Dell’s Great Idea: Ideastorm.com Crowdsourcing Engagement

Crowdsourcing is according to the crowdsourcing wikipedia: “the act of taking a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call.”

Dell Ideastorm

Crowdsourcing is becoming a method of measuring audience participation, company engagement within their niche, identifying opportunity, and how to recognize their audience and consumers for their great ideas.

Architecture of Participation

According to Tim O’Reilly, the man behind the definition of Web 2.0, Web 2.0 is built on an “architecture of participation.” Consequently, crowdsourcing is a fantastic method to tap into the vast resource that is human capital on the Internet, discover new ideas for products or services, and measure your message. This concept hinges on one idea: harnessing collective intelligence.

Harnessing Collective Intelligence

Tim ‘OReilly posited in 2005 that “The central principle behind the success of the giants that lead the Web 2.0 era appears to be. . . that they have embraced the power of the web to harness collective intelligence.”

Crowdsourcing: Dell’s Ideastorm.com

A great example of mining for ideas on products, services, best practices, policy, and a number of other business concepts is Dell Computers’ crowdsourcing site ideastorm.com. Dell’s tagline for ideastorm “Where Your Ideas Reign.”

Dell’s Ideastorm.com is responsible for the following:

Conclusion

Any entrepreneur, small business, large corporation, or job seeker can utilize “crowdsourcing” for their own purposes. One added benefit of crowdsourcing is the fact that it is an entry point for any job seeker or entrepreneur looking for opportunities. If an individual showcases their expertise and talents they have a solid chance of being noticed and opening the lines of communication with their intended targeted audience(s).

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Vista Print’s No Customer Service: Consumeraffairs.com Documents Complaints

Consumeraffairs logo

Courtesy of Consumeraffairs.com

According to Consumeraffairs.com VistaPrint has many dissatisfied and angry ex-customers with complaints aka nightmares ranging from customer service to billing. VistaPrint is a low budget, high promise printer. Vistaprint.com makes it’s living, not on the quality of it’s products, on the shipping fees it charges for it’s orders. With the knowledge VistaPrint was all about the “delivery”, I assumed that they would be able to print and deliver my cards to my home before my deadline: WRONG.

Three (3) Business Days?

We placed our rush 3 business day ship order on Monday April 27 with the idea that Vista Print would deliver our cards in 3 business days ie. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday with the product arriving either Thursday April 30 or the morning of May 1, 2009.

My Mistake

When we ordered the cards, we did not read the fine print which states that orders placed after 5pm PST would be placed as orders for the following day. Consequently, Vistaprint’s promise of a 3 day ship would give up to 5pm Friday May 1 to deliver our cards.

My Problem

We needed business cards for a conference that we were speaking at in San Francisco. We had to have the cards no later than 12:30pm Friday May 1. When we had to leave for the conference, our cards were no where to be found.

Complaint Button

Vistaprint’s Solution to My Problem: No Customer Service

I called asking for a refund on my shipping fees of $30.80 (3 business day rush shipping). I was told by a customer service rep that they could not help me and they fulfilled their end of the “contract.”

I pointed out that 3 days is not a rush in my opinion, that $31 for shipping is not cheap, and that the cards never arrived in time for me to use them. The answer to my plea was simple and stern: NO REFUND.

Final Offer: Remain a Customer or Leave

My final offer was simple and one that I have made in the past when I felt I was getting the raw end of a deal. I offered to remain a Vistaprint customer if they provided a refund on my shipping fees. I promised to be a consumer affairs advocate fighting hard to highlight the no customer service I was receiving if they denied my request. Guess what happened?

Top 10 Page 1 Google Search: “Vistaprint complaints”

Here is a library, and it is so much longer, list of the complaints detailed and often lodged against Vistaprint:

  1. Consumeraffairs.com: “Consumer complaints about VistaPrint.com
  2. Smartmoney.com: “VistaPrint Faces Complaints Over Third-Party Bills
  3. thestreet.com: “VistaPrint Can’t Hear the Knockin
  4. Complaintsboard.com: “List of VistaPrint Complaints
  5. PlanetMike.com: “VistaPrint Sucks!

