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!?

Lessons in Obsequiousness

Definition of obsequious

adjective

obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree. Fawning.


Definition of fawning

adjective

displaying exaggerated flattery or affection; obsequious:

fawning adoration

fawning interviews with Hollywood celebs


As you may already have worked out from previous posts I’m fairly attuned to the “golden rule” of treating others like you expect to be treated – more correctly referred to as Matthew 7 v12 (The Message). This also extends to written communication.

Occasionally I may encounter a problem with an item I’ve bought, if it’s within a year of purchase I would take the time to write to the manufacturer to provide them an opportunity to resolve the issue. With a satisfactory result everyone wins – the customer has nothing but praise for the company in light of their positive customer care and product commitment and the company gains one of the most powerful sources of advertising – personal recommendation (aka “word of mouth”).

Now it makes sense that if you wish to get a company’s attention that you present a warm and encouraging letter rather than a rant throwing in comments like “unbelievable rubbish”or “what a piece of junk”. Hence the wording of a recent letter to a bag manufacturer (I’ll anonymise the company and staff names to save embarrassment).

Hello,

Being a staunch [bag manufacturer company] fan my wife bought a bag from the Gunwharf Quay store, Portsmouth in February (photo attached). All the [bag manufacturer company] products she’s bought have always been an investment and hardwearing items. Unfortunately after less than a year the bag has developed a faulty zip. She has persevered with reviving the zip but sadly it keeps failing. I’m well aware manufacturing faults can occur but to become an issue in under a year is I’m sure you’ll agree not what one would expect of a [bag manufacturer company] branded bag.

Regrettably we no longer have the receipt for the bag and therefore are unable to return it to the shop. We do however have the credit card statement showing the purchase on the 15th February 2012.

We respect the quality values that the [bag manufacturer company] brand attracts and we look forward to hearing your response and solution to this situation.

Best regards,
Mark Tilyard

So not totally sycophantic, just a complaint letter written from a positive perspective. The reply I received however I still, to this day, can’t work out whether it was written with tongue firmly in cheek, dripping in sarcasm or a genuine response. If the latter, then here, ladies and gentlemen, is your lesson in obsequiousness. (I recommend having a sick bag to hand before reading below).

Hi Mark,

Thank you for your email with reference to the [model name] bag attached. I hope yourself and your wife are well?

Firstly I would like to take this opportunity to offer you my sincerest apologies, I cannot convey how sorry I am for the disappointment and subsequent inconvenience this issue has caused. At [bag manufacturer company] we strive to ensure our products are of the highest possible standards and are built to last so I was very disappointed to hear of the problems you have encountered. I would like to assure you that we value all customer feedback positive and negative as this is a vital part of our continued development and growth. All of your comments will be passed on to the relevant department for their future consideration so I would like to thank you for taking the time to contact us.

I would like to add how delighted I was to read how loyal you are to [bag manufacturer company], and how you respect [bag manufacturer company] as a brand. It’s such a shame when faults like this occur but we are very keen to rectify and resolve issues like this as soon as possible.

As you have kindly explained this bag was purchased in the wonderful Gunwharf Quay’s store, and would advise you to refer back to the store if at all possible. I have contacted the store and they are more than happy to do an exchange for you. If you could kindly take the statement as proof of purchase, that would also be greatly appreciated.

Again I would like to highlight how appreciative I am for the feedback you have provided. And can assure you it will be passed onto management.

If in the meantime I can be of any further assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly. I will be delighted to help.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your week.

Kind regards and best wishes

[Minnie Moke]
ADVANCED CUSTOMER SERVICE ADVISOR


Feeling queasy? Let me know what you think – genuine reply or taking the mickey?

Lloyds TSB Customer (couldn’t) Care (less)

UNBELIEVEABLE! (but sadly true). Today I put my Barclays debit card in the left hand ATM at Lloyds TSB Park Gate. It slops in, rather than the usual glide. It’s stuck – I can tantalisingly see it but it’s out of finger reach (and dang it I forgot my tweezers / pliers / ATM repair kit today).

Plan 2 I think to myself, I’ll push it further in with another card and hope it’ll then eject. Card has now disappeared, screen says insert card, no ejected card. I spy a Lloyds TSB employee just about to enter the premises..

Me: “Excuse me would you be able to..”
Lloyds TSB Employee (with a distinct, overpowering whiff of self importance): “Not working sir, not working.”

