Monday, October 6, 2008

You And Your Online Reputation

One thing that will likely live forever, somewhere on Google's servers, or on the Wayback Machine, is what you write. More importantly, though, is what other people might write about you.

Here's a case in point - photographer Steven E. Frischling, who writes the popular blog "Flying With Fish", markets himself as a corporate and editorial photographer as "FishPhotoWorldwide", and for his wedding business, as "FishPhoto". He's smart - very smart - to seperate out those two business lines. Crazy as it sounds, corporate/commercial clients won't generally hire a photographer for their work that lists "weddings" as something they do. Wrong, I know, but it's a fact of life. Steve has recognized this. He markets himself for weddings internationally using Craigslist in London, Paris, Tokyo, Boston, Sydney, Hong Kong, Dubai, and Miami. Each of those links shows you how he's promoted himself there. In fact, the Miami listing offers a 37% discount, and the DC listing offers a 44% discount off his regular rates. By his own account, he's racked up over 850,000 miles since 2005 alone. Clearly, he's been busy.

What reputation does he have on the internet? But, more importantly, is it even accurate?

(Continued after the Jump)

Since April of this year, several brides have penned unpleasant listings about him on Yelp.com, here. Are they accurate? Who knows. The Better Business Bureau website has four unresolved complaints against him here. Are those accurate? Again, no one knows. That's a bit of the negative, and people can write, post, complain, and otherwise be critical of you, and with the immediacy of the internet, it's spread everywhere - accurate or not. Now for the positive - Frischling appeared on Good Morning America (here) discussing the thefts at airports, and spends a great deal of time contributing over at a forum I read as well - FlyerTalk - which is the place where hardened travelers discuss all the nuances of travel and how to make it easier. Steve's published almost 1,000 posts there. You can check out his contributions at this link, he's fairly prolific, and he's very active over at SportsShooter.com, as seen here. So he's got positives, yes, but there are negatives that are still out there. Just as Steve needs to be attentive to them, so too should you be attentive to any that are critical of you.

All of this goes to show that what you write - helpful, critical, or otherwise, is stored in countless server dungeons around the world, and people can find it. Moreover, and more importantly, spending time locating and then correcting incorrect information is critical to maintaining a positive online reputation.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

25 comments:

flyingfish said...

John,

It is interesting that you bring this up. For the past few weeks I have been working on clearing up Yelp.com and the BBB. I fully agree with you about maintaining and following up on your online reputation.

Yelp.com has actually been quite helpful and should be removing all the information shortly. I have provided documentation to them regarding the complaints, and they have initially agreed that the complaints are factually incorrect.

The problem in some ways with the internet is the anonymity. Yelp.com contains a complaint from a bride who ran out of money, asked me to halve the pricing of my contract, and then canceled her contract shortly before her wedding when I refused to rewrite the contract. This bride demanded her 'non-refundable retainer' be returned, and I refused. Following her canceling of her contract she reversed the charges with her credit card company. Her credit card company found in my favour reinstating the funds to my account less than 24 hours after submitting my contract and a series of dated e-mails to their complaints department.

Since this series of events I have tracked down her posts and had them removed from many forums. Of course this online-complainer does not mention this in any of her posts online. This former client just rips into me because she is upset she lost her

How did this bride find me on Yelp.com? She tracked down a negative entry posted by a bride who decided she wanted to be able to choose the images in her photo album; nearly a year after the album was delivered.

When I create albums I let my brides choose approximately 10 images, from there it is all up to me. This bride never replied to my requests for her selection of images. I waited and waited and waited then when ahead and designed the book and sent it off. I heard nothing for almost year. What did I hear after nearly a year? A complaint from the BBB about her album and a complaint stating she never received her prints (which were shipped to her on the 14th of March 2007). This same bride also wrote up a negative review on Yelp.com.

This bride's primary complaint to the BBB was that she did not like her album and that she wants me to custom design a new book with images she has selected. This is not a service I offer. I expressly do not allow my brides to play a large role in the image selection of their albums. I am absolutely not redesigning and delivering an 8.5x11 20-page leather covered book to this bride. I have a number of e-mails from her telling me how much she loved her photographs. If she complained to me about the album image selection within a month of receiving the book I would have done something. But waiting a year, then contacting me through the BBB and using Yelp.com rather than dropping me an e-mail or calling me is the sign of someone who just wants something for free.

Surprisingly Yelp.com has been much easier to work with than the BBB.