S.F. Chronicle 50% Price Hike: Strategy to Move Readers Online

https://i2.wp.com/www.iri.org/newsarchive/images/news-SanFranciscoChronicle.png

Courtesy www.iri.org/newsarchive/2008/2008-07-26-News-…

The continued downward spiral of print media advertising revenues has large American papers rethinking their strategy for survival. Unfortunately for consumers who prefer inky newsprint on their figertips and something to hold, the strategy of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, is a massive price increase. The SF Chronicle, not bothering to announce the increase, raised their newsstand price from .50 to .75 a whopping 50% increase. Adding insult to injury, the paper is offering less information-for more.

Trend Away from Print

“Want Ad” Advertising for employment, real estate, and other consumer goods has been severely hampered by the influx of sites like Craig’s list, blogs, and other social media sites that provide more strategically targeted information and advertising for free.

Survival Tactic

Now readers who enjoy traditional print media will have to pay more for the privilege of buying a paper off the newsstand or from their local paperboy. The reason for this is the fact that online advertising revenue is taking over as the prime income stream for many newspapers.

The Strategy

Sfgate.com the online newspaper for the San Francisco Chronicle is a vibrant example of what many news agencies are beginning to realize. A news site like sfgate.com is a massive blog. News stories, advertising, want ads, and other media placed everyday makes for a massive SEO machine. The sheer volume of information placed on sfgate.com everyday makes it a high traffic blog-website that ranks high on Google.

The Results

The S.F. Chronicle has a solid path to advertising revenue via it’s sfgate.com site. The paper has a chance to survive as it moves it’s operations online providing a vibrant and viable news product.

The consumer wins because the sfgate.com site is the SF Chronicle paper. Everyword is online for any reader willing to go to the site. The win for consumers is that the online version is FREE. Consumers willing to read their paper online don’t spend a dime. Is that not what Web 2.0 is all about?

Has A New Ed Okun Arrived On The 1031 Exchange Scene: Vesta Strategies LLC Staggers From Wall St. Journal Story

In another apparent blatant rip off of 1031 exchange investor funds, Vesta Strategies of San Jose, California “has closed its doors, leaving investors scrambling to recover millions and pointing to flaws in the largely unregulated industry” according to the Wall Street Journal report “Behind the Boom and Bust of Real- Estate Player Vesta.”

Do we have another Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group on our hands?

The Founders

Chicago businessman John Terzakis and partner Robert Estupinian were the principles at Vesta Strategies. They founded Vesta in 2004 amid a firestorm of legal problems

History

According to WSJ’s Kris Hudson’s report:

“Mr. Terzakis had a history of failed real-estate deals and soured relationships — information Mr. Terzakis isn’t required to disclose to potential clients. Now the two men are accusing each other in separate lawsuits of diverting millions of dollars from Vesta for personal use.”

The Losses Sound Familiar

Christina Pappas a California investor, a familiar story to the “Trainwreck Victims of Ed Okun”, is out $2.5 million she handed to Vesta in April 2008 from the “sale of a property.”

When Ms. Pappas found a replacement property, another building, to purchase within the IRS’s 180 day exchange period, she requested her funds be wired in order to close the deal. To her utter horror, but familiar to the people following this industry, Ms. Pappas maintains that the “Vesta representative failed to wire her money to complete the property exchange by the June 16 closing, and still hasn’t done so”

The Numbers

According to WSJ story, Mr. Estupinian was quoted as saying that “Vesta Strategies held $10 million to $30 million in client money at any one time.” Okun like no, but no small sum of money in any case

Vesta Infighting And Meltdown

In a scene worthy of Ed Okun, the two principles Terzakis and Estupinian ended up in court with Terzakis initiating the legal action.