Now, from that short utterance I thought he meant HE wasn’t working i.e. off duty, but without another word he just unlocked the side access door and bustled into the bank.

Me (to the disappearing heel of the Lloyds TSB employee): “Thanks for your help.”

So now I’m left weighing up my options outside a resolutely closed Lloyds TSB – I scour the ATM for a phone number – nothing. Do I walk off not knowing whether the machine will suddenly eject my card into the hands of a potential card fraud criminal? Whilst working through my plan another Lloyds TSB (weren’t they, in a previous incarnation, “the bank that likes to say YES”?) employee arrives for work. Huffily Mr Self Important reappears at the door and then deigns to walk over to me.

Mr Self Important (now managing to string words together into a more informative sentence): “I’m afraid the machine is broken. There’s a gate that stops you putting your card in.”
Me: “Well it didn’t stop me putting mine in.”
Mr Self Important: “Who do you bank with?”
Me (mentally predicting the response from the answer I’m about to provide): “Barclays”
Mr Self Important (almost with relief as he doesn’t have to expend any effort with a non-Lloyds TSB customer): “Well we’ll have to destroy the card as there’s no way of knowing that the card belongs to you.”

The fact that I have a wallet full of cards with my name on including a driving licence with a picture of my face on it is apparently not acceptable (!)

Me: “Right. Well, thanks a lot!”

I turn to leave and then can’t help but turn and ask:

Me: “Don’t you think it would’ve been more helpful if you could have put some tape over the slot and left a message saying the machine wasn’t working?”
Blank face from Mr Self Important as he motions to turn his back on me.
Me: “Well? Don’t you?”
Mr Self Important (without much conviction): “Yes I suppose so.”

I don’t think he said “s’pose so” – but that was the level of conviction in his delivery, i.e. he couldn’t care less. Evidently if any customer care exists in the Park Gate Lloyds TSB it is not within the skillset of this gentleman – the possible irony of it is that he could’ve been the bank manager.

And that’s just my point. If you work for a business, charity, organisation or whatever – you REPRESENT them (at the very least whilst you’re on duty / about to go on duty). Your actions can have huge impacts on the perception of the organisation you work for. Poor perception equals diminished brand which in turn equals diminished market share which extrapolated to worst case scenario equals end of organisation. It’s like that quote about the butterfly flapping it’s wings in South America which alters the atmosphere a tiny amount but through the application of the chaos theory can create a tornado in another part of the world. Simply put “Every little thing counts” (and to misquote The Police song “Every Little Thing He Did Wasn’t Magic”).

The double, triple? (I don’t know I’ve lost count) irony to all of this is that the card stuck in the ATM is a Barclays personalised card (nifty offering they’ve dreamt up) with a picture of my family on it – including me grinning into the sunlight. Now unless I’m attempting to become the next Derren Brown I think it’s safe to say that a card with my picture on it IS my card! Harrumph!

I’m intrigued to know what the reaction would have been should I have had the ‘honour’ of being a Lloyds TSB customer…  Certainly from experiencing their unique brand of customer care firsthand I can vouch that I won’t be joining a queue to move my money into their coffers anytime soon.

(sung – for those that remember the advert – a fitting parody): “Lloyds TSBeeeeeee – the bank likes to saaaaay NO (now get lost!)”

The Sound Exposure difference

A little insight into why buying your audio equipment from Sound Exposure is a wise move.

The difference between Sound Exposure and [any other pro audio retailer] is that you can talk to an expert or read the detailed product descriptions so that you never buy “blindly”. ALL the product images are accurate portrayals of the actual product (where a satisfactory image wasn’t available a photographer was commissioned to obtain a good quality product shot). You won’t see an “actual product may vary” label on anything on the www.soundexposure.com website – so you can buy in confidence.

The Product Range (with simplistic text for those who can’t tell their boom pole from their XLR connector).

Adhesive Tape (Top quality insulation tape, gaffer tape and premium camera tape)

Amplifiers (Crown, Denon, Electro-Voice, QSC, Samson – all quality brands that you can trust)

Audio Solutions (Matching Converters, Limiters etc)

Batteries (Hawk-Woods for all your camera / production equipment powering needs and Procell – the Duracell brand rebadged for the professional market)

Boompoles (for your film/tv/location soundman (or woman) to hold a microphone above the action)

Cables (XLR, Speakon, 1/4″ Jack – custom cables can also be built to your requirements, just call Sound Exposure)

CD players (1U rack mount, 2U rack mount, multi disc autochanger, twin deck, iPod docking, Pro DJ – you name it!)