Two complaints at the BBB are from non-brides. They are complaints from people I have not worked with, they are ghosts are faux-complainers. As the BBB cannot verify these complaints to ensure they have been 'resolved' they will not remove them. This has been quite frustrating.

I have been asked to show contracts and tracking information for two 'phantom' bride complaints. Despite my repeated enquiry of asking how to show documentation I didn't work with someone is becoming frustrating. The BBB shows that I didn't respond to these complaints. This is true, I have been unable to properly respond to these two complaints, but I have diligently been attempting to address these.

As for the bride who complained to the BBB about her album, I have been submitting all the information I need to in order to have that removed. I have e-mails, receipts, tracking information and order information from my print lab and album producer. Hopefully this detailed information is enough to have her unwarranted complaints removed.


So given these two websites, it appears I have 7 complaints against me. In reality I have 1.

The one complaint is from a very difficult to please bride. I have been learning to weed out the difficult (to nearly impossible) to please brides because they are extremely difficult to work with. I have made this mistake a few times in my 3 years of shooting weddings. In my first two years I did a poor job at times matching up who I am to whom I will work with. I am up front with my couples, some still move forward. I have learned to say 'No' and pass along the contract info for photogs who may be better suited to these couples and their personalities. My style is informal, my images are relaxed and overall my personality does not mesh well with 'bridezilla.'

So one complaint will stand at the end of me working to clean up these complaints.


The internet allows people to have the personality of 20 people instead of one.
I ruffle feathers. I have always ruffled feathers. I have my opinions and they can be strong. I have been known to go out on a limb or stand out in the wind and that draws attention. Some people like me and some people don't like me, that I OK.

What is not OK is that the internet allows people to become unknown attackers. I have found one wedding photographer who has gone into a popular wedding website simply to create faux brides and not only trash talk me but other photographers they feel they compete with. I have had this personls 'fake bride complaints' removed a number of times. I know quite a few other photographers who have also has this person's fake-complaints removed as well. This type of anti-marketing is unfortunately not as uncommon as many would like to believe it is. Have an argument with someone? It is easy to make up a fake e-mail address, a fake user name and log into a forum as a whole ‘new person’ and begin your assault.

Being unable to verify who your accuser is can be challenging, especially when defending yourself in front of a potential online audience of billions of readers.

For those of your readers who do not use Google Alerts they should absolutely set up an account immediately. Everyone needs to know what is being said about them and when. I was slow to use Google Alerts for certain keywords, but now have that sorted out. With Google Alerts in place I am able to move ahead in clearing up potential roadblocks in bringing in clients and be more aware of my online reputation.

-Steven Frischling

John Harrington said...

Steve --

Thanks for the commentary. It surely is a cautionary tale. I've used Google Alerts for some time - interestingly enough, the police chief of St Paul - where the RNC convention was and all the protesters were arrested - his name is John Harrington (no relation), so I get his information with my alerts.

Maintaining your reputation in this era of worldwide access to data means it's not something to be taken lightly, or to be ignored.

-- John

Kenny said...

Bravo Steven! Bravo John!

This kid, whom I don't know but have followed his career online on the forums for years has been slugging it out in the trenches and working his behind off it an example for us all IMHO.

Not only has he competed with the best in this industry, he has done so while all the snot nosed upper tier have tried to squash him at every...EVERY opportunity they can and they all know who they are.

Good for you Steven. I can't speak for anyone else but I'll start getting subscriptions to sports magazines again when they start using more of your work instead of the photographers they use, who use the name of their publication to flaunt(call us out)about how nothing we are when they have a bad day.

A simple search will find those threads too.

Integrity/Photography... I doubt it.

Kara said...

John,

I am one of the brides (Miss K) that complained about Steven on Yelp.com. As he mentioned, he tried to get my review taken off of on Yelp, but they actually wrote back and told me that after careful review, they will leave my review on Yelp.com as is. You can see that my review is still there.

I'm not sure if I'm the bride that Steven references as the one who "ran out of money" and tried to get a discount and renegotiate the contract because that is completely false. Steven was in breach of the contract. Period.

It is important for consumers like me that have had bad experiences to alert others to be careful when selecting a vendor...especially when it has to do with one of the most important days of your life. When I chose Steven to be the photographer, I actually googled him as well but didn't see any negative or positive reviews about him, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt considering he has numerous websites out there and seemed legit. The reason why I started posting reviews is so that consumers out there can at least get one person's point of view on their experience. After that, it's up to them to decide.

