Awards for sale: Not a rewarding experience

The Ballard Agency has won plenty of awards in their 45 year history, but this isn’t one they were interested in:

The Ballard Agency - Best of Bellevue Award
Chris Ballard, President of the the Bellevue-based insurance brokerage was surprised his company was selected. He’d never even heard of the U.S. Local Business Association.

Here’s the email he received, with hyperlinks removed:

I am pleased to announce that Ballard Agency has been selected for the 2008 Best of Bellevue Award in the Insurance category by the U.S. Local Business Association (USLBA).

In recognition of your achievement, a 2008 Best of Bellevue Award plaque has been designed for display at your place of business. You may arrange to have your award sent directly to Ballard Agency by following the simple steps on the 2008 Best of Bellevue Award order form.

The USLBA “Best of Local Business” Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USLBA identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.

Also, a copy of the press release publicizing the selection of Ballard Agency is posted on the USLBA website. USLBA hereby grants Ballard Agency a non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use, reproduce, distribute, and display this press release in any media formats and through any media channels.

In order to provide you with the best possible service, you have been assigned an award code that can be used on our website for quick access to your award information and press release. If you have any questions or comments, please include this code with your correspondence.

Sincerely,

Ashley Carter
Selection Committee Chair
U.S. Local Business Association

After doing a little sleuthing, the folks at the Ballard Agency realized it was a marketing scheme to sell overpriced plaques.

Chris didn’t appreciate having his time wasted, but took the time to share it with me, and now you.

Here’s a marketing tactic I hate: Winning fake awards or being “nominated for a “who’s Who” list, and all you have to do is pay for $100 award!

Clearly, this is a deceptive marketing tactic in the same category as the phony domain name and Yellow Pages bills that are sent in hopes your A/P department will pay them in error.

“The only way they’d ever get our business is on accident,” says Ballard.

And that, my Responsible Marketing friends, is no way to grow a business.

So, have you or ever been targeted for one of these “faux-wards?”

Comment below to share your experience.

UPDATE: Let’s fight vanity scams together is a follow-up to this post.

Subscribe to this feed.

. . .
Full disclosure: Outsource Marketing is a Ballard Agency client.

  • Samantha West

    I just received mine, and being suspicious as usual I Googled it and this site popped up.. It never ceases to amaze me, the lengths people will use to try to make a buck. This of course is my 3rd notice, because I continue to ignore it.
    Earlier this year, I sent a notification email to you recognizing that Facilities Services Group had been selected for the 2009 Best of Vancouver Award in the Janitor Service category.

    In recognition of your achievement, a 2009 Best of Vancouver Award has been designed for display at your place of business. You may arrange to have your award sent directly to Facilities Services Group by following the simple steps on the 2009 Best of Vancouver Award order form. Simply copy and paste this link into your browser to receive your award:
    http://vancouver.uscaawards.org/AEBP2-EXSB

    Each year, the US Commerce Association (USCA) identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.

    Also, a copy of the press release publicizing the selection of Facilities Services Group has been posted on our website. The USCA hereby grants Facilities Services Group a non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use, reproduce, distribute, and display this press release in any media formats and through any media channels.

    An Award Code has been assigned to your company that can be used on our website for quick access to your award information and press release.

    Your Award Code is: EBP2-EXSB

    Sincerely,

    Ashley Carter
    Selection Committee Chair
    US Commerce Association

  • http://www.responsiblemarketing.com Patrick Byers

    Pretty dense over there. They just sent the “Final Notice (3rd Attempt):” email to the Ballard Agency. Yes, the Ballard Agency mentioned in this article.

    Crazy irresponsible, folks.

  • http://garmentcare.com/blog James

    Just got one over here too. That Ashley Carter gets around!

  • Priscila

    I work for a counseling center in Houston and supposedly received the “2009 Houston Award” a few months ago. I just received my “3rd Attempt” notification and decided to google and thankfully ran accross this blog. The email address they used was: info@uscaaward.net. Thank you for the post!

  • Robert

    And we got ours today….3rd and final notice as well…
    The old take-off on the who’s who directory charade….

  • Rebecca

    The US Commerce Association contacted me to inform me that the company I work for won a small business award. Uh, I work for a large multi-national firm with thousands of employees. Not small at all. Suspicions raised, I Googled it, found out it was a fraud and then was shocked to see just how many legitimate small businesses fell for it with out asking any questions. There seem to be three or four of these scams going on. US Commerce Association, Small Business Commerce Association, US Local Business Association. But in a day and age of the Internet, I don’t get why people don’t do a quick Google search before they blindly accept and publicize an award they didn’t apply to, from an organization they haven’t heard of, and that requires them to pay for their award. Three seconds on the Internet would save you so much embarrassment and about $180.

