Even though many in the USA seem to think we have a special privilege to be called "Americans," I acknowledge that everyone who lives in North, Central or South America is "American."

However, for the purposes of this article - and simply because it's less cumbersome to write - I am using the term "American" to define only those who live in the USA.

At the risk of being considered un-American, I have a couple of words to say about the level of online professionalism in the USA. It's sad. Not only is it sad, but the prevalent attitude of Americans that the USA is at the top of the internet pecking order - and therefore has special privileges - is downright misguided.

As citizens of the USA we had better get our heads out of the sand (or wherever else we have them) and wise up, or we'll find more than our heads buried. It is so typical of us Americans to believe that we are the be-all/end-all of everything. Such an attitude blinds us to the fact that the internet has leveled the playing field.

I realize that I am making sweeping statements in what I'm about to say. I also realize that I am going to offend some Americans. Yet, these statements need to be thought about and acted upon - not REacted TO out of some sense of unjustified superiority.

These comments certainly do not apply to all Americans. It is unfortunate that those who abuse the opportunity to work online as true professionals give the rest of us such a poor image.

Plenty of us are struggling to bring the rest up to some level of competence and professionalism. However, the pitiful fact is we are fighting this battle against our own countrymen. (Sorry Ladies, I don't know if they've come up with a non-sexist way to use that term.)

I work online with people from all over the world every day. More and more I'm finding that I prefer to work with those outside the USA. Why? Because that's where I find the most true professionalism. What a sad commentary on my own country!

It is here in the USA where online business owners refuse to give complete contact information. It's here in the USA where a legitimate business letter will be ignored. It's here in the USA where people won't bother to return a phone call. It's here in the USA where we find such pathetic customer service and the attitude of, "The proprieter is always right."

The greatest blessing of the internet is our ability to easily establish relationships with others around the world. We have an opportunity never before available to learn first-hand about - and from - those of cultures foreign to us. Why do we waste that by complaining about how they use the English language - all the while we butcher it ourselves?

Our languages are different - our sense of humor is different - the way we experience the world is different. And, certainly the way we do business is different. Why do we not celebrate this opportunity by learning all we can? Have we become too arrogant to do that?

I have begun to fear that arrogance is the exact reason why so many Americans are unprofessional. I rarely encounter this when I work with businesses outside the USA.

What I find instead are people who care about their business - who care how they present themselves - and who cooperate on a grand scale to get things done in the most courteous manner possible. What I do not find is email ignored - unreasonable demands - broken commitments - lousy attitude - and blatant dishonesty born of greed.

Outside the USA I find people who take great pride in what they do - without all the self-aggrandizement. They show that pride by the actual work they do - not by blowing their own horns.

I don't hesitate to make these statements because the few exceptions I've found are negligible compared to USA standards. Or, lack thereof.

The greatest thing the internet has to offer us isn't money. It's knowledge. It's the opportunity to learn and to finally become a true global village on this planet.

Can we do that? Not if we don't get off our high horses and admit we might have something to learn.

Meanwhile, continuing to treat those outside the USA as the second-class citizens of this global online village is bound to come back and bite us in the ol' wazoo! Tolerance and acceptance of other cultures is part of being a professional in the first place.

You can trust me on this. The USA internet glory days will most assuredly come to a close. So, just remember ...

What goes around - comes around. Every time.

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websitings's picture

You can trust me on this. The

"You can trust me on this. The USA internet glory days will most assuredly come to a close. So, just remember ..."

There is certainly a shift taking place and I'll give a first hand example.

First a little background. I've been earning my living from the Internet since November 1994, that's when I earned my first affiliate commission,

Since then I have ridden many waves and crashes. The three crashes that hit me the hardest were the Tech Crash, 9/11, and when a web hosting company that hosted all my web sites went belly up.

But I've ridden several waves and some produced breathtaking profits.

In the early days my business would be totally focused towards the US, (I'm in Australia) for both customers and application support and development.

I can recall in the early years that sales or application provision enquiry from developing countries were totally ignored as nuisance value. I'm referring to countries such as Romania, China, India, Pakistan etc. I just wouldn't consider doing business with them.

But now the table has turned especially as far as application services and development are concerned. For example I am currently acting as project manager for a new web portal which will be launched soon. So far several hundred thousand dollars have been spent on software applications and development and not one dollar has gone over to the US

This is far different to what would have happened 5 to 10 years ago when the majority of development costs would have gone stateside.

I don't suggest it's because the US folks are greedy but more to do with the proliferation of outsourcing that the Internet has introduced. In fact maybe the US citizen is too generous especially in the arena of "Open Source" and 'Cloud Computing." After all why pay Microsoft licence fees for office software when Sun Microsystems offer it FREE and Google also offer FREE cloud computing.

But my point is for whatever reason there is a definite change to where the dollars are flowing to.

Bill Burdin

You can trust me on this. The

Hey Bill!

And, I wasn't even thinking along these lines, but you certainly couldn't be more right. For me to point the finger at greed was WAY too simplistic!

We also have the arrogance factor. And, as is basic in arrogance, it usually has no foundation.

We're too busy teaching our kids they don't have to put forth any effort, but are simply superior.

Other countries are educating their children in the technical fields. In the USA, only 75% even graduate from high school. And, those who do, can't read or spell - much less use critical thinking.

I could write about this ad nauseum, so I'd better not get on a roll!

;-) jl

jl scott, ph.d., Director: Chamber of Commerce - on the Web

websitings's picture

A Paradigm Shift


The US certainly needs to "keep boxing" because the fight never ends. The Internet is such a fast changing medium no one can relax on their position.

