Also, You Have Not Been Exclusively Selected to Receive This Offer

by Kieran Healy on November 12, 2008 User Sues; Schoolmates Weren’t Really Looking for Him“, reports Wired:

When told user Anthony Michaels last Christmas Eve that his former school chums were trying to contact him, he pulled out his wallet and upgraded to the premium membership that would let him contact long-lost fifth-grade dodge-ball buddies and see if his secret crush from high school had looked him up online. But once he’d parted with the $15, Michaels learned the shocking truth: No one he knew was trying to contact him at all.’s come-on was a lie, and he’d been scammed. … “Upon logging into his Gold Membership profile in order to view the classmate contacts … Plaintiff discovered that in fact, no former classmate of his had tried to contact him or view his profile,” the complaint reads. “Of those users who were characterized … as members who viewed Plaintiff’s profile, none were former classmates of Plaintiff or persons familiar with or known to Plaintiff for that matter.”




HH 11.12.08 at 11:45 pm

What a loser! If Michaels had only purchased the $999 Platinum Plus MegaDude package, he could have photoshopped his yearbook picture, performed with Elvis, and had virtual sex with the prom queen.


Laleh 11.13.08 at 12:04 am

There is a kind of smug knowingness both in the post and in the first comment response to it. Good for y’all for being so internet savvy! You won’t be falling for such scams then.


Barry 11.13.08 at 1:35 am

I got hit by such a fake come-on from Yahoo! Personals. I went in for the free part, and shortly thereafter was contacted by somebody. I had to upgrade to paid to reply, did so, and never got an answer. $80.


John Quiggin 11.13.08 at 2:28 am

I’ve always been struck by the willingness of companies like this to make such implausible claims without apparent concern for the legal implications. I’ve wondered why no-one took up the offer and then sued them, but I’ve been too lazy myself and supposed that others were also.


HH 11.13.08 at 2:40 am personal salvation services monthly subscription pricing(*):

Serenity: $9.95
Minor notoriety: $19.95
Major hipster: $39.95
Universal recognition and esteem: $59.95
Demigod powers: $79.95
Transcendence: $99.95

Be all you can’t be: let be your salvation.

* Automatically recurring monthly billing unless cancelled by salvation subscriber


JRoth 11.13.08 at 3:01 am

to make such implausible claims without apparent concern for the legal implications.

Well that’s the thing – it’s not implausible at all. It’s not worth it to me to maintain a paid membership in, but it was useful as heck when I tracked down my HS girlfriend (no stalking – we had just lost touch over ~10 years, and I wanted to get back in touch. We talk on the phone every few months, about our respective happy families). If they told me that someone was trying to get in touch with me, I would assume they weren’t lying, and probably pony up $15 (not a big number) to find out if it was one of the ~5 people from HS I’d care to hear from. And I’d be really pissed off it was BS, and rightly so. I don’t think it would occur to me to sue, but the whole thing about US law is that consumer protection is 99% dependent on individual action.

IOW, Anthony Michaels, loser though he may (or may not!) be, is our bulwark against scammery from a pretty legit-seeming company.


grackle 11.13.08 at 3:40 am

The Wired report reads to me like an item in The Onion.


Cougarhutch 11.13.08 at 3:55 am

(torn between minor notoriety and major hipster…)


Benjamin Mako Hill 11.13.08 at 4:14 am

Grackle: I was just going to post the same comment. Nearly word for word.


mpowell 11.13.08 at 4:36 am

This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened, from what I was understand. I heard about a lawsuit filed against Yahoo personals for not just lying to customers about potential contacts who were interested in them, but also going so far as to pay people to write them correspondence and keep them on the hook for multiple months of membership payments. Maybe someone more industrious would do some research and find out if it was true…


mpowell 11.13.08 at 4:38 am


lemuel pitkin 11.13.08 at 5:49 am

MPowell, I believe the suit you are talking about was against Match . com, not Yahoo. Article. Wikipedia says the suit was dropped, tho, for whatever that’s worth.

I can’t imagine how it would be a cost-effective business model.


a 11.13.08 at 6:26 am

Good for him. Sue the daylights out of the scum.


Charles S 11.13.08 at 6:39 am


It seems like you could pay someone $1/hour in India or China to maintain less than once a day email contact with probably 10 people an hour, so 80 people/8 hour day, repeating contact every two days = 160 people at a $20/month = $3200 inflow for $8/day * 30 days = $2400 outflow, for a monthly profit of 33%.

There’s a lot of slop in that rough guess, but it certainly looks like it could be profitable.


Michael Turner 11.13.08 at 7:34 am

I remember somewhere around the peak of the dot-com frenzy, somebody (was it from razorfish?) gave a presentation to a webbie group here in Tokyo. He kept using the word “monetize”, as in “monetize the users.” Finally, partly because I hated the way he’d braided his wispy little beard or something, I asked, “Do you mean, ‘make money off of'”?