I agree that everyone should be aware of what is being said about them on the internet. I'm sure there are false reviews out there, which is unfortunate, but in my case, it's all true. Speaking of false reviews, I find it funny that my Yelp review has been up for 2 months now with one other bad review, but as soon as Steven sees his bad reviews, all of a sudden, there's 6 raving reviews (all 5 stars) about Steven, all with accounts created in October 2008. Hmm...fishy. In any case, I hope, my review will help at least one bride, or give some insight to Steven that he should follow better business practices and uphold his end of the contract.

Thanks,
Kara

Kenny said...

Dear Kara:

I feel your pain. I have never known or been involved in a business or industry that lacks the most basic of professional protocols or ethics.

You will find that the higher up the food chain you get in this business the more important burrito's become and the less important professionalism becomes.

The old guard is dieing out but it's more about self-aggrandising themselves and their wallets at all costs and at anyone's expense and the rest are liers and theives.

This is all before you even start looking at Editors, SID's, Event Planners....

Your lucky, for those of us who cherish integrity and professionalism, it's a life sentence to love photography.

Be glad your not in this business, at least your feelings as an outsider read...."customer" have meaning in real life.

Good luck, be well, buy a good digital camera and you can be a photographer too!

Kenny

flyingfish said...

Kara,

I understand you are upset that you lost your retainer. Please keep in mind that whatever the circumstances were for your cancellation, my contract clearly stated in the first line that retainers are non-refundable.

I photographed your engagement session on the 4th of April and delivered your images via e-mail less than 48 hours later. You even received a few more images than your contract specified within that 48hr period.

Following this I sent your engagement session DVD to you via USPS Priority Mail with tracking. The package was delivered to the address on your contract, and the USPS confirms that the package was delivered. Following this you inform me that you have moved to Southern California and provide me with a new address, and another DVD was sent off. You never confirmed receipt, but this DVD was sent with tracking as well.

A short while after the DVD was delivered you asked about your 30-page engagement session album and I was puzzled. Your wedding album in the contract was 20 pages, yet you seemed to think you were entitled to a 30 page e-session album.

When this was questioned you sent me back a contract that was not all the contract I sent you. In fact the contract you sent me back did not match the format or language of any wedding contract I have ever used.

I am sure you got confused in all of this, as you are now claiming on Yelp.com that you were not supposed to receive a 30-page album, but only 30 images from your engagement session. We had a 2-hour session, in 3 locations, which you were roughly 45 minute late for and you expect 30 images from your e-session?

Why were you late? Your friend was in a car accident, I then photographed the damage to her car, as well as the bus that dinged her and dealt with her insurance company for you after sending off the photos of the accident.

This brings me to August 15th. 11 days before your wedding. You filed a chargeback with your credit card company for $1875, not the $2,000 that you claim. Your reason for filing the chargeback was 'services not rendered." It would have been impossible to have rendered the services as stated in the contract, as the service date for the contract was 11 days in the future.

After speaking with the credit card company I supplied them with a link to your engagement session; a tracking number for your wedding DVDs; an email correspondence between us; a copy of the contract I submitted to you, forwarded from my box; a copy of the doctored contract you sent back to me in early August (again forwarded from my box); and discussing the fact that the reason you were filing the chargeback was invalid.

The credit card company reviewed the documents and reversed the chargeback returning the funds to my account in less than 24 hours.

If you plan to come after me you should please stick to the facts. You should keep track what stories you are telling what people and in what forum. I have screen shots of your slip up, as well a copy of the doctored contract.

As for the number of positive posts that sprung up? I contacted some former brides and other clients I have worked with and they were happy to supply positive reviews.

Should you wish to continue this course of action I will have no choice but to sue you for the remainder of your contract, $1,875. The evidence is overwhelmingly in my favour.

I wish you and Howard a long and happy life together.

-Steven Frischling

Anonymous said...

Guy, you should charge this woman for all your time wasted online searching for her fake complaints and damaging accusations as well as for the time to answer each time.

Anonymous said...

They're most likely not fake, and she is not the only one...and he knows this. That's why he's online waiting for when the people he hasn't fulfilled paid contracts with write reviews to let others know. He's so vigilant about scouting out his negative reviews because he is just waiting for the people he didn't complete contracts with (or just completely cut off all communication with...very professional) to show their face. Well, here we are.

Kenny said...

A false complaint with the intent to besmurch another persons reputation should be easy enough to prove through the posters isp, even if the call themselves anonymous,if I'm not mistaken.