CD Recorders (recording your audio to a small circular disc)

Audio Connectors (Neutrik, IDC Krone – for constructing your own cable requirements – or Sound Exposure can do the donkey work for you!)

Power Connectors (Neutrik, Schurter, Permaplug – for your power cabling needs)

Data Storage (SanDisk Solid State Drives (SSD) and USB Flash Drives)

DI Boxes (Direct Input, Direct Injection or simply DI is an electronic device that connects a high impedance, line level, unbalanced output signal (like a guitar or keyboard) to a low impedance mic level balanced input, usually via XLR connector)

Digital Effects (add an audio sheen to your recordings)

DVD Players (1U / 2U rackmount DVD players)

Dynamics Processors (Microphone Preamplifiers, Limiters, Compressors, Gates – to ensure the best quality in your recordings)

Earphones (ideal for IEM – that’s In Ear Monitoring in case you weren’t sure)

Equalisers (for tweaking the frequencies with a fine tooth comb)

Equipment Bags (protect your investment with a custom fitted equipment bag – ideal for location work)

Flightcases (if you’re moving your rackmount equipment around on a regular basis – live sound, theatre, location work – then flightcasing your gear is essential)

Headphones (or “cans” – for assisting in the quest of your results equating to your expectations!)

Headphone Amplifiers (to allow more than one pair of ears to listen via headphones)

Headsets (when you need to listen AND talk)

In Ear Monitoring or IEM (systems that enable you to hear yourself without spilling sound from the stage via the standard monitor speaker method)

Lighting (you’re in a dark room with a band playing and they want you to make them sound amazing – these lights will help you see what you’re doing (they do not however add anything to your mixing ability))

Loudspeaker Control (Crossovers split the audio signal into separate frequency bands that can be separately routed to loudspeakers optimized for those bands)

Loudspeaker Stands (for improving the performance of your speaker system)

Memory Cards (Sandisk SD, SDHC and Compact Flash cards)

Microphone Accessories (Rode MiCon Connectors, Reflexion Filters (a virtual portable vocal booth!), Clips, Stand Adapters, Thread Adapters, Isolation Mounts and Stereo Bars)

Microphone Stands (for ensuring your microphone stays where you want it to. In addition there are iPad holders and drinks holders – for those thirsty performers)

Microphone Windshields (Softies, Smoothies, Windjammers, and Suspension – all to shield your microphone from unwanted noise. Plus Rycote Mic Flags for getting your branding “on mic” and “on screen”)

Wired Microphones (a fundamental requirement if you want to record audio)

Wireless Microphones (you want to walk AND talk!?)

Mixers (take your various sources of audio and lovingly splice them together with the aid of one of these)

Active Monitors (for you to listen to your recordings subjectively and make the RIGHT adjustments – active monitors have their own amplifier built in)

Passive Monitors (for you to listen to your recordings subjectively and make the RIGHT adjustments – passive monitors must be connected to an amplifier for them to be heard)

Music Stands (Keyboard stools and stands, drummer’s thrones, guitar stands and sheet music stands – because resting everything on the floor just would not work)

Paging Amplifiers (100V line amps for installation wherever background music / paging needs arise)

Active PA Speakers (for outputting the aural delicacy you have mixed (see Mixers above) – active PA speakers have their own amplifier built in)

Passive PA Speakers (for outputting the aural delicacy you have mixed (see Mixers above) – passive PA speakers must be connected to an amplifier for them to be heard)

Portable Recorders (digital audio recorders that are small and eminently mobile)

Studio Recorders (digital audio recorders in standard rackmount configuration – but can still be mobilised (see Flightcases above) if you wish)

Power Distribution Units (PDUs) (all this clever rackmount hardware requires electricity – distribute the power around your rack from one tidy rackmounted device)

Stage Boxes (rather than having every audio source straggling its cables over the stage and up to the mixer a stage box combines everything into a single run)

Test Equipment (something not working as you’d expect? Use these valuable tools to help you locate the problem quickly)

Tuners (for monitoring your radio stations output a tuner is vital – or you can use one to “just” listen to the radio)

This is not an exhaustive list as products are added to the portfolio all the time, so keep your eyes on your pro audio and broadcast superstore!

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 😉