You know how kids today get awards for just showing up?
Now everybody can get an award for their business or non-profit, too…for a price.
The congratulatory e-mail received by the Hillsboro non-profit where I work was completely unexpected. “You’ve been selected for the 2014 Best of Hillsboro Awards,” it said. “For details and more information please view our website…”
The website said the non-profit could celebrate its success by choosing an award plaque, an aluminum plaque for $149.99, a crystal award for $199.99, or, if the non-profit really wanted to go all out, both for $229.98.
The e-mail even came with a pre-written press release we could use to announce the award.
But the award notices are little more than extortion. They’re from an awards mill that blankets the country with similar pitches.
It’s hard to figure out exactly who’s profiting from the scam. In the message from the company there’s reference to the “Hillsboro Award Program”, which is defined as “an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Hillsboro area…(that) exemplify the best of small business…”
But the “Hillsboro Award Program” is a fiction.
I tried their Contact Us link, which offered me an e-mail form. I sent an e-mail asking for more information on the parent company, but got no response.
What is clear is that an awful lot of folks who crave praise have been duped into participating in the “Best of” awards program, or have promoted their award to dupe their customers.
Companies across the U.S. trumpet their “Best of” awards, including: Generations Family Practice in Reston, VA; Newman IT Solutions of Kalamazoo, Mich.; Christopher Styles Barber Spa of Los Angeles; Karma Dog Training of Austin, TX; and Scotty’s Transmissions of Sparks, NV.
A quick Google search found almost 10,000 announcements by companies that they had won one of these self congratulatory “Best of” awards, each company likely picked at random from a phone book or business directory. In each case, the notification came from the “ (name of town) Award Program”. No parent company that runs the national program is identified.
The company’s website says it is “D&B Rated”, but doesn’t give any information that would allow a curious person to secure a Dun & Bradstreet report on it, such as its business name and location. The website also says the company is an active member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but without a business name that can’t be verified. Repeated inquiries to the company asking for information that would allow verification of its D&B and Chamber connections were not answered.
This particular award scam is similar to ones carried out by the U.S. Commerce Association, US Local Business Association, the United States Trade and Commerce Institute (USTCI), and US Institute for Excellence in Commerce. In fact, the suggested press release, website content and other elements of the “Best of” awards are just about identical with what these organizations have put out.
So if your business or non-profit gets one of these award scams, chuck it in the trash. All that glitters is not gold.