I believe in the next couple of years we will see a huge paradigm shift thanks to Apple entering the tablet arena. The iPad "will" change the way things are done on the net.

We'll not be browsing but we'll be "padding" the word will become ubiquitous because of the effect the iPad and tablets will have on our lives.

The US has an opportunity to take back the high ground as this paradigm establishes. Steve Jobs has shown it can be done with a great product and spectacular empathy for the customer.

Sure he knows how to market but if the product and service are below par his company won't last, but we know it will only gain strength because he is a genius when it comes to giving customers what they want and then looking after them.

He's proven so many times customers will stay with you if you provide a great product and back it with great after sales care.

he's also proven that it's not about price, Apple products are never the cheapest on the lot.

Pretty simple recipe.


Bill Burdin

USA Online Businesses

Hi jl,

As always, it's good to hear you calling for higher standards in online business. I was a little surprised that your experience of the quality of service had been so different between businesses inside and outside the USA.

I'm sure that there will be many who deny what you say, or are even outraged by it.

Those who accept what you say, or have experienced it for themselves may see a wider issue here.

You could probably write a similar article about the conduct of foreign affairs. There's a very good case to be made that often the US acts towards other countries the way you describe some business attitudes towards customers in your article... "The proprietor is always right." The common thread between the businesses in your article, and US attitudes towards other countries is "We know what WE want, and it's your role to give it to us. Period."

At their heart, these attitudes come down to a lack of respect for others. Other people. Other views. Other cultures. Other religions. Sadly, these attitudes are by no means limited to the good ol' US of A. We all get our share.

What's the message for us as online businesses?
- Don't take deceitful, divisive politicians as your role model.
- Don't take intolerant and hypocritical religious leaders as your role model.
- Don't take rapacious and greedy businesspeople as your role model.

Be a role model YOURSELF. It's not hard. While I'm not religious, I know that every religion has it's own version of the Golden Rule, that goes something like... "Treat others the way you would like them to treat you." Live by that, run your business by that, and you'll be able to sleep well at night, and probably make a nice living.

John Payne

USA Online Businesses

You're absolutely right, John. Lack of respect for others - other people, other views, other cultures, other religions - aren't necessarily limited to the USA, but we have a whole lot of it!

And a lot of it DOES come from the attitudes of our politicians and government. All countries tend to take on the attitudes of their leaders and we had quite a number of years of bad attitude at the top!

:-) jl

jl scott, ph.d., Director: Chamber of Commerce - on the Web

tlcpro's picture

What Goes Around Comes Around

I have worked in customer service all of my life. Whereas the customer is NOT always right, the customer should always come FIRST. It is our job to make them want to buy from us. Theirs is not a position of having to buy from us. Treat them right and they will come back for more. Treat them poorly, and you will never see them or their friends again.

Trina L.C. Sonnenberg
Freelance Commercial writer

What Goes Around Comes Around

Absolutely. And, we've all seen customers who act with total arrogance and disrespect. Those few do leave a bad taste in our mouths.

But, as my son says, "Sometimes ya just gotta suck it up!"

;-) jl

jl scott, ph.d., Director: Chamber of Commerce - on the Web

780588 Ontario Inc.'s picture

What Goes Round - Comes Round

Hello, jr,

First, I want to compliment you on the Journal's new look - really good looking and easy to read. Also, thank you for all your hard work putting it together each week as well as for all the other work you do for online businesses. I hope everyone appreciates having you 'in our corner'.

Second - It's really great to finally see lil' ET. Like all his other fans, I love reading about him, and especially the way you report on his shenanigans. Please don't stop.

Now the real reason for emailing is to compliment and congratulate you on this week's rant. You're absolutely right when you say "...citizens of the USA...had better get (their) heads out of the sand...." I do believe most Americans (US) don't, can't and won't understand why the rest of the world feel the way they/we do. The arrogance displayed on so many occasions, the poor manners, and yes the ignorance displayed so often not only colours the opinions of many throughout the world.

Having said that, I must admit we are seeing some of the unprofessionalism here in Canada - especially in the service industry. And the lack of basic manners in many of our young people makes me cringe.

Whether here or in the US, I fear TV has made a negative impact on people, but I'm afraid much of what you and I see is a result of discipline in the home by parents who themselves are products of all the 'decline' we are experiencing. And, for the most part, schools and teachers must also be accountable for much of this.

As for the 'arrogance' factor in the US population, I am reminded of the indoctrination process from kindergarten and throughout the rest of the schooling years where it is drummed into the psyche that the US is the best, the biggest, the richest and most powerful in the world and as its citizens they should expect nothing less than acknowledgement of that 'fact' by the rest of the world.

I am reminded of the 'fall' of Rome which had the same feelings and over-extended itself throughout the world; of Britain who did the same and of Russia who also followed that road. We are now seeing the rise of yet another 'power' - China - who will likely make the same journey. And it is to that end that US citizens must begin to accept the inevitable, but delay that 'fate' by changing their personal views and actions.

Forgive me for 'my rant' but yours touched a raw nerve in me and I felt the need to join you in your well placed concerns.

Warm regards to you and ET,

What Goes Round - Comes Round

It's fascinating to me to read others' comments on this subject. I've very glad I broached the subject.

I'd like to see a full-blown discussion on the topic of what's bound to happen if things don't change in the USA. So, I'm sure I'll be coming back to the subject soon.

:-) jl

jl scott, ph.d., Director: Chamber of Commerce - on the Web

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