Friday 16 October 2009

We've won a prize!

Yes, we’ve won a prize. We got an email last week from the "World Confederation of Businesses” announcing that we had been selected for “The Bizz Awards 2009”. Impressive eh?

OK, I confess, it’s not as simple as that.

The email congratulating us on the award said that it had been based on “on-line surveys and a questionnaire called “Business excellence questionnaire”, market research and official data from Internet statistics, and from the Chamber of Commerce.”

Let’s ignore the fact that gathering data from “online questionnaires might be a little suspicious. Let’s also ignore that as far as I can find, there is no such online questionnaire. Let’s overlook that silliness about “Internet statistics. The only reliable statistic about the internet is that pornography is the real reason for it’s success. Let’s finally ignore the fact that we don’t HAVE a Chamber of Commerce.

More worryingly, there’s a simple fact that undermines the value of the prize even more.


Let me prove it.

This all started when we got an email from one of our particularly smart, charismatic and skeptical readers. You’ll find that all skeptics are like this. Impossibly attractive, unbelievably intelligent and irresistible to their gender of choice.

Anyway, this one sent us an email he’d just received. It announced that he’d won a prize from the same “World Confederation of Businesses”. The email reminded him that he had to confirm his attendance at their swish awards ceremony. This smart reader knew this was too good to be true but thought we could spread the word that it was suspicious.

So here’s what I did. I lied.

I took the email that was sent to our reader and I fooled around with it. I replied to the “World Confederation of Businesses” and changed all the details in their email so that instead of referring to our reader’s company, it referred to mine. I thanked the senders for the award and asked what I should do next.

Remember that the company name I used, the name I inserted into their award announcement letter, was NOT the one they sent it to. Here’s something else. The company name I used? I made it up. It was a complete work of fiction. The company doesn’t exist other than in my imagination. All that exists is the free Gmail address I used to send the email. The “World Confederation of Businesses” have never heard of the company, COULD never have heard of the company. It simply doesn’t exist. Never has done. There is no way they could have researched the company, other than to establish that it doesn’t actually exist.

So surely we would expect them to check their records and either realise instantly that my email was a forgery or they would get in touch to clarify who the hell I am?

Wouldn’t it be funny, wouldn’t it expose them as cheats, wouldn’t it expose them as liars if they responded and offered me the prize anyway?

It would be and what’s more it WAS funny, it DID expose them because that’s exactly what they did.

Three days later I got an email from them. It was addressed to my assumed name and fake company and it said:
“It is my pleasure to congratulate you once again. I am sending you this letter to give you more information about our organization and about the way to participation, as a winner, to The Bizz Awards 2009.”

Let’s get this straight, shall we? A company that doesn’t exist, that is no more than an email address has been awarded a prize? That’s a sign, I think you’ll agree, that this company has shown itself to be a little less than respectable.

So I read their email in more detail and guess what, there’s more. The prize-giving ceremony will be held in Houston, Texas in December and I’m invited (at my own expense of course) along with a guest. I also get the chance to have my details in their “annual memory book”, will be authorised to use their logo in my marketing material and I can advertise my products on their web site.

OK, you might be thinking, what’s the downside of all of this?

The downside is the money I have to pay them for these worthless privileges. As well as my travelling and accommodation expenses for their ceremony I have to pay the “World Confederation of Businesses” a massive $3,530. That’s around P24,000.

I’m sure I don’t have to explain this in too much detail. REAL prizes don’t cost you money. REAL awards are free. REAL recognition for achievement does not require cash.

These so-called Bizz Awards aren’t real. They are just a way for a company to make money. Unfortunately this is a common occurrence. I know of two awards mechanisms that operate in Botswana that are only given to companies who have coughed up some dosh. Of course the risk with these awards is that as we all become more skeptical, as we all begin to understand how many fakers, scammers and frauds are out there, the more we will have contempt for those companies who think they can buy celebration and recognition.

It’s just the same as fake qualifications. At the end of the day it’s the person bragging about their fake award who ends up looking like a fool and a cheat.

This week’s stars
  • Zulu from Apache Spur for great service.
  • Ander and the rest of the Livebox team from Orange for excellent pre-sales, installation and post-sales service.

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