Mr. Terzakis allegations included

1. Estupinian misappropriated several million dollars of Vesta’s money for his family’s use

2. $96,000 salary for Mr. Estupinian’s wife, who allegedly did little work for the company

3. Expenditures on a $1.3 million house

4. A $160,308 oceanfront apartment in Long Beach

5. $50,000 for a pair of dogs-doesn’t everyone have $50,000 twin dogs?

6. $42,795 in tuition toward Mr. Estupinian’s doctorate degree-education is expensive

The Countersuit by Mr. Estupinian

1. Embezzlement of about $25 million and the following quote by Mr. Estupinian:

“Beginning as far back as 2000, John Terzakis has been treating the client funds as his own personal piggy bank in order to fund his many personal business and development projects”

Final Final

If this does not sound like the Okun case it certainly sounds like a close facsimile to it. The bottom line for Ms.Pappas and fellow investors serviced by Vesta Strategies could be the same fate suffered by Okun victims: no return on investment, IRS nightmare tax bill, and the prospects of a lost retirement fund spent in a lavish lifestyle befitting a crook

“Generally Accepted Accounting Principles”: How Do Consumers Evaluate Bank’s “Statement of Condition” Advertising Plea?

Today’s banking industry climate, with mortgage meltdown disasters laying waste to financial institution books, demands consumers pay attention and perform due diligence before depositing their hard earned monies. The following ad has a unintended “Enron” feel to it in my opinion.

In what may become a defense mechanism brought on by the IndyMac Bank failure and “run” lines reminiscent of the stock market crash of 1929, local small bank Luther Burbank Savings of Northern California has gone on a reputation management campaign in local print media. The campaign has a simple message–we are solvent and in good shape therefore don’t be afraid to deposit money with us.

“Statement of Condition”

This is an advertisement comprised of a letter to customers touting the “exceptional year 2007 was for the bank with deposit growth of 24%. The statement also addresses the bank’s 25th Anniversary and how “relationships developed. . . are among our most rewarding results.”

Assets

This section of the add gives a accounting line item breakdown as follows:

1. Cash & Securities: $14,569,000

2. Loans Receivable: $2,968,032,000

3. Other Assets: $69,430,000

Bottom Line= $3,052,031,000

Liabilities & Capital

Deposits: $2,129,633,000

FHLB Advances: $642,811,000

Other Liabilities: $21,126,000

Capital: $258,461,000

Bottom Line= $3,052,031,000

Note-Disclaimer :The ad features in tiny print the disclaimer as follows: “This unaudited statement is prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.

Analysis

Does this disclaimer really mean that they can twist the numbers in any fashion legally to make them look more solvent? Is this institution fooling itself? Fooling consumers? Or is this a form of advertisement we will see moving forward for every banking institution?

In my opinion this type of advertisement, in the face of the Enrons and cooked books business culture we have suffered through in the past, is nothing more than meaningless fluff.

Why fluff? Because for this ad to have ANY validity they should have two independent accounting firms, with no PRIOR contract work with Luther Burbank, conduct separate audits for transparent and objective information. That would be the only believable scenario in my opinion

1031 Tax Group Okun Swindle “Mantra”: “The plaintiffs’ money has ‘disappeared’ and recovery is unlikely”

Reuters.com published this deansguide article July 9, 2008

What has become an all to familiar phrase in the Ed Okun 1031 Tax Group (IXG) ponzi scandal, seems to be the dreaded mantra: “The plaintiffs’ money has disappeared and recovery is unlikely.Those were the words recorded in court hearings in Colorado this past month in regards to the embezzlement of funds through the Ed Okun held IXG exchange in Denver.

Exhibit 1: Sergio S. Alvarez v. Daniel E. McCabe

In “Sergio S. Alvarez v. Daniel E. McCabe et al, eight former clients are suing all three McCabes and Simring (Richard) for losses totaling more than $4.5 million” according to the latest from the Denver Business Journal’s Renee McGaw.