I look at it this way. If I have a contract with someone and they don't fulfill the contract I can sue them and get satisfaction. If not, shame on me. After all, it's the most important day of my life?

Any laywers around to comment?

PS: Get use to the silent treatment. It's almost the first thing they teach on some photography websites. Unprofessional treatment? I would have to agree but we are talking about upper tier photogs aren't we :)

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised that negative reviews are now surfacing for fishfoto, and I don't believe they are false. Steven is quite arrogant and it's only natural for him to try and squash any negative thing said about him out there.

If you're not careful Steven, the fact that you try to remove all negative posts will ALSO become a part of your online personality, which will be even more damaging than the reviews themselves. I found this blog on a simple Google search of fishfoto reviews. I'm not sure your responses help your case. (Which makes me wonder if one day this blog entry will cease to exist as well.)

Quite simply if you want to maintain a stellar online reputation, try maintaining stellar customer service and a good reputation off the internet first. If the reviews were all false, then why are there so many of them from different brides with similar but not exactly the same experiences? Maybe you need to stick to editorial and let the weddings go. You don't appear to have the sensitive heart necessary to photograph weddings.

Anonymous said...

*Sigh of relief*....I am glad to see that people can see through him, despite his efforts to save face. Do the right thing Steven, do the right thing. You know where to start.

Anonymous said...

I like how "mysteriously" there are 5* reviews next to 1* reviews of his work. I understand asking your customers to post good reviews of you and the good reviews may very well be true, but they look SO fake next to the many many bad reviews! "I got my all my photos 2 days after the wedding". Yeah right. Anybody who knows anything about photography is going to think one of two things: A. The photos are unedited and thus poor quality (who can edit an entire wedding properly in two days?) or B. This review is blatantly false (who can edit an entire wedding in two days?)

Steven Frischling needs to quit trying to be a wedding photographer and go back to being an editorial photographer where no one cares if you're an arrogant prick.

Anonymous said...

Steve & John:

I am not a bride. I am the groom. My lovely wife and I were married July 5th in Philadelphia and Steven was paid in full 3 months prior to the wedding! Steven has yet to fullfill his end of the contract. Not only have we not received our photos or albums from the wedding as promised, he never sent the album from our engagement shoot as described in his contract. I would say that after having been paid in full prior to the event that his professionalism for providing eveything that he says he will provide in his contract would have been provided within 30 to 60 days after the shoot. We have have very little to show for our wedding besides his fee (of which we have receipts). One of the photos that he took was of my wife's grandmother who died December 27, 2008. We were not able to include it in our family album because he will not complete his contract. He has now left me no alternative but to contact one of my associates in Connecticut and seek legal recourse against him including punitive damages for his conduct and actions. It is now not a matter of obtaining the photographs but to show him that he must be held accountable for everything that he puts in his contract.

My wife has sent him several emails and he has given one excuse after another - If we were a publication would he being doing the same thing???? I think not. It's time the Mr. Frischling step to the plate and honor his contract. No, I have not been to yelp.com. That is next on the agenda.

Will

Anonymous said...

Steven,

More "mysterious" 5* star reviews on yelp have popped up, yet they are mostly written by new members to yelp who joined in January 2009, and any other reviews they have written (to make it look like they are legit yelp members) are all written on the same day as their review of Fishfoto. How dumb do you think the public is? I'm sure you are getting up there in the number of yelp ids.

It's disgusting that you have done absolutely nothing to make amends to your numerous dissatisfied clients, yet you (and your wife) go through all this effort to increase your rating, probably because you are now booking weddings for 2009. Are you even planning to complete those contracts? Why bother to book if you're just going to continue to leave unhappy brides in your wake?

Anonymous said...

Steven,

Your online reputation is a train wreck that I can't look away from! All your padding of 5* reviews by "happy clients" (or yourself) is like a soap opera. It's down right comical, and yet it's tragic because your REAL clients still haven't received what you've promised them.

All of you fishfoto brides out there who have a bad review, keep posting everywhere that you can! He can't spend all of his time padding your reviews if they are everywhere. Post on cityvoter, theknot, wedding channel, onewed, eventective, facebook, and any place you can find that allows you to review his services. Unfortunately, Steven removed his facebook page due to the bad reviews he had listed there. You can counter that by making a group where all fishfoto brides can join and share their experiences. Do it now!

Do you really want another bride to go through what you've gone through? Take him to court and keep fighting the good fight.

