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We got a takedown notice from LifeShield for our positive review (pskl.us)
225 points by adulau on May 14, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 81 comments



LifeShield is a horrible company.

They've been a horrible company ever since their name changed from "InGrid". I originally purchased my system when they were InGrid about 6 years ago.

When I bought my system, it was advertised that the system would work with or without monitoring, which was a huge selling point for me. I wasn't sure if I really cared about the monitoring or not, since alerts go directly to your phone, email, etc. With those kinds of alerts, who needs someone else to call the cops for you?

Anyway, so I invested in the system mostly for this reason. The InGrid site was great and the support staff was friendly and helpful - I always ended up talking to the same person and it was a nice experience. So I dumped a good $600 into sensors, cameras, etc.

Fast-forward a few years and InGrid changes their name to LifeShield - I don't know if this was an acquisition or a brand change or what, but it brought on a slew of bad experiences. The support staff started sounding cold and uninterested. The website started going to shit, it was impossible to find things (try finding the online control panel to your system - that thing has changed URLs / names at least 5 times).

But the two worst things: a few months ago, they raised my monitoring rates with no notification whatsoever. I saw my monthly charge come in $5 higher than it used to be. Obviously not a ton of money but I'd like to know why I'm paying $60 more per year for the exact same service. I called them up and they said "Well our rates are now different for those who aren't on a contract with us. If you'd like to go back to your normal rate, you'll need to sign a 3-year contract with us." What, The, Fuck. I don't want a contract, especially not with a company who randomly decides to raise rates of their longest customers without notification.

So I decided to shut off the system monitoring. When I did so, to my horror I found that the entire system was bricked. The control panel says "Not Activated". They've once again fucked me, going back on their original statement that the hardware would work without monitoring.

So I'm done with them. They're a shitty company who's gone down the toilet over the past few years.

From the article here one of the LifeShield reps said they took a huge hit to their business because of some random clone on the web... that's probably bullshit. They're taking a huge hit to their business because of their shady business practices and lackluster product offerings.


To add to LifeShield's shady practices, it looks like most of their Twitter followers are spam accounts that they've created to boost their followers: https://twitter.com/#!/lshomesecurity/followers

Every follower has no bio, around 10-15 "follows" and about 1,500-1,800 followers. All generic photos, generic usernames, names, etc.

What a fucking joke this company is.


Using Google's search by image I found every follower's picture I tested to be fake.

One of them is even Miss World from 1994:

https://twitter.com/#!/Darbyko3

https://twitter.com/#!/aishwaryarai


You are correct, sir: http://i.imgur.com/Ytf9b.png

EDIT: The flat lines are the fake followers..


Mind sharing the code that generated this?

I am not the only person on HN who might like to have a way to examine real/presumedfake follower ratios for any number of reasons.


I would setup a webservice for it, but Twitter's API only allows 300 queries per hour. Just get the list of follower IDs via the API, sort them, then plot the deltas between each ID.

Most Twitter follower networks registered thousands of Twitter accounts in a quick, automated fashion, making their entire list of Twitter ID's almost sequential. The plot shows the deltas of the Twitter IDs from 0 to the highest ID.

What's even more amusing is that, once you've identified a network, you can deduce the entire list of their clients by what users the network already follows.

Part of me wonders why Twitter doesn't just nuke the follower networks, since they are so easy to identify. But, on the other hand, it's almost comical looking at no-name Twitter users with tens of thousands of followers. There is no way to force a Twitter network to unfollow them, so they are stuck with the fake followers and all of the embarrassment that comes along with it.

Though, the scary part is that one can attack an adversary by buying up 25K Twitter followers for them for a pretty insignificant price (maybe $100).


> Though, the scary part is that one can attack an adversary by buying up 25K Twitter followers for them for a pretty insignificant price (maybe $100).

If that kind of attack became well-known, the next logical step would be that a smart company buys some fake followers, then protests against it as though to imply that one of their competitors did so.

Slandering a rival while reaping additional followers (though fake...) seems like a win-win.


Ha, awesome.


Wow, thanks Nick, that is an amazing note about the fake Twitter accounts.

The fast majority of them have profiles photos of attractive young women and teens and are otherwise indistinguishable as you point out. Except there is a high incidence of very unusual names, such as if the fake accounts were created using a seeding list of all names without distinction to actual usage frequency. Also lots of ethnicity mismatches between surnames and photos. Another tell of course is its usually older people who buy home security packages, and most followers are teen girls and young adult women.

