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Anyone else being spammed by Bark.com?

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GarryN

Always on
Last week I started receiving emails from Bark.com. They appear to be a professional services locator where they put people who want a professional in touch with said professional. Nick Hewer from the Apprentice is quoted on the front page, not sure what his involvement is.

I am getting maybe 10 emails a day from them with details of clients who want some kind of photography service. They give details of what the client wants, when they want it and how much they are prepared to pay.

I assume they are sending these emails out to thousands of photographers they've googled in the hope that some will sign up to pay a fee to contact the client in question.

I have no interest in joining, but was quite interested in the amount of clients (I have no idea if they are real or not) who want wedding photography for 5+ hours and want to pay under £250, some even want prints, proofs and albums in that fee!
 

Stemmy

Always on
Super Admin
Yes I'm getting about the same as you.

I was told to steer well clear.

You have to buy credits just to get the clients details etc.
 

tenchy

Rain maker
Administrator
if they email me and I can get an IP address, they'll be going into the tinned meat database
 

John OH

Member
Good morning All,

John the Marketing Director of Bark here. I come in peace.

I thought I'd try to answer some of your questions.
  • @GarryN : Nick is our brand ambassador. You are correct that we base our search on photographer's email addresses. We try to ensure we only target jobs within a 30 mile radius of where a photographer's website says they operate and if we can't find a location we don't send anything. Much as I'd love to say it's 1000s per lead we've taken the decision that this is bad for Buyers as it's overwhelming and bad for Photographers as it means a low chance of winning the business. We therefore limit the number of emails to non-registered Sellers to ensure a balance between growing new business and ensuring our current Sellers have a decent chance to win the business. It's true that many customers want to get photography on a budget and we know that some photographers don't operate in this price range - equally, some do. Our view is that it's better to be up front about the Buyer's expectations than ask Photographers to pay and then find out they're in totally different ballparks. We are working on how to better educate Buyers up front to manage these expectations too.
  • @tenchy @paulmag. I hope we can change your mind and get you registered as Sellers with Bark. If you did change your minds I'd be happy to offer you both your first 5 responses free so you could get a feel for how it works. I'd welcome your feedback as we're always looking to improve the service. If you do register please email [DELETED AGAIN] to get your free responses.
  • @Stemmy Your first response is free to get you used to the service. After that, we ask you to pay only to respond after seeing the Buyer's requirements. We generally get just over 2 responses per lead across all categories, offer credit packs at up to a 20% discount (30% when making your first paid response) and refund the credits if the Buyer doesn't view your message within 7 days. Compare that to advertising where there's no guarantee the Buyer will even see your message or AdWords where you pay for the click, even if it doesn't result in a lead or if the lead is on a date you're booked. We think that's a pretty fair deal but we're not going to force anyone to register with us. Buyers have told us they don't want their details passed on and this is something we take very seriously. We want to be sure that Buyers get a reasonable number of responses from available, appropriate Sellers without being bombarded. I'd also add that any form of advertising represents a cost to get Buyer's details.
Hopefully that helps you gents understand where we're coming from. If it's for you then great, if not there's an unsubscribe link in every email we send.

Thanks for listening

John
Marketing Director, bark
 
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paulmag

Always on
Honorary Life Member
Hi John Thanks for the offer I do photography on a non commercial basis so I can do what I want when I want..................I have been involved with similar in the course of my work Business to Business and found it didnt work for me I suppose the company doing the go between needs to get it right or they just end up being a nuisance.

I would like to hear from any photographers who have managed to get work from your service I am sure there are some otherwise you wouldnt last long :).

Thanks for your generous offer and I hope that users of your service are kept gamefully employed.
 

Stemmy

Always on
Super Admin
Hi John -

I started getting the emails on the 31st December last year - I didn't opt in to your list and I did not register on your website so why did it suddenly start ?

From the 31st of December to the 11th January (when I unsubscribed) I got 46 emails.

Here is a sample of the places you have offered jobs (bearing in mind not one is anywhere near my studio in Ramsbottom, Bury)

Yeadon, City and Borough of Leeds
Formby, Sefton
Queensbury, Bradford
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire
Clatterbridge, Wirral
Widnes, Borough of Halton
Fleetwood, Wyre
Dewsbury, Kirklees
Bowland-with-Leagram, Ribble Valley
Keighley, Bradford

From this you can understand why I was annoyed with getting 4-5 emails per day.

I then asked colleagues about this and they were getting similar emails offering similar kinds of jobs.

How many photographers get the same email ?

I remember looking at your pricing structure and I'm sure it said it would cost me £10 (excluding VAT) so £12 inc VAT just to reply to a request ?? even if I don't get the job ??

Is this correct ?? Bearing in mind how many "Tyre Kickers" there are on the internet and the amount of photographers who might be replying to the enquiry, plus the photographers who are willing to work for virtually nothing. I would be surprised if I got 1 in 15-20 jobs, that would cost me £150-£200 per job.

