Facebook Social Ads Won’t Take My Money

CitySquares has a couple ad campaigns running on Facebook as well as a “Page”. I’ve seen very little results, but that’s not too surprising and I’m not too disappointed about it. We may throw some gas on that fire this spring but we’re not losing sleep over it. Since they announced their ad campaign feature back in November I think we’ve spent less than $15 total. Apparently our 6 cents per click isn’t enough, so I just upped it to 8 cents. That should do it, eh? Either way, I gave them the company credit card and they ding it once we hit a certain amount.

A couple of weeks ago we had some fraudulent credit card activity and we had to kill that card and get a new one (I’m still looking for the bastard who thought he could slip one past me). So naturally we had to tell a bunch of vendors about our new card number. I forgot about Facebook. So today I got an email from them, apparently I owe them a whopping $1.92 but they can’t hit our card. The email included:

Subject: Facebook Ads Alert: Payment Failure


Dear Ben:

We were unable to charge the credit card associated with your Facebook Ads account. This can happen for a number of reasons, including:

* The credit card on file has expired.

* The credit card on file was declined.

Your account is still active, but we have suspended delivery of your ads until you update your payment information. Once we are able to process your payment successfully, we will reactivate your ads.

To update your payment information:

1. Log into your Facebook Ads account at ….

OK Zuck, I’ll get right on it!

I logged in, was conveniently directed to the right page with a credit card payment form. Using the convenience Google toolbar Fill In button I filled in the usual info then I punched in my credit card info. I clicked Submit and waited. And then I waited some more. I then got an error. Something like:

We’re sorry for the inconvenience. Please try again later.

Wait a second, you went through all this trouble to ask me for $1.92 and yet the very functionality to take my payment isnt working? Nice.

And you’re valued at $15 billion?

And you supposedly made $150M in 2007?

OK OK, fine, whatever. Let me find my way back to the Ads pages so I can pay you. Wait – how does one edit their credit card info? That’s another story.

Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m just tired of Facebook, and all the hype. But a $15B valuation? $150M in revenue? For what? Eyeballs? Where’s this money coming from? I don’t know, but it sure ain’t from my $1.92 cuz they won’t take my money today.

Facebook: If you want me to pay you some money, make damn sure that feature works first! Don’t waste my time cuz I’m already getting a little fed up. I just pictured Zucks soft, smart assed little face on 60 minutes as I punched in my credit card digits. It made me want to just stop all together. But no, I went back and tried again, and it worked, and suddenly I felt like good things were going to happen. Ah, Facebook. How I love you.

Maybe I should’ve just saved that money for, I don’t know, a half a gallon of gasoline?

Customer Service: How To and How Not To

The cover of this week’s BusinessWeek is all about customer support. The subheads read, “Consumer Vigilantes” and “Customer Service Champs.” Meanwhile, CitySquares just got done tabulating our 2007 customer renewal rates: 80%. We’re an extremely customer oriented business – and I can’t stress that enough. These three points make the subject of this blog entry more poignant, I think. Here’s how not to do customer service – from my own personal experience in the past few days. If you don’t want to read my angry rants on two bad customer service experiences, go to the bottom.

First story – Jennifer Convertibles: Ali and I moved into a new home just after the holidays. Our new home is quite spacious and our existing furniture just ain’t cuttin it. Amidst all the excitement we got impulsive and decided to buy a couple chairs at Jennifer Convertibles in Porter Square. Truth be told, Jennifer Convertibles is a publicly held company based out of NY – they’re not a customer and they’re not local. I was actually a bit disappointed in myself, giving them my business. Anyway, we ordered the chairs and put the purchase on a 90 day interest-free payment plan – very handy indeed. Then we waited – we waited a month for these chairs to arrive. Three weeks ago, on a Thursday evening around 8pm, Jennifer Convertibles called us to tell us the chairs would be delivered the next day, between ….. 11 and 5. Well, thanks for the notice, first of all, and thanks for such a specific window of time. Well, I worked from home that next day and they showed up and delivered not one, but two busted chairs. That’s right – after waiting a month both chairs arrived broken. This could be a longer story, because there are other priceless details that I’m avoiding, but, long story short, they removed one chair, left the other. After dealing with the folks at Jennifer Convertibles’ Porter Square store, which in itself was a test of patience, I managed to get a couple new chairs delivered a week later. Now, we’re about 2 days before the anticipated delivery and I get a phone call – they can’t make it. I have to wait a few more days. I’ve had it – cancel my order, cancel my financing, forget the whole damn thing. They complied. This past week, however, I got a bill from Citi Financial. A bill? For what? For these two chairs. Yesterday morning, I placed literally 20 phone calls or so to a variety of Jennifer Convertibles stores in the Boston area, as well as their NY headquarters. I could not, for the life of me, and with all my trickery, get a human being on the phone. Finally, later in the day, I got someone at the Burlington, MA store. Apparently he’s circulating emails around the “higher ups” to ensure that Citi Financial is notified of the cancellation and my account is closed.

