Cowboys in the digital age [aka RedSave Voucher Pass Scam, sorry “Scheme”]

RedSave - don't deal with these cowboys - they'll enrol you into a voucher scheme that'll take £19.95 per month from your credit card - without your permission - and ignore email requests to be removed from their scam - sorry I mean "scheme").

RedSave – don’t deal with these cowboys – they’ll enrol you into a voucher scheme that’ll take £19.95 per month from your credit card – without your permission – AND they ignore email requests to be removed from their scam – sorry I mean “scheme”).

I like to think that I’m a fairly savvy online buyer – knowing my way round Google Shopping to narrow in on the bargains for instance (and checking the postage and packing costs – watch out, some of them are hidden right up until you tap your card details in!) So to become a victim of what can only be described as a scam does somewhat dent my Netizen (remember that 90’s term – for a “citizen on the ‘net”!?) pride.

Well I searched for a BluRay disc to find the best price and came up with a good price from RedSave – who were on Google Shopping so had at least some form of credibility (though obviously you should still check things out). They had a secure GeoTrust backed HTTPS:// server offering (another tick) and a fairly well laid out site so I committed to the purchase. What I didn’t do (which I admit was, up until this point in my online buying checklist, not a standard move) was to read the reviews on Google Shopping – oh how I wish I had…..

They’re not on Google Shopping any more it seems – I wonder why!? But here are the TrustPilot reviews.

Suffice to say you’re not going to save with RedSave – perhaps the “red” denotes the blood they’re going to suck from you – or your debit card balance as they keep withdrawing a £19.95 “membership fee” from your card every month? There is mention of this scheme in your email confirmation but the information is certainly very well laced into the text and site to make it innocuous-looking. Finding out the actual T&Cs for this scheme however requires MANY clicks and a law degree to decipher it.

So, weeks prior to the elapsing of my “Free 30 day” membership, I emailed cancellation notice. I sent it to support@redsave.com – an address that imbues confidence that the recipient would be able to help (that is what support groups do isn’t it?) and could deal with my notification. What happened?

RedSave ignore my cancellation request and withdraw £19.95 from my credit card

So “nil pwah” (or “nil points” for our non-Eurovision Song Contest viewers) to RedSave. I inform my card company – they tell me that they will block further payment requests. Next month “REDSAVEPASS.COM” has indeed not made a withdrawal from my card (YAY!), however “REDSAVE08453880287” have made a withdrawal of £19.95 (WHAAAAT!?)

Now if this is not straightforward evidence of a company that is NOT being straightforward then I don’t know what is.

My credit card company have assured me that this matter will be resolved – but really why should they NEED to get involved. Businesses like this cause unwarranted anguish and aggravation by not being above board and honest in their dealings. There should be a law against hoodwinking – to deal with all these companies (both corporate cowboys and little old sole trader cowboys) for skirting along the edges of the law. Actually the term “cowboys” is unfair to the hardworking livestock wranglers that ride around the arid parts of North America – let’s call it as it is – more befitting would be “con artists”, “confidence tricksters”, or “shady dealers”. They, let’s face it, escape being labelled criminals because they are “playing the system” and know which side of the line they need to remain on. The government ranted earlier in the year about being ethical with regards tax payment (or avoidance – Google, Starbucks etc, etc.) and this whole “what can we get away with” mentality is where it all stems from. Why can’t people just do an honest days work for an honest days pay!?

The erosion of accountability

Now, let’s get this straight from the outset – I am not a politically motivated person. I do however have a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. When I see someone being bullied my pseudo “spidey sense” (© Spider-Man) kicks in and I do my utmost to stop it (the bullying that is). In the tricky task of serving cake I take great care in distributing it evenly amongst the cake-indulging participants.

Let’s (hypothetically) say I’ve signed a contract to supply torches. If I have agreed to sell 15 torches at £1 each then I’m due £15 once I have supplied the torches. But what if I can only manage to supply 10 torches – how much should I be paid? That’s right – £10.

