Writers Behaving Badly

I don't want to judge. But I'm going to.

Here it is: I am extremely annoyed with freelance writers who will do anything for a buck.

All right, at the moment I'm mostly ticked off at myself for falling for a scam facilitated by the skills of a freelance writer. But the scam got me thinking about some of the immoral freelance writing jobs I've encountered since deciding to earn my living this way.

First of all, THE SCAM:
It was around 10:30 p.m. a couple of weeks ago. I was on my laptop while hubs was watching T.V.

"Oh, hey," he said, looking over at me. "If you're online, can you order me that Super Amazing Diet Product (SADP) I was telling you about?"

"What was it again?" I asked absently.

He described the news article he'd read online about SADP. "The reporter included her journal entries for four weeks. She was really impressed by how effective it was at helping her lose weight and feel healthy."

I did a search for the article. Sure enough, a nice, little news story written by a "Channel 6 News" reporter, her picture was by the piece and everything.

"Free trial! Sure, I'll order it—there's nothing to lose… Nothing to lose, nothing to lose... (Can you hear the echo in here?)

So a few clicks and credit card numbers later and his free trial was on its way. In retrospect, I can't believe we fell for it. We are plenty old enough to know if something sounds too good to be true, it is. I'd like to blame my gullibility on the late hour. Blame it on my hubby. But alas, I can't. The next day, I mentioned it to my mother, my personal wise woman of all things nutrition related.

"Oh Holly, that's just a big scam," she said. "I tried the real stuff from the health food store and it didn't do anything. I think that article is a scam, too."

Uh-oh.

In the light of day, I found the article again. Unbelievable! I spotted something critical I'd missed the night before. In small print at the top of the page was the word "Advertorial." Barely noticeable with all the "Channel 6 News" logos and network television symbols decorating the page. (As was SADP's intent.)

NOTE: For my non-writer readers, an advertorial is essentially an advertisement in an article format. Advertorials are a common form of advertising and not intrinsically bad, but I feel this one was shady as it simulated an actual news story written by a reporter.

I buzzed back to SADP's website and read the fine print of the Terms and Conditions. The program is set up to begin charging unsuspecting free-trial users $80 a month, plus shipping and handling if they don't cancel within a specified time period (conveniently, often before they've even received the trial product.) The website had an "easy button" for cancelling online. Great, I clicked it. "For an additional $20 in stuff, you can cancel right away," it said. No. Flippin'. Way. I called customer service instead. The automated system disconnected me. Three times. In short, every way the company "offered" to let me cancel, didn't work. Even their contact address was an unclickable link!

I finally sent off a blistering e-mail announcing our official cancellation of their slimeball product and letting them know I'm monitoring daily and if they try to stick one measly penny on my credit card, I'm disputing it.

MY THOUGHTS

After spending two hours messing around with this ridiculousness, I fumed, thinking about the writer who'd been hired to compose that lying-pile-of-horse-hockey article.

How could he or she sleep at night?

I locate writing jobs, including legitimate advertorial projects, through a variety of reputable sources. Yet I've still come across some pretty pathetic stuff. One company I encountered hired writers to write high school and college students' term papers! I was horrified. I know seasoned professional writers are aware of this. But if you're a newbie, I'm telling you now, don't do it. It's not worth it. It's better to hold out for the legitimate jobs. They really are out there. And at least you'll be able to sleep at night.



Image by: _gee_

12 comments:

Heidi Willis said...

Wow. I've been pulled in by those advertisements masquerading as articles as well. One magazine I get has them all through it, and the ads are in exactly the same format as the articles, so you can't tell unless you look for the tiny "advertisement" letters at the top or the lack of page numbers at the bottom.

I hope you managed to make your point with them without having to deal with credit charges!

Laurel Garver said...

Ugh! So sorry about this! I too fell for a scam that offered freelance editing jobs, but in fact just charged me $30 for a manual listing companies that "might" use freelance editor and proofreaders.

Your final example of term paper factories reminded me of a pretty scary article I'd read from a guy who did this to help fund his graduate education. This gig payed three times what teaching did! Eventually he had to leave because the stress of this unethical job gave him insomnia and ulcers.

Melissa Romo said...

Ewww, this is yucky. Thanks for the warning, Holly.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oh, no! That's awful. I really hope you don't get charged.
I know I wouldn't be able to write those scams for a living. What a shame.

NanaDavis said...

Needless to say in my opinion it's a great blog. :>)

Nancy said...

Wow - what a horrible thing to go through. I hope you get cancelled very soon. I wonder how many free trial deals are like that. Thanks for the update.

Angela Scott said...

I was in your same position not too long ago (so please, please watch you accounts). I signed up for some information about working from home, I just had to pay the postage. I do so with my credit card. Then BOOOM! First, I never received the info and unbeknownst to me, the company started taking out about $100 a month for various "services" I supposedly signed up for. (If I didn't cancel within 20 days, this automatically happened). I didn't notice this happening for several months, because each month, the company changed names and phone numbers (on my bank statements). It easily blended in. What a mess. Long story short, my bank was able to go after them and get all the money back. Also, Our local news came by and interviewed me and my husband for a story. Oh I hate scammers. And there's just so many of them out there.

Well, I just signed up with Mommy Bloggers Club and decided to go around and check out some of the Writing Moms out there in the big ol' blogosphere. Nice to meet you.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Thanks for the support guys! I've been closely monitoring our accounts and so far so good. But I'm not relaxing yet!

Annette Piper said...

Ouch - I hope you get it sorted. I'd be checking your credit card statement daily and dispute anything immediately. Can you ring the Credit card company and ask them to deny all billings from that company?

meaganfrank said...

I hate that there are scammers out there...especially when it is hard enough to make a living writing. It makes legitimacy that much harder, and it is incredibly frustrating. Good and useful post Holly!

BTW thanks for the message! I am finally back in the blogging world again, and you are one of the voices I wanted to find again.
Happy, scam-free writing!!

meaganfrank said...

I hate that there are scammers out there...especially when it is hard enough to make a living writing. It makes legitimacy that much harder, and it is incredibly frustrating. Good and useful post Holly!

BTW thanks for the message! I am finally back in the blogging world again, and you are one of the voices I wanted to find again.
Happy, scam-free writing!!

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Hey Meagan, thanks! I'm so glad you're back and that you found me again! :o) Happy blogging and congrats again on your book!