BOSS Undercover – Yellow Pages / Berry Company complaints

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

http://evereffect.wordpress.com/2007/11/26/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

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About Dani Girl

Hawaii web designer/developer. Owner of BOSS Hawaii, professional photographer. Love animals, gaming, and ice cream for breakfast. Visit my Google+ profile here. View all posts by Dani Girl

9 Comments to BOSS Undercover – Yellow Pages / Berry Company complaints

  1. Websites...?

    BOSS Hi… interesting article considering you are company that offers similar services that Berry Co. offers… “conflict of interest” Fact is Berry has made many errors with some of the digital programs they offer and they have questionable tactics and service. Before you go ahead and write an article on the Berry Co. issues you should also examine some products that you’ve created. I’ve seen websites created by BOSS Hi and some of them are questionable at best. You guys make basic websites, but I see missing elements when you create websites to support strong SEM or SEO programs, and you leave your Customers not knowing the difference between what type of website they may need. I know this comment will probably get erased by you on your blog, but look within at your own opportunities before your critical on others.

    • No I wont delete this, I welcome comments like these so I can address them. I am happy to address your concerns.

      We are very different from BERRY. We actually don’t really offer or sell SEM services. We have done it for clients who I wanted to help out but usually we refer to someone else for it if they need or want it. So yes our sites do lack any SEM support probably because they don’t need it. Not everyone needs it. BERRY does simple free basic themes, not customized, focusing more on SEO and SEM. Like I said in my article that works for some.

      If you are in this business you know that the sites being built are based on what the client needs and can afford. You can’t judge a website on how it looks or what it is missing because you have no idea what budget the designer was working with or what instructions the client was giving. Not everyone may have had a budget for strong SEO or SEM or a custom website.

      “You guys make basic websites, but I see missing elements when you create websites to support strong SEM or SEO programs”

      Well you really didn’t look at all of our work then. The portfolio hasn’t really been updated in 2 years, but it has all kinds of websites and yes some of them are simple and basic because that is what the client asked for and what they could afford. We actually try to strike a balance between design and SEO for clients on a budget so it is never going to be as complete as we would like if the client cant afford it. We help a lot of non profits and small businesses just starting out, they can’t afford much but we make it work. They know that they will need more, and like most of our clients, the come back and add on as they can. We absolutely wont oversell services! We work WITH our clients to give them what they can handle.

      Most of our websites from the last 2 years are complete custom designed sites and most rank page one on their market organically including my own personal sites. And we do that without overselling SEM and SEO services.

      “you leave your Customers not knowing the difference between what type of website they may need”

      Can’t even address this because there is no way you could know what we do with our customers unless you were present at our meetings. But I can assure you that all of my clients can attest to how much time I spend explaining things to them and giving them options. The difference between myself and Berry is they have one way of doing things so they can do things in volume, and they make the client think they need things regardless of their budget. My test showed that they were selling me SEM and SEO on a site that was already ranking. I could never sell a service a client didn’t need. I like sleeping at night.

      Just a tip, if you are going to leave these kinds of comments on a site, wait until you get home. Not sure if you knew that I can see where you posted from and know where you work. Knowing this employer, I am sure they would not be happy with you using their computers for this.

    • Angela

      Our posts come from personal experiences. We feel passionate about something that affects us or our clients in some way so we write about it. We have had so many former Berry customers come to us. It is not to say that Berry is all bad, just that they needed something Berry couldn’t offer. We are a small agency and consider us the next level up to something like Berry, offering as close to an agency level experience as the smaller businesses can afford. Our strengths is giving the client the most for their budget. We enjoy where we are and its appropriate to our experience level. Maybe in a couple of more years as we grow, we might decide to go for bigger projects. But for now, we all feel really good about where we are, what we offer in comparison to what others are doing for the same cost. :)

  2. Robert sparks

    Whoa, don’t get behind on your yellow pages contract with Berry, they do not send any notices and just drop you out of the yellow pages directory for the next year as your “punishment” No wonder they went bankrupt. The way they do business is based on their business model from prior to the internet, when they were the yellow pages gods and could strike your business dead by leaving your ad out. They screw themselves over because they do this to people who have had Yellow Pages ads continuously for 25 or more years. Once you find out how useless the Yellow pages actually are, the more happy you are to be saving the big bucks you used to send to the Berry Company. It was nice to hear about their financial troubles and bankruptcy. Hopefully I’ll get to read about them going Chapter 7 and liquidating next.

