Citysearch is a scam and extremely unprofessional

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Advertise with CitySearch

Citysearch.com

West Hollywood, CA

US

http://philadelphia.citysearch.com/

Below you will find a copy of two emails that I sent to CitySearch. The first on July 21, 2008 and the second August 27, 2008. The two together explain just how horrific their services are and what an incredible scam their advertising is. [some names and phone numbers were withheld in this complaint copy]

Email sent July 21, 2008

Hi Michael,

I currently have google analytics attached to my website. I have been paying attention over the past few months, since becoming a City Search customer, that I am not getting any "bang for my buck" so to speak. I have been paying over $350 each month and have yet to see any significant clicking to my website. Even the google cpc, which I understand comes from my City Search account, from June 20 through July 20 is only up to 15 clicks. I can easily get that through google paying for the advertising myself and it wouldn't cost me anywhere near what I'm paying City Search.

Clicks from City Search since May 1, 2009... Zero. I find it difficult to believe that 900 people are looking at my City Search account every month and not 1 clicked through to find out more information from my website. The simple law of averages state's that's just not possible. If any one of these people were actual customers looking for a Hypnotherapist in their area, I'm sure at least 1 would want more information.

While I understand that I signed up for 6 months of service, I don't feel that I am getting what I have been paying for. I would like to find out if there is any way that I can cancel my account without the cancellation fee's as I feel that your company has not lived up to their end of the contract and I've already payed more than enough money for a service that has no real value to me or my company. I'm beginning to think that the only people clicking on the City Search page you set up for me are the one's who your company calls trying to scam into the same deal that I feel I was scammed into.

Please understand, that I am not saying any of this with anger, as I know that it's hard to put a "tone" to words typed on the computer. I would simply like to go our separate ways.

Please call me at [number here] at your earliest convenience to resolve this matter without involving my lawyer and having a big investigation into the practices of your company. Thank you for your time.

C.J. Cantrell

Copy of email sent to the President of the company on August 27, 2008

Dear Mr. Herrati,

My name is Candy Cantrell and I was a customer of CitySearch for a few months. I found the service to be poor and not at all useful for my business. I tried on numerous occasions to reach Michael Goggins, the rep in charge of my account by phone in early July with no response to cancel my account. On July 21, 2008 I sent him an email, with still no response. On the 24th of July I finally called the other number for CitySearch customer service and spoke with someone (you have record of the phone conversation) who's name I cannot find. At that time he offered me 2 free months of service but I opted to simply cancel the account instead. At that time he told me that the account was canceled and that I would no longer be charged. I logged on to my account a couple of days later to make sure that my account was, in fact, canceled and found that it had been. At some point, someone in your company illegally opened again without my permission or even informing me of this activity.

On August 15, 2008 at 9:15am, which I still have saved in my voicemail, Michael Goggins called me. I tried calling him back 2 or 3 times with no return call back. I assumed the matter was resolved, until August 25, 2008 when I went to get new tires on my car. At that time I was told that my card was declined. I called my roommate, [name here], and asked him to look at my account and tell me what had happened because as far as I knew, there was plenty of money in my account to cover that $185 purchase. He said that there was a hold placed on my account from your company in the amount of $264.65.

At this time it was about 6pm EST and I tried to call CitySearch to resolve this matter. I was transferred over and over, placed on hold, hung up on while on hold, sent to the wrong departments and so on. I called on both my personal and business cell phone for an hour and was given the run-around by everyone that I spoke with until, conveniently, you were closed at 7pm EST. I just cannot even begin to tell you how disappointed, but not at all surprised after the poor service I had received in the past, at the complete lack of professionalism and customer service from your employees.

I called the bank to dispute the charges and there was nothing they could do until the transaction had gone through because at that time it was just a hold placed on the account. I was stuck at the tire place, embarrassed, with no way to pay for my new tires even though I had, until your company illegally withdrew the money from my account, the funds to cover that important purchase.

The next day, August 26, 2008, I called again and spoke with a man named Ray. As you can imagine, I was understandably not the most pleasant person and will freely admit that. I wanted to have my money back. He asked me to forward the email that I had sent to Michael Goggins on July 21st to him, which I did. At that time he offered as a "courtesy" to refund me only $200 of the $264.65 that was withdrawn stating that I would only be refunded the amount from July 21 (the date of the email). This was unacceptable after everything that I had already gone through, and the fact that I was told by a representative of your company that I would no longer be charged, so I asked to speak with a supervisor.

I spoke with Joyce Marshal and she stated that she would listen to the phone conversation from July 24, 2008 and get back to me between 3:00pm and 4:30pm on August 26. I informed her that after 4:30pm I would be in session with clients and would not be available. She did not call me back until 6:05pm at which time, as I had previously stated, I would not be available. I did not get out of sessions with my clients until 8pm at which time your company was closed.

This morning, after my first client, I again called Joyce Marshal and was again only offered a refund for the amount after July 21, 2008. She stated that she listened to the phone conversation and that the man I spoke with on the 24th did not say that I would not be charged. This is wrong. I know what I heard, and I specifically asked him if I was to expect any more charges because I need to be able to keep up on the money coming in and out of my business. I am not a *** person, and I make my living as a hypnotherapist listening to people and taking down every detail. I know what I heard.

This is my last resort before contacting my attorney and the BBB and any other association that I can find. I am not, at this time, asking for compensation for the fact that my account was illegally opened again after I had canceled it, I am not asking for compensation for the fact that I was completely humiliated when I went to make a purchase with my hard-earned money, I am not asking for compensation for the run-around and frustration that I have endured since this illegal transaction took place, or the hours upon hours I have spent trying to resolve this matter. I am also not, as of yet, asking for compensation for the physical and emotional toll that this stress has taken on me. All I am asking for is my $264.65 to be deposited back into my account by end of business day today. If this matter is not resolved today, you will leave me no other choice but to seek legal assistance which will end up costing your company a lot more that the additional $64.65 that I am asking to be returned to me.

