BOSS Undercover – Yellow Pages / Berry Company complaints

So what is the deal with all the Berry Company complaints?  BOSS goes undercover to get you some answers on the Berry Company/Yellow Pages.

Considering Berry Company for your website and/or online advertising?  Trying to decide if you should sign up?  The following information will help you in your decision making process.

Who is Berry?

Berry Company is the Yellow Pages or Yellow Book.  The name comes from Yellow Page creator Loren Berry.   For many years, Yellow Pages or Yellow Book was considered the number one way to advertise and promote your business to a large audience.   Eventually with the introduction of the internet, the physical book use was declining and they introduced various advertising alternatives that included online and the pay per calls program that got so many complaints in Hawaii.

Last year, they had to file for Bankruptcy.  Since then they have focusing their efforts on online advertising packages to businesses.

What they offer

According to their website they provide Local Online Marketing:

“Berry is the expert in online marketing for small businesses. We meet with you to understand your needs and then develop an advertising program customized for your business. Our solutions make sure potential customers can find your business when they are ready to buy. We manage your marketing so that you can run your business. That’s why we are the Local Leads Expert.™”.”

They list of services they provide is: Build Presence, Websites, Mobile, Facebook, Online Listing Monitoring , SEO, Drive Performance, SEM, YP.com, Yellow Pages, Generate Promotion, Online Video, Online Display Ads

The Complaints

Ownership:  One of the disadvantages reported about websites offered by Berry/YP is ownership.   The reps will tell you that you own the site. But, they control it because it is located on their server.  If you cancel or drop out, you will lose your website.

Domain Name Ownership Issues: When registering your website through a yellow page company, you are essentially not the owner of your domain name.   In fact, the yellow page company actually owns your domain name and rents it out to you for a fee. Not only does transferring the ownership of your domain name cost you money, but you also risk legal complications should you no longer want your website with them.

Confusion: Some of the reports claim that they continually change their policies, rates, process, addresses, and contacts making it very hard to understand how to deal with them when there is a problem.  In fact when researching this article I found that each customer reported different processes and services.

Overpriced:  The website services they provide are hugely expensive.   First there is an initial cost for its creation and hosting as well as paying a yearly fee.  One of the companies I spoke to was paying $1500 a month.  When we looked into this, they were paying $400 for the yellow page ad which means $1100 of that was for the website and their SEO services.  That is monthly.  So after a year they have spent $13,200 for a basic wordpress website and SEO services.  If you hired someone to build the same site, you would have paid a one time fee of maybe $2000.  You can hire an SEO person for $400 a month.  So in other words you overpaid by $10,000 at that is annually.  And you don’t own your website.

Misleading claims: Many of the complaints I received were from people who felt they got trapped into a contract.  They claim they were told they could cancel at anytime if they weren’t happy and ended up not being able to cancel for a year.  They were also not clear on what they were paying monthly until they received a large bill at the end of the year.

This seems to vary from client to client, I believe it has changed over time because now they seem to charge monthly but with a year contract.  Some of the clients I talked to said they ended up with bills from $10-35,000 at the end of the year.

In fact, I received a call from their collection department once because a company with a similar name as my husbands had a bill with them for $21,000.

Some claim the website services are just a way to get people to advertise on Yellow Pages and that they didn’t get the results they were promised.

Website Design: Here in Hawaii, the websites are made using WordPress with a free theme although I just recently saw some html and Yodle sites recently.

They do little to no customization, the design and content are secondary aspects.   Therefore, they can be  unattractive, lacking in both features and functionality as well as lacking in overall user friendliness.

Rate of Conversion: Given the lack of user friendliness as well as the ineffective and unappealing design, it is difficult for such websites to both attract as well as retain visitors.   While traffic entering such websites is absolutely minimal, it is important to note that the rate of conversion of idle traffic into loyal customers is even lower.    Moreover, given the same reasons, it is impossible to measure ROI of such websites.

Inability to include Social Media Marketing: Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc are great ways to market or promote your business website. However, according to experts, it is not possible to use these methods to market your yellow pages website.

Lack of active Customer Support Program: Customer support is the best way to retain customers and convert them into loyalists. While customer support can be actively extended through a self owned website, it is difficult and nearly impossible to do so with a yellow pages website. Lack of active communication with customers can result in loss of business.

(other source for this section: http://studio1c.com/website-design-blog/451-disadvantages-of-a-yellow-bookpages-website.html)

The Investigation

I started by sending an inquiry through their website.

After a week of no response, I contacted them through the phone number and left 2 messages.  Days went by and I was starting to wonder, for a company who is being labeled as “getting desperate”, they sure weren’t in any hurry to follow a lead.   Finally I reached someone by phone and she assured me she would get my information to the right person.  Three days later I got a call from San.

