While the Supreme Court has ruled that it is NOT Constitutional to use the law to punish business owners who have denied service based on personal conviction (including religious conviction), where essential services are NOT an issue, this kind of attack is BOUND to happen again. Those who planned and carried out the first attack will undoubtedly try again, or others with the same agenda will do so, in an effort to find SOME kind of circumstance under which a direct denial based on moral grounds can be challenged, and profited from, through the courts.

I have thought long and hard about this. There is ONE way that I have found that I can REFUSE artistic or literary services (none of which are “essential” to anyone’s survival!), that they CANNOT refute. Because it is absolutely true.

It is this:

  • I do not understand this product well enough to market it effectively.

Their response may be “You can learn.” Counter response:

  • If I take the time to do so, it is not worth my fee.

If the prospect is trying to TRAP you, they may counter with “I will pay a higher fee to compensate.” The truthful response may be:

  • If you pay me more, I still have to move aside other things in my agenda in order to study your target market, marketing messages, product philosophies, and to get inside the head of your prospective customer, and I do not have room in my schedule to do this.

This is perfectly true. I have NO time in my life to learn about the mind of a person who wants to engage in acts I find morally reprehensible. You may or may not wish to be FIRM about your refusal, but DO NOT try to JUSTIFY your reasoning or choice!

  • I CHOOSE not to engage in a contract (or business transaction) with you, for that reason.

My words in this matter are completely truthful. I have used them when I have turned down customers selling addictive substances (legal), artwork that depicted subjects I could not appreciate, media that contained content I could not promote, and a few other prospective clients whose products contradict my personal beliefs.

It may be wise to finish with this, to avoid being accused of unkindness (which the attackers in at least one of this kind of court case tried to suggest of the defendant, who had in fact referred them to another provider):

  • These people may be able to help you FAR better than I can do (referral).

The thing is, a little thought regarding YOUR business, can come up with a completely rational, and DEFENSIBLE reason to deny ANY customer where providing any product service which requires an act of artistic or literary expression. The beauty of this particular response is that it is absolutely true. I simply CANNOT throw my BEST work behind something I cannot comprehend. If they want the BEST work, they do not want it from ME, because I am not the person who can give them the best, at all!

It would be wonderful if our laws allowed us to post and act on the old “We reserve the right to deny service to anyone, for any reason.”, but courts have consistently ruled against SOME reasons, and even NO reason, saying that if you have an establishment offering goods or services to “the public”, that you have to serve ALL of the public. I cannot find that in the Constitution!

I think it is worth posting still, but I think you’d have to post it right at the door, in plain sight, with the following words added: “Your entrance into our establishment constitutes agreement to this policy.”. Legally, if you DO that, under strictest interpretation of precedent, then you are NO LONGER a “public” establishment, but an establishment that ONLY serves those who agree to your terms. The courts may not agree next year, or the year after, though.

You can also simply say, “No. I’m sorry.”, with NO reason given. But if you do, someone may STILL try to claim prejudicial action on your part. And the dumb thing is, there won’t BE any EVIDENCE that you have broken a law, or that you have harmed them in ANY way, but they may still win. That is the thing about such cases that has been contrary to United States law, and case law – no one was harmed. They were merely offended.

If this is likely to be a problem for you, in your line of work, then I challenge you to come up with a statement that you can use, in ALL HONESTY, to deny those for whom you cannot, in good conscience, provide a suitable product or service.

Sears, Sears… How the Mighty Have Fallen

The king of mail order. At one time they shipped entire HOUSES, and just about everything else you could order and have shipped to your home. The mighty giant that should have known how to make the transition to the internet better than any other company in the world.

Apparently they slipped a gear somewhere, because they are in serious trouble. After dealing with them to try to get the freezer my mother ordered, actually delivered, I can see why.

This is a rough sequence of events:

Ordered freezer online. Price agreed to when credit card info is entered, is $530. Price on receipt is $530. Delivery date listed as 4 days after order date.

Delivery date comes and goes. We look up the order online. Price billed is listed as $561 (and change). Tax was not calculated during checkout, but has been added later. NOT GOOD!