Let’s extrapolate that very basic (and fair) concept. G4S (the resultant security company from the merger of Group 4 and Securicor) won the contract to supply security services to the London 2012 Olympics. This contract is reported to be worth £284m (that’s Two Hundred and Eighty Four Million pounds – a great deal more than Dr Evil’s ‘One Million Dollars’). You may well be aware that G4S failed to supply the 10,400 security personnel it promised through this contract. When the proverbial hit the fan they confessed that they had only recruited 4,200 staff. They grovelled to the UK government, LOCOG, and probably Zeus on Mount Olympus promising to provide a revised figure of 7,000 guards…. they managed to scratch up 6,000 (I don’t know about you but I always find it prudent to under-promise and over-deliver or at least set achievable targets rather than disappoint my clients).

So let’s apply the model. £284m for 10,400 security guards, that works out at £27,307.69 per guard (though I’m sure the guards themselves don’t get anything like this wage).

G4S: (on phone to LOCOG) “Whoops we seem to be short by 6,200 people! We’ve got, hmmm (calculator keys tappity tap tap) 4,200.”
LOCOG: “Aggh! ((aside, cupping hand over phone): “Quick, call uncle David we need help”) OK, so how many can you rustle up before the games?
G4S: “Oooh, 7,000?
LOCOG: “Yes? 7,000?”
G4S: “Yep, defo.”

….three weeks later

G4S: (back on phone) “Erm 6,000”
LOCOG: “Whaaaaat!?”

Now applying our very basic economic model what should G4S receive for 6,000 ‘yer name’s not down you’re not coming in’ (sorry, couldn’t resist) staff? Well we’ve already established that each G4S guard has a distributed value of £27,307.69 –

thus 6000 x 27307.69 = 163846140

Yep, G4S should be paid £163,846,140 – One Hundred and Sixty Three Million, Eight Hundred and Forty Six Thousand, One Hundred and Forty pounds. Which is £120m (plus a hundred thousand or so – but what’s that between friends!?) less than the contract total value.

How much is G4S reported to likely lose from their contracted total payment?

“Up to” £50m

How is that fair? How can a company under-deliver on a contract and yet not receive a proportional payment for services / goods supplied?

In the current economic climate (don’t get me started about “the erosion of the UK summer”!) we are all told to “Keep Calm and Carry On”, to make cuts, reduce profit margins etc. Whilst the everyday populace seem to take this on-board and plough on there seems to be a layer of the UK’s inhabitants with total disregard for this and who seem to have undergone a moral and ethical lobotomy. This “looking out for number one” mentality has gone beyond self-preservation and descended into blatant greed and disregard for anyone else. Now don’t misunderstand me – I’m equally not advocating a lazy, feckless (definition: no sense of responsibility), welfare dependant population. Everyone should just pull their weight and do their best at their given task (see the fourth paragraph of my post Thank You Steve (#ThankYouSteve)).

I’m not sure what the answer is to those who choose not to care – apart from maybe wandering down the yellow brick road to see if the Wizard of Oz can provide them with a heart. At the end of the day it boils down to accountability – but when the moral compass has become so badly bent (ahem, banking industry) it’s going to take a fair bit of time to straighten things out. Let’s hope some bastions of ethical business can rise from the mire and lead the way soon.

So SEO

Well, after being a “full-time Dad” for a period of time (which is a daft term because even whilst working I don’t become a “part-time Dad”) I’m now moving from what the “Department for Employment and Learning” (as they’re currently known) refer to as an individual who is “economically inactive” (or “unemployed but not featuring in our figures”). I am now (partially) back in the commercial world of work.

Enjoying a part time status at www.soundexposure.com where the main task currently is to “get the word on the streets”. That word is “pro” and “audio” (and yes that’s TWO words). There are many more besides but professional audio products are the mainstay and focus for this well anchored and dedicated business. The ethos is certainly to strive for customer happiness and to treat others like you would like to be treated (aka “The Golden Rule” or as I prefer to refer to the origin: Matthew 7 v12 (The Message) – check it out).

So I’m working on a new area of tech and that is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) – keywords, adwords, link building and Social Media (Facebook, Twitter etc) – all areas receiving my attention (and “tweets” and “posts” and “likes”).

This is my first blog post – let’s see how (un)interesting I can make it 😉