Cheers

信次 said...

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Steven Frischling said...

Shaunelle & Will,

I am going to address a number of your online forum postings here in one reply.

First off it is important to note that you did not spend more than $4,000 on your wedding photography.

Secondly, I am sorry that I was diagnosed with a significant medical issue in late June. This medical issue resulted in major surgery on the 26th of August where my thyroid was completely removed, along with a 48oz cancerous mass from within my neck. I did go out and shoot a wedding less than a week after surgery in New York and another in California a week later. I did these weddings, and others, because I felt like I was ready to feel better and get back on with working. In fact I kept shooting will advised not to because I knew in order to complete my contracts, even if delayed, I first needed to shoot the weddings. My working was against all medical advise, and due to my medical condition, following shooting I was completely wiped out.

I am sorry there have been delays, but my health has become a significant factor, and medications have taken somewhat of a toll on me, and my post production productivity, however all of my contracts are being fullfilled.

You should also note that aside from delays I have so far met and exceeded your contact. You contracted stated you'd receive 8 fully edited ready-to-print image files within a few days of your wedding; you received 25 of these images less than 24hrs following your wedding . You contract stated you'd receive a 50 image photo gallery; you received an 80 photo images gallery. Additionally your gallery was changed to a fully downloadable image gallery so you'd have direct access to your images as would anyone else you wanted to share the photos with.

In other forums you indicated that you had received 70 fully edited, ready-to-print, image files from me. Your contract stated you'd receive 80 fully edited, ready-to-print image files as part of your package and you were delivered 80 fully edited, ready-to-print, image files from me.

So yes, I was sick, I am still not really healthy, but I am also working as hard as I can with someone limited energy to not only complete all my contracts, but also make sure my family is taken care of, as considerable personal risks to my health.

I agree Karma can be a bitch, but there is no need for foul language, and is troubling for me to believe that someone who is so devoted to their faith, such as yourself, has a hard time understanding that another person's health is not something you should hold against them.

I'd also like to address Will stating that he has retained an attorney in various forums is incorrect. I have requested that he send me the contact information for his attorney more than once to work though his attorney, yet Will has repeatedly refused to produce any contact information for an attorney.

I will not bow to strong arm tactics. I also will not bow to people who do not have a legitimate complaint whipping up a whirlwind of mob mentality.

Hopefully neither Will nor Shaunelle will ever become ill, and if this do, hopefully they are never self employed with five mouths to feed. The stress is unbearable, and they clearly fail to have the compassion it takes to work through it.

-Steven Frischling

Steven Frischling said...

Kara Lee,

On the 6th of November I filed a suit against you in the New London District Court of Connecticut. You and your husband have both now been notified by the Connecticut Centralized Court System, regarding Docket #: SCA10-94913.

Your required answer date is the 11th of February and at this time neither you nor Howard have answered the courts to enter a plea.

At this time I have substantial evidence against you in this case, should you wish to settle the case out of court you know how to contact me. Should you default, I will transfer the judgment and come after you in your home state.

-Steven Frischling

Steven Frischling said...

Will,

To further counter act your claims that I have not delivered your wedding images to you, I'd like to direct you to Shaunelle's "The Robersons... The beginning" page , which was set up through her account on The Knot under the My Real Wedding section.

You may review your wedding page on The Knot here:
http://myrealwedding.theknot.com/photo/view/The-Robersons-The-beginning

Your wedding page clearly shows multiple images, shot by me, credited to me, placed online by you and Shaunelle.

Further more, the comments for these images appear to be made in September 2008. Clearly you have had your wedding images for quite some time.

The fact that you and Shaunelle would like additional custom editing and additional pages in your album is no reason to grossly twist the facts as the continue to present themselves against you and your public statements.

Clearly you have not heard the term 'you catch more bees with honey and vinegar.'

-Steven Frischling

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Anonymous said...

This is extremely interesting, I am the groom in a wedding that Fish failed to deliver on. I was a friend of Steven's and shortly after photographing our wedding Steven disappeared, with no contact and clearly no intention of following through on his contract. Three years after our wedding we have still not received all our images, still have not received our album, still have not been able to communicate with Steven. Steven is a fraud. I am one of many people he stiffed as a client, certainly one of more than the couple of unhappy brides he mentions here. I even went as far as to say forget the album, just send me the raw images, I will deal with them myself. Steven would not even do this. Steven is a liar and a thief. I hope his negative online reputation will help keep others from falling into the FishFoto trap.

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