Delivery is listed as scheduled for the day before. Ummmm Yeah. Delivery is scheduled for YESTERDAY.

We call the number listed on the website for deliveries of online orders. They tell us the delivery is scheduled and will be received when scheduled. The foreign speaking rep assures us that there is nothing wrong, and that the delivery is on schedule. We point out that the date was YESTERDAY, and they grudgingly admit that they need to look into it, and assure us that someone will call back.

Nobody does.

We call again. They go through the same routine. Nobody calls back.

We call again. They tell us that we have the wrong number for this kind of thing, and that we should have called somebody else. We tell them this is the number for online order deliveries that is posted on the website. They assure us it is not (it is), and then give us a different number to call. It is local. For a Sears store here.

We call, no answer. The Sears store is no longer in operation. There will never be an answer at that number.

We call customer service back. They tell us again it is the wrong number, but they have no other number to give us. Then they tell us they will look up the order, and that they do not know where the freezer is. The tell us they will call us back. We say no. Give us to a supervisor.

After some runaround, they do. Or at least, he says he is a supervisor. His English is a little more clear, not much. He tells us that the delivery is rescheduled, and that we will get a call the night before it is delivered.

We don’t. It does not come.

(At this point, we have informed them TWICE, that the store they keep telling us to call no longer exists. They are not interested in this information, and assure us they can fix whatever problem it is that is getting in the way, which they admit they cannot identify.)

We call back. The rep cannot speak English well enough to be understood. By this time, we have no patience with her. We tell her we cannot understand her. We KEEP telling her we cannot understand her, and that we need to speak with a supervisor. She keeps refusing, and keeps babbling on the other end of the phone. Finally she passes us to a supervisor.

He informs us that they are having trouble getting the freezer from the manufacturer, but it is scheduled to leave the factory on Wednesday night, and that they will call us when it does, and we will get it the next day.

Now, I’m no dummy. I know that there is no Kenmore factory anywhere near. Overnight deliveries DO NOT HAPPEN on appliances. NEVER. I inform him of this. He assures me I am wrong, and that it will happen just as he says, and gives us no other option but to take his word for it.

No call, no freezer.

We call back.

The rep tells us that the order has been put on hold. Then she says that she can schedule it for delivery the next day. The next day is Saturday. NOBODY DELIVERS APPLIANCES ON SATURDAY! We KNOW this! I tell her this. She says WELL if we do not want it on Saturday she can schedule it for another time! I try to tell her that she is incorrect, or that her order tracking system is incorrect, that it CANNOT be delivered on a Saturday because the stores and delivery companies do not deliver on Saturdays! She is not getting this. She is not even IN the US, so she has no clue what I am talking about. I ask for a Supervisor. She tells me she needs to check some more, and I tell her that it is obvious she cannot help me, and to pass me to a supervisor. She hangs up on me.

I call back. The next rep tells me the same thing. I ask for a supervisor, and she puts me off until I insist. Then she tells me there are no supervisors available and runs me around on the “it will be delivered tomorrow” (Saturday) thing. She does not know what happened to the order, she does not know who has the freezer, she does not know whether it is even in stock, yet she assures me that it will be delivered on a Saturday when Saturday deliveries do not happen! I ask for a supervisor again, and she hangs up on me.

I look up the local Sears store numbers and start calling, hoping SOMEBODY in the US can actually help us.

We are now waiting for a local store to call us back. At least they speak English.

This is why Sears is failing.

They did not outsource their Call Center.

They outsourced their Customer Service. They outsourced their reputation to someone who will say anything to avoid dealing with customers, and who will NEVER pass problems up the chain where they can be solved.

They outsourced their reputation to someone who does not guard it.

They deserve to fail.

Which is sad, because Kenmore appliances really are fairly good appliances.

If you can get them.

UPDATE: We finally know what happened to the freezer.

Online orders are assigned to the nearest Sears store for fulfillment. The local store near us closed, but apparently nobody in the delivery department has realized this (in spite of the fact that we informed them at least four times, and in spite of the fact that the two LOCAL stores KNEW that this IS AN ONGOING problem!).

