Powerless over vanity…Monterey Bay Design

Powerless over vanity…

No insect hangs its nest on threads as frail as those which will sustain the weight of human vanity.
Edith Wharton

My favorite quote from Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth notwithstanding, vanity in all its forms, is often a great equalizer. Even the humblest of us has it for something – looks, talent, success, significance.

For the last several years, a person/company without weight or reputation began data mining and harvesting websites and email lists for names in order to prey on that vanity – specifically, the vanity of the small business owner – by acknowledging  their contribution to the community and offering awards and plaques.

I'd like to thank the Academy , Mom and Dad and the people who gave me this award who have absolutely no idea what I do for a living.

I’d like to thank the Academy, Mom and Dad — and the people who wanted me to pay for this award who have absolutely no idea what I do for a living.

Unfortunately, these vanity awards which have no significance (except in the mind of the recipient) are all over the internet, plastered with pride on small business web pages all over the country. The recipients are “honored” and “humbled” and “proud” and I don’t blame them one bit, but with a little research they would have avoided being duped. (Since the recipients haven’t taken down the award notice from their websites, it’s a safe bet they still don’t realize the award is simply a scheme to make money off unsuspecting business owners. Either that, or they believe their customers won’t know the difference.) If you’ve fallen for it, don’t feel too bad. You are definitely not alone.

Formerly linked to US Commerce Association and now simply called, cleverly enough, Awards Program (the personalized letter you receive is from the Insert-Your-Town-Here Awards Program), they pull company names from mailing lists and websites and send an email with a “press release” and a link to a picture of a crystal award and/or plaque that can then be purchased…

Wait – what? Purchased? Who has to buy their own award? I think I bought an Academy Award once from a gift shop in Hollywood. I thanked my peers, looked thoughtfully into the distance – and then plunked down my $22.95.

Do I have vanity? Of course I do, but when I received my letter – paranoid, suspicious soul that I am – I said to myself, “huh?”

The first thing I did was plug a phrase from the letter into Google and I was off and running sorting through piles of links to not only other websites who were displaying the award and letter but also to a host of Better Business  Bureau sites (among others) that warned of this vanity award scam. First, they lure you with praise and a picture of a pretty award and then they try and get you to buy it.  As a fake award, though, even a little bit is too much.

Part of the issue is that there are so many businesses falling for this, it almost appears legitimate. And while the businesses in question may very well deserve the recognition, it propagates the myth and gives more ammunition to the “award” company who is only in it to make money by preying on our desire to be noticed.

That’s just mean-spirited. Shame on them.

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