San was very pleasant.  He started by asking about the business. I decided to use my husbands massage business since it was the ideal business Berry Company targets.  San started by looking at our websites, asking what our goals were how much business we currently had and how much business we want.  These were all reasonable questions, he was clearly calculating to determine the right cost that was appropriate for our ROI.

He told me that on the low end, that SEM would get at  least 30 phone calls a month which would amount to $1620 a month.  He recommended  a $600 a month package for us to be found on Google, Yahoo and Bing.
He guaranteed front page but was honest about it not being in a consistent.  He was talking about ads not organic, and did not explain the difference.   This is often the way companies are misled.   He said we were not ranking for the main keywords which is actually not true, as I personally did the work on this site and it is page one for all targeted keywords.

When I asked if they resell Google, he said “when clients asked us to go online and we invested millions to do that and yes we partner with them we work with them which is why we get better results than any other.”

Not sure why they would get better results as Google doesn’t play favorites.  I am also unclear if they resell Google ads at a higher rate or get a special rate.  I am looking into this now and will update the article to see if you still get the same value for your ad as if you placed it yourself.
He told me that yellowpages.com  gets 4 million users per month via the phone app. The truth is it is 4 million app downloads.  This does not mean people actively using the app or anything, just people who downloaded the app.  Again, this is more misleading marketing language.

He explained that most websites charge  upfront fee something like $4000-7000 (average) and with Berry there is no upfront cost. Mostly true, however in reality if you put a dollar on the kind of site the offer which is very basic the amount is more like $1500.

If you already have a website, they create a new one to” get the new people who don’t know you”  rather than rework the existing ones.

Basically they are creating landing pages.  Landing pages are a good thing usually. However they copy your other site content which creates the problem of duplicate content and can get filtered out in Google’s algorithmic process.

The contract/cancelling

San explains that this was a 1 year contract, and if its not getting results I can fire them. The way he worded this it implied I could cancel anytime.

BUT when asked him directly if I can cancel after only 1 month, did he tell me that we actually couldn’t cancel but just choose not to renew after the year was over.

AHA!  So that is very different from being able to cancel at anytime.

I asked how much of what we spent went to advertising.  I was surprised that he gave me a specific amount of $ 99.95 a month for the website building, hosting, maintaining and the rest is for SEM.

What is unclear is if they are marking up regular Google ad rates or they are getting them for a discount and making their money there.

When San analyzed our site, he said the site wasn’t ranking well.  But after I pointed it that it was actually ranking very well, he shifted gears to say that online marketing is time consuming and most people don’t have time.   But that isn’t the service they were selling me.  They were selling me services to improve ranking and traffic not take over existing efforts.

Right before we hung up, he did spring on me YP.com for $73 a month to “increase my organic placement”.   He reminded me that if I got one client, it paid for itself and gave me lots of statistics on power of their online yellow pages.

There is no disputing I would organically rank well on Yellow Pages and that all of his statistics were most likely correct. Problem is, people need to be using YP.com.  And  I know of no one who uses Yp.com.

Results

My assessment is this.

The Berry Company is like a credit card for websites and  fills a need for people with no upfront money needing a website and advertising package quickly and does not care about having a flashy website or personal attention.  Like a credit card, you have to read the fine print because it looks good on the surface and they prey on the convenience but in the end you pay more in the long run by not having to come up with a large amount of money upfront.

My main issue with them is they are not being 100% upfront with people and I have some concerns about the ethics and tactics of how they go about selling their services.

If you decide to work with them be sure to get everything in writing, and stay on top of them.

If you are able to come up with money upfront and can spend a little time looking around, it is more cost effective and effective period,  to get a local company with experience helping small businesses online in your area.  These people are generally more involved in your community and will be more of a vital team member rather than a large company mass selling a product they don’t support well.

In my opinion your Ad dollars are more effective elsewhere like Google and even Facebook.   I cannot see that this is money well spend, not for small businesses with little marketing budgets.

YELLOW PAGE SCAMS

I should note for you to be aware there are several scams out there from people claiming to be Yellow Pages.  This article tells you all about it, so make sure you read this before paying anything to anyone for Yellow Page services.