This is so shady, and so interesting that it is a "security company" doing this, one has to wonder what else they are doing.


So basically, Lifeshield are paying someone to do really dodgy SEO and twitEO. They did their Google SEO then got fu*ked by it, so they started a dmca take down of all the left over sites that had fake link backs.

Now they just need their twitter follower network shutdown.


Here's the likely real story: LifeShield bought tens of thousands of links to improve their SEO (made sense on a 6-basis, less sense on a 2-3 year basis) and got hit hard by a recent update.

I helped a company a few years ago that had paid a consultant to purchase tens of thousands of links. The way they did it was by buying one of three slots on a few different freely-downloadable wordpress and forum themes.

The problem with buying links like this is that once they're purchased, they are out of your control (buying links is pretty much always a bad idea, but 10x more so like this).

Yes, competitors could have bought tens of thousands of links, but let's apply Occam's Razor here:

- Did an angry competitor spends a ton of money on the off chance that they can swamp LifeShield an SEO penalty (risky - could go the other way)

OR

- Did a company that has purchased tons of spammy Twitter followers (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3970998) and pay referral fees to people who review their products (and link to them) also buy tons of spammy links?


Thank you for being the one to toss this out there... I also feel this is a strong possibility but I didn't want to be the one to say it.


The home security industry is, in general, horribly manipulative. They make money on fear and customer lock-in (subscriptions). As such there appears to be little pressure to adopt advances in tech, to cost-reduce, or to make things easy and friendy for end-users. The systems are complex and baroque, and there is a reason for it.

There's probably room for disruption here. I imagine a lot of the roadblocks to this will be regulatory, such as if you integrate fire alarm systems or devices that are hooked to phone lines.

The two weekends I spent wiping, reverse-engineering and reconfiguring an old ADT installation really made me want to design boards and write firmware again.


"probably room for disruption here. I imagine a lot of the roadblocks to this will be regulatory"

Sensors --> Control Panel --> App|Txt Message

An opportunity for sure. I own two of these Elk Gold Panels:

http://www.elkproducts.com/product-catalog/m1-gold-cross-pla...

Complete with http://www.ekeypad.net/eK_Family/Applications.html software you can essentially cut out the online monitoring and phone lines and simply do everything over the internet. So I don't pay anything for monitoring.

You could actually easily write your own software since the M1 spits out codes in real time and responds to commands that you can send over ssh. Anyway the way I have this setup I can be notified of any event (say even someone walks into and trips a motion sensor) by an email or text message. You could even do a phone call or notify multiple people. And you can remotely turn on and turn off zones, the system, and fully program this to do just about anything.

There isn't anything magical Elk is doing. And I've spoken to their top tech guy and he didn't even know how to troubleshoot an SMTP problem. I would imagine a good kickstarter project could easily duplicate the same hardware functionality.

The security vendor of course pushed the monitoring. I have some experience in that business so I didn't feel that I needed a central station. I just wanted to be notified. You can easily integrate any types of controllers with this (like an X10) and video cameras etc.

Bottom line: There are tons of people with legacy alarm systems. Even just a hardware device that sat on the existing analog POTS line and sent the signals over the Internet to a place that would then send a txt message to a users phone would be a good place to start.


+1 on the Elk M1 Gold. If you're a hacker, you should definitely buy the haker's security system. You can then choose what kind of monitoring you'd like. I go with a local independent security monitoring company that costs about $8 per month. You can also set it up for self-monitoring. I wrote a review of the Elk M1 a while back: http://www.osnews.com/story/22206/Building_the_Wired_Home_El...


Great article. I ended up having to buy a laptop PC because you can't run the Elk software for config on a Mac under boot camp etc.

One thing to point out to anyone using a security company to install this. My installer left the system password less and you could telnet into it. In his mind he thought he had secured it. Simply going outside our network and using telnet you could get right in though which is how I checked what he said (he didn't know enough to do that). I'd imagine there are quite a few of these open ports right now out there.


The reason these systems are so awful is that the home security companies out there are basically sales and distribution organizations. They don't understand product, they don't get tech, but there aren't any alternatives out there right now, so they keep generating massive profits. And their distribution channel (sending professional installers out to your home) reinforces the whole problem - they need pricey contracts to recoup the cost of installation, and upgrading customers costs them thousands of dollars.