I can be reached until 4:30pm EST at [number here] at which time I will, again, be in session with clients as they, and my business, are first priority. After all of the unprofessional, poor service I have already received, I certainly hope that as president of the company you can show your employees what good customer service really is.

C.J. Cantrell

Comments

Anonymous
#1034428

I have experienced incredible predatory practices from citysearch. I asked for traffic only for Orlando, only from citysearch, they pumped nationwide traffic from dozens of third party sites.

I said hey this isn't what we agreed, she refused to refund. I went to Amex to dispute the charge. They asked for proof.

I showed them our emails where I asked 3 times, now you're sure you are only going to send me Orlando cs. Amex laughed at the atrocity and credited me immediately.

Anonymous
#35928

Folks. Here's how CitySearch rips you off....

Let's say you own a dress shop in Chicago and you only serve the Chicago market. You contact CitySearch and setup a listing/profile page for your shop to be listed on CitySearch's "Chicago" directory because that's the market you serve. You give them a budget and guess what, you quickly receive enough visitors to your profile page to max out your monthly budget! It doesn't seem to matter how high or low your budget, somehow you get enough clicks to max it out. How can this be? Gee golly how can your little dress business get so many hits? Especially when you don't see an increase in business on your end. No phone calls, no emails, no big jump in visitors to your own web site, virtually nothing.

The answer?.... drum roll please ...

When you sign up for a listing for your "Chicago" business to be posted on their "Chicago" focused pages, you think that's all you get, right? Heck no. It turns out they also bury on their site dozens of additional links for your business. They post these buried links on pages that are devoted to other cities/markets. So, they list you in Chicago as expected. But they also place listings/links for your business on their pages for Atlanta, and Los Angeles, and Houston, and New York, and San Diego, and St. Louis, and so on. Each of these additional listings or links automatically "redirect" to your “Chicago” profile page when they are visited or "clicked" ... once clicked, presto! You are charged for the visit to your profile page. Remberber, CitySearch charges you when someone (or something) lands on your profile page, not on your own web site.

Now, these links are quite buried so no actual person will find them in a normal search. So who finds them? Search engine spiders do.

There are thousands of them out there that race around the web day and night. They follow every link they can find no matter how buried the link may be. These automated spiders are used by firms like Google, or Yahoo, or lesser known search engines to catalogue the entire web. Anyway, when you have dozens of links plastered all over CitySearch’s site you’re gonna get “hit” by these spiders and then get charged by CitySearch.

How can you verify what I'm saying? How can you tell if CitySearch has listed your firm on dozens of pages that have nothing to do with your geographic market? Simple. Do a Google search that contains two terms. 1) Your company name (it helps if your company name is fairly unique) and 2) the word CitySearch. What you’ll find are links to your paid listing in the city you chose, but also dozens of other listings in random cities around the country. Google may determine many of these listings are very similar and post the following text at the bottom of their search results list: “In order to show you the most relevant results, we (Google) have omitted some entries very similar to the (#) already displayed. If you like, you can (link starts here) repeat the search with the omitted results included.” Press that link and you’ll see all the additional links CitySearch has posted. Links that you did not request and that do not apply to your business’ geographic territory (assuming you are a small or mid-sized company with a regional focus). Press any of those additional CitySearch links, say the Atlanta link, and it will automatically forward to your Chicago profile page. Congratulations, you just charged youself for a visit!

In addition to the links on dozens of CitySearch City pages that are unrelated to your business market/geography, they give your info to “partners” who post links to your profile page on their web sites. Some of these will not be geography specific either. But CitySearch doesn’t care. What they want are as many links to your profile page as possible. More links means more clicks (even clicks by spiders). More clicks means they make more money. Simple as that.

Anyway, there’s a good reason why they create “profile” pages for you and charge you when the “profile” page is selected. I mean, wouldn’t it be better if they sent people directly to your website instead? After all, you’ve likely invested a lot of time and money on your site to communicate your brand, what you sell, etc. Do you really need a profile page with your address and contact info? That’s already on your own site! What gives here?

The reason they and others like Yellowpages use "profile pages" is so you cannot see and monitor in detail the click activity for that profile page. They control the page, they control the server, they control the data. All you get from them are crude visitor reports. If they charged you when people clicked directly to your actual web site then you would be able to monitor the activity in great detail. How so? Well, if you have a decent web analytics program you could see what time of day the clicks occur on your site. If a lot of the clicks occur between midnight and 5 a.m. there’s a huge chance the clicks are not human, rather they are spider activated. Or worse they are activated by humans who are overseas and paid pennies to click on sites like yours to raise the click count. Here’s another thing you can check with a good analytic program …. How long are the visitors on your site? If a lot of the visits are less than 1 second then you know the visit was by a spider. They come and go within milliseconds and show up on most analytic programs as a 0 second or 1 second visit. Again, you can only monitor this sort of stuff on your own site with a tool like Google Analytics (a free program). But since you are charged for clicks on your CitySearch profile page, you are at their mercy when it comes to reporting. And all they share with you are raw visits or something like that. And as I’ve discussed you have no way of knowing who or what caused those visits, when they occured, and so on. I have talked with CitySearch's click fraud team (the foxes that guard the hen house) in the past and demanded more detailed reports. I was promised them but was also told that they would take weeks to produce. Did they ever send them? No. They never called back. They never sent the reports. I can't say I was surprised.

In closing, I see someone has initiated a class-action lawsuit against CitySearch. I wish them luck.

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