FORMER CUSTOMERS

“When Berry first asked me about the on-line advertising, it sounded like something we needed to remain viable. So the rep preceded to sell the benefits of using their WEB design and tracking abilities. BIG MISTAKE! Once the site was active, we we’re able to track the calls and see what if any effect it was having on sales. However, they NEVER optimized the site and was unable to keep personnel on staff who were competent. Once a good person was introduced and they would contact me – they would be gone in 3 months!” Ron Pederson

“We were called by a Berry rep who told us they could help us get more business online.  At this point we already had a nice website that was doing well.  We had a quote from a local company to do more online marketing. But Berry talked us into going with them, telling us that they had special relationships with the search engines and could get better results and that their yellow page ads were a must have for businesses.   Their cost was more than the local company but they assured us we would getting more business and that we could cancel if we were not happy.  We did NOT get the results they promised, and when we tried to cancel 2 months later, we learned that we were in a year contract and could not cancel.  We now pay on something that does us nothing and I can’t afford to go with the company I feel would have really helped us.  Live and learn. ”  Deanna Morimoto

 

Links:

http://www.studio1c.com/website-design-blog/451-disadvantages-of-a-yellow-bookpages-website.html

Yellow Pages Suck

Is Yellow Pages worth it?  Read what Forbes says:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/kernlewis/2011/03/28/should-small-businesses-still-book-yellow-page-ads/

Reports written by the people who work at Berry:  http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/The-Berry-Company-Reviews-E19865.htm

Who is calling me? Identifying call scams.

This morning I got a call from 818-890-3853 in Northern Los Angeles.  I didn’t answer it, they didn’t leave a message.  They have been calling every morning for the past week. Earlier this week I got a call from someone claiming to be from Facebook, another from Microsoft.  With so many scams nowadays, it is hard to know what is legit and what is not. So what do you do?

Here is what I do when I get a call from unknown callers:

First, I do not answer calls from numbers I do not recognize. If for some reason I do answer, and I am unsure if the caller is legit, I ask them if I can call them back.  This gives me time to research.

  • I simply type the number into the Google search box.
  • Leave off the 1.  Just the area code and number with the dashes. Like this format: xxx-xxx-xxxx

If the phone number was from a legitimate business, that persons business would come up in the top of the searches either from their website or their Google business listing.

In this case however, the search results I saw were from sites like MrNumber.com, whocallsme.com, etc.  This tells me it is most likely a scammer already because these  websites contain comments from others, like you, who have gotten calls from that number and reported it.  After reading these comments you can quickly determine if the call is legitimate or not and even leave a comment of your own.

In my case, I immediately saw people reporting various scam type activity.  One person had even done the research and was providing the providers information, so we could report it and attempt to get our names off the list.

Many of these calls manage to get people to give up their credit card numbers.  There is even one that claims to be the Federal Court, getting you enrolled in Jury Duty and people give out their Social Security numbers and more.

Unfortunately, too many people fall victim to these scammers.  When in doubt CHECK IT OUT.  Nothing is so urgent that you can’t take 5 minutes to look into it first.  Remember to never give out personal information unless you have done your homework!

BE A SCAM BUSTER!

 

 

Our design “Shaka the new LIKE” went VIRAL!

Late one night, I was creating some Facebook graphics for  website and was trying to come up with something more original to go along with Hawaii theme.   My rubbah slippah social media icons piled up, were a hit so it was time to top it.

I had been staring at the Facebook LIKE graphic for too long …so I decided it needed an overhaul.

That is when it came to me and SHAKA the NEW LIKE, was born!

I shared it on my personal Facebook page and pinned it.  Within the hour, DJ Maleko from Clear Channel’s Star 101.9 put on the Clear Channel site and Facebook page.  Within days it had over 14,000 likes on Island 98.5.  It was being repinned like crazy and was starting to show up on hundreds of local websites and blogs.

Within a week, it was reported in Seattle, Colorado, Texas and Florida!

After several requests we created 3000 t-shirts which sold out in 1 week.  I hope to make more at some point.  But for  now you can get them HERE.

A great example of the power of the internet.

**You are free to share this graphic for fun and non commercial use as long as the watermark is left intact.  This graphic is property of BOSS Hawaii LLC and if you would like to use it for any other purposes, you must contact us.  Thanks!

Our design “Shaka the new LIKE” went VIRAL!

Late one night, I was creating some Facebook graphics for  website and was trying to come up with something more original to go along with Hawaii theme.   My rubbah slippah social media icons piled up, were a hit so it was time to top it.

I had been staring at the Facebook LIKE graphic for too long …so I decided it needed an overhaul.

That is when it came to me and SHAKA the NEW LIKE, was born!

I shared it on my personal Facebook page and pinned it.  Within the hour, DJ Maleko from Clear Channel’s Star 101.9 put on the Clear Channel site and Facebook page.  Within days it had over 14,000 likes on Island 98.5.  It was being repinned like crazy and was starting to show up on hundreds of local websites and blogs.

Within a week, it was reported in Seattle, Colorado, Texas and Florida!

After several requests we created 3000 t-shirts which sold out in 1 week.  I hope to make more at some point.  But for  now you can get them HERE.

A great example of the power of the internet.

**You are free to share this graphic for fun and non commercial use as long as the watermark is left intact.  This graphic is property of BOSS Hawaii LLC and if you would like to use it for any other purposes, you must contact us.  Thanks!