The computers in one area don’t know what is happening in other areas, and customer service cannot see beyond their computers (and they do not want to, since that requires effort). So the delivery is scheduled, but there is no one on the other end of the delivery order to pick it up and ship it out. They promise it will be delivered, and it never is. Nobody in the Delivery department has the brains to actually look and see why, or to try to call the assigned store and see where the problem is, or to call the regional manager and see why the freezer is hung up.

This problem would have been SO EASY to solve… Not just temporarily for us, but permanently so it did not happen to anyone else! But horrendously incompetent customer service stopped that from happening, and is now perpetrating this kind of stupidity upon other hapless customers.

The left hand knoweth not that the right hand has been cut off.

SECOND UPDATE: So, here it is, three weeks and many phone calls later. For a few days it actually looked like there was hope of getting the freezer.

The Regional Center called us a week ago (after we left messages in two different local stores), and told us that the delivery was scheduled for the following Tuesday (Monday being a Holiday). Sure enough, Sunday night, the recorded call comes in, telling us the freezer will be delivered on Tuesday (the first time the call came in when promised).

Tuesday comes and goes – the freezer does not follow the call. We call back to the local store, they take a message and say they will contact the Regional manager and that he will call us back. He does not.

24 hours later, we call back, and are informed that the local Sears can do nothing, it has been too long since the order was placed, and the only people who can help us is the people who REFUSE to help us.

In fact, those are almost exactly the words of the associate who called us back with the message from the Regional Manager: “I’m sorry, but the Manager said that the only people who can help you is the people who won’t help you.”

Good call, Sears! Put the satisfaction of customers in the hands of an offshore company that does not give a rip whether your company sinks. Put it in the hands of people, whom, when there is a problem they do not understand, start hanging up on customers. Put it in the hands of people who will not actually even look to see that the system has broken down, or see where it is broke. You might as well hire your competitors to handle your customer service, because they are getting your business either way!

Today a dispute on the payment for the freezer is being filed. The payment cleared a day or two after the order was place, because their system was informed that the freezer was being delivered, even though it was not, and could not be, because those instructed to do so were laid off when the store was closed.

Sorry Sears. You had your chances… More than enough of them.

We shall mourn your passing when the company is belly up. With customer experiences like this, it is inevitable.

So my mother ended up buying a smaller freezer, at a higher price, locally. It was delivered when promised. Ironically enough, on a Saturday. Local stores sometimes DO deliver on Saturday. I’m sure they did it just to prove me wrong! She happily began filling it within minutes of delivery.

On the other hand, if you’d like to save your business, I offer business consulting services which could turn your ship around and head it back into the wind… Because when we consult with a company, we pay attention to the customer experience!

 

NOTE: One other aspect about hiring overseas call centers for customer service.

They are functioning in a different culture. Many of the cultures do NOT ALLOW a person to seek help when faced with a problem. They are punished for it if they do.

So when a problem occurs, they must either SOLVE it themselves, or BURY it. They cannot even ask for training in this thing.

This means if YOU HIRE THEM, and they run into a problem, then YOU will never know what the problem IS. It will never reach you.

The phone clerk will have a problem, and will not report it to management. When management has a problem, they won’t report it to you.

Problems stay isolated, reoccurring, again and again, when they could have been easily solved simply by a little communication or brainstorming.

Sell Your Strengths

In close to 15 years of small business startup consulting, I have noticed many patterns that are repeated over and over. You get a feel for success – who will do it and who will not, and what kinds of things work, and which are not likely to do so. Much of what I teach, I repeat over and over, in different ways, just trying to help people center themselves on principles that are honest and solid. The get-rich-quick mentality is hard to subdue in most people (even myself), and the lure of the exotic often pulls people from what they KNOW, to what they do not, with the hope that maybe what they do not know will prove better than what they do know.

So… here I go again. You’ve probably heard much of this before from me if you’ve ever heard me talk about starting a business. I keep repeating it for those who do not know – because they outnumber the people who do!

