Freeloading

Internet Trolls, Online Cyber-Bullies, and Making Money by Scaring the Pants Off You

150 150 rhecht
Internet-Troll

Image source: blogworld.com

I enjoy blogging. A lot, in fact. I generally utilize four different blogs, each one with a different theme, and try to keep the material up to date as possible.

Online Internet Trolls

However, inevitable as it is, internet trolls do exist. Based on some of the posts I have written I have received a variety of mixed feedback. While some have been to the tune of “great advice, that was a lifesaver,” and “great story thanks,” some others have been “I’m surprised at you saying what you do,” meanwhile leaving absolutely no name and phone number. In fact, in one recent case someone created an email address for the sole purpose of talking down to me, and took down that email address shortly afterwards. Strange.

Cyber Bullies

Cyber Bullies also exist. How they differ from Internet trolls is minor, but there is one difference: cyber bullies try to push you around to get you to do something for them, internet trolls just want to make your life miserable for the sake of it, then disappear. Neither one has much of a spine in my humble opinion.

Recently a major digital photo company tried to scare the pants off of me by mailing me a letter stating that I had stolen one of their images, attached a screenshot, and demanded that in addition to taking off the photo, I had to pay them $1,130 in “damages,” though those damages never were specified. Therefore, in a cowardly manner without prior contact, they decided to try to hit me with money that I don’t have. I thank Gd have expenses like everyone else and need to address those before I can wrap my head around such stupidities.

internet-troll-20110516-102141

Image source: getsatisfaction.com


To an ordinary person this would have scared them enough to pay the money, but it’s amazing how brave one gets when one simply doesn’t have that money floating around. I basically replied to this company that, while it’s practically impossible for them to prove that they own a specific image, as a courtesy I took the requested image down. However, I explained, I initially took the image straight from Google Images which indexed it from another site (which I no longer remember). That site, from what I remember, had no copyright issues on it, and there was no “image source: MajorDigitalPhotoCompany” specified. Therefore, the photo was fair game. I then told them to sue Google rather than pick on the little guy. Their reply though (yeah, they actually replied) was that it was their responsibility to protect the maker of the photo, and the amount is what they perceive in damages (let them come to that amount, I dare them) Google was doing their job as a search engine and therefore could not be sued (I’m still not too sure on that). When they replied that they will continue to pursue their case with me, I told them that I will have my lawyer contact them. And yes, I do have a lawyer for these matters.

I highly doubt that they will continue to pursue this case with me as $1,130 is simply not worth pursuing when the plaintiff is in a different country and 3,000 miles away.  Not only that, the digital photo industry is a wishy-washy one to track. For arguments’ sake, I could take/purchase an image from the internet and upload it anywhere and on any site. Nowhere does it say  that I don’t have the right to post the image anywhere once I purchased it. Not only that, but in the documentation, the photo company couldn’t even get my email address right!

And I’m not even a lawyer. Imagine what a lawyer could come up with!

Nonetheless, I’m almost certain that there is a small percentage of people that pay money when threatened with “legal action,” and hey, money is money.

Making Money by Scaring the Pants Off You Apparently is a Big Industry

Apparently there is a big industry in trying to scare the pants off of you. In another case, a year and a half ago I inquired about a hosting plan from a major hosting company for a Magento site. They basically tried to scare me into paying $8,000 a month because only they have an infrastructure where you won’t get audited by the Feds for keeping the database on the same server as the files, something to that effect.

This is nothing new. For thousands of years, healers, shamans and false prophets have made a TON of money by exploiting peoples fears.

While I’m posting about Internet Trolls and the Pants-Scaring industry, let’s paint another person with the same brush: Lance Armstrong. In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, “Armstrong chuckled that he had sued so many people, he couldn’t remember if he brought legal action against [a certain person] as well.”

Comments

All the above having been said, the internet is a vast, open space where a lot can go on undetected. However, there are actual rules of netiquette, found on albion.com.

I personally want anyone messing with me to fill out this form below (found it on Facebook):

apology_form

Bottom line, don’t get scammed. And yes, even the big internet companies aren’t all that big, and try to be more than they really are.

I’m just a guy trying to get some points across, and find that blogging provides me with the best forum to do so. Nothing more.

Demanding a Raise

150 150 rhecht

Q. I have a hard-working worker who is demanding more money. Do I have to negotiate with him?

A. This is probably the most common question I get: workers who feel they are underpaid and would like to compel their employers to pay what they are truly worth, and employers who face employees who insist on it.