The highest budget on all the 46 emails I received was £250 for a job 75 miles away. Taking into account my time and costs, plus the cost of securing the job, where is my profit ??
 
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John OH

Member
Thanks @paulmag. Love the photos on your homepage, especially the waterfall. You're totally 100% correct that we need to get it right, and I know we're not there yet. That said we're always striving to be better so any feedback from your members is welcome.

Hi @Stemmy without knowing the email address we sent to I can't comment on why you got these emails. Our system only targets within 30 miles of the coordinates found from your post code so if we have sent you something 75 miles away please let us know which Bark it was and which email address it was sent to and I'll ask the tech team to investigate. Based on the email address on your website we sent a single email on 8th October though it's entirely possible we also sent to a different email address.

The number of photographers receiving an email isn't really what's relevant to your chances of securing a job. Better for the Photographer if we email 100 Sellers and get 2 responses than email 20 and get 10 responses. The average is just over 2 responses per job and this will vary by Category and Geography.

Looking at the most recent Photography Barks from the cities on your list
  • Yeadon, City and Borough of Leeds
    • The Bark was issued on 11th January for Wedding Photography
    • The budget was £500-£999
    • It received 2 responses
  • Formby, Sefton
    • The Bark was issued on 11th January for Photography
    • The budget was <£250 and the Buyer made clear they wanted passport shots (we generally try to avoid these, but occasionally they slip through)
    • It received 2 responses
  • Queensbury, Bradford
    • The Bark was issued on the 10th January for Photography
    • The Buyer did not specify a budget, but asked for 5 hours+ of time
    • It received 3 responses
We try to balance the price with what it costs us to source a lead and the likely value to the supplier and we're looking at ways to better cater for the budget end of the market. The price is a cost to respond, so you can see the client's details first and if it's not for you, or you're booked on that date then no problem and it's not cost you anything. If you do respond it's 10 credits which is £10+VAT and we offer discounts of up to 20% when bought in bulk. We also refund the credits if the Buyer doesn't view your response so you only pay when your message has got through.

We very much hope Photographers using the service do secure work and many of our Sellers are very happy with the service. That said - we always want to improve so if you have any suggestions please let us know.
 
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John OH

Member
@tenchy no problem. The only one I replaced was the one that was required to make good on my offer of free responses. The remainder were changed from [Link Removed] to Bark to make it more readable. Happy to leave as it is - was simply trying to make it simple for your members to get in touch as we want to deal with any concerns/comments/suggestions they have.
 

Stemmy

Always on
Super Admin
the email that received all the messages was martin@ukbusinessview.org - This business specialises in 1 type of photography and 1 type only so why it was added to the list to receive portrait and wedding enquiries only you can answer.

I would still like to know exactly how this email was added to your list if I did not sign up or opt in ??

Are you serious ???? So a client stated they were willing to pay £250 for some passport pictures ??? I lost a job a couple of weeks ago because they thought £20 was "too much"

So two photographers spent £12 each on bidding for a passport picture job that somebody said they would pay £250 for ???

Its sounding more ridiculous by the minute ??
 

John OH

Member
@Stemmy I've checked our logs and we've never sent a single email to that address or any email address at the ukbusinessview.org domain. Is it possible you use a mail forwarder from a different address? Our system will have matched words on your site e.g. "photographer" to our Photography category. We then have a process to try and match words in the Buyer's requirement to words on your site but, unfortunately, we don't always get it right. Registered Sellers can determine which categories they want to hear about, and from which radius so if you only wanted Architectural Photography within 10 miles of your studio that's what you'll get.

The budget given on the passport photos job was less than £250. This is our lowest price band as we try to make clear to Buyers from the start that our service is for more profitable jobs. We also negatively bid on terms like "passport" etc. on Ad Words to try and strip these out but occasionally they do come through. In this case, the Buyer's description was "Passport type" so we made this clear to all Sellers before they were asked to pay. Both responses came from Sellers on our monthly subscriptions, which are now discontinued. These allow unlimited responses for a fixed cost, so those responding did not pay extra to contact the Buyer. There were no paid responses (nor would I expect any for that kind of job).

Let me know if you do have a mail forwarder set up and what the original email address was and I'll happily have a look at why you were getting jobs from so far away.
 

John OH

Member
@Stemmy I did find 21 emails sent to [removed]@wedding-photography.org between December 2014 and September 2015 for a mixture of Photography and Commercial Photography. The source page for this was Wedding Cars.org where the contact post code is given as BL0 [XXX] and Wedding Photography features on the site along with a Portrait Gallery. That being said it does look like we've matched a Wedding Car hire site with Photography, which I'll be speaking to the tech guys about.

Checking the distance to the final email sent to that email address it's around 30 miles as the crow flies from the postcode on the site (though more by car). More than happy to check others to ensure our system is working as it should.
 

