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Latest entry in the J-E translation Hall of Shame (1/2)
text message marketing
Image by Nemo’s great uncle
For details, view the "original" version.

Executive summary: This is what passes for the state of J-E translation in Japan. First, the text is in an Excel file. (I’ll spare the viewer the surrounding garbage.) Second, the client did not require the translator to run a spell check. (Although atrocious typing is the least of this translator’s worries.)

This morning, I received an urgent e-mail message asking if I could do a quick "proofreading" job by 18:00 JST—no mention of word count, file format, subject matter, etc.

Two hours later, when I finally got the file and opened it, all the red squiggles made me seasick. Here they were asking me to fix up a hopelessly botched translation for the fee that I would have to charge for just the time taken to spell-check this nonsense!

"No way!" was my answer. I don’t have time to waste with non-professionals.

P.S. I work for marketing departments, not engineers who say "just translate the words." My mission is selling semiconductors, so my first piece advice to my clients is "Cut the crap!" The people making the purchasing decisions are native English speakers, not the self-important Japanese checkers whose primarily goal is preserving Japanese syntax, Japanese word order, Japanese logic, and all the other irrelevant stuff. In programming, we call that thinking "garbage in, garbage out" (GIGO).

PriceRitePhotos Supposed “Out of Stock” Camera
text message marketing
Image by Thomas Hawk
Yesterday I posted an image here for my article on the abusive sales practices taking place at PriceRitePhoto in New York. Interestingly enough, the camera that two days ago they told me was "out of stock" when I refused to buy their overpriced accesories is still showing even with today’s date on their website.

As an update to my photo from Tuesday, since then here is what has gone on with the attention that this story has received:

Update #1: Found this text on their eBay store ad: "We guarantee our customers to have the best quality products and the best customer service! Our customers love us for our friendly attitude, buy with confidence!"

This just makes me sick. If you want to Digg this story you can here.

Update #2: Well I just received a call back from Steve Phillips at PriceRitePhoto. He said that I should be expecting a call from the "FBI" shortly and that "my tactics" of flooding his store’s phone lines was "illegal." When I asked him to hold on as I wanted to turn on my recorder to record our conversation he hung up on me.

Of course I have not called his store at all but I’d imagine that the attention that his abuse has recieved from Digg and other places on the internet may have something to do with that.

My boss did have a conversation with me about the fact that this guy called him yesterday and was very understanding about the situation.

Update #3: Also since calling my boss, Steve Phillips has called my boss’ assistant several times this morning as well. Contrary to Steve Phillips claims, I still have had no police officers show up at my office to "arrest me." Nor have I been contacted by the "FBI."

Last night when I called AMEX it appeared that PriceRitePhoto had not charged my card yet. My guess is that when I refused to buy their high priced accessories that they never had any intention of sending me the camera at their advertised price. I blocked the card with AMEX and will be getting a new number to prevent them from further abusing my credit card.

I have also filed a complaint with the New York Attorney General’s office regarding their behavior and have left negative reviews on my experience with their company on most of the shopping comparison services that they are included in. Hopefully from the attention that this story has received they will reflect on the appropriateness of their sales tactics going forward.

If anyone has a contact at Yahoo! Shopping it would be nice to learn from them that they were being delisted or at least investigated over this.

Interestingly enough, it was just two weeks back that Yahoo! made an announcement about an overhaul to their shopping service. It would seem that they plan to include more social networking type reviews on products and vendors in the future. Hopefully whatever new system they put in place will help weed out the bad apples like PriceRitePhoto.

Of course even as late as today, they still have the camera that they told me as out of stock on their internet site for sale for ,899.

Update #4: Received this email back from the New York State Attorney General’s Office today: "Dear Consumer:

Thank you for your submission to the New York State Attorney General’s Internet Bureau. On behalf of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, I want to thank you for taking the time to alert us to this matter. Your assistance is vital to our efforts to serve the people of the State of New York.

We have added your submission to our files. It is through complaints such as yours that we learn of patterns of fraud and illegality. If you have any questions about this matter, please call us at (212) 416-8433. For other consumer-related matters, please call our consumer hotline at (800) 771-7755.