Most authorities agree that the underlying employment paradigm in the Talmud and Jewish law is at-will employment, meaning that the sides are obligated only by their work agreement. The employer is free to discharge the employee at any time, assuming the agreed-upon employment period is done (usually this is a month, though often there is a requirement for more than a month of notice), and the employee is free to quit any time, even before the employment period is over.

Another principle of Jewish law is that work agreements are assumed to be according to local law and custom. Since most common law countries also have a rule of at-will employment, if you live in such a country, then the underlying paradigm and the validation of secular law would give two reasons to give you the right to discharge your employee according to your best business judgment.The Talmud relates in a number of places the situation you describe: where the employee is convinced that the true value of his work is higher than that agreed upon.In one case, the Talmud speaks of a case where a wage of four zuz is common and it is possible to demonstrate that the employer would have been willing to pay four zuz had the workers insisted. But the workers agreed to work for only three.

The conclusion is that the workers are not entitled to four zuz; rather, the payment is according to the original agreement. However, the passage also relates that if the employer was freely willing to offer four and the manager, of his own initiative, decided to squeeze the workers down to a wage of three, the workers are justified in harboring resentment towards the manager.(1)In another place, the Talmud relates a case where the wage bargain was made at the going rate, but in the middle of the contract period the wage rises. As a result, the workers begin to complain, and the boss convinces them to stay on with some vague non-committal comment. (We may imagine that he says something like, “I’ll make some changes to make it worth your while to stay.”) The conclusion is that this does not constitute a promise to match the new market wage; rather, the employer can fulfill his obligation with some minor improvement in working conditions. (The Talmud gives the example of giving larger meals.)(2) We learn that the boss is not obligated to re-open the original agreement, but is also seems that some degree of meeting the employee halfway is justified.I think the conclusion for your case is as follows: If you think there is some merit to the employee’s demands – he is, in fact, making less than the going wage, like the workers in the Talmudic passages – it is a good idea to agree to negotiate. In both cases the Talmud seems to indicate that the ideal outcome involves some concessions to the worker. But the worker is in no sense entitled to a raise, and he cannot demand or insist on one. If you don’t think the demand is justified, there would not seem to be any ethical requirement to discuss the matter.

Of course the worker is a free actor is well, and is totally within his rights to make whatever demands he likes and to quit if they are not made. If your worker does a good job it is may be simple good business sense to make him happy. But he does not have the ability to agree to stay on yet compel the employer to meet his demands, even if they are reasonable ones.

Sources: (1) BT Baba Metzia 76a; Shulchan Arukh Choshen Mishpat 332:2. (2) BT Baba Metzia 77a; Shulchan Arukh Choshen Mishpat 332:5.

This article originally appeared on OU Torah.

Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir is one of the Jewish world’s best-known lecturers and educators in the area of business ethics. Rabbi Dr. Meir is known by a wide audience from his “[email protected]” column in the Jerusalem Post, through the popular syndicated column “The Jewish Ethicist,” and through his lectures and books. His extensive background includes a Harvard education and obtaining a Ph.D. in economics from MIT. 

Solutions: Quick and Dirty versus Custom

150 150 rhecht

Most clients, be they large or small, always seem to want the quick-fix solution to cut costs. This especially bodes well in today’s economy where everything revolves around squeezing the almighty dollar. Whether that’s right or wrong remains to be seen.

Example 1: custom shopping cart

A certain Kosher meat store that sells high-quality products has management that was unclear on how to move forward with a website. They wanted a website to display their information as well as have a standard shopping cart. They wanted recipes integrated into each product. RJH Solutions was approached, and created a custom CMS that displayed content information as well as recipes. The Shopping cart was next. However, since everything was custom, the whole process took a very long time. They then went ahead and chose a cheaper solution which was not custom, and in the end, the designer/coder “dropped the ball,” leaving them with no real website. The tricky part, in the end, was the recipe integration, which most standard shopping carts failed to provide.

It’s still believed that, had they stuck with the original programmer they would have had their website up and running efficiently, if not quickly.

Example 2: custom watch vs. Fossil

I’ve had a Fossil watch since 2001, when I was still just starting out in University. Fossil’s brash statement was that each watch contained an 11 year warranty, since it was supposed to be of very high quality. That watch has lasted me to this day, and I’ve only had to change the battery a few times, which is normal.

Now, there are European watch manufacturers that create custom, jewel encrusted watches. Those can go for hundreds to thousands of dollars. In a heartbeat, most people will go with the cheaper, efficient Fossil.