Stemmy

Always on
Super Admin
I have email forwarded from business-photos.org also - but again I did not register this email with you - not did I register my wedding-photography email - how are these being added to your list ??

@GarryN did you register your email - or did it just start coming ??
 

John OH

Member
@Stemmy We have never sent a single email to any @business-photos.org address so I'm afraid I can't answer your question. In general email are added when they appear on a website that our system thinks offers a particular kind of service. If you'd like to forward in one of the emails I'll have a look at the coding information it contains to help understand the history of your specific case.
 

Stemmy

Always on
Super Admin
I have just looked at the headers in the email and they were being sent by posting the messages in my contact form on www.ukbusinessview.org

Is this your preferred method of contacting potential suppliers ??

how are you using my contact form on my website to automatically push emails to me ?

Its getting more interesting by the minute. this is why you have no record of the emails being sent.
 

paulmag

Always on
Honorary Life Member
I have been on the website and watched Nick Hewer's Video

So as I see this working if I want a quote for a plumber, personal trainer, Gardener, Builder, or any of the many trades then I post a bark on your website.

Now on the other side a Trade can join bark and for a fee get fed the leads from you.

Problems I see for me using this service as a customer.

How are you able to vet any of trades other than their willingness to join and pay you for a lead.

If I want a plumber how many of the plumbers in my area do you have listed and how many of them are as good or better than the ones that are not registered.

If I cut a deal with a supplier through bark say for a fitted kitchen and its a complete kitchen nightmare what if any liability does Bark have .............bearing in mind the website is a service provided by eTender Inc of 1201 Orange Street, Wilmington, Delaware 19810, United States. as stated in the websites terms and conditions and not a UK based business.

I am an old frat and as cynical as they come more so probably than many but I cant see how the pool of traders over all sectors and them paying for the leads posted would give me any confidence that I am getting put in touch with the best traders for the job.

By the way If I did want a trader I would use Derbyshire county councils trusted trader scheme which is free to all and I have found works well for me when I have used it.
 

John OH

Member
Hi @Stemmy yes that would make sense. When we use a contact form there is no email address recorded. We prefer email as it's easier to track and means Sellers con contact us directly if they have any questions. What method would you prefer for us to tell you about our service?

Now I've found your record I can take a look at the Barks we've sent you. I can see 40 Barks through that contact form and the one that was furthest from you (as the crow flies) was less than 40 miles away. Which one was it that you thought was 75 miles away?

As an aside you may want to look at the HTML on your contact page. It looks like it's throwing an error where there should be a map (just underneath the submit button).
 

Stemmy

Always on
Super Admin
So you think its legitimate/morally right to send 40+ emails in 10 days through a photographers contact page when they have not requested or opted in to be contacted ?

"What method would you prefer for us to tell you about our service?"
You asking me what method I would prefer when I haven't asked for them in the first place ??

It does feel like spamming to me.

Leeds is 45 miles from me
Blackpool is 45 miles from me
Fleetwood is 45 miles from me
The Wirral is 65 miles from me
Halton is 40 miles from me

If you say as the crow flies I'm sorry I don't have a helicopter I have to go by road.
 

Stemmy

Always on
Super Admin
By the way a search for "Spam emails from Bark" shows other people started getting the emails the same time as us so it was obviously a concerted effort by bark to spam potential suppliers with unsolicited emails.

I wonder if this is the best method to get yourself known in the marketplace ?
 

John OH

Member
Hi @paulmag thanks for your comments. We do not vet the Sellers on our site in the same way that Yellow Pages don't vet Sellers in their directory, Google don't vet AdWords users and the local paper doesn't vet those wanting to place an Advert.

Where we like to think we differ from those services is we allow Buyers to submit reviews of Sellers they've used to help other Buyers make informed decisions. We also allow Sellers to get other customers (that they've not found on Bark) to submit reviews on our platform and allow Sellers to import their reviews from Facebook and Google+ so that Buyers are given as much information as possible up front. We know we need to do more here - the current process is horrible so many Sellers have no reviews - but it's something we're actively working on.

We're registered in Delaware as the business was originally started in the US. Our Head Office is in Paddington, London right here in the UK.

I'd be lying if I said there were never any problems and where there are we do our best to sort them out. I'm only aware of 1 or 2 issues in the last year though where Buyers have had an issue with a Seller.

@Stemmy search "Spam emails from Bark" and you'll get a similar result. "Spam emails from stemmy" for example gets 135k results, "spam emails from Bark" gets 435k and "Spam emails from photography forum" gets 2.6m. All of our emails contain an unsubscribe link as we don't want to bother anyone so if our service isn't for you - that's fine. I accept the comments on crow flies vs. driving distance. It's incredibly difficult to teach a system about driving distance (and takes a lot more processing resources, pushing up costs) so we had to settle on something that we think (generally) strikes a balance.
 
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