Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beware the scammer for they come in all shapes and sizes...

During our 20+ years in this business we have come up against a fair number of scams and scammers, some more obvious than others, and mostly aided by the power of the internet through forums such as Craig's List or even email.

For the most part we have managed to avoid or recognize them except for the instance in which an operator on Craig's List duplicated our copy and created the same business (even using our name as if we were a chain) in another neighborhood, specifically Tribeca. It turns out that the place didn't even exist. Happily another innkeeper alerted us to the ad in the nick of time and we had it pulled. On the one hand we were flattered but on the other we recognized that our tenure at Craig's list was over; rather than risk our reputation any further we ceased to advertise there, and had only been doing so in the wake of the crash when times had gotten very tough for the industry.

No scam has been more injurious to our morale or self worth, however, than the one that comes courtesy of the travel industry itself. During our infancy Country Inn the City was fortunate enough to have been included in many guide books, but since the advent of the internet, the travel guides we all used to depend on as travelers have become less and less a player in the market place. And I say that with regret, because now it would appear that the consumer is in charge and not the professional, especially when it comes to something so important as reviews. In light of the fact that professional reviews are harder to come by we are more prone to attack from the 'professionals' themselves. Many 'writers' have approached us for free stays and we have turned them down as we think it's an unfair bargaining tool, that a writer should feel he or she has a right not to pay if we get something in return. In the end it feels like payola and that is not what we are about. All our professional reviews have been based on merit.

However, in a moment of weakness I said yes to a Mr. James Saville who claimed to be a writer (news editor) for the popular Sunday British newspaper, The Sunday Mirror. As a Brit myself I was intrigued and have always hoped that we might some day attract more British travelers. He claimed that he was doing a piece on the New York Marathon (November 2010) and was very keen to check out our property as a viable alternative to hotels. I was of course a little skeptical but courtesy of the fact that he provided me with a fellow 'legitimate' contact in Marjorie Yue, at the said newspaper, that attracts 5 million readers, I thought I would give him 3 nights during the week.

When we met he was full of praise for our property and seemed perfectly legitimate and pleasant. However, more than 10 months has passed since his visit and I have yet to have a follow-up of any substance, or any indication of when the piece might run. All subsequent contact has been initiated by me. At times he has claimed that he had a PDF to send me but I have still yet to see it. He at one point told me not to panic and that he would check with Marjorie who I have yet to hear from, in spite of my having cc'd her on a number of occasions. In my last email (our first contact since May) I suggested that if the article didn't run then perhaps he would consider paying me for his stay.

I have not yet heard back and it's been about a week. I am hopeful that the situation will resolve itself and that I will at some point get some sort of a conclusive answer either way, but with nothing to show for himself at this point I have to hold James Saville and his team accountable, or rather as further evidence that the innkeeper in a climate of scammers should be very careful when it comes to making arrangements such as this.  In spite of the above I remain hopeful that they can prove me wrong and that I will one day be able to post something positive about them, but for now I must remain skeptical.

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