So… first off… the get rich quick thing. The rules are the same today as they always were, from time immemorial.  The internet has not changed the rules, it has only increased the type of scams available.

  1. Trust your gut. If something sounds too good to be true, it is. Don’t let greed overpower common sense, don’t ever tell yourself “It is only $29.95, if it ends up being a fraud I haven’t lost much.” If you lose $29.95 that is money you could have used for something real.
  2. If you don’t walk away feeling like they answered ALL of your questions, don’t buy. If you can’t get hold of a real person, who will admit that there are people who should NOT do it, don’t buy.
  3. If it is presented on a long page with miles of text and “testimonials”, don’t buy. This is the traditional method used by scammers, half-scammers, and other people who know it does not work, but want your money enough that they’ll do it anyway.
  4. If it is a “system” don’t buy. It won’t work. Ever.

Now that we’ve cleared that out of the way, please don’t email me and tell me you’ve found a great new system you want me to check out “just in case”. It isn’t real either.

So what do you do? The people who do best do NOT go outside themselves to find a business that works. They go INSIDE themselves. They don’t work someone else’s system, they build their own product or service based on their own skills, strengths, and desires. DON’T let someone else place THEIR idea inside your head. Find your own. It is probably already inside you, and you are probably already moving in that direction.

  • The best businesses are built on skills already possessed. It does not mean you don’t learn new things. It just means that you start with your existing strengths and build on those.
  • The lowest cost businesses are those built on materials and resources already in hand. If you work with what you’ve already got, it is far less expensive than if you try to buy into something.
  • Don’t let the “glamor” of someone else’s presentation of their life make you think that making or selling what you’ve always dabbled in has less success potential than their exaggerated representations. Most lives presented online are illusions (even mine), because nobody EVER shows the whole picture. They only show part of it. Even if they did show all of it, you would filter it through your own comprehension and still come out with something different than what their life really is. Don’t get caught up in peer envy. It can keep you from seeing the potential in yourself.

Brainstorm with a friend, or run it by a pro who knows the shoestring startup arena. Brainstorming has great power – nobody will tell you just the thing you need to do, they’ll all be busy telling you what THEY’D do. But their ideas generate a kind of energy in your brain and help you think outside yourself, which helps you hit on the right idea for yourself.

More and more of us are going to need to resort to generating income for ourselves, instead of relying on others to provide jobs for us. There are endless ways to do it, and endless choices. If you want to do it, go find the thing that is right for you.

Scambusters – Email SEO Solicitations

We can help you get more traffic! Your website is not ranking as high as it should for your top keywords. Free Marketing Assessment for your website. Marketing suggestion for insertnamehere.com.

If you are in business online, you’ve seen emails like this. Some of them may cause you to think they actually LOOKED at your site, and actually WANT to help you.

They don’t.

WITHOUT EXCEPTION, every single email you receive offering Search Engine Optimization or Marketing services is a SCAM. They aren’t all the same KIND of scam, but they are all scams. And no, there isn’t EVER an exception to this.

If you reply, one of several things may happen:

1. They just want your website access, so they can set up a phishing site inside it without you knowing. This is the kind of scam that doesn’t even pretend legitimacy.

2. They may just run an automated SEO Analysis on your site, and give you the results. Problem here is that computers CANNOT THINK, so ANY kind of automated SEO Analysis is completely bogus. That’s right. Meaningless. All that oh-so-scientific “keyword density”, and “frequency of h1 tags” garbage is just that… garbage. REAL SEO requires a thinking brain behind it, and only a real person can do it.

3. They may actually perform a service. Badly. NONE of them do a good job. NONE OF THEM. They typically do one of about four things:

They may do quick and dirty black hat SEO. Black hat refers to the stuff that every search engine forbids. And which will penalize your site eventually, if not immediately. They may completely trash your text, and replace all your good descriptions with stupid keyword strings. It always fails, for search engines and people – so you lose search engine traffic, and your site looks trashy to those who visit.