(last weekend Ali and I went to Gardner, MA to the furniture stores there. What a difference! In quality, in service, in guarantees, and sure, in price. But that’s where we’ll be buying our furniture.)

Second story – Comcast: When we moved into our new home on Dec 27th, we had Comcast come out the following day to wire up our much needed Internet and television. The technician was super nice, and did a nice job – even went above and beyond. But since then we’ve been getting strange tiling effects on our tvs. In the middle of a TV show, like um, the SuperBowl, the feed would stop – it’d freeze and we’d get these digital-like tiles all over the screen. One of our TVs became so bad a couple weeks ago that we just stopped watching it. The other one was bad too, but it was at least tolerable. Last week Ali called Comcast to have it looked at. We were told we’d have to wait a week for someone to come out. OK – fine, whatever it takes. A week was yesterday. We were told that a tech would be here between 3pm and 6pm. Ali was willing to leave work early and be home for them, so she did. At 11:30, I was at work and got a call on my mobile. It was the Comcast technician! He was outside our house – apparently it was more convenient for them. “Sir I appreciate your earliness, but no one will be home until 3pm, as scheduled.” He was totally cool and said, “Oh no problem, we’ll just come back then.” And that was that. At 3pm, Ali was home. At 4pm, Ali was home. And at 5pm and 6pm, Ali was home. No one came. We were very annoyed, to say the least. So, I called Comcast and ripped them a new one – they wasted Ali’s time and that’s enough for me. They gave me a hard time but I managed to schedule something for today, Saturday. So I snow blowed the driveway, did some work, read a little bit, and basically waited around for Comcast to come between 12 and 4. At 3:35 I called Comcast to be sure they were still coming. They assured me someone would be here by 4pm. At 3:53 my phone rang – it was the Comcast technician:

This is Comcast, you got a problem with your tv?
Yeah, is this the tech?
You on your way?
(pause) Yeah, tell me about the problem.
Why don’t we just talk about it when you get here?
(pause, sigh) What’s the problem with your tv?
Look, I got my hands full – if you’re on your way why don’t I just show you when you get here.

After the call, I went to check my TVs. Guess what – working fine. I’m confused. At 4:01 my doorbell rang – Comcast. I open the door.

So come on in but I’m really confused now. As far as I know we were still having problems. My wife waited at home for a few hours yesterday and nobody showed. I’ve been here all day waiting for you guys and I just checked and the TVs seem fine now.
Oh yeah, when we were here yesterday we climbed up the pole and rewired you – there was a bad connection.
(my turn to pause)
What time?
Like 3. We rang your doorbell and waited for a while but no one was here so we went up the pole to see what we could see.
At 3?
Funny, my wife was here from 2:30 and onward. You sure it wasnt earlier in the day? Didnt you call me?
OK look, I dont care anymore. Our TVs seem to fine now – so you think its fixed.
Thats what was causing the tiling and shit? Something up the pole in a box?
Yeah it’s all rewired. We’ve seen this before and it should be fine now.
Alright, thanks. Off you go.

Can someone please explain to me what just happened!? I called Comcast back and explained myself to a customer service rep becaues he said he might be able to do as much for me as a manager could. I bought that and explained my case to him, quite calmly too. He could offer me a $20 credit. $20! That’s what our time is worth! Twenty clams! I don’t think so pal – put your boss on.

The boss didnt even understand my story and decided she’d rather argue with me and make excuses. She didn’t understand her own title – “Customer Service Supervisor.” She offered me $40 – for my time yesterday and my time today.