  • Amy

    I just started a new job with a company that was sadly taken in by this scheme. The marketing person at the time didn’t understand a thing about marketing or awards or responsible marketing…and she got them to pay the money and get the plaque. Ouch! That was in 2008…now I am battling to get them to take the press release down off the web site because I don’t want that up there making us look like fools anymore!

  • http://www.barharborfoods.com Cynthia Fisher

    Just got this and unfortunately, having received other similar scams, immediately Googled and confirmed it as yet another scam. The vultures never cease. Why don’t they do something of value with all that time you waste scheming on scams!

  • http://canyoncopiers.com MICHAEL CARRILLO

    Here is the one I received: people will always try to find ways to make a buck.

    From: Kelly McCartney
    Email: info@uscaaward.com

    ——————————————————

    I am pleased to inform you that Canyon Copiers has been selected for the 2010 Phoenix Award in the Copiers category by the US Commerce Association (USCA).

    The USCA “Best of Local Business” Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. In recognition of your achievement, a special 2010 Phoenix Award has been designed for display at your place of business. You may arrange to have your award sent directly to Canyon Copiers by following the simple steps on the 2010 Phoenix Award form. Simply copy and paste this link into your browser to access the award form:

    http://www.uscaaward.com/ABAL-QFE-PSU

    If you have any questions or comments, call us at 646-355-0637 and select option 1. Please reference your Award Code “BAL-QFE-PSU” on the call.

  • http://www.trulia.com/profile/kevin/ Kevin Pellatiro

    Yep, they just sent us ours… so proud :-)

  • craig wheeless

    I just received my third notice (however they never sent the other two) from Kelly McCartney, Board of Review, US Commerce Association. Scam!!!

  • Pete

    We just won our 4th year in a row award. A feat the uslba claims only happens to 2% of our catagory.
    I was pleased until they sent our last reward for 2011 in March. How could I have won the best of 2011 when we were just in the 3rd month of the year? Then twice in May they repeated the whole e-mail and phone message thing again to try to sell me the best of 2011 award again.
    For sure a marketing agency trying to scam on a struggling economy.

  • Funny Business

    I was “awarded” just now… for doing commerce in a city that I have not had an office in for over 5 Years! Now if that doesn’t scream scam… I Don’t know what. LOL.
    Even funnier.. it was my own personal office. I did no business at all in the ‘award’ city either, my actual physical business is located half a continent away.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/A247bailbonds Michael Thornton

    Same here, Just want to thank everyone for sharing scams like this, I am glad I looked into this before signing on..

  • http://www.facebook.com/A247bailbonds Michael Thornton

    Same here, Just want to thank everyone for sharing scams like this, I am glad I looked into this before signing on..

  • http://www.facebook.com/A247bailbonds Michael Thornton

    Same here, Just want to thank everyone for sharing scams like this, I am glad I looked into this before signing on..

  • Ricky74vette

    This sounds like a great marketing gimmick…..I wish i would have thought of it….I got the same thing in my email about the award. Did I know it was fake? YES. Is it still cool?  YES.   Am I going to order my plaque?  MAYBE……It would look nice on my desk  :-}

  • Pingback: Best DJ Award Goes To | Dude Walker

  • Anonymous

    This is my third award (2009, 2010, 2011). The USCA claims less than 1% win three years in a ros. Here’s their response when I questioned their program.

    Terre -First, I would like to congratulate you on your selection as a 2011 Best of San Luis Obispo Award Winner.I can’t really speak to the criticism cast our way by a vocal minority. As you know, the Internet is a forum which allows anyone to write anything without accountability. Please check the other 100,000+ references on Google, Yahoo and Bing from very proud business owners displaying our award image or press release on their websites. I’m sure that your selection as a 2011 Award Winner is a reflection of the hard work of not only yourself, but of many people that have supported your business and contributed to the subsequent success of your organization. It is the same for us here at USCA.Notification to other award winners in San Luis Obispo will be made over the next several weeks. After all award recipients have been notified, we will post the complete list of winners on our website.Simply click on the link below and follow the instructions to receive your award:Best of San Luis Obispo Award 2011 – Graphic Arts

