I’ll bet you didn’t know I was a high-powered executive, did you? Well, would I have received this email otherwise?
From: Heritage Who’s Who
Date: Monday, January 18, 2010 2:25:53 PM
Subject: Congratulations on Your 2010 Nomination to Heritage Who’s Who!
Dear Fellow Professional,
You were recently chosen as a potential candidate to represent your professional community in the 2010 Edition of Who’s Who among Executives and Professionals.
We are please to inform you that your candidacy was formally approved January 4th, 2010. Congratulations!
The Publishing Committee selected you as a potential candidate based not only upon your current standing, but focusing as well on criteria from executive and professional directories, associations, and trade journals. Given your background, the Director believes your profile makes a fitting addition to our publication.
There is no fee nor obligation to be listed. As we are working off of secondary sources, we must receive verification from you that your profile is accurate. After receiving verification, we will validate your registry listing within seven business days.
Once finalized, your listing will share prominent registry space with thousands of fellow accomplished individuals across the globe, each representing accomplishment within their own geographical area.
To verify your profile and accept the candidacy, please visit here. Our registration deadline for this selection period is February 1, 2010. To ensure you are included, we must receive your verification on or before this date. On behalf of our Committee I salute your achievement and welcome you to our association.
Nomination Committee Secretary
Who’s Who among Executives and Professionals
2631 Merrick Road, Ste 203
Bellmore, NY 11710
My “background?” Does that include the two years as a teller at a bank, the crummy, nowhere jobs before that, and my years as a bass player in a hardcore punk band?
Okay, so obviously I’m casting some doubt on this offer. I mean, I’m actually not an executive at all. I guess I’m a professional, insofar as I perform some form of labor in exchange for monetary compensation, but that seems like it would include just about everybody with a source of income, including drug dealers and Nigerian 419 scam operators.
They also don’t call me by name anywhere in the message, which is always a warning sign.
However, I’m not going to go as far as saying the Heritage Who’s Who is a scam. It’s a real company (which is why I removed the name from the message), and if you take them up on the offer, you will get the items they promise.
For starters, you can pay to have your name listed in a book. They’ll actually publish the book, and your name will appear in it, and you’ll get your copy. It’s called vanity publishing—you’ll get in the directory, all right. As long as you pay.
After that, you can order a plaque for around $200, a plaque and some other junk for around $500, and a couple plaques, a leather-bound edition and some prewritten press releases for $700. As long as you pay, you will receive these items as promised.
Those plaques are meaningless in the real world, those press releases are guaranteed to never make it into a publication, and the only people who read the directory are other people who paid to have their names listed.
Nobody has ever obtained a high-paying job because of this directory. In fact, if you actually pay this company for their product, it could work against you.
Let’s say you’re looking for a change of career, and you pay to appear in the Heritage Who’s Who directory. During an interview, you mention that you’re in the Who’s Who. Suddenly, the interviewer’s attitude changes. The questions become shallower, and you find yourself shunted out the door much sooner than you had hoped. The phone call for a second interview never comes.
This happens a few more times, so you decide to put the “award” on your resume. Now nobody seems to be calling you for an interview anymore. What happened?
Let me make something clear before I continue: you’ll notice I never use the words “stupid” or “idiot” when referring to victims of scams, fraud and rip-offs (which is what I consider this particular deal). Victims of these crimes come from every socio-economic background, and from all levels of intelligence. Nobody is invulnerable. How many intelligent people were taken for a ride on Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi Express? How many organizations (not just individuals) of smart, savvy people fall for Nigerian 419 scams? It has nothing to do with how smart you are.
However, a lot people aren’t as forgiving as I am; they don’t understand that the world does not consist of “billions of stupid people, and me.”
When they hear you paid to have your name listed in the Heritage Who’s Who, they’re just assuming you’re an idiot. Halfway through that job interview, the interviewer decided you weren’t worth his or her time. If you, through some unlucky chance, actually get that press release published, you’ve just announced it to the entire city.
What if you’re already a high-level executive, and have that plaque hanging on your wall? Why does it seem like the level of respect you usually get has suddenly plummeted? Why do potential clients’ eyes travel to your plaque, then back to you, and three minutes later they’ve changed their minds? They’re assuming you’re a dummy.
That’s the problem. You’re probably not stupid, and you don’t deserve to be treated as such. These offers can seem very legitimate, and as I said, they do deliver the physical items they promise. The shady part is the prestige they claim these items carry.
The lesson here: avoid any publication with the words “Who’s Who” in the title—executives, professionals high school students, whatever. If you have to pay to be listed, it’s not real. These are vanity publications, and the only person they’re going to impress is your grandmother.
Unless she’s hip to the vanity press scheme, and is one of those unforgiving people I was talking about. Then she might just call you an idiot.