Friday, August 11, 2006

Fraud or Flattery?

The office manager of one of my companies stuck her head in my office a couple of days ago. "Could you look at this? It's really weird," she said.

I looked at a printed page of a website search at There, as it should be, was a listing of my company. One problem, though: the telephone number was wrong.

"Okay, someone made a mistake. It happens all the time. So, let's call the website in question and have them fix the problem by listing the correct telephone number," I offered as a solution.

"Well, I just got a call from a potential customer, saying she had dialled the number listed, expecting to get our company, but instead she got a competitor on the line. The guy who answered the phone told her that his company was 'just like' ours, but cheaper," she countered.

Yep, that sure qualified as weird. I checked it out further. The company at the listed telephone number was some upstart that I had never heard of. Had they deliberately initiated the listing with my corporate name, then fraudulently attached their telephone number instead of ours? My company has been around since 1968, and has a sterling reputation. Could they be trying to capitalize on that fact? Could they be stupid enough to think no-one would notice?

Or should Occam's razor be applied? Would the simplest explanation likely be the correct one? Did the listing webpage simply mix up two listings, while updating their records? Human error, perhaps?

That must be it. I called the customer service number of the website, explained what was going on, they apologized, they fixed the problem, now everything is as it should be.

I find these things very interesting, not by the fact that they happen, but by how different people perceive them. Some people see a bogeyman under every bed, a sinister motive behind every action, a disaster-in-waiting around every corner. I prefer to think that human beings are imperfect, but mostly decent. Sure there are all kinds of schemers, opportunists, and generally unprincipled individuals in the world, but they are in the minority.

And what if the action described above was, in fact, a fraudulent attempt to capitalize on my company's reputation?

I'm flattered that they chose my company rather than another competing company. And, it gave me something to write about in today's post.


  1. I don't know a single woman in her right mind that would ever apply Occam's razor.

    Unless she had indeed explored every possible facet, action, reaction and probability and chosen to implement Occam's razor as a means.

    In this case, I would have had your wife call the competitor and then consulted your wife on her intuition.

  2. Did I ever tell you Oscar Wilde's definition of a pessismist? "When given the choice between two evils, the pessimist takes them both." This, thankfully, it not you.

    I enjoyed reading about Occam's razor. I think it's a theory that every teacher, at least, should try to develop further. There's no sense LOOKING for trouble.

    I'm glad the problem was rectified. In your favor.

  3. lol = pessimist def.

    True enough - you have a good humor about these things, Atavist. I wasn't being completely serious.

    Not completely.

  4. Actually, Penny, one of the women in the office did call them, without identifying herself. They tried to sell her on their services. That is still no proof that they set up a scam. It could still have been the website's fault, a case of human error.

    Sometimes actions are malicious though. Years ago, one of our competitors was going around town telling our customers that we were going bankrupt and that they should bail on us before the sh** hit the fan. We got calls from a number of concerned customers and decided to use the situation to our advantage. I had a local artist design a poster with a Star Wars type of battle going on, and a robot representing our company (with our corporate logo clearly displayed) doing battle on our behalf. The caption? "Helix Strikes Back." Helix Courier Limited is the name of my company. It was a very successful campaign, got a chuckle not only out of existing customers but of new clients as well, all whilst ridiculing the competition.

    The slander stopped, and we were even stronger afterwards.

    A sense of humour goes a long way.

    As far as Occam's Razor is concerned, Penny, the only time it didn't work is when I used it to try to determine why women in my life did or said something that I didn't understand. To men, women are complex and puzzling creatures, and we have learned to be wary around them.

    It is a good thing that women are soft and warm and pretty and sexy and... so on. Those things almost make up for the grief they cause us.

    And I'm not being completely serious.

    Not completely.

  5. A crisis well handled!
    Not as well as the Helix smear campaign was, which you made to backfire on the detracter, but great nonetheless.

    "I don't know a single woman in her right mind that would ever apply Occam's razor." -Penny
    Welcome to the club, neither have I...though it does provide a great shave anyway ;)

  6. lol


    Love the Poster Idea! Beautiful!