The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Who are you?

Personal or business anonymity is frequently a deal breaker for me, but this is one of those areas where I notice in myself a different attitude about large internet businesses and small internet businesses.

Take Amazon, for example. I’ve done business with Amazon for years and I’ve never had any problems. I go online, select the books I want, checkout, and a few days later the books show up at my doorstep. There is no value to me in knowing the name of the Amazon warehouse employee who put the sealing tape on the shipping box.

If ever I were to encounter a problem with an Amazon order, and I needed to talk to a warm body on the telephone to get the problem resolved, I doubt that I would be much interested in who it was that I talked to. Amazon likely has thousands of customer service employees who come and go, and I suspect that it would be nearly impossible to talk to the same individual twice. A telephone encounter with an Amazon customer service rep simply is not an occasion for establishing a personal relationship, or even the appearance of a personal relationship.

The sheer size and public presence of Amazon has established a corporate identity, and credibility, that overarches and subsumes the individual identities of Amazon’s employees. So, when I receive an email form Amazon that begins “Dear Tom, we have some recommendations for you,” I know the Amazon machine has been programmed to be cute and personable. I don’t imagine that Amazon and I are on a first name basis.

With most other Internet marketing, however, it is a different story. With years of exposure to all kinds of Internet spam, scams, phishings, rip-offs, and come-ons under my belt, I have grown very wary. I know that some loner in a garage in Uzbekistan can create a web presence that looks like a million dollars, but is in actuality based upon nothing more than hot air.

When I notice that I am attracted to the bait dangled before my greedy eyes, the second question I ask myself is, “Where’s the hook?”

The first question I ask is, “Who is doing the fishing?”

If I am seriously tempted by the bait, it is then that I start checking domain name registrations, running reverse traceroutes, looking for Better Business Bureau reports, and searching the Yellow Pages.

Who is doing the fishing? Who is it that is making all these glowing promises and recommendations? Are you in reality who you pretend to be?

Seth Godin has recently commented, “The morality of marketing is this: you need to be able to stand up and acknowledge that you’re doing what you’re doing.”

I say the first step toward a morality of Internet marketing is to stand up, identify yourself, and be personally accountable.

I was recently reading a newly discovered marketing blog that was quite well written. I was nibbling on the bait and liking it. I encountered a glowing recommendation for a web hosting company that was new to me, so I followed the link and checked it out. The time was ripe for me since I am right in the middle of dealing with hosting issues.

This new hosting company had really great prices and a compelling offer. If their service was as good as my new blog friend claimed it to be, I would give them serious consideration. So, I started my due diligence research.

I returned to the referring blog and looked for the blogger’s identification. I couldn’t find anything. He was using a pseudonym and I couldn’t even find his name. I looked up his domain name registration and it was shielded by an anonymous domain registration service.

That fairly killed the deal for me, but out of curiosity I also identified the blogger’s host, and it was not the hosting service he had just recommended.

Needless to say, the recommended hosting service has an affiliate program, and the blogger’s link was an affiliate link.

I can’t count the number of times that I have reached reasonable, but erroneous, conclusions based upon fully accurate, if incomplete, facts. It is just a tough fact of life when faced with a limited amount of time, but I’m not going to do business with anyone if I don’t know who you are. If you want to be anonymous on the Internet, that’s OK with me. Just don’t expect me to trust you, or give your opinions and recommendations much weight.

So, flush Mr. Anonymous Blogger down the toilet, and say goodbye. Second chances are hard to come by. If I have thrown you into the “phony bastard” pigeonhole by mistake, I am very sorry.

Internet marketers scheme and plan, and spend an immense amount of energy trying to find out who I am, as if my yahoo email address were a piece of gold, but I suggest that you might be better served by spending a little time telling me who you are.

And, I might ask you to prove it.


Who are you? Project: Consumer protection

Retail Jewelers on-line


Written by Tom Fox

08/31/2006 at 10:44 am

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