OK. All that aside – what the heck is going on? Where is the customer service!? How can these companies neglect us like that? Not answer their phones!? Blow us off? Disrespect us? Waste our time? It’s really unbelievable to me. Strangely enough, this customer service is so bad that I actually am left scratching my head, wondering if I’m just too demanding of a consumer!

There are, of course, the rare companies that exceed in customer support. Many are named in the March 2nd issue of BusinessWeek. In my experience, some of the best customer service I’ve ever received has been from local businesses, of course. Local businesses need their customers, need loyalty, need favorable opinions of their customers more than the usual publicly traded company. This is not news to you of course.

A few weeks ago Ali and I were painting the walls in a few rooms. We wanted Benjamin Moore paints – only the best. We didn’t go to Home Depot, or Lowe’s, we went to a couple local hardware stores, including Hillside Hardware and Modern Hardware, both in Medford. The customer support that we received at both places, over the course of numerous weekends, was unparalleled! They were gentlemen, they were accomodating, they went above and beyond each and every time we stopped in. I will be a customer for life and I will recommend them to anyone, anytime!

The impact of bad customer support is largely diluted these days because it happens so often. We’re used to it. We’re totally used to it! And this whole consumer review trend we’re seeing is a reaction to it. Greg Sterling has blogged about this quite a bit.

CitySquares is all about the local business – not so much the consumer. We want to give consumers a voice, but we’re first and foremost about the businesses – letting them demonstrate their goods and services and giving them a platform. Consumers have enough platforms – let’s give the local businesses a real platform and let’s highlight the best of them. Let the worst sink to the bottom and let the best bubble to the top.

Evolution in the Startup

As CitySquares has grown over the past 9 months or so, from 3 people in my basement to 14 people in a South End office space, we’ve all had to grow and evolve. I believe the expression is, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Unfortunately I don’t think that’s 100% true in a startup company. Just because the company is growing and is achieving measurable success doesn’t mean that everyone is going to be able to grow and adapt to the changes. And in a startup things can change daily. It’s survival of the fittest and that includes me.

Much of my job as the founder and CEO, among other things, is to make sure that we, as a company, are adapting to change, learning lessons, and applying today’s lessons to tomorrow. But that applies to me, individually, too – I must adapt to change. I must learn lessons. I must apply those lessons to tomorrow.

I could give many examples, from changes in the market place, to changes in the economy, to changes in the company. I’ll use morale as a specific example though. It’s a constant issue, always needing monitoring and attention – like a delicate plant that needs just the right combination of water and sunlight. If you overwater it, you’ll drown it. Too much sunlight and you’ll dry it out. Too much attention to morale in a company and you set a precident and shit doesn’t get done. Too little attention to morale and you risk a coup! Morale doesn’t just mean fun either. Morale is many things, and first and foremost it’s spirit. It’s like being an athlete and not being what you wear. If you’re a Boston Red Sox player – you’re part of something bigger – you represent the Red Sox. You better believe in it. You better buy-in to it. And that’s a challenge – getting your teammates to also buy-in. Without buy-in, you don’t have spirit. Without spirit, you don’t have people that care. And it’s all downhill from there. So before you can have fun, you gotta generate buy-in.

If evolving isn’t simply adapting to change, for the better, than I don’t know what it is. The only way to know is to wait and see the results. Evolution is a slow process, but the results can be seen quite clearly. I can confidently say that everyone is evolving and therefore, CitySquares is evolving.

This Week's Ma.gnolia Bookmarks

My Ma.gnolia bookmarks for this past week.

Building a Wireless Home Media Network Server: PVR/Media Streaming Software – Guide to the Unwired World by PC Magazine

PVR/Media Streaming Software - Guide to the Unwired World by PC Magazine

What's the point of having a speedy wireless network if you don't have any interesting bits to push over those airwaves? In this week's Go Wireless installment, we'll show you how to assemble a “media furnace” that can serve up content, to both your wireless and wired clients.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Venture-backed companies taking longer to pay off – Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal:

Venture-backed companies taking longer to pay off

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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techPresident – How the candidates are using the web, and how the web is using them.

techPresident – How the candidates are using the web, and how the web is using them.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Glassbooth – Quiz to help you choose best 2008 presidential candidate

Glassbooth - Quiz to help you choose best 2008 presidential candidate

Discover which presidential candidate you really line up with – in theory anyway…