Example 3: Custom Suits vs. Knockoffs

When choosing suits for occasions, most people will buy a knockoff brand of a suit since it’s cheaper, then get it tailored at a cheap rate rather than pay $1,200 for a custom made, Italian suit.

That’s all there is to it. The western world operates in an instant-pleasure, me-first society. That’s just how it works. Me first, me me me, and cheap now, cheap cheap cheap.

Businesses, and Corporate America, Failing Due to Free Requests: A Huge Price to Pay

150 150 rhecht

Businesses failing in many cases are the consequences of people asking to buy things on credit, or to take things for free. When this happens, the government eventually collapses.

Case 1: Banks

Banks are the most obvious. To put it simply, people not paying banks on time was the number 1 global cause of our current recession. They would extend loans and ridiculously low down payment options on homes to families with not the greatest credit scores. Apparently, houses were expensive and banks were dying to unload the houses on people so they could make “some money” off them. As a result, most deferred on their mortgages and ran away when approached with the dirty word “money.” When this happened, banks were undergoing a tailspin. This may be a simplistic explanation, and there’s more to it, but this sums it up.

Case 2:  Fruit Palace’s Demise and Pomegranate

Fruit Palace was a small Kosher convenience store based in Flatbush, New York, owned by “heimish” people. They supplied produce and groceries, and competed with larger places by catering to the the hard-pressed middle class in extending credit to them. As a result, most other religious Jews took advantage of these guys and bought things on credit that was so extended, one could not see the end to it.

Many stores in the area and especially in communities like Boro Park and Williamsburg keep such black ruled school notebooks with pages of family names where groceries are routinely charged. Sources say Fruit Palace’s book included “a crushing debt of thousands of dollars” that had resulted in a growing accounts payable by the store’s owner. One Boro Park store told a source close to KosherToday that his book was “worth over $26,000.” A worker at Fruit Palace said that customers would frequently drop of checks of a fraction of the debt, “say $100 on a $400 bill.”

While many customers blamed Pomegranate, a nearby kosher produce store, as severely impacting business of local retailers, distributors and other food sources said that most of the stores “while hurting, are pretty much holding their own.” In the end, it boiled down to asking for free stuff.

Case 3: Restaurants and lack of tips in NY

In New York, the culture there is to eat out more often than eat at home. As a result, people neglect to pay respectable tips. Restaurants therefore have to be tough to survive, or crash and burn. However, between the failure of most customers to pay sufficient tips, the incredible amount of stress on the very profession, and incredibly high property taxes, restaurants are among those businesses that are dying.

Swear Jar – I’ll Buy Three Swears, One Curse and a Taboo for $1.35

150 150 rhecht

Who doesn’t remember the ol’ swear jar? The idea was simple in that by paying money for each time you swore, you would begin to swear less, ultimately ceasing to swear altogether.

At one of my previous workplaces there was a swearing issue among the employees, and they would swear loudly. When sales reps were on the phone, potential clients would hear the curses in the background and as a result hang up. Therefore, at work, a swear jar was put into place. Each swear would cost a quarter. With the amount of swearing going on, it was expected that the jar would fill up and the amount of swearing would be reduced significantly.

What happened was simply a laugh riot. Some of the people were DYING to swear, and one person in particular was fond of telling dirty jokes. Therefore, when he heard of the swear jar concept and how much swears cost, he decided to “buy” swears. In his mind, telling a good, dirty joke was worth the couple of dollars worth of swears. It so happened to be that thinking this way was ultimately reflective of this person’s moral compass, of which there was none. I complained that this was completely distorting a good and wholesome concept, but was told to lighten up. Whatever.

Everybody was wondering where the money from the swear jar was going to go. In the end, everyone had the answer: someone mysteriously stole the swear jar and never told anyone about it. Personally I suspect the one who “bought” swears in the first place, but there’s no way to know for sure.

Quickbooks Mayhem – Theft or Shtick?

150 150 rhecht

A few years ago I worked for someone that serviced computers for small businesses. One day, my boss had asked me to visit a client/friend of his, who was known to be a bit of a shady character. The instructions were to uninstall Quickbooks from one machine and to install it on another using the existing key (Quickbooks will not allow the same license to be be run on two or more machines simultaneously).

I drove down to the client, and asked him for the Quickbooks key in order to perform the installation on the new machine. Checking his past emails in order to locate it, he told me that he must have misplaced/deleted it, but that I could call Quickbooks in his name in order to get it. He left the building, and I made the call. When the person on the other end asked me to verify my name, I said that my name was the client’s name instead (in order to avoid being told that only the person was allowed to speak). He looked at the account, and told me, “Sir, I don’t understand. In reading these notes, you previously called us to cancel, explaining that our software wasn’t supporting your business needs.” Embarrassed, I thanked him, and hung up the phone.