They may set up a scraping blog to pick up and redirect traffic for your top keywords. This is, again, completely ineffective, and will get you penalized. This kind of blog is ignored by search engines and people, both. You lose, and you pay for the privilege.

They may engage in “article marketing” for you. This one is VERY dangerous, and again, completely ineffective. Scammers like this are the reason our company no longer recommends article marketing as a viable marketing method – the article databases are so polluted with badly written unoriginal and downright shady articles, that even good articles don’t work for marketing anymore. Only one or two article sites even rank with the search engines, all the rest are ignored, and these companies who offer the service will tell you they are submitting to 50, 500, or even 1000 article databases. It is all meaningless, since none of them will get you any traffic anyway. It can be dangerous because they do not check facts when writing articles for your company – in the worst example of this, a medical company paid for this, and the writers wrote articles that opened them up for medical liability lawsuites, using statements like “this surgery has no risk”, and “results are guaranteed”.

They may spam blogs, forums, and social networking sites for you. Typically, they promise a certain number of submissions. They will then load everything into their automated system, press “go”, and walk away. Your spam (yes, it is YOUR spam) will be submitted to all those websites that have any kind of ability to do so – whether or not the topic is related. A few do look for related topics, but they do so strictly by keyword matching through a computerized system, so it is highly inaccurate, and often ludicrous. One or two actually hand-submit – but they aren’t any better at it than the computers, and the results are no better. At any rate, any site owner who owns a site which it WOULD be worthwhile to have your link on, will promptly remove your link, and report YOU for link spamming. Any sites it actually stays on are sites that are ignored by search engines anyway, and which people never visit either.

What they SAY they will do, and what they do, are completely mismatched. ANY company that emails YOU to solicit business, is breaking the law. Any company that emails you, offering to get your website in the top ranks, is fraudulent, and does NOT know their business. After all, if they could get a website to the top, why do they need to send you email spam to get business? They’d be getting all the business they wanted directly from the search engines themselves!

Just remember the rule – NO email offering SEO services (or anything else) is EVER legit. EVER. No matter how enticing it sounds, dump it where it belongs – in the virtual latrine.

Good SEO companies offer services you can monitor, and take the time to get to know your business, your goals, and what makes your company unique, before they dive into any work for you – including any kind of assessment. They’ll consider what your customers want to see, and then optimize THAT to attract search engine traffic. They’ll recommend or carry out marketing methods which work for YOU, and which reach your specific target market in meaningful ways. They won’t automate ANYTHING that requires a personal touch.

And they won’t ever solicit your business via an email that you did not ask for.

Call Me Paranoid

I’m a little suspicious of some of the free things Google is offering now. Because I distrust their motives, and I distrust the way in which their freebies can affect my business. Most of my colleagues are raving about them, but I am not feeling compelled to jump on the Google train and just go wherever they want to take me.

Let’s try Google Analytics. Free stats tracking. What could be bad about that? We find two issues with it:

1. Like Google Adsense, it uses Javascript. It is such common Javascript, that malicious coders have found ways to exploit it – and since so many sites use it, it is well worth their while to do so. There’s enough anecdotal evidence on this to have strong suspicions that Google Analytics code is frequently exploited, and we have personally experienced instances of exploitation of this kind of code – either viruses or malicious website links injected through the code.

2. Just how is Google using that data? They claim that they use analytical data in delivering more accurate search results. But their idea of “accurate” may not always be in the best interests of small businesses, because of what Google thinks is the most important criteria for “accuracy”. Generally, Google is just gathering bits of info and extrapolating (that’s a fancy word for “guessing”) the rest. Google CAN’T really get traffic stats for your site, unless YOU give it to them, or unless other computer users give them access to individual browsing profiles (more on that). The most efficient way to get site data is, of course, to get it directly from the site owners. Google Analytics gives themselves exactly that – a complete statistical rundown on your website. For startups and small sites, that information, in the hands of Google, does NOT help you! Because Google’s basic philosophy is that popular is better than unpopular.

That brings us right into two other services which I distrust, and do not use as a result – for similar reasons. I think Google just does not need that much information about my browsing habits.

