Forum Spam: So Frustrating

It’s amazing to watch how international spamming is getting, especially forum spamming where they try to be “natural” by having conversations where one spammer posts a question, and the next spammer answers by posting a “helpful tutorial” about the perfect product to help. Here’s a short example of some spamming that went on at Digital Media Thoughts:

momoko [IP 220.232.188.195, Hong Kong]: i suppose Imtoo dvd ripper is the gadget you are looking for, it can help you convert dvd to MPEG or AVI files so that you can edit them with ease~~~

mingming [IP 218.249.29.21, China]: haha ,monoko ,are you also using the software imtoo dvd ripper??glad to see that , i am using it now!!!it is really a perfect one ,isn’t it?

happyboy [IP 59.108.111.2, China]: I don’t konw much about these knowledgeI but I hope the software of Xilisoft can help you.There are many kinds of tools such as ImTOO DVD Ripper Platinum v4.0 ,you can look for more information here

First I find one of the IPs: 218.249.29.21, which I look up using the ARIN WHOIS tool. That tool directs me to the APNIC Whois Database, and I discover it belongs to these guys:

inetnum: 218.249.29.0 – 218.249.29.255
netname: BEI-JING-JIAO-TONG-DA-XUE
country: CN
descr: Beijing JIAO TONG DA XUE CO.LTD
descr: CO.LTD
descr: Haidian Distric, Beijing
admin-c: PP40-AP
tech-c: PP40-AP
status: ASSIGNED NON-PORTABLE
changed: [email protected] 20050603
mnt-by: MAINT-CN-DXTNET
source: APNIC

This is the worst kind of spam to stop, because at first glance it appears legitimate – but when you start to factor in the odds of three people from China coming to my Web site to discuss a “problem” that has one magical solution, the product they link to…you just know it’s spam. As a site owner you learn to think heuristically and trust your instincts. It’s like that old quote about pornography: you might not be able to describe it, but you know it when you see it. That’s what this spam is like. Now the question is, are these guys paying for this spamming service, or are these over-zealous third-party affiliates trying to be clever? I’d suspect the former…

Dell Semi-Horror Story

I’ve had some really bad experiences with Dell, and a couple of great ones. A couple of weeks ago was a “medium bad” experience with Dell. I ordered a 19″ LCD monitor for my mother-in-law on October 11th at 10:39 AM CST during one of Dell’s “10 Days of Deals” – the monitor was normally priced at $329 CAD and it was $80 off, making it only $249 CAD. I placed my order, got to the point where I had an receipt, which I printed off. A week passed, and when I went to check on my order, I realized I hadn’t heard anything about the monitor. I logged into my account on Dell.ca, and there was no record of my order being placed. HUH? I checked my email receipts folder (where I keep things like Dell electronic receipts) and I had no record of an email from them. I dug up my paper receipt, and unfortunately there was no order number on it. Yet I had the receipt, presumably meaning I was going to be charged for it.

I called Dell customer service – it seems their entire online sales group is based out of India – and tried to explain my problem to the agent. I’m not one of those ultra-patriotic types who believes that every job should stay in his own country – I believe that if a company can be cost-effective with a call center, while still providing excellent service, they should out-source. The problem is that the Dell call center does not, in my experience, provide excellent service. I quite often have to explain my problem over and over again, and the agents don’t seem to grasp the concept of “customer service”. It’s not a language issue most of the time, it’s a cultural issue, which isn’t something that can be put in database. At any rate, after explaining the problem to the agent, he explained to me that the problem was that the Dell Deal of the Day I ordered was no longer valid because the day was over. I explained that I had a receipt indicating that Dell had accepted my order. He explained that I had no order number because the monitor I wanted was out of stock. I explained that I had a receipt indicating that Dell had accepted my order, and that I wanted the product.

We went back and forth for a few minutes, where I explained that if Dell runs out of stock on a product but continues to sell it and take credit card numbers, then it’s their problem not mine. Eventually I asked to speak to his manager, which always makes the Dell sales agents very nervous – they must have some sort of performance metric tied into call escalation. He put me on hold, came back, and made me an offer: he’d sell me the monitor for $269 CAD, $20 more than the Deal of the Day. It was a good offer, and $20 isn’t much, but the principle of the issue was still the day: the big corporation offered a product at a certain price, and now they were trying to change the rules. I persisted, asked for his manager again, and he finally offered me the monitor for $249 CAD.

Here’s the kicker: after jerking me around and making the entire thing difficult, he had the nerve to give me his sales ID number (#1308) and ask that I’d use that ID number whenever I placed online orders. As if he had done me a huge favour and I should feel grateful for getting the product for the price I expected in the first place. Needless to say, I will not be using his sales ID number. As much as well frustrates me sometimes, their prices are hard to beat, and I really like the design of their monitors. Got any Dell horror stories of your own?

Sometimes I WANT To Be Marketed To

Most of the time, we all dislike advertising – but that’s usually because it’s not targeted toward our interests. When I was a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons in the ’80s, the commercials were an integral part of the morning – what new toys were out there, what new food did I want to ask my mom to buy? [she rarely did, she loved her kids enough to feed us healthy food] As an adult, I’m constantly bombarded by advertising that’s so far off base I do everything in my power to avoid watching it. Yet sometimes, I’m stunned at the way I’m NOT marketed to…case in point: a few minutes ago Ashley (my wife) called me to say that she heard an ad on the radio that Evanescence was coming to Calgary for a show in January and that tickets went on sale today. I’m a huge fan of that group (and Amy Lee in particular – what a voice!) but I’m not enough of a groupie to know that they were even on tour. I somehow assumed that the marketing machine would take hold and somehow I’d be exposed to an advertisement that a band I’d pay almost anything to see was coming to my town. That didn’t happen. I ordered tickets five hours after they went on sale, and ended up getting seats that aren’t all that great. Crap.

I found out after the fact something that I should have been signed up for: House of Blues Canada. A friend of mine knew Evanescence was coming, had access to early ticket sales, but didn’t buy tickets – and he didn’t tell me because he didn’t know I was a huge Evanescence fan. Doh! I’d gladly give up some non-aggregated personal information about my interests if it meant that I’d be presented with advertisements that really appealed to the things I’m interested in. There’s a lot of money to be made by the company that can figure this out.