There's definitely room for disruption here, and that's exactly what we're trying to do at elarm (http://elarm.com). (PS - we're hiring)


Good luck. I'd be happy to see the likes of Ademco / Honeywell clobbered, hard :-)


It was an interesting article until near the end when the author dropped that he was angry because this other company wasn't paying him referral fees they promised in exchange for his good reviews of their product, which from some of the discussion here sounds like there is a consensus is bad products. This suggests that the reviewer was writing false reviews because doing so earned him money, and recasts the rest of the article into the category of "two con artists trying to out con each other".


Comments like this are always particularly frustrating to me, as it suggests that you did not actually read the article, and are now trying to prevent others from reading it based on your impression.

The company had a referral system in place such that 5 referrals meant the referrer obtained free LifeShield monitoring for life. Why would someone slant a review such that they could get a bad product for free?

It was much later that LifeShield announced a new program that gave $150 for each referral; this was a good while after the review of the product.


Your comment is frustrating to me also as it is obvious that I did read the entire article.


It's a conflict of interest since a more favorable review leads to more referrals.


See below: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3971061 As it said in the post, the review existed when there was no referral program in place...I answered questions and helped current customers during this time because I like the product and I genuinely wanted the company to succeed. There was never a "promise in exchange for good reviews."


Here you say "the review existed when there was no referral program in place"

In your article you say, "reviews of the LifeShield products and services (March, 2010), they had a referral system in place. If I got 5 referrals, I’d get free security system monitoring for life. They provided a link to give to possible customers. I used it all over my reviews. I personally knew 3 parties that had purchased systems via my referral link, but I figured there were more that I didn’t know about..."

The article clearly does not support the new claim that "the review existed when there was no referral program in place".


You clearly have reading comprehension issues. From the blog post: "At that point, the referral system became useless to me so I removed the links and just left the review stand. I updated it from time to time and answered any questions people posted as comments or emailed to me. I was grateful for a product I really like and for the free monitoring."


Thank you for your reply. Your responses here are consistent with the ethics displayed in your articles.

I strongly recommend your article for detailed reading by anyone who feels that anything I have said misrepresents the situation as you are stating.


Exactly! I literally stopped reading right there.


Wow, I had no idea that you could pay someone to put in bogus links to a competitor in order to cause Google to penalize their page ranking. That's pretty shady but is it a "all is fair in love and war" type thing or is someone going to do something about this? I can totally see an organization pressuring people for pay-offs to "protect" them from certain sites.

Is this already happening?


Although Matt Cutts claims that this is an algorithm change and does not involve any human review of individual websites - this is not true. They went after specific guys who sold links on their splog farms, but those who didn't are up and running. A lot of people who hired "SEO experts" were burned just because the expertise of those "experts" was buying links on said splog farms.

The thing is that google's algorithm looks like this (http://imgur.com/XxhZg) and the real "SEO experts", the black hat guys, run circles around it. If you doubt that just look at the results of your search queries. See any spam?

I've built a blog in 2005 which I basically abandoned in 2007. That blog was scraped and its content republished by a few BH guys who didn't bothered to remove links pointing to my original blog which resulted that today my blog has over 75% of its links coming from the splog farms. I'm not talking about a few links here and there. I have over 40000 of those and yet I have no warnings in GWMT and the blog ranks #1 for its main keyword.

If you're running an online business avoid hiring "SEO experts", they are not just useless they are dangerous.

So, how can you get hurt by some asshole?

First, he can buy links on the splog farms already penalized by google. Second, he can create extremely transparent splog farm and link to your site. (by transparent I mean autogen content, no keyword variations in anchor text, trackback spam, ...) Third, he can just "xrumer blast" you out of google index.

I believe that the approach google took recently will get a lot of small business (and webmasters) hurt, but it will have almost no effect on black hatters. Why? Because, with all being said and done, the only thing that really counts in SEO is the number of links and the BH guys are masters at creating those. (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_bomb)

Google screwed it up big time by making negative SEO possible, but I doubt they'll change their approach. I doubt that they even care about it.


Would it be possible to give google negative SEO? If you could they might look into the issue


No, I don't think so.

They have so many links from various sources that any effort at generating enough "bad links" would be virtually unnoticeable. Other than that, they don't care about their rankings. I mean, would you go to google.com (or bing.com) to find a search engine by typing "search engine"?

