Thursday 12 November 2009

Cowboys calling...

I’ve never been to Texas. Given the events of this week it’s perhaps best if I cancel any ideas I ever had about visiting the place. I might not be welcome.

I don’t mean that all of Texas is out to get me. Despite having said an enormous number of rude things about George W Bush over the years I don’t think I feature on his hit list. I also sometimes use the word “cowboy” as an insult but again I don’t think that really causes too much disruption.

It’s just a small number of Texans that I’ve irritated recently. In fact, I should correct myself. I’m not actually sure they were Texans at all, I think South America might be the place for me to avoid at the moment.

This all relates to the “Bizz Awards", a fake prize scheme that we’ve been covering for the last few weeks. This bizarre award scheme seems to work in a rather back-to-front manner. Instead of recognising a real, tangible, measurable achievement, the Bizz Awards are awarded to people who are approached entirely at random and who then cough up $3,530 to “join”.

I know this is true because the owners of the Bizz Awards, the grandly titled “World Confederation of Businesses”, have approached three different companies in Botswana alone congratulating them on winning an award. No initial research, no discreet enquiries, just an email from a total stranger that says they’ve won the award.

I also know this because elsewhere in the world companies that have never actually traded have been contacted in the same way as well as companies that are dormant. Better still, totally non-existent companies have been selected, including one that I set up myself. That’s right, my totally fictitious company that was nothing more than a free email address was invited to buy one of their silly awards.

Let’s face a basic fact. No genuine award requires the winner to pay for it. Nobel Prizes, Olympic medals and even the occasional Consumer Watchdog awards are awarded entirely for free.

Anyway, those of you who’ve read this column recently will ask why I’m reporting on it again.

Because they phoned me. The World Confederation of Businesses called me last week, all the way from Texas. Their representative, Franck, was very upset that I appear to have exposed their scheme. Apparently we’ve caused him a lot of trouble and he was keen to explain how legitimate they are but his arguments weren’t very persuasive. One of his best was that they wouldn’t still be in business if they were crooked, would they? I couldn’t help think that it works for the Mafia, Nigerian scammers and various foreign Governments I won’t name.

But then the call got better. My new friend Franck made me a fascinating offer.

He said that if I remove all references to the Bizz Awards from our web site and from the Consumer Watchdog blog and if I promise not to publish anything more about them they will fly me, entirely at their expense, all the way from Botswana to Texas, they’ll put me up in a hotel for a few days, they’ll invite me to attend the prize ceremony and they’ll generally show me a very good time. All for free.

I haven’t done the maths but I suspect that this would cost them at least P30,000 once they’ve included everything. Now of course I have to make this clear. They’re not offering me cash, it’s just an expenses-paid trip, but I think you’ll agree this is quite a generous offer. However, I think you’ll agree that if I accepted anything from these people I would be a shameless, loathsome hypocrite, particularly shameless and loathsome if I retracted all the bad things I said about them in order to get this obvious bribe.

There’s also the issue of how this offer would be portrayed by the Bizz Awards people once I had accepted it. I know for sure that there would be photos of me there at the ceremony with captions illustrating how I had accepted their hospitality, how Consumer Watchdog from Botswana endorsed their fake awards scheme and no doubt pictures showing me with a stiff drink in one hand and a loose woman in the other. How could I then continue to criticise them?

You might wonder, like I did, why these people were feeling so generous? Why would they want to stifle criticism from a little consumer rights advocacy group in a country a long way away? Why are they so afraid of what we’re saying? Try this little test to find out. Go to Google and search for “Bizz Awards” and you’ll see why I think they are so desperate to shut us up.

The first 4 hits from Google are all links to web sites owned by the World Confederation of Businesses. Then you’ll see the fifth. It’s us. It’s a link to a page on the Consumer Watchdog blog page entitled "Bizz Awards 2009 - a scam?” [Note: our ranking may change over time!]

That’s why they are trying to silence us. Anyone with a brain who receives one of their emails from the blue announcing that they have won an award is likely to go to Google before doing anything else. Three of the top ten hits are skeptical of the Bizz Awards and your friendly neighbourhood Consumer Watchdog is top of that list. That’s why they need to silence us.

I have, of course, politely rejected their bribe but I wonder what will come next? Threats? Mmegi readers will be the first to hear.

This week’s stars
  • Keneilwe at Pick N Pay at Molapo Crossing for “exceptionally good service”.
  • Naledi at FNB Kgale Branch for consistently good service, knowing her customer and always being helpful.
  • The entire car loan team at Bank Gaborone for quick, pleasant service.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like these crooks are going all out to get people swindled.

They sent an email to our company in Tanzania as well...immediately I got it, I knew its a scam.

They need to explain what we have done to deserve the GOLD award they are offering us and how they choose us.

A well deserved award, is awarded to you, you don't pay up to get an award; Say I cant make it, will they send through my gold award to me? Think not!

Others worldwide think so too!

let's bring such scammers down!