Let me tell you a story about a brief-but-strange part of my day today….
At about 4:30 pm, Kim from our front office (at OWT) came back to my office to tell me about a strange voicemail we’d just received. I was busy reading through my Bloglines, but my ears perked up when she explained that the voicemail was a pre-recorded message explaining that someone had just posted a negative review about us on Merchant Circle.
Kim assumed it was some kind of crank call; she’d never heard of Merchant Circle before. I think she was surprised by my interest and the questions I asked her about the call. I told her Merchant Circle was a legitimate company / web site, and that they offer marketing opportunities for small businesses in the local search niche. (Not in those exact words, mind you.)
So, we went to the MC web site and checked the two OWT listings, but neither had any negative reviews (and they still don’t). End of story, we figured. Must’ve been a mistake.
I went back to Bloglines, and less than a minute later stumbled on Peter Krasilovsky’s post today, I Smell a Rat: Fake ‘Complaints’ Re Merchant Circle. Bizarre coincidence, n’est-ce pas?
If I’m reading Peter’s post correctly, he’s getting a lot of complaints about this automatic notification phone call that Merchant Circle makes when a review is posted … but he thinks the complaints are fake. On the other hand, our experience today — a phone notification but no actual reviews — seemed to be a fake.
So, what’s this all about? I know someone (or some people) from Merchant Circle has read Small Business SEM in the past (because I had to delete a couple blog comments that were too heavy on the advertising). If anyone from MC is still reading, I would love to know what’s going on here with the phone alerts, the complaints, etc.
John Battelle has also posted about this, also because he was getting a bunch of comments on his blog from upset business owners. Merchant Circle CEO Ben Smith replies in the comments, suggesting that the calls are an attempt to inform merchants that they have listings/reviews, but admitting to some “unintended consequences” and “execution issues.” I’ll say….
And if you want to see an angry mob in action, check out the old Battelle post where all the business owners are replying.
[tags]merchant circle, local search, small business, online marketing, user reviews[/tags]