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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fishy Offer? Maybe, Maybe Not

Update: Sometimes, people misinterpret each other’s words. Intentions can be misinterpreted, too. I confess to being guilty of this, and in the original version of this post I harshly criticized a man who is a representative of a company that does business online by placing ads on websites. I posted the original version of this post on Tuesday, August 2. I had a long conversation by phone with that man today. In his several emails to me, and in our phone conversation, he was always a gentleman and maintained a civil tone. After listening to his explanation of things from his point of view, I realized that I was wrong in my assessment of him and of his intentions. I agreed to alter this post, out of respect for him, in a way that no longer identifies him or his company. I was wrong. I admit it. I hope this makes up for it. (Note: There were some emails exchanged between myself and someone else who was involved in this whole misunderstanding. Those emails revealed things to me about the way some folks view the homeless. I plan to share that with you soon.)

People living in poverty are often the targets of hucksters, cheats and scam artists. I refuse to play that game. Yesterday, a reader named Patrick contacted me with this enticing message:

"I need your e-mail address. There's a $100 bucks in it for ya. If your interested. 100 bucks for putting a an ad on your blog. How about that?"

The message was left as a comment on this blog. It sounded promising, so I emailed him and said I was interested. In fact, I went much further. Here's what I wrote:

"Thanks very much for your comment and the generous offer regarding the ad placement. As you see, my email is xxxxxxxxxx@xxxx.xxx (also used for my PayPal acct).... I would be happy to place the ad on Homeless Patriot, and to show my appreciation I will also place it on Chicago News Bench.... which has a Google PR of 5."

I did not heard back from Patrick, but I did get an email today from a man who represents a company that does a lot of advertising on the Internet. I will call him “Mr. X.” To my surprise, he wrote this:

"Received an email from Patrick and thought I would offer this to you. I will donate $100 to you for widgets on the 3 sites you listed in the email. I really appreciate you adding the site with a PR5 back link!” He included HTML code for two separate ad widgets.

Apparently, Patrick forwarded my email to Mr. X. He and Patrick both had the intention of making a donation to me, in exchange for ad placements on Homeless Patriot. Let me say that I think Patrick had the best of intentions, as did Mr. X. I misunderstood Mr. X’s intentions. I wrote back to him, pointing out that that Patrick offered $100 to me for placement only on this blog, Homeless Patriot. I have subsequently realized that Mr. X innocently misunderstood Patrick’s email to him and erroneously thought I was offering three blogs instead of two.

“My offer was made to Patrick,” I wrote, “who presented himself as the friend of a friend and as a fellow blogger. For your company, I will honor Patrick's original offer of $100 ‘for putting one ad on your blog’ (meaning Homeless Patriot). You are asking me, however, to place two separate ad widgets, one for [Product A] and one for [Product B]. Please let me know if you also want to place an ad for Product B (which is a second 180x114 pixel widget) on Homeless Patriot. I would charge [you] an additional $50.00 to place a total of two 180x144 pixel ad widgets. Also, let me know you would like to purchase additional ad space on Chicago News Bench (PR5). The rate for a 180x114 pixel widget is $400.00 for 12 months. If you wish to place both .... widgets (each 180 x 114 px), I can give you a discounted rate of $600.00 for the two for 12 months. I am open to further negotiation.”

At this point, communication broke down. Mr. X did not specify in his email how long he wanted the ads to run. That’s a major determining factor in pricing an ad, whether it’s on a blog, a newspaper or a television network. Additionally, advertisers love PR5 websites, and I've been contacted in the past by some who have offered and paid $500 for a 12-month placement on Chicago News Bench.

Mr. X wrote in his email, “I really appreciate you adding the site with a PR5 back link!” Well sure, because an ad on a PR5 website is valuable. He thought he was about to get an ad on my PR5 site at a bargain basement price. I can’t blame him for wanting that.

I asked Mr. X on the phone how long he would want a single ad to run on Homeless Patriot. “Forever,” he said. That made be suspicious of his intentions. I have since come to realize that I was wrong to be so.

“Sorry, Mr. X,” I told him, “no deal.” It hurt to lose the $100, but I felt good about it. It would have been bad to sell "forever" to Mr. X for only $100, right? You want "forever?" I'll sell it to you. But you won't like the price. You want a month, a quarter of a year or a year? I’ll give you a helluva deal.

Long story short: Mr. X and I were misunderstanding each other. His intention was to make a donation to a homeless blogger (me) for the placement of an ad. My intention was to sell an ad on one or two of my websites, not to merely take a donation. Don’t get me wrong: I accept donations, but I much prefer to earn the money by offering something of value in return.

Today, I feel bad about the misunderstanding between myself and Mr. X. However, I feel good about the fact that Mr. X remained a gentleman throughout and persisted in explaning himself. I hope that Mr. X and I can remain in contact. Perhaps one day I can buy him a pitcher of beer.

The lesson here is that we should not jump to conclusions, as I did. Mea culpa to that. Another lesson: Be willing to listen even in the middle of disagreement. By shutting your ears, you may hear truth, and that truth may lead to a good conclusion. My thanks to Mr. X for his kindness, and my apologies to him for my earlier - and incorrect - assumption that he was trying to take advantage of a homeless person. I know now that he was not, that his intentions were the best, and that he was only trying to help. May God bless him.

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