Thank you for contacting us."

Update #5: Thanks to a complaint by Digg User loker269, PriceGrabber has now delisted PriceRitePhoto. Nice to see PriceGrabber do the responsible thing here.

Update #6: This story has risen to the number one dugg story on Digg this year with 5439 diggs so far today. Thanks diggers!

I also received this email today from Joe Lazarus, Director of Marketing for Yahoo! Inc.: "Tom, I wanted to follow up on a comment I added to your post on PriceRitePhoto. I work at Yahoo! Shopping. I passed your issue along to our Customer Care team who will investigate and take the appropriate action per our merchant Guidelines and Terms of Service. I covered some more details in my comment. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions. ~ Joe"

Update #7: This story just made the front page of Slashdot. It was also on Boing Boing and Metafilter today along with many, many other blogs. I truly hope that this attention shines a light on the abusive bait and switch tactics that so many of you have also unfortunately experienced and shared in your comments.

The support is overwhelming and very much appreciated. And, yes, yes, yes, I do know that I was stupid and should have known better and done my homework before buying from these guys — but that doesn’t negate the fact that their sales tactics are wrong and deserve to be stopped.

Update #8: Although I have not heard directly back from Yahoo! or their Marketing Director Joe Lazarus. It would appear at least that for the time being, today, PriceRitePhoto is not operating on Yahoo! Shopping. They are still listed as a mechant there and there is a link to their store but when you do a search by their store for products for sale through Yahoo! you get the following message: "We didn’t find any product results for mid:1016578." I’m not sure if Yahoo! pulled their listings or if PriceRitePhoto did or if that is just part of what happens when Yahoo! investigates a company. I hope that if after investigating Yahoo! concludes that this company is acting unethically that they will in fact delist them altogether. I will update as I hear more on this.

Also, fortunately, my server has held up remarkedbly well with all of the traffic being sent to this story from the above sources. I recently had to move from a shared server to a dedicated server with lots of excess capacity because I’ve had many highly ranked Google Images that had been eating through my bandwidth in the past. Also it helps keep my bandwidth usage down as the photos that are included as part of this story are actually hosted by Flickr my favorite site on the internet and as I oft like to repeat, "almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world." Ironically, of course in all of this, Flickr is owned by Yahoo!

Below is an image of the company’s website this morning. As you can see, the camera that was supposedly "out of stock" when I refused to purchase their high priced accessories is still being shown for sale at the ,899 price even still today. I suspect that they do actually have the camera in stock but that they only sell it to those who load up on expensive accessories and warranty plans from them.

Spreading the Gospel of Robot Love
text message marketing
Image by Thomas Hawk
Well it’s not every day that you run into a full bore robot marketing contingent in the middle of downtown San Francisco, but that’s exactly what happened to me today. While out for lunch I ran smack dab into four robot lab babes, a giant robot and some marketing type guy that was directing them on what to do and negotiating with the pedal taxi guy about how much it would cost to drive them around downtown.

I suppose if we’re all skipping advertising on our TiVo’s, dumping radio and its advertising for podcasts and mp3s and never, ever, ever clicking on Google AdSense ads or opening spam email (right?) then it takes something really remarkable to get our attention. I wrote a while back about Starbuck’s coffee on the roof trick gimmick, but, this, a robot and robot babes in downtown San Francisco? Very geeky, very cool.

So the gimmick. Well, they want you to text message the word robot to 72237. I did it and got the following message back: "Welcome 2 Ratchet & Clank’s mobile club. Reply YES 2 join & enter 2 win a PS2 or the new Ratchet Deadlocked game. Reply Stop to end. Std msg rates apply.

Alright, so I’ll bite.

And I got back this: "Congrats on joining the Team! Get the latest updates @ www.dreadzonetv.com/. You’ve been entered to win a PS2. Visit www.robotfriends.com/ for official rules. There doesn’t seem to be anything up at robotfriends.com yet.

Oops, I hope I just didn’t sign up for something I’ll need to cancel later or give text message address out to some spammer. Oh well. They got my attention I guess but then again it’s not every day that blue haired babes will sit still for me in downtown San Francisco and let me shoot away to my heart’s content.