Eight clients were in the midst of their tax deferred exchanges with cash assets between $280,629-$1.9 million dollars lost when the 1031 Tax Group filed bankruptcy

Exhibit 2: Ward Enterprises LLC v. Daniel E. McCabe

The Plaintiff (Wade LLC) wired $3,300,000 in proceeds from a real estate transaction to IXG’s account held at the United Western Bank in Denver. Proceeds were for the purpose of performing a 1031 exchange

In the meantime IXG had been sold to Okun and his 1031 Tax Group-something Ward LLC did not know at the time. Consequently Ward expected it’s millions to be deposited in a separate, stand alone, account. Unfortunately for Ward, their monies were “pooled with other exchangers’ money and later moved out of United Western Bank”, according to allegations of the Ward suit.

The Beat Goes On

As usual nobody is taking responsibility for these illegal transactions. The McCabes are stating that they are innocent and victims of Okun’s dirty dealing. So the beat goes on, victim’s monies disappear and nobody is left holding the bag–except the victims

Help People, Make New Friends, Create Opportunities: Become An Expert In Your Field By Networking “The Right” Way

Networking events are the lifeblood of business in many niches. Yet one of the greatest benefits of networking is the education you should receive while looking to connect. If you are networking the “Right Way” you will begin to do your due diligence, research your niche, offer your expertise in keynote-workshops, provide constant valuable information, and you will write about your experiences during your quest to be connected.

One of the best sources of contacts important to the author I represent, Susan Hanshaw, has been employment networking groups. The following is a look at how Realtors, one of my client groups I consult, should position themselves, how to understand value, how to give value, and how to become a trusted source of information and help–the rest will take care of itself!

Why Networking Groups for Employment?

Many folks are being forced out of jobs, lay offs being the first step, and need to reevaluate their financial positions. Many decide they want more from life and wish to become entrepreneurs in a field that is a passion for them–following their hearts. Others feel stressed by their expenses including a large mortgage that is a continual source of stress. What is the biggest purchase and sale in most people’s lives? People need your expertise so start ACTING like the expert YOU are already!

The Solution

Many people sell their homes or property to fund their dreams, sell their property to relieve their stress, or many will “trade” down aka sell their larger home for a more manageable mortgage and smaller property.

Realtors being transaction oriented, you can see the trend here.

Position Yourself as The Expert

Position yourself as the real estate expert for a particular region. Go to these meeting with information that will help these people to decide on a course of action. Help them with information and you will find new clients

Tone

DO NOT TRY TO SELL ANYONE ON YOU, YOUR LISTINGS, OR YOUR OBVIOUS GREATNESS AS A REALTOR! This is the fastest way to being asked to leave, being ignored, and turning your potential referral audience off–forever!

1. Instead position yourself as someone who is an expert or having expertise and can answer questions, for free no obligations, and consult with the group.

2. Bring handouts for other employment networking events, job fairs, or offer knowledge of businesses that are hiring. Be a source of employment yourself

3. Write articles on your blog, website, or newsletter highlighting your new “friends” and their goal of employment. Call it your Expert Section and use it as a tool to bring more exposure to these folks. Maybe highlight one member per week or month. Print out your article(s) and circulate amongst the group.

4. Build a List when you offer to include these folks in your blog post you will receive their contact information. Ask for permission to include them in your list. You then have the beginnings of your “Employment” list to send people to your newsletter, blog, or info on things you are doing in the community

5.Offer to speak about real estate in your groups region, alternatives, and the state of the market today

Where Do I Find These Groups?

1. Google the phrases employment education, employment networking groups, and any other combinations of phrases surrounding employment, job search, group, organization. Include the region, county, city you want to focus upon.

2. CSIX Connect is a fantastic example of employment networking. Go to http://www.csix.org/ for more information and an example of the type of group you should attend

Remember

Have fun when networking. Provide great value that people want. Be open and listen to learn. Connect and make lasting relationships. Don’t ask but instead ask how you may provide help–the rest will take care of itself