    Sincerely,

    Kelly McCartney
    Board of Review
    US Commerce Association From: TerreSent: Tuesday, November 01, 2011 4:53 PMTo: Board of ReviewSubject: Re: Second Notice: Gaia Graphics & Associates Receives 2011 Best of San Luis Obispo Award Hi, I wrote you with this question but never heard back: Hi, Your organization has offered my company an award. There’s lots online that says it’s a scam, but the BBB runs a similar program so maybe you’re OK. What I’d like is a list of companies in my zip code that you have offered the award to, their categories, and those who have accepted. Thanks, Terre PS: I did buy one of your awards in 2009 but have never displayed it, having read the scam articles online after I spent the money. I’ve also been a member of the BBB for many years, with an A+ rating, but am questioning their veracity as well. But at least they have a great reputation. 

  • 090624

    You guys are sooo cynical. Some people just don’t know how to take a compliment! My company just received the award for “Ignition Testing Instruments”. We are so proud. We don’t make Ignition Testing Instruments or anything remotely related, but hey, who’s to say we’re not the best and just don’t know it yet?! We’re keeping our fingers crossed for next year…

  • Tori W.

    Thank you for your posting. I just got the e-mail for my award and it seemed rather hokey so thanks to good old Google found your posting. Off next to update the junk e-mail list.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6QLKKMVFRUHW4OJCE2DC5B2FWY Keith =)

    Same here…I just got the email and I was thinking “If my business is so great (it is of course:) then why not send me the award for free?”   Mine came from the supposed “US Commerce Association (USCA).”  What a scam…I would never do this. And to the poster 090624…that was hilarious!

  • Small Engine Expert

    I agree with you all the way.If you send money for a product and don’t receive it,then i call that a money making scam.I got the e-mail also and I am not upset one bit,it makes feel good about myself and my small engine repair business.I have the plaque and going to display it with pride.

  • http://www.LatherUnusual.com Logan

    Just got our illustrious award notification today! I’m sure there’s a magical pony, a rainbow and a pot of gold soon to follow..Ha! Thanks for posting this, made my scam verification search that much shorter.

  • Alifestylelimos

    We thought wow we are really making strides with our business but wasn’t sure if it was a scam. Finding this article made it easy for us to decide to not go forward with contacting the USCA to get our reward. Pretty slick scam! 

  • David

    Hi All,

    Got the same offering today. Nice plaque award from who know who is this company. Promoting our business is of course important and receiving an award is nice but this smells like 4 day old fish to me. I wrote them a reponce asking who else was awarded a simalar prize locally or nationwide. I’m wondering what they will say. We were givin the ” Seattle Award in the Commercial Artists catagory” . Nice research on their part because that is what we do, BUT pretty sure no one has ever heard of this award or better yet, how did they decide I was the worthy one. Enough said. I like competition, I’m a business man and try hard, if I win then I want to know why.
    BEWARE !
    David Cates
    Maverick Specialty Contracting – Seattle WA

  • Goooodguyy

    I just got the email today.  It’s sad win a company can sell awards and it doesn’t matter if the receiving company is even a legitimate company.  We are a legitimate company and it look exciting until I did a little research on the company selling these awards.  Please take a look at our company and see why we should have awards and not pay for them http://www.palowcosthealthinsurance.com

  • justsoyaknow

    Just got my email to get awarded my “Best of 2011″ in the Painting Contractors category! Too bad my former company folded in 2009!!! haha nice try USCA

  • small business

    I’m so proud of myself for getting this award.   Since I’m the owner and only person working at my company, I think I’ll give myself a nice promotion and a big fat raise.   After all, I am “Best of 2011″.   I was having doubts about myself but the USCA sure made me feel much better.

  • Jonegordon

    Wow what a nice looking award!  I was suspicious from the start, and with a quick web search, confirmed to me that it was simply a ploy to have me buy an over-priced plaque.  Having said that, not all is lost; I did copy any paste the nice picture of the award so I can look at it anytime I need a little boost to my spirits!

  • numero uno

    Why buy their plaque when I can get my own custom made? It will be “The Worlds Best…” NO Wait… “Best in the entire universe….and I shall display it with pride!!

  • numero uno

    Besides it’s cheaper to order your own =D  http://www.plaquemaker.com/Acrylic-Standing-Order.html 

  • John

    Wow, amazing to see how long things like this can go on.  I’m glad it only took a few minutes to figure it out

  • Music Chick

    I’m so proud – we got the email today about our ‘award’!

  • tito

    It’s the American way. All kids get trophies just for showing up so there are no winners and losers. We all get a pat in the back as we ship our jobs and knowhow to China!