It is funny now, on some level that someone who we knew very well wanted to start a business online. They called us and brought this business model to our attention asking for our help in creating and seeing the site through to a launch. They of course offered a partnership and they brought little to nothing to the table except for their idea.
Here was the pitch:
“Take every professional in a city and put them on a search engine where they can upload their profile if they want to pay a small price. Otherwise their profile will be given a customer satisfaction score of zero out of five stars. This way we will own their names online as we will have more content than they would and we could basically force everyone to join in order to keep from having a customer satisfaction rating of zero.”
I remember hearing that and thinking “Wow my friend is an ass. How dishonest and how low to create a site that has no value other than to extort money from local businesses”
Long story short, I did not agree and quite frankly we stopped hanging out together as I remember my grandmother talking about laying down with dogs. It has always been my practice to try to create what I would want to use. What we would find helpful. What we would be proud of.
So the idea was not original at any rate. It turns out the practice of forced participation and extortion was more broadly exercised than I had been able to appreciate with my naive outlook. Turns out that I missed another opportunity which has been sweeping the internet over the last several years. The explosion has created so many negative/complaint/shakedown sites that it is nearly impossible to find something positive about a company if they don’t have a full-time PR firm.
Speaking of PR firms a lot of the negative sites are interesting in that they also own a complimentary reputation management site. If this sounds familiar it may be because the mortgage meltdown was created by the same scheme which has the same firm betting for and against the success of their clients. Creating the need by generating negative platforms and content and then calling with a solution to the problem. We have been all taken to the woodshed in our collective careers and we have all learned some hard lessons. The difference here is that the person that dispensed the professional correction was someone who existed beyond the ether net. When a real person complains we can learn from it. Make corrective action and improve our business. When a paid fire starter complains we are left without any of the positives that come from consumer feedback.
If anyone needs to be convinced that anonymity is not a positive just spend 5 minutes reading some YouTube comments. YouTube is the basement of all reviews and comments boards. People without names write horrible things about other commenters and subjects. My proposal to anyone that does not believe the depth of the despicable use of the comments section of YouTube is to do a search for “Tiger Woods” and if you can read 5 comments without reading a racial slur…you win.