Well, I had yet another run-in with an overly cautious, morally righteous, and obviously sexually repressed business owner. (Remember: I'm using this blog to track these incidents. Really, I think over time they're going to prove very amusing. At the time they happen, however, they just set my blood to boiling.)
Let me begin by saying that I'm constantly on the look-out for ways to promote CES. Most of you already know that. What I don't want to do is promote it exclusively on adult sites. Why? Because I firmly believe there's a big fat contingent of people who want sexual services or products but don't want to visit "adult" sites. Maybe they're afraid or easily offended but whatever the reason, they really crave "safe" places to shop and get information and just generally enjoy themselves. I strive to make Custom Erotica Source a place for those people. That doesn't mean "vanilla" or sanitized -- it just means a place that doesn't make you feel dirty just by putting your fingers to your own keyboard.
And that's why I'm always outraged when some well-meaning but pointy-headed idiot lumps my site in with the dreck that I'm trying to distinguish myself from.
Take the case of the blowhard who runs Yearbook.com. I'll set the scene for you. I heard about this company/organization (or rip-off outfit, depending on your unique perspective) through an informative site called Publicity Hound. It's a repository of "experts" who pay a fee to be listed in this guy's "yearbook" and media people consult this yearbook to find experts on certain topics. Well, obviously, this is a fantastically easy way for this dude to rake in the bucks -- the minimum listing costs $995 and the most expensive is $2495. Do we really know if media people turn to Yearbook.com to find experts? No, not really, but when you're a fledgling business desperate to find ways to make the media get in touch with you, you want to believe that schemes like this work. And really, they might. Owner Mitchell Davis has gotten himself some publicity in the Wall Street Journal so maybe a rogue reporter is turning to Yearbook.com every once in a while. I honestly don't know.
(Davis does not inspire confidence. He foolishly posted a video of himself explaining how expensive video presentations aren't necessary to promote things on your Web site. This video might have accomplished its purpose if it hadn't been grainy, hard to hear, and painfully amateurish. It had the effect of making one feel desperately sorry for him.)
So, as part of my ongoing and exhausting methods of figuring out how to market my upcoming book, YOUR EROTIC PERSONALITY, I considered the relative merits of listing myself in this dubiously effective Yearbook. There was some kind of $200 discount at the time, so I took the plunge on the least expensive listing. I filled out my profile and all the tedious muck that's required. I received a password to access my account.
And within a few hours, the password ceased to work. I wrote to inquire what might have happened. I got no response. I wrote again two days later. Still no response. I wrote a third time and still nothing. But there was no charge to my credit card so I wasn't too upset. I began to suspect that the so-called "adult" nature of my business might be the issue, but until this jerk decided to take the time to answer my messages, I wouldn't know for sure.
One week after signing up, I wrote him once again, this time directly through the links on his Web site. Finally, the creep deigns to reply. He says only "Your credit card was not charged."
Articulate little bugger, eh?
So, I write back, telling him I appreciate that, but why was it that my membership was rejected?
He is not a man of eloquence. He simply repeats that no charge will appear on my credit card.
Who among us needs to be jerked around like this? I then wrote to Joan Stewart, the woman who runs Publicity Hound (and who I'm sure makes a little commission on anybody her site sends to his). I mentioned the incident to her and she said, "Oh, yes. Mitchell told me that someone tried to sign up but it was an adult site so he rejected it. I'm sorry to hear that it was you."
Yes, well, that makes two of us, Joan. I told her it would have been nice if he'd had the courtesy to tell me that. She agreed.
Armed with this new information, I wrote to Mitchell Davis once again, repeating what Joan had told me. Know what he says in response? "I'm glad we've worked that out, then."
Worked what out, you moron??? You've told me nothing, have wasted so much of my time I wish I could wring your overfed neck, and still have not had the courtesy to explain anything to me about the basis of your decision.
I swear, if I conducted my business this way, I'd have no clients. How does he get away with this?
Now it was my turn to be terse. I wrote back with: "No thanks to you!"
He replied and encouraged me to phone him. Oh joy. More time I don't really have. Nevertheless, I call the guy, admittedly as much out of curiosity as irritation.
He prefaces our talk by explaining that sometimes, he's found that it's easiest not to provide specifics to someone via email.
I find this a baffling approach, so I ask why he feels that way. I still don't understand his answer and don't think I could even recap it for you. It was truly nonsensical.
So I decided not to press him on the point because I felt it would inevitably go as swimmingly as our email exchanges. Instead, I asked what he found objectionable about my site.
I expected a whole range of responses, but what I didn't expect was: "You link to Pilgrim Telephone. Do you know what Pilgrim Telephone is?"
Now, ladies and germs, I know quite well what Pilgrim Telephone is, especially since I work for them on occasion as a writer. They provide all manner of phone services (sex, astrology, etc.) and they are (I believe) the largest provider of such in the nation. Everyone I've ever worked with at Pilgrim has been a pleasure. They recently asked me and CES to be a guinea pig for them as they try to market an upscale phone sex line to women. I agreed to help and am currently hosting a tasteful ad for them on my index page. I've posted it here so you can see it.
So, I tell Davis briefly that I'm well aware of Pilgrim and its services. I wonder silently whether he thinks I'm so lame and/or stupid that I'd promote a business I knew nothing about. I then ask, "So, if that ad wasn't there, would you be able to do business with me?"
"Well, now, I don't like to conjecture," he replies. (I am using the word "conjecture" but he used one with fewer syllables. What he meant was "conjecture.") "Who can say whether your site would qualify otherwise? I just saw that ad and stopped right there."
"So you don't know what my site sells or anything about my business?"
"No, see you gotta understand that if I start doing business with porn sites, I'm not going to be able to do business."
YEAH, ASSHOLE. TELL ME ABOUT IT. The adult stigma is really a bitch, ain't it?
"Do you know how many lawsuits Pilgrim Telephone has against it? If somebody files suit, you could be implicated by carrying an ad for them on your site," he says. (I have since spoken with Pilgrim about these alleged law suits, and they have no idea what this putz is talking about.) "Do you know what the ad leads people to?"
This guy must think I'm a colossal bimbo. He clearly does not believe that I have much to do with the business end of things at all. "Yes," I tell him. "The ad leads to a page that describes Pilgrim's phone sex line for women."
"So, it's promoting phone sex and you're okay with that?"
Good lord. Is this 1979? Are we in Kansas, Dorothy?
"I think a woman has a right to decide if she wants to make such a phone call, yes. Plenty of women do," I say.
He then launches into an unfocused diatribe about how there's porn on YouTube now, how LexisNexis won't deal with him if he's got any adult links, and am I familiar with AVN (Adult Video Network) and do I go to their shows? I have no clue where this guy is going or why. He has lost me, but most important, he has proven that his brain is a consistently malfunctioning organ.
And for someone who finds adult sites so objectionable, he certainly seems to know a lot about them!
We worked nothing out. Nothing. He still runs his business like a chimpanzee with a laptop, hasn't a clue about customer service, and is probably making money hand over fist. But you know what? At least he doesn't have a dime of my money.
Do you think he treats everyone like he treated me? It's impossible to say, of course, but it's idiots like him that prevent me and every other well-run, respectable, sex-related business from being seen or taken seriously. And the ultimate irony is, of course, that he doing everything wrong that he possibly could but he gets Wall Street Journal coverage. We live in one fucked-up world, kids.