In this nineteenth article in a series about Barter, I turn the spotlight onto Bartercard and share what is widely known in the the industry – reavealing their distinct lack of ethics, showing how their actions run contrary to their spin and highlighting how their arrogance affects attitudes and conduct of their entire operation, even into the rest of the industry. Watch out people who think that they will sell their Trade Exchange to Bartercard – you’ll get done like a dinner. This post is a shocker but will save a lot of people in the industry from a lot of pain!
The guts of it is this . . . Bartercard has, does and will likely continue to rip off others in the Barter industry.
In a nutshell, their con goes like this:
- They will offer to buy a Trade Exchange – who approaches who doesn’t matter. At this stage everything is honky dory. They will talk about their amazing brand and fantastic opportunities that Bartercard. the biggest and best in the world will bring to the table. Adding value with their brand and systems, big payouts on the table, wining and dining . . . you get the picture. It’s snakeoil! It’s nothing of the kind but people THINK that it is because . . . well most people don’t do due diligence!
- The victim will open their books and spill the beans. NDA’s trust, personal relationships going back years all get used and milked for all they are worth so that the victim will prepare everything required just so that they will get their fantastic return on [sometimes a lifetime’s worth of] investment.
- Armed with all the critical data Bartercard will go away to finalise their proposal. Then comes the crunch – the offer. Using every trick in the book they will expose every little loss, error, problem, indiscretion, potential problem and present such a ridiculously low offer that the victim is shocked into rejection, outright, which of course is the original intent. “How dare they insult us? Why can’t they possibly see the true value in the honest figures?” are the usual reactions. Whereas they previously considered cash purchase, Bartercard now only consider Bartercard Trade Dollars as a payment option. Whereas they previously talked about up-front lumpsum payments they now walk about drip-feed payments. It’s deliberate, planned and they’re VERY GOOD at it because they have done it for years and they’re usually up against a business owner who is usually selling a business for the first time.
- In the inevitable, planned, deliberately created distance between Bartercard and the victim, they move . . . hard and fast. They attack the victims members with offers and enticements and a concerted effort to sign up their members. Money is simply not a problem . . . joining fees are waived; hard sell techniques; matching dollar for dollar in FREE credit to the value of their credits in the victims exchange – not a problem to these sharks! Sometimes Bartercard will even fly in a specialised hit team specifically to swoop and attack an exchange en masse. No one can withstand a Bartercard assault. That’s no problem to the winners though as the victim’s exchange suffers devaluation, trauma, legal costs and usually suffers a demise.
- What happens thereafter can be variants on a theme but there is one consistent recurring pattern in this game . . . there is only one winner; there is no big payout and there is pain – lots of it!
I’m not exaggerating. I am able to write these words because I have evidence of this conduct from around the globe over years – speak to USA, Canada, UK and many other jurisdictions. If one thing I’ve just said is not correct, Bartercard would sue me to high heaven. Sadly, they won’t do this because that would drag their evidence into a public domain and they’d lose a third court case against me.
Bartercard is widely recognised throughout the barter industry as a predator; an aggressive corrupt operation that is the ‘bad-boy’ of the industry. This view has been longstanding and is based on a litany of lies, deception and dirty tricks emanating from the BIG GREEN BRAND, founded by aggressive [many also say, “obnoxious”] Australian, Wayne Sharp. Wayne’s ethical genetic imprint has continued into the new ownership.
This is one of the main reasons BTW why the industry has been so shocked by revelations of the secret deal between IRTA and Bartercard for IRTA’s exclusive endorsement of the Bartercard solution for the next 15 years. It wasn’t the secret nature of the deal, nor so much the selling out of IRTA’s credibility to a single industry player (although those were certainly stunners too) but it was the fact that they rolled with Bartercard – the worst of all Barter Exchanges – that has the industries mouth wide open!
There is little genuine positive in the Bartercard story . . .
If their marketing matched reality somewhat, their growth success through aggressive self-promotion would be admirable. Instead their brand Bartercard has been built on deception. It therefore represents a success in SPIN over FACT. I don’t consider that positive.
It cannot be positive for the industry either if their growth is built on unethical practices. Immoral conduct [and illegal conduct too] can in no way be something to be proud about in the industry.
I do not see anything else positive – according to those who have used it, their technology is OK but nothing stunning. Their good people (normally the primary assets of a company) have either left or are going so that their corporate expertise has been steadily dropping across the board. Their business model has serious flaws. Their ethics (more on that in a minute) are a liability for longterm sustainability. Their aggression may suit the Australian ways but doesn’t go down well offshore, and when it is built upon fraudulent claims and misleading presentations the Americans [particularly] will eat them for breakfast. They will find it impossible to work with others in the industry. I just can’t find anything positive about the business that isn’t spin.