  3. Rodney

    We were paying $1500 a month for our website and ads. One of the main reasons we switched is because 4 of my competitors were also using BERRY and their sites looked so much like mine it was embarrassing. Plus the images they used were obviously not local looking. They just looked like cheap templates, and while I realize the price included ads, we realized that by getting our own website, and having them set up our ads directly, we saved $8200 in one year. So this article is correct, if you can afford to pay for a website and someone to set up your ads you will save so much money and you will have something that looks much better.

  4. Anonymous

    I have encountered this problem with lots of businness friends. What the berry company is doing is illegal . They are telling there customers that they are doing Seo when all they are doing is pay per click. This against google policies to mark up there pay per click. Someone should complain and file suit. They are hurting legitimate companies that are truly doing Seo.

  5. Anonymous

    I have encountered this problem with lots of businness friends. What the berry company is doing is illegal . They are telling there customers that they are doing Seo when all they are doing is pay per click. This against google policies to mark up there pay per click. Someone should complain and file suit.

  6. Peter Facts

    Love this article, however, I had a few things to add and comment on.

    First:
    Both Customer Reviews are from legit business owners in Hawaii.
    The fact however is, they could of said no.
    “BERRY Talked us into it, they say.” My response, “No one held a gun to your heads.”
    Advertising is a risk.
    Getting in business for yourself is a huge risk to begin with.
    Whether you choose to use an online marketing company like Berry or Boss HI or anyone for that matter, the risk is going to be there and the results that you get will primary be equal to the demand in your market place for that medium being used.

    Second:
    You stated, “First there is an initial cost for its creation and hosting as well as paying a yearly fee.”
    Untrue – There is no upfront cost. Just 99.95 a month for a 5 page website with a 12 month Commitment.

    Third:
    “Some of the clients I talked to said they ended up with bills from $10-35,000 at the end of the year.”
    Any marketing company that packs on Bills and not Returns, doesn’t deserve the client to begin with. The success that the business owner sees is mostly determined on how they feel and not actual results. That’s the sad part of how marketing works. Some business owners just want to see it. Some want touch it. Some what to hear it.

    Fourth:
    I’m unclear as you are to how much of the budget goes to Google and how much they actually pocket. This is what I do know.
    They use two compaines. One called Yodle and the other Web.com. They handle their web development and their SEM or Google Adwords Campaigns.
    So primarily there are 3 hands in the cookie jar.

    So let’s say a customer goes with a 500 SEM package, I would hope that at least 70% of that goes to Google and the remaining 30% is split between Berry, Yodle or Web.com. This is at WORST.

    Till this day I don’t know what the exact breakdown is. If they were truly transparent, they would charge a set management fee and every other cent would go to the clients SEM program. After each month they would supply the business owner a breakdown of dollars that went to each company. Will they ever do this? I doubt it! Too much work for them. Will they ever move their Web Services in house? I doubt that too.

    Fifth:
    With Berry’s SEM packages they love the fact that they can record calls and show customer statistics or analytics. If your a new business they walk in and show you exactly how many calls and how many hits this Company is getting. They will play a record call for you. All information that is geared to Wow the client. The fact is they play the Good and Never Share the bad. If your interested in their SEM programs. ASK THEM FOR THE BAD CALLS. Ask them to share the calls that drop.

    Summary – I like Berry and the Yellow Pages that they provide. Do I like the way they wheel and deal? No! However, business owners need to be smart! They need to smell foul and run away when they know the deal sounds to good to be true. Is the yellow pages dead? I guess the decision lies with the current advertisers that keep shelling out money. Do I use the books? NOPE! But, businesses rely on them and something must be working since the OPEN sign is still on the window.

    Personal Review on Boss HI:
    Excellent WordPress Developer.

    • VERY NICE, thank you for the comment.

      I will correct the issue of the upfront cost, I should be more clear. I was told by a few customers they were asked to pay the first payment to cover the costs etc. This may have changed. I started looking into this a year ago and one thing I noticed is they change regularly so it is possible things are different.

      I want to be fair because I know some do find services useful but as you said, you have to be educated about it before you get in.
      I think that is what makes me uncomfortable though, because I know that most in this business don’t know. And yes no one was holding a gun to their head but remember, Berry is not being entirely truthful. Customers admit they are overwhelmed by this stuff and don’t know what they are doing but they are listening to a sales person who sounds like he does, who is not giving them the most accurate information. In the end, they really don’t get any of it all they hear is that they can cancel at anytime. And that is how they get stuck.

      My company is very transparent. For me it is an integrity issue and I believe in cause and effect. What Berry needs to understand is that they have a useful service, and don’t need to resort to these tactics. People eventually wise up and they lose customers and loyalty.

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