You can have a few laughs by doing a google bomb, but that's it. You can't hurt google with negative SEO.


> look at the results of your search queries. See any spam?

Not in my queries, no.


I'll bet you don't even realize it's spam. Do a search for something like 'water heater reviews' and several of those links on the front page will ultimately send you to an affiliate site or zip submit. Spam.


> I'll bet you don't even realize it's spam.

This is so condescending it's amazing. You're calling me an idiot, you know that, right?


@silverbax88 - exactly!

No matter how well designed or "active" websites may appear, if its only function is to send you to some affiliate offer - it's spam. The best of them are very good at faking legit websites (even having an active "community" engaged in "discussion"). They are extremely good at faking normal human activity and I don't see the end to it. There's virtually nothing you can do that a script can't do also.


>if its only function is to send you to some affiliate offer - it's spam //

I don't think this definition is quite right.

A site can be good and still have as its raison d'etre referring you to a product manufacturer. After all any sales website is doing the same thing, there's just a certain distance between affiliate sites and the manufacturer.

Don't get me wrong, a lot of affiliate sites are bogus, unhelpful and given unwarranted prevalence in SERPs; but that doesn't make them all bad. For example in the UK there are sites that offer money back on all purchases - they're affiliate sites that share the affiliate fee with the purchaser.


Monetizing your website with affiliate offers doesn't make it spam. Having no other purpose than to redirect a visitor to an offer - does. Especially if you use less than lilly white SEO techniques. Here's a nice way to put it:

Google believes that pure affiliate websites do not provide additional value for web users, especially if they are part of a program that distributes its content to several hundred affiliates. Because a search result could return multiple sites, all with the same content, they create a frustrating user experience.

And here's the rest of it: http://bit.ly/KWS1cz

>For example in the UK there are sites that offer money back on all purchases

I don't see the relevance.


>I don't see the relevance. //

The only purpose of those sites is to get you to follow affiliate links.

Were you trying to refer to some sort of passthrough short-linking system or something?


I was about to say the same thing. I haven't noticed any spam in my Google search results for a while. If anything, there's less now than there used to be.


It's called "negative seo" and it does appear to be an effective way to blast people out of Google's top results. Here's a comment I found from someone else who's experienced this: http://www.seobook.com/negative-seo-outing#45906


For more on the subject, SEOmoz did a Whiteboard Friday on negative SEO a few weeks ago:

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/negative-seo-myths-realities-and-...


I'm reading the transcript of the video and he talks about a form of attack where fake emails are sent from spoofy addresses demanding positive review takedowns and making legal threats. I wonder if that's a possible explanation of the life shield email he got.

In the seomoz article find "It's even more terrifying, but they sent fake emails" to get to the relevant part.


Google has always denied that this is possible. The recent coverage on negative SEO seems to show otherwise.


Indeed. AFAIK, Google made some subtle changes to their guidelines that say otherwise - link: http://www.hobo-web.co.uk/negative-seo/


That's pretty shady but is it a "all is fair in love and war" type thing or is someone going to do something about this?

I would bet this is some kind of business tort -- unfair competition, interference with potential business relationships, commercial disparagement, something along those lines. I don't have any particular knowledge in this area, but intuitively, it's too shady to be legal -- it's like taking out embarrassing ads in your competitor's name or something. Not a normal part of business competition. (A good rule of thumb -- if it were legal, would people be doing it?) Maybe you could even get to trademark infringement, if you argued that the bogus links are a false claim that the company itself is doing something it isn't doing -- like if I distributed swastikas with my competitor's logo and phone number on them, I can imagine that being some kind of trademark tort.

That doesn't mean you can prove it. It would be interesting trying to dig up the evidence, especially if the blackhat intermediaries are in an awkward jurisdiction, and then prove how much impact it had on your business. But I bet it could be done. (Like others, I'm skeptical that that's really what happened in this particular case. But who knows ...)

As a reminder, I am not your lawyer or your mother. Take those elbows off the table, young man.


years ago in the poker business this happened quite often.

smaller players (in the poker vertical) tried to kick out bigger players this way. we saw it, we were worried, then google took care of the "poker" vertical overall (the big "poker" shake up of 2009).

i would personally just report it to google. if i would not get a response via the "reconsideration request" i would fly to one of the SEO conferences and talk with one of the google spam guys there. would be a much better option than sending idiotic threatening letters to random websites.


