Greed is a Terrible Thing

I wrote last week about why I prefer to do business (a lot of the time) with folks outside the USA. That generated a lot of comment. Some of it is on the blog - What Goes Around Comes Around - some is in my in-box.

I feel like most of the “attitude” put forth by many Americans comes from greed. It starts at the top and works its way down. I don't think anyone would argue about the extreme levels of greed in this country.

I know that some people wonder why I go after the "Big Guys" so often when I'm writing about unacceptable online behavior. It's very simple. The "Big Guys" teach the "Little Guys" what to do.

We often hear we should pick someone who is successful, and do the same things they do. I don't happen to agree with that. At least, not on the internet. Online business gets too "out of control."

People start online businesses - look at the "Big Guys" and assume that if "they" do it - it's okay. After all, they are promoted by thousands of people - and they're making tons of money. Funny how money so often commands respect where no respect is due.

I well remember a very well-known and pretty ethical online marketer discussing a huge - and not so ethical - internet marketer. He admitted what the second guy was doing, and was teaching in his marketing course, was unethical as hell.

But, the course had a huge commission. So, having said all that, he proceeded to sell the guy's course, anyway! WHAT?!

Yes - greed is a terrible thing. Often, the bigger they get, the more ruthless they become. And let's not forget they're telling people what they want to hear!

Then, of course, most folks are afraid to criticize them. Why? These people are not gods!

Please, please, please take a good look at your websites and your advertising! Is there anything there that could be called "unethical?" I promise you - you can be successful without being pond scum.

And when you are, you will be the person other people emulate. Maybe that's what it's going to take to ever clean up the internet - even a little.

Playing Both Sides of the Game

At the risk of being redundant, please allow me to say this again. Online business owners are both merchant and customer. We play both roles and we need different talents for each.

As the Merchant

While I was growing up my daddy used to tell me, "It's your decision. You have to make it. But be prepared to take responsibility for whatever decision you make."

Yikes! Now, that will make a kid stop and think!

Stepping up to the plate to take responsibility is one of the things I look for in those I choose to do business with. There can be no higher ethical standard. In our online businesses, we make decisions every day. Even a small decision can come back and bite us in the butt.

We make mistakes. We make thoughtless choices. We sometimes get involved with online programs without thinking about the repercussions. Stuff happens.

The question isn't whether we're smart enough to avoid all that. We can't. The question is whether we're willing to be accountable when we screw up.

Now, is this about customer service? You bet it is! But it's also about how we deal with other businesses - as well as life itself. And it's about telling - and accepting - the truth!

Can you make money without accountability? Sure you can! It's done every day. But when push comes to shove, you'll be the one going over the cliff.

Those willing to step up to the plate when necessary don't hide their contact information. You don't have to try to beat them out of the bushes. You won't have to threaten them to get a refund. They tell you the whole story right up front.

If they're not willing to do that - they're not willing to be accountable should something go awry. They're not willing to say, "I was wrong. How can we fix this?"

The absolute best way to establish a sterling online reputation as a business owner is to, "Be prepared to take responsibility for whatever decision you make!" It's a matter of integrity - and it will earn you the respect of both your customers and your business associates.

There is no higher compliment!

As the Customer

There's always talk online regarding the amount of "Internet Rage.” I've noticed that attacks seem to come from two places.

First, from people who don't do what they committed to do. This includes merchants who don't provide what they promised. It's a defense mechanism. You know - it's the ol' "The best defense is offense," routine. It's a little sad.

Secondly, rage - and the "flames" - come from some customers. These are the same customers who forget all their manners because they never have to see you face to face. Let's talk about that ...

iCop members are required to exhibit professionalism in their online businesses in every way. But - how do we do as customers?

Every online business owner is also an online consumer. We can't run our businesses without using other online products and services. When we are dealing with other merchants, we're just another one of the crowd.

However - that does not mean that we get to act like some of the other online rage-aholics. No matter what you are doing online, you're doing it as a member of iCop.

Ideally, that is mentioned in your signature file. If so, that means you are identifiable as a member to anyone who receives an email from you.

When something goes wrong while we're acting as the customer - we need to deal with that in a professional manner. This goes for everyone - iCop member or not. You know who acted in an unacceptable manner toward you, don't you? And, you'll remember that person!

Well, other merchants will remember you too - if you lower yourself to the level of the rage-aholic. Nothing warrants anything other than professional behavior at all times. It is perfectly possible to write a scathing letter without all the histrionics. Off-line professionals do it every day.

Just food for thought ...

I Highly Recommend it ...

On March 31, 2010, a webinar is being held that is absolutely necessary for online business owners who take credit cards through their own merchant account.

If you now use a third-party payment processor, but are considering setting up your own merchant account in the future, this is for you, too!

The webinar will be presented by:

iCop Member, Tom Mahoney, Founder and CEO, Merchant911 - the only Web resource devoted exclusively to protecting E-merchants against credit card fraud.

And ...

Peter Goldmann, MSc., CFE, President, White-Collar Crime 101, publisher of White-Collar Crime Fighter newsletter and providers of FraudAware® detection, prevention and investigation training.

Preventing E-Commerce Credit Card Fraud is the first on-line training program designed to help you navigate the fraud-infested minefield of on-line credit card commerce. This 75-minute Webinar covers all of the critical aspects of the growing online credit card fraud threat.

Tom and Peter have graciously offered a special price for readers of the Online Business Trade Journal. You can sign-up here:

And, no, I'm not taking a piece of the action. I got the piece for you, instead!

Now, About Those Blogs ...

Since iCop put up a blog, I've been looking at other blogs pretty critically. Blogs have changed over the years since they started.

Originally, they were used as something like a journal: a place to write personal thoughts, feeling and opinions. In some respects, they still are.

When a blog is strictly a personal thing, I can understand not providing contact information. Comments can be made on the blog.

However, when a blog is used as a marketing tool, the same rules apply as with a marketing website. Contact information is mandatory. A Privacy Statement in mandatory. All legal documents used on a business website also need to be used on a business blog - also mandatory.

I wonder why I need to say this! It's just a matter of common sense!

Yet, I find the blogs of some iCop members that don't display the iCop seal. Why? Well, I imagine it's because the blog doesn't follow iCop guidelines - and wouldn't get approved.

Today, MOST blogs are nothing more than a different kind of website. iCop members: please bring your blogs up to iCop standards and get the seal on them. Are you an iCop member, or not?

Any blog that sells anything needs to be treated like any other marketing website.

And, lastly, ALL blogs should have their articles dated! When I'm reading about something that's happened, I'd sure appreciate knowing whether it happened last week or five years ago. BIG difference in the readers' perception!

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