I then replayed the scenario and put two and two together. The person had likely bought the software with a 1 year license, installed it on one machine, activated the key, and then called to cancel in order to save money (he perhaps received the full refund). In other words, that was his way of getting Quickbooks for free! When I called support, I, representing the client and using the client’s name, was at the business end for his “game-playing.”

This according to most would not technically be considered outright stealing – after all, the client technically did purchase the product, only to cancel later on, lying that it wasn’t supporting his business needs in order to get the product for free. He technically manipulated the system, which speaks of that person’s character as well (but who cares about morals in business, anyways?). If you can find a technicality (notice how I’m using the word technically so many times here), milk it for what it’s worth.

I personally found this behavior “just plain wrong.” What one does in ones personal time is one thing, but to profit in business with “technically-not-stolen-but-cancelled-because-im-a-cheapskate” software, and then expecting to receive support, smells fishy.

Anybody have client/employer horror stories to share? We’re looking for more writers!

Classic “Do Work for Free” Request

150 150 rhecht

Client: I don’t understand. I recently paid a certain person money to get us on Page 1 on Google and I still don’t see us up.

Us: Well, organic SEO takes time – about 3-6 months.

Client: Ok, so can we then get this service from you for free for 1 month? Then I’ll decide if I want to pay.

Web Designers: NEVER Work for Free, or Less Pay

150 150 rhecht

For some reason, most clients fail to see the value and effort it takes to make a GOOD website or logo. Depending on the website, one can expect to pay anywhere from a $200 you-get-what-you-pay-for website to a $100,000 fully fledged e-commerce web application. Many clients for some reason expect to pay $1,000 or less and expect the sun, moon, and stars handed to them on a silver platter, when in reality that sun, moon, and stars costs at LEAST 10-15 times more.

Then comes the client that expects work to be done for free. The same person who wouldn’t dare skimp on paying for groceries, clothing, or bills somehow finds ways to short-change the hard-working web designer simply because he FAILS TO SEE THE VALUE. Someone with limited knowledge of the internet naively assumes that a website guarantees instant wealth and power (mwahahahaha!), has them expecting to have the traffic and revenue of a site like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube rolled in one, without any business model whatsoever, and is disappointed when they find out that JUST A LITTLE more work needs to be done to get even a fraction there. ClientsFromHell.net is littered with cases like that, many of them being true stories.

Some classic client lines (borrowed from the ClientsFromHell.net website):

  • “Also, I will pay you when my website becomes popular like Facebook. For now, you can just work on it.”
  • “It’s kinda the same idea as facebook, with functionality more like Twitter, but with the innovation of Microsoft.”
  • “We want Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, Twitter and E-Commerce rolled into this one site.”
  • “I want it to be like Facebook… I need to get it done for under $500.”

On a related note, Steve Jobs of Apple and Pixar has already determined for years that the typical client is a complete bozo with limited vision, possessing an IQ in the double-digits or less. He therefore came out with certain technology before others conceptualized it. He came out with a floppy-less iMac during the turn of the century when most people were relying on the Floppy drive. Instead, he had the futuristic-at-the-time USB ports inserted. Jobs saw that people were going to eventually move away from the archaic floppy drive, and he was right. Most people protested against him, but he refused to listen to them. His team of testers historically consisted of one person, himself, and ignoring client requests. The same can be said with Henry Ford when he came out with the Model T automobile during the turn of the 20th century. Mr. Ford once said that “if I had listened to what others said, they would have simply requested faster horses.”

Let’s face it: most clients do not know what they want, period. They rely on us, the experts, to tell them what to do. Otherwise, if they knew what they were doing, they would do it themselves. That said, being that they don’t know what they’re doing, they can’t possibly appreciate why building a website or logo can cost in the thousands of dollars. Not only is the effort that much greater for a harder-to-build website, but the potential ROI (return on investment) is greater as well.

In spite of everything, what is still admittedly amazing is that some clients expect web design work to be done for free. What makes things worse is that, while they rely on the professionals, they often challenge their work. As dumb as a client is, that is still a big insult to ones intelligence. The designer has every right to look at the prospective client with a hint of that mix of nausea and surprise.

Therefore, while the customer may always be right, the designer MUST be able to say “no” from time to time. Which is better, to have a plethora of cheap/free projects where the clients are always hounding you, or to have fewer higher-paying projects where the client is appreciative of your work and understands the value of high-quality work?