It's funny in a discussion of ethics to end with a sidenote about how the author wasn't making any money off paid referrals from his (inflated?) positive review of the system.


I can see how you'd think that, but I thought it should be included (because it lends more to the story of how they are being shady). The way I see it, we entered into an agreement with the referral program. They didn't honor their side of it. That's unethical. As for the review itself, I made it very, very clear that my links were referral links. I also made it clear that I was benefiting from the referrals (this was true of both of the referral programs). People could choose to believe that I was being honest or choose to believe that I was a shill. No trickery involved.


I do appreciate that. It's just that I, as a rule of thumb, take reviews from stakeholders with a grain of salt.


As do I :)


Is there anything in his post that would suggest the review is inflated? The nature of their referral system [0] is that it's opt-in, not like an Amazon affiliate link, so he's certainly not hiding his interest.

[0] http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=353


I have a question...

Doesn't this (without a disclosure) violate the FTC's new rules about endorsements/testimonials in advertising?


I understand that LifeShield may not be a popular company, and that their rep was totally in the wrong in this matter. But the level of outrage shown by Jeremy is just ludicrous. They apologized several times over and explained that they were dealing with cranking out a job under extremely tight deadlines (something we should all be familiar with) and managed to screw up.

The 4-5 instances of apologies, retraction of threat, and admittance of error should have been enough. But it seems like OP felt so entitled to being treated like a 5-star customer that he had to complain till he was spent.


Sorry if I didn't make this clear in the blog post, but the part I'm most upset about is not that I got the takedown notices... it's that they are using bogus takedown notices at all. Read the emails between me and the "SVP Interactive" at LifeShield and also with the rep from the IP Protection company (who admits that I'm right, the takedowns are bogus). I'm not whining about being inconvenienced.

Oh, and it isn't that they "managed to screw up" ... they completely own up to what they've done (and continue to do). They know it's wrong, but decided to keep doing it because it was getting results. All this was covered in the blog post.

Also, I'm nowhere near spent.


Why don't you just copy the EFF into your emails?

(https://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal/liability/IP)


We did submit the text of the takedown notice to chillingeffects.org fwiw


It was not about the apologies but about the business practices that continued unabated. What good is apologizing for beating someone on the head if you continue to kick him in the shins?


Agree. Jeremy you had a very valid complaint. They apologized profusely and explained thier issues. But then you went on an on until it was clear that you were not really seeking a resolution.



If you get a collection notice on an account that's payed off and you call the bank and they immediately say "we're very sorry, that letter was a mistake and your accounts are all in good standing, you can ignore that letter" do you keep calling and calling the bank demanding something more? What do you expect to get out of it?

They got seriously screwed over with negative seo. I'm not even sure how else you would get your site unlisted from a bunch of splog farms, that sounds like a nightmare to me. So they paid a lawyer to help clean it up, what's the big deal? Why are you giving them such a hard time?

From the sound of the replies here, I probably wouldn't even like this company but still I'd cut them some slack.


A commenter already mention this. Lots of companies got hit really hard from the Penguin update because of bad links pointing to them. So I'm not surprised they're being overly aggressive about this.

Speaking of the Penguin update, I'm surprised and quite disappointed it hasn't been talked about in HN. It affects a lot of consumer web startups. Anyone who has a website basically should be concerned.


I'm not concerned, I'm happy. Google are penalising junk websites.


Yes, and in the process also taking out innocent websites as well. This isn't an algorithm update against "bad" websites. It's an algorithm update that negatively affects websites that fit a certain pattern - and you can fit that pattern without even being shady.

For example, if someone doing negative SEO by blasting 10,000 bad, spammy links pointing to your website - the penguin update penalizes your site. Even if your site is about helping cancer patients, or feeding Africa.


No, anyone can create a "junk website" and point a bunch of links to your legitimate website and get you docked. That should be concerning to you.


I've seen it mentioned in the Terms of Use of certain companies (thinking Fox.com) that people are not allowed to link to the company website going back to the 90s, but I've never actually seen anyone try to enforce that.

I don't know whether I find it scary or hilarious.

eta: the Fox terms haven't changed much: "If you are interested in creating hypertext links to the Site, you must contact Company at terms@fox.com before doing so."