Before I launch into the details of one very recent story that demonstrate Bartercard’s evil, I share four characteristics that summarise this company:
- Callousness and
I note again that [despite what may appear to be having an axe to grind] I have no agenda other than getting the truth out there. I even stand to lose personally if the Bartercard currency devalues or taks a hit.
Bartercard lies. I am not talking about any one isolated instance here, but rather a longterm, concerted deliberate course of action from the top of the organisation to the bottom. Bartercard reminds me of the age-old question about how you can know when the devil is lying. The answer is, “When his lips move” of course! In the example I the first example I will be giving I provide irrefutable proof of Bartercard’s propensity to deliberate deception. Many throughout the industry over many years have learned to their cost that Bartercard simply cannot be trusted in any way; any shape; any form; at any time over any material matter. Trust and Bartercard cannot be used naturally in the same sentence unless there is a negative in there.
Manipulation of fact
One step back from outright lies, is the manipulation of facts for corporate or personal benefit. I’ve blogged extensively about their deliberate off-balance trade deficit which is in the stratosphere. If the significance of this fact was truly understood by Bartercard Members, the perceived value of their Trade Dollar would drop to zero, overnight. In taking the full facts into consideration, the supposed value of Bartercard is simply a deception – it’s hot air – they are an outright fraud of the highest order. Presenting only some of the information, putting spin on it and deliberately concealing other information is par-for-the-course. I learned this personally when a judge in the Auckland High Court looked at my personal defence against Bartercard’s malicious court case against me, then spoke the musical words, “Mr Olphert [Bartercard’s lawyer] this case is nothing like what you presented at all . . . ” The aroma of truth wafted in to the courtroom when somebody who had no agenda looked at bartercard’s spin trying to twist the facts for their own benefit! Many others too have fought the twisting, conniving, dirty tricks of the big green B with varying results. I won against their dirty tactics because I am a ‘pickly rooster’ who has learned through the school of knocks that standing on a principle and paying the price hurts at the time but is worth it in the long run. Bullies and manipulators eventually learn that ending up in my Hall of Shame hurts more than leaving me alone. The sad thing though is that many others walk, or just have to pay the price with their compromise with justice, which of course only feeds the bad-boy what he needs to do it again, and again.
Sadistic, cynical, callousness with no shame is the universal feedback from people who have told me their Bartercard stories. I’ve experienced this ugly side of the business personally, when a manager unilaterally renegged on a deal and cost me money. In this case (another court case from the previous one I mentioned) I sued, and won of course making it 2:0 (DS against BC), but that’s not the point . . . the point is that business is all about people and the trashing others for personal or corporate gain is ingrained into the company from the top down. It’s not pretty but it’s widespread within the organisation.
Ruthless self-interest, aka GREED permeating throughout the corporate structure. It’s a dog-eat-dog business environment in there with personal return encouraged above and beyond ethical issues. Greed is an enormously powerful motivator. They have every right to go for it and achieve in my book, but I too have an equal right to expose it for what it is. I’m doing that here, and now.
With Bartercard I struggle to see anything positive – their technology is OK but nothing stunning. Their best people (normally the primary assets of a company) have either left or are going so that their expertise has been steadily dropping. Their business model has serious flaws. Their ethics (more on that in a minute) are a liability for longterm sustainability. Their aggression may suit the Australian ways but doesn’t go down well offshore, and when it is built upon fraudulent claims and misleading presentations the Americans [particularly] will eat them for breakfast. They will find it impossible to work with others in the industry. I just can’t find anything positive about the business that isn’t spin.
A Ruthless Predator
In 2013 the owners of a UK Trade Exchange* approached Bartercard with the view to selling their exchange. It’s not a 100% simple thing here because there was more than one person involved, but basically a sale was discussed between the two parties. For whatever reason, there was no deal. A difference in opinion over valuation methods meant that establishing a fair selling price, let alone terms of settlement could not be reached.
Following this discussion, in a pattern that is a clear Modus Operandii from Bartercard going back many years, a trusted staff member left this Trade Exchange and went to work for Bartercard. Of course he had the client records and in this case established himself as a Bartercard Franchise in the same area. Direct competition to this exchange then was achieved from ‘dealing to the inside’. Bartercard claimed that they never enticed anyone and that they were only doing the right thing, selling a Frranchise, but then later admitted to ‘a few little things’ like the fact that they never charged the guy for the Franchise, and that . . . well you get the picture.
The real killer for the exchange however is what Bartercard did next. It’s a little wordy in the documents so I’ll summarise it briefly . . .
Bartercard systematically and aggressively approached ALL this exchange’s members and solicited their business.
In this idustry this is nothing new. Newbies do it all the time until they mature and realise that their enthusiasm to crack a nut has pushed them over the ethical line. Most of them eventually mature a little, grow up, pull in their horns and do their own thing eventually, but what is ‘a little naughty’ to some, Bartercard takes to extremes . . .