1. The Google Toolbar. Google uses this to gather individual browsing data and then analyzes the patterns. Theoretically, if enough people use it, then Google can get a pretty good estimation of site visit patterns for most websites. This is one of the data sources used in their extrapolations also.

2. Chrome Browser. This is just the next step from the Google Toolbar. Give people a shiny new toy, and maybe they won’t notice the price attached. For both webmasters, and website owners, I think that the cost associated with Chrome may be too high.

I do not like Google having access to my desktop, to my internet history, etc. I think this is just information they can well do without, and that they are NOT gathering it for MY benefit, but for theirs, and that my goals, and theirs, are often worlds apart. Giving them access to my browsing history helps THEM achieve THEIR goals, but does not help me achieve mine.

Google Desktop has no place in my work environment either. In fact, anything produced by a third party that uses data as Google does, has no place in my work environment. I am suspicious of free “tools” which come with a craftily worded privacy or terms of use policy.

Google is not alone in the desire to gather data in every way possible, nor are they alone in their lack of transparency over it. Yahoo has valiantly tried to infiltrate our computers, and Bing is making a go of it.

But if I do not want “spyware” on my computer, and if I run software to ensure that nobody can sneak it onto my computer without my permission, why would I want to open the door and let a company like Google just waltz right in with the cameras? I don’t care how big a company is, or how common their name. There is just a limit to how much data they need, and how much they need to know about my habits.

I am NOT paranoid about the kind of data they gather. I just think there may be more harm in anonymous patterns and statistical data than we realize, especially for small businesses that are trying to launch a new site in the face of huge competition.

I don’t care if I am just “one of the numbers”. They can do without me!

I Get So Tired of Saying It…

Sometimes I really am tired of telling people what a scam is, just to have them come back to me with another one to ask me if maybe (please), won’t this one work? The list of reasons I give them are the same as I gave them before. I don’t want to insult people, but sometimes I just want to scream!

The hallmarks of scams and almost scams are pretty obvious once you get familiar with them. They are things like:

1. Emotional appeals that leave off critical details.

2. “One Page Websites” that give you no background about who is selling it, or how to contact them.

3. Requirements that you leave an email address before you can find out what it is they are really talking about.

4. Financial companies located offshore (they lack financial protections you might expect to have).

5. People who claim to have the secret to wealth who have a non-professional website (using a template driven website that does not have custom graphics, using free hosting space, etc).

6. Unrealistic claims, or claims built around “imagine this” phrases.

7. Cookie cutter websites. They don’t work…. Not unless YOU work a lot first!

8. Lack of a sound product. That means, something that people want, at the price they are asking. A $2 product plus the ability to resell it does NOT equal a $35 value. A membership to a site with “thousands of downloads” is usually NOT a sound product (those same downloads are available free every Christmas). The ability to resell something is NOT a product!

There are a bunch more, and there is no way you can list everything, because someone will come up with another one just as soon as you think you got all the ways they conceal that they are going to rip you off.

Today I reviewed a financial investment scheme where the terms of use stated that you certified that you were not a law inforcement agent, nor an informant for a law enforcement agent, and that you released the company from ALL civil or criminal charges that you might feel you could file against them!

Stuff like that is a huge, screaming red flag! And it was right there, in print, for anyone to read!

If you don’t want to get scammed, read the fine print. Not only that, figure out what it MEANS, not just what they want you to think it means. “Imagine that you got up every morning to find hundreds of payment notifications in your email inbox…” is NOT saying you WILL. They just want you to IMAGINE that you could, and to THINK they are promising you will.

I keep saying it though, with the hopes that maybe it will help someone not just avoid getting scammed once, but help them spot how to never get scammed again.

Grow a Garden!

Gardening doesn't have to be that hard! No matter where you live, no matter how difficult your circumstances, you CAN grow a successful garden.

Life from the Garden: Grow Your Own Food Anywhere Practical and low cost options for container gardening, sprouting, small yards, edible landscaping, winter gardening, shady yards, and help for people who are getting started too late. Plenty of tips to simplify, save on work and expense.