In trying to frame his reply, his facial muscles began to pull so hard in opposing directions that I began to worry for him, and finally said, “Forget it.” I’d been planning to wonkishly engage him, mind-to-mind, on the question of whether “monetize” wouldn’t more properly be construed as “turn into a form of currency, for purposes of trade.” Then I realized he didn’t know his own mind, and was afraid I’d also get lost in his if I ventured in.

In retrospect, that latter sense of “monetize” might be closer to the mark, since we’ve seen a lot of “monetization” attempts fall flat with users. Companies trade your online identity info around, acquired in hopes it’ll be worth more someday. And maybe we’ve had derivatives — and derivatives of derivatives — for those currencies for a while now. Note that a lot of dot-com M&A activity was of the stock-swap variety. Yahoo’s stock-only purchase of eGroups, for example — they were buying access to users, as the coin of some ghostly realm. At more reasonable valuations of Yahoo stock, eGroup’s price wasn’t as gobsmackingly exorbitant as it seemed at the time.

Similar behavior about users and “eyeballs” persists even recently. It’s not quite right to say, for example, that Google bought YouTube for a billion dollars or whatever the quoted figure was. Google handed over Google stock (or options on such stock) to YouTube. Look at Google stock today. Do we say now that Google bought YouTube for half a billion dollars, not a billion, because of that drop in valuation while most of the options were still not fully vested? What if Google stock halves again? No, this is all more like swings in the values of currencies against each other.

Maybe in the future, instead of 15 minutes of fame each, we’ll all have 15 individual dollar bills (but no more, you don’t want hyperinflation) each with a picture of ourselves, to issue to the Internet Ghost Economy. All of us, that is, except for the anarchists, the gold-bug libertarians, and the privacy mavens, who will wear t-shirts saying “monetize this!” (The privacy mavens will be wearing hoods as well, so that no counterfeiters can snap their pictures and issue dollars with their images.)


John Quiggin 11.13.08 at 7:41 am

I guess the Classmates one isn’t totally implausible, but Facebook is always popping up messages saying I have a secret admirer in Brisbane.


Ray 11.13.08 at 8:13 am

There was also the Rapleaf thing from last year – there was a company called ‘Upscoop’ that offered to check your online contacts and see which social networking sites they used. If you entered those contact names, they all had profiles created on Rapleaf, and got messages from Rapleaf saying their reputations had been searched there, do they want to update their profiles?


mollymooly 11.13.08 at 2:00 pm

I just found out my high school girlfriend is now a senior civil servant in Nigeria. She wants to get in touch, but her bank account has been frozen.


Secret Admirer in Brisbane 11.13.08 at 2:15 pm

Say, doesn’t that Quiggin feller blog here? I keep trying to friend him on Facebook, but he never replies.


lemuel pitkin 11.13.08 at 5:22 pm

It seems like you could pay someone $1/hour in India or China to maintain less than once a day email contact with probably 10 people an hour

Yeah but this guy claimed the Match employee actually went out on a date with him.


Jason B 11.13.08 at 8:56 pm

I just found out my high school girlfriend is now a senior civil servant in Nigeria. She wants to get in touch, but her bank account has been frozen.

Dammit! It doesn’t matter if it’s expensive beer–it hurts the sinuses!


Robin Green 11.14.08 at 10:27 am

Yeah but this guy claimed the Match employee actually went out on a date with him.

Plausible – if he had a very high traffic blog or something. Viral marketing, dontcha know.


Charles S 11.14.08 at 10:54 am

Yeah but this guy claimed the Match employee actually went out on a date with him.

Okay, as Robin says, I can see that as a serious loss leader, but you are right that it doesn’t make sense as a general business strategy. You’d have to be paying locals to fake it, which would up the cost by around an order of magnitude (unless you could pay piece rate) and make the coordination much harder, plus face to face contact adds risks.

On the other hand, one date would probably make it possible to string the sucker out for an extra month, just on the hope they’d get a second hit. Maybe if you charged $100/month for the service you could break even at $10/hour?

I think the sucker in the OP is definitely right to sue. We haven’t had any independent enforcement of false advertising laws in the US in a long time.


Charles S 11.14.08 at 10:57 am

Actually, I could see telling someone you met through a dating service who you decided you really didn’t ever want to see again that you had been paid to string them along by the dating service. It would be really mean (and I wouldn’t do it if they knew my address), but it might silence an annoying and persistent suitor.


Stark 11.15.08 at 5:08 am

When I log onto Verizon’s ‘Mobile Web’ from my cell phone there’s an ad at the top telling me I have one unread text message. The icon they use in the ad is nearly identical to the icon that appears on my phone when I actually do receive a text message and, needless to say, I too have a secret admirer in Brisbane.

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