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Mahalo Daily » Blog Archive » MD045 – State of the Union Address (in 60 seconds)

Mahalo Daily » Blog Archive » MD045 - State of the Union Address (in 60 seconds)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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Thermometer Chart in Excel

Thermometer Chart in Excel

Create a Thermometer Chart in Excel

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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View all my bookmarks on Ma.gnolia

My Spouse, My Partner

On this Valentine’s Day I want to acknowledge my wife, Ali. And of course, as this blog is all about entrepreneurship and business, I have to put that sort of spin on this entry. To put it plainly, Ali is not just my wife, she is my business partner. I don’t make a step in my business without at the very least discussing it with her first. And Interestingly enough there were a couple articles in the WSJ this week about this very topic! One was about Michelle Obama and her role in Barak’s run for the White House. I was struck by how much of an influence she has over him and over his campaign and I could entirely relate to it. The article gave so much insight into their personal relationship as well as their professional relationship. I’m an Obama supporter and this only reinforced my support for him. Afterall, we’re electing a couple to the White House, not just a man or woman. The other article was about business executives asking (or not asking) their spouses for guidance and support. This article also struck me as appropriate and I could totally relate.

Ali and I met in 1999. At the time I was self employed as a consultant. She was employed at a recruiting firm. Since that time, we’ve both taken many steps to advance our careers and each step has been taken together. I’ve never taken a career step without her support. When I started my first business, it was with her support and with her contributions. When I made business decisions, no matter how risky, for better or for worse, it was with her support. We discussed all of them and her perspective has been a guiding light more than once. When I start CitySquares – we started CitySquares. We’re in this together. When we went broke doing it, we went broke. When CitySquares got buy-in from friends, family, investors – we got buy-in. Ali is very much a part of this business, like a silent partner. I could not and would not be doing this if Ali wasn’t by my side every step of the way.

Sometimes I wonder if marriage has something to do with success. Some research says marriage has a lot to do with the professional growth and financial success. I can personally attest to that. For Ali and I, as it pertains anything, it’s about communication. Everything in our professional lives is discussed at home. When tough decisions are made at work, when career changes are being considered, when we’re feeling tired, helpless, stressed, or excited, successful, prosperous – it’s shared, it’s mutual.

We are in this together, in sickness and in health, and in entrepreneurship!

Giant Killers, by Larry Sullivan

I got myself into this, and now it’s time to pay the pot. A bet is a bet! Larry and I placed a friendly wager on Superbowl XLII. Larry won. I lost. Hear me? The Patriots lost and therefore I lost. (Damnit) So anyway, below is Larry’s post on my blog.


I need to thank Ben for this little piece of real estate.

Super Bowl XLII was one of the most incredible games I have seen in my life. It was a great Super Bowl, not just because my team won, but because it was a close exciting game. Yes blow outs are nice and definitely necessary some times (depending on your perspective) but close one always keep you glued to your sit. My thoat is still sore from yelling at the TV.

I want to congratulate the Patriots on a great season. They are a very talented team and I know this is a very disappointing lose, trust me I have been there.

The thing that I love about the New York Giants being Super Bowl XLII champions is that no one ever dreamed it to be possible. No one, I mean no one, gave them a snowball chance in hell to win anything and look what they did. Look what they did. It is incredible.

Since Ben and I are both involved with local search, we know that many times the small business owners can have a defeatist attitude…

“I can’t compete with the big guys..”
“I can’t afford that…”
“We are out of our league..”

If Eli and company had come in with that attitude, they would not have paraded down Broadway the otehr day? Plaxico predicted a win, Tom laughed. Yes small business do get laughed at and many times do not get the respect they deserve but local small business can survive and thrive online.

We want to encourage the local business owner to get online and be active. Get your business listed in CitySquares. Have a local search marketer review over your website and help you set up a realistic online marketing plan. Just don’t sit on the sidelines while your competition is in the game.

Local search marketing is growing daily and the opportunities for local small business to promote themselves online and increase their visibility are also growing, so take advantage of them. After a little while of promoting online, you might be just as surprised, as we Giants fans are of the 2007-8 season.

Larry Sullivan



Thank you Larry. Maybe we’ll do this again come baseball season. Met’s are looking formidable this year already…