Whilst on the subject of Internet paranoia, Flickr and ‘shills’ here’s a fresh example of the fine art of Internet misinformation.
An active to contributor to my favourite Flickr group, a guy called Thomas Hawk, ordered a rather expensive camera at an unbelievably good price from a shonky on-line retailer based in Brooklyn. Brooklyn-based internet photographic traders have a mythic reputation for underhand business practices, particularly ‘bait and switch’ tactics, that has spread far beyond the shores of America. These outfits are masters at filling merchant review sites with ‘favourable’ customer feedback.
To cut a long story short, Thomas got screwed. The long story version is available on Thomas’ blog here. It gets quite funny in places, particularly when he gets onto listing the inventive series of threats ‘customer service’ representatives from the retailer start making to him. One of the customer service reps, ‘Steve Phillips’, has spawned a Flickr tribute account.
Thomas’ account of his shafting was picked up by Boing Boing and went stratospheric. The last time I looked his posting had received something like 320 comments. The comments range from the sympathetic through to ‘what did you expect you Muppet?’. None of the comments doubt the veracity of Thomas’ story.
Well except for one, my favourite. Anonymous wrote…
As a professional photographer who has always bought equiptment from PriceRite Photo, to this date I have never had a bad experience with them in the 3 yrs that I have done business with them. I bought a 1DS from them plus I bought a lot of lenses from them. I think that it is unfair that everybody is ripping this company. You guys have no idea if this person is lying. I have learned that you shouldn't judge before you do business with them. I feel that this guy is trying to make a name for himself by killing a company. You guys need a life for ripping a company that you people probably never did business with. This fool who wrote this blog could also be a competitor of them. Well I am going to keep doing business with because I never had a problem with them.
As the credit card ad says .. priceless
And the moral of the story? Probably something along the lines of ‘shilling does have its limitations and if enough people get informed and make enough noise we can collectively drown out the bullshit’. Dodgy Internet retailers are admittedly relatively easy prey. Newspapers, multinational companies and governments are a slightly trickier proposition.