YELP Sucks 3 – Now they lock your business name

So if you  haven’t already read my other posts from my YELP SUCKS series I suggest you check them out as they go into pretty much everything people complain about on YELP.

This post is about the latest issue I was told about.  I just got done checking it out and wow, it is really bad.

SO as most of you know, YELP encourages your business to claim your business listing so you can make sure your information is correct, monitor traffic and respond to reviews.

A client of mine went to change her business address to the new address and decided to change the name to something that didn’t contain similar search term as her competitor.    She actually legally changed her business name because of YELP.  The reason why is because when you Google her name, her Yelp business listing shows up but so does her competitor, right underneath.  And she has 1 less star than her competitor.  This started to happen when her competitor starting advertising on YELP.  She had hoped that if she changed her business name to remove the similar keywords, this would fix this issue.  (incidentally I tested this, and it doesn’t which I will go into later)

After about a week she noticed her info was all changed back and this time she had little LOCKS on the top of the fields and is no longer allowed to edit her own business listing!

SO now she has a listing with the wrong address and business name and they wont let her change it.

So I realized why they are doing this.

Businesses who do not want to be on YELP figured out by changing the name and info, they would no longer be found on YELP.  This is YELPs way of forcing you to keep your listing.

Problem is, that much like their auto filter, the good guys get caught in this.  And once again, it conveniently lends to benefiting advertising and here is how.

I started to notice that when a competitor advertises, their glowing listing with 5 stars shows in searches right along side their competitors who often don’t have as good as a rating review on YELP.   When you advertise, YELP will make it so your competitors no longer show on your YELP page.  And they optimize it so google will index the advertisers YELP page (your competitor) right next to you.

YELP benefits from this in 2 ways.

THE Advertiser is happy because they see their 5 star review next to  your 4 star in Google and will most likely get the business as those will think they are better.

And you the person who looks bad will be pressured into advertising so your competitor will be removed from your YELP page, and you will hopefully get your positives unfiltered so you get the 5 start pretty Google search result too.

And once again, the benefit comes at your expense.  You either lose business from looking bad, or have to pay them to fix it.

Sounds to me like YELP is still in the business of extortion, they are just finding less obvious ways to go about it since they keep getting busted on it.

Once again, you have to speak out about this. HERE is a great page on all the things you need to do.

 

 

Socialcam – the new BULLY on the block

PLEASE read and share this, it will save you a lot of Embarrassment in the Future.

This is about SocialCam, a BULLY application for Facebook.

How it works.  You see a friend post a funny or stupid video.  In order to watch the video you give the APP access to your profile.  Suddenly posts are popping up on your wall letting everyone know you watched some dumb or embarrassing video.

Some very embarrassing posts have been seen on the walls of quite a few well known people, business owners, my friends and even politicians.  The ones I saw are people I know very well and know would not what their name attached to to the video they probably clicked on by mistake or just out of curiosity.  Often the thumbnails of the video look like something pervey or pornographic.

Obviously we share things all the time on our timelines.  My friends can see what I am listening to on Spotify, articles I have read, videos I watched, game achievements, etc.  The difference is, that these applications are respectful about our privacy, they walk you through settings and even reconfirm before you share.

Avoid applications like these.  Don’t support them.   They violate privacy and cause a great deal of aggravation and embarrassment.

From FORBES:

“Socialcam apparently just got a big angel funding round as it battles Viddy and others to be the next meal for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Honestly, though, I can’t tell you from personal experience what Socialcam’s prospects are for exit stardom, because I refuse to use it. Why? It’s a bully. At least the Facebook version of the app is: In order to see videos on Facebook posted by friends using Socialcam, I have to agree to install the app. And here’s what that installation allows Socialcam to do:

“This app may post on your behalf, including videos you watched, videos you shared and more.”

“And more”? Seriously?

Given constant changes both apps and Facebook itself make in privacy and account settings, you’d think most people by now would be a little more cautious about installing stuff that gives a company carte blanche to scrawl all over your Facebook page. But apparently not.

Look, I know Socialcam isn’t alone in this kind of coercion. The Washington Post Social Reader app does the same thing, so does Rdio, so do hundreds of others for all I know. Which is why I don’t use those services either.”

FULL ARTICLE HERE

How to change your settings so it will not autopost to your wall

How to remove Socialcam all together

To remove an app:

  1. Click at the top right of any Facebook page and choose Account Settings
  2. From the menu in the left column, select App Settings
  3. Click the app you’d like to remove, then click the Remove app link

Once you confirm you’d like to remove the app, it will no longer have access to your data or be able to post to your timeline. The app will be removed from your profile (timeline), bookmarks and your Apps and Games home page. Past stories from the app may remain on your timeline.

The app may have retained data from when you used the app. Please contact the app directly to request deletion of any data it may still have.