There have been some UK cases about embedding other people's content in frames and deep linking.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_linking)


Does the white font on black background mixed with the opposite style in the quotes hurt anyone else's eyes? I'm seeing ghosts now.


No, that's my preferred kind of text. It's a relief to read a site like that, most aren't so kind to my eyes.

The reverse colors of quotes is very easy to understand (although if it was me I would have used white text with a slightly gray background and a white border).

If you are seeing ghosts your monitor may be too bright for the amount of light in the room around you.


Sorry about that, we've been meaning to update the look of pskl.us for quite a while and we just haven't gotten around to it.


its absolutely hideous and unreadable to me for any length of time - Salon.com recently did something similar on a redesign of their site. I go there much less now.


Indeed, it should've been all white on black.


you are not alone


I'm a little bit concerned about the moral hazard of a reviewer who can earn money from referrals after posting a product review.


Yes. There's good reason that actual journalists don't take money from review subjects.


Based on the fact that his review was using a referral link (mentioned at the end) I wouldn't be surprised the 700k "bad links" were probably doing the same for similar reasons. Google likely regarded most of their backlinks as affiliate spam. This sounds fishy from every angle


To me the scary part is that links might be unwanted because of search engine penalties. Since social connections probably factor into those, you can become a pariah rather quickly - nobody wants your links, and nobody will link to you -> vicious circle.


> When I originally wrote my reviews of the LifeShield products and services (March, 2010), they had a referral system in place. If I got 5 referrals, I’d get free security system monitoring for life. They provided a link to give to possible customers. I used it all over my reviews.

I don't understand how you can complain about unethical business practices in the same post that you admit to this.


"Admit to this" as if sales commissions are something shady?

> I made it very, very clear that my links were referral links. I also made it clear that I was benefiting from the referrals (this was true of both of the referral programs). People could choose to believe that I was being honest or choose to believe that I was a shill. No trickery involved.


It's interesting but mysterious that you would bring up sales commissions here as that is a very different scenario.

(A)

I go to the Ford dealer to buy a truck. The salesman, Frank, is on commission. He tells me that Fords are the best trucks and when I ask about Dodge, he says their trucks are badly designed, dangerous, and lack power.

(B)

I then go to the Dodge dealer to buy a truck. The salesman, Don, is on commission. He tells me that Dodges are the best trucks and when I ask about Ford, he says their trucks are badly designed, dangerous, and lack power.

(C)

I then check in with someone who is a truck expert, Tom. He points out that one of the brands is much better than the other based on his personal experiences.

What is the difference between A, B and C? Are one's expectations about the objectivity of the data different between an interaction with Frank and Don who are clearly identified themselves as professional sales agents whose primary vocation is profiting from each sale that they negotiate with a customer? What are the expectations here and how are they different with a customer getting information from an independent reviewer versus a salesperson who is known not to be an impartial and independent reviewer?

What would the response be of most people, after buying Brand T of truck, and finding it to be a lemon, to discovering that impartial expert Tom was actually receiving commissions or free products from the company or companies whose products he recommended?

What I am saying here is not mysterious or bizarre feats of stretching reasoning to its limits, but just absolute common sense that everyone is familiar with. People know that a salesman working professionally at a car dealer is not an unbiased source of information. No one is completely shocked when it turns out he exaggerated or flat out lied to get his commission, for unethical behavior for profit is common in the sales avocation. This is why people turn to independent, impartial reviewers, and expect them to have actual experience with the product, to voice their true opinion, and not to be receiving kickbacks, presents, or special considerations from the company's whose products they review.


Straw-man straw-man straw-man. Jeremy disclosed his relationship with the company, on the reviews and personally by e-mail with each and every referral. "Tom" did not.

There's nothing unethical about this. There's no mystery here.

We don't shun realtors as unethical when they recommend a mortgage broker to get you prequalified with, a contractor for a home inspection, etc. that are no doubt paying them referral fees.

We even purposely go to independent agents to shop around for insurance policies, when we know they're compensated purely by their commissions from the companies they'll place you with. There are 40,000 independent insurance agencies in the US -- that are in business because people specifically turn to them for advice while EXPECTING them to receive kickbacks from the companies they're giving advice on.

We also read reviews in magazines containing ads by the companies being reviewed. We watch news coverage on channels running ads by the companies talked about in the news. There are clearly other ways to establish reputation and trust than separating yourself from compensation.


Affiliate links and supposedly objective reviews do not mix well.




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