Bartercard offered every member of this ‘victim’ exchange a free membership (this makes a mockery of the Bartercard IPO’s projections based on FULL RETAIL joining fees BTW) and then, incredibly, in writing offered these people FREE CREDIT to the tune of their Trade Dollar Balance!
Short of threatening concrete boots, this conduct is the ultimate in underhand tactics!
I would be SURE that they only offered this to the members in credit!!!!!
This is the exact text from the Bartercard template used to communicate with the victim exchange’s membersssss;
As part of our new enterprise in the Sussex area, we are pleased to be able to give you a “kick start” payment into your Bartercard account of T£ to allow you to ensure that Bartercard will work for your business
I’m told, [not yet verified] that one dude milked the opportunity and hiked his balance from well under £10k to almost £30k and Bartercard actually gave him that balance! Of course he later skited about it. Incredible opportunism but also incredible actions from Bartercard, a company that simply didn’t care to seek validation of the balances. Funny that thieves are stealing and lying amongst themseles too eh? I mean why would you bother to validate something when what you’re doing is immoral anyway. That’s like a couple of bank robbers saying to each other on their way out the bank, “Make sure you close the door, you don’t want to overload their airconditioning system!”right after the’d cleaned out the safe of all the cash.
If you’re giving away free money, “Well hell, who really cares how much we give away?”
Long story short, this exchange tried to approach Bartercard, then laid a complaint with IRTA’s Ethics Committee [UPDATE October 2014: This complaint was upheld and bartercard reprimanded (PDF)], then attempted settlement with the perpetrators and eventually restructured to try to cope with the trauma. There’s more in this saga that I will expose in due course in relation to IRTA’s conflict of interest and conduct with their Ethics Complaint (Bartercard were doing their secret deal at the time) but I now address Bartercard’s attitude and approach towards the entire matter when caught with their pants down.
But perhaps . . . ?
So is there any defence of this? Perhaps Bartercard might have changed its spots with the new ownership and Wayne Sharp gone? Perhaps this was all historical? Perhaps this was all the doings of an overenthusiastic junior?
Nope! This was in 2013/2014 and the perpetrator was a Simon C Barker who signs himself off as Chief Executive Officer, Bartercard UK Ltd.
Pants down, Bartercard!
They’ve Got Attitude
I’m in posession of a large number of emails relating to this case, one sadly all to common from Bartercardbut there is some quite revealing evidence provided from the complainant (to IRTA), and it’s the attitude of Bartercard in the face of getting caught in clear breach of IRTA rules that specifically prohibit this sort of thing from their members, and of course against all morality.
First, Bartercard lied . . . to IRTA and denied it all.
Then, when proved to have breached IRTA’s rules and undertaken predatory practices, Bartercard attempted to manipulate with half-truths and innuendos later proven to be highly self-serving.
Then (in a show of putrid arrogance) Bartercard condescendingly trashed not only a business but an individual standing up for justice. Listen to this . . . in point 8. of a letter summarising the facts, and AFTER BARTERCARD HAD ADMITTED TO ITS IMPROPER CONDUCT, Bartercard effectively says to the victim, “Get over it – shit happens!”
At our first meeting you suggested if we pressed our claim “the worst IRTA would do is to give us [Bartercard]a slap on the wrist”” At our most recent meeting (18.06.14) when we explicitly reiterated our objection to the way you have attacked our membership. Your response was to suggest we were being “emotional”, and that “you I I ] need to accept this is what happens in real life, and move on”.
Simon C Barker, from Bartercard UK, you may be a big man, in a big job, in a big world BUT you are in a small industry and your options will get smaller and smaller the more that you arrogantly demonstrate the four attributes of a true Bartercard Boy:
you’re a liar, you’re a manipulator and you have shown the world your sadistic, cynical, callous greed.
The sad thing is that this example is not an exception for Bartercard . . . it is the rule. This is not unusual Bartercard behaviour and the tipline has reported other examples of this over and over again.
I’ve given this one example of the Bartercard Modus Operandii because one man has taken a stand. I asked Scott Kennedy from Satachi about disclosing information supplied by a confidential tipline in this post.
He’s clearly not out to cause trouble but he said to me quite simply,
“What happened was just downright wrong, from Bartercard and from IRTA. I have nothing to hide, so you’re welcome to use it!”
I have the full set of documents relating to this sad story. I’ll be sharing more about IRTA’s handling of the case shorlty.
There are many others in the same boat too, who have been on the end of Bartercard’s aggression. Bartercard has consistently send ‘hit squads’ in to a region to deliberately target an attack on barter exchanges that attempted to sell to them.
Bartercard’s Modus Operandii is to deceive, play hardball and take what they can independently of any ethics.
In my next post in this series I dig deeper into this specific example of predatory practice and examine the role that IRTA played in handling it all. It’s just as sick as what Bartercard did to the guy! I also share more damning details about the Satachi deal including a full copy of the victims damning statements.
* Satachi Trade Bank Ltd
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