Today must be my lucky day. I just received an email that I’ve been chosen to represent my industry in the next “2014 Top Executive Magazine.” It’s strange that the editor would inform me of this honor via email. Since this honor is “only bestowed upon the most distinguished men and women”, you would think the editor could spring for a real letter and 49 cents postage. I would have expected more from the editor of a self-proclaimed “esteemed and professional magazine.” But, before you run out to your local newsstand and buy your issue of “2014 Top Executive Magazine”, don’t do it. It doesn’t exist.
While it might be flattering to be considered a “top executive”, the truth is that this honor isn’t worth the paper it was written on (if it HAD been written on paper, that is). This is what the Better Business Bureau calls a vanity award, which is an award that gives the false appearance of a legitimate honor. Usually, the awards come with some type of catch, in which the honoree is required to pay to win.
It’s difficult to spot these vanity award pitches at first, because they come from organizations with legitimate-sounding names, such as Small Business Commerce Association or U.S. Commerce Association, neither of which are associated with local chambers of commerce. How do you spot a vanity award scam? If you’re approached with a vanity offer, here are a few questions to ask:
- Are the “winners” publicly listed somewhere? A legitimate award should offer a website where the judging criteria are listed, and past “winners” are also available.
- How was I nominated? Be leery of awards you’ve “won”, even though you never completed an application or were asked to submit any information to judges.
- What are the terms and conditions? Do you have to pay for your award or join an organization to be a winner? Sometimes, these types of charges can cost a business owner hundreds to thousands of dollars.
- What does the BBB say about this company? Always check out companies first with your Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.
Winning an award is a great way for small-business owners to set themselves apart from their competitors, but only those awards that are truly earned and not bought. Unfortunately, vanity awards are more about making money for the award company than they are about recognizing outstanding companies.
Since this magazine editor thinks so highly of me, I’ve decided to give his company an award, too. I’m calling it the “Most Likely to Scam Businesses Out of Their Money” Award, and, unlike my “Top Executive” award, he’s definitely earned it!