[Update: BoomerTowne Down!] Despite an Unsatisfactory BBB Rating, BoomerTowne Brags of Success, Plans for the Future

September 18, 2008 · 0 comments

Update, 9/21: BoomerTowne’s founder confirms that the site is dead, a victim of cheaters, the economy, and his failing health. Read his email here.
Update, 9/20: The BoomerTowne.com website is now down. The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions shows Concierge Web LLC is still a valid corporation, so they haven’t filed for bankruptcy (or if they have, WI hasn’t updated their records to reflect it). The timing of this, just two days after their PR firm disavowed any knowledge of the company’s owner’s whereabouts, certainly sounds final. Feel free to submit your claims to the Better Business Bureau here – Concierge Web LLC is incorporated in Wisconsin but is listed with the BBB as www.Boomertowne.com, with this address: 100 North Corporate Dr Suite 170, Brookfield, WI 53045
Like many of you, I’ve been waiting patiently on gift cards redeemed from BoomerTowne.com from as far back as May 9th, gift cards that were promised in 6 to 8 weeks. Last month, I predicted that the end of BoomerTowne points was near, as the site’s weekly newsletter had neglected to mention points at all. I haven’t received any newsletters from the site in a while now. The silence is deafening.
What I’m hearing around the ‘net is that some of the vocal complainers are having their accounts deleted. I’m owed $750 in outstanding gift cards from BoomerTowne and I realize I run the risk of losing it by posting further about BT, but since many of those points were earned on the backs of my referrals, who also are not getting paid, it was ill-earned gains anyway, and this is the least I can do on their behalf. So here goes:
I was really surprised when I stumbled across a September 5th article by a senior VP of BoomerTowne.com’s PR firm, Laughlin Constable, on eMarketer.com. In “Social Networking for Baby Boomers,” Paul Brienza discussed BoomerTowne and how it has succeeded in generating rich user content, as well as how health-care related advertising has “done very well.” He also hints at upcoming changes in how the site will generate income (a switch from CPM, which is basically a flat fee they earn based on the number of page views, to specific advertiser-sponsored pages).
Of course, I was incredulous that BoomerTowne’s PR firm was taking the time to discuss the site’s success and its plans for the future at the same time that no one seems to be able to get a response from the company on when, if ever, members can expect their gift cards — their rewards for generating that “rich content” of which Brienza bragged. In fact, BoomerTowne.com has an Unsatisfactory rating with the Better Business Bureau probably for that very reason. So, on Monday I sent Mr. Brienza an email and told him that I would be posting about this on Wednesday, and I asked for a response for the record. He didn’t reply. I even held off until today to make this post, but I still (as of this writing) have not received a response.
Below is the text of the email I sent Mr. Brienza, whose full title is Senior VP of Interactive Marketing for Laughlin Constable. If anyone at Laughlin Constable reads this and would like the opportunity to respond, you can do so in a comment or feel free to email me.
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Dear Mr. Brienza,
I run a website (CompareRewards.com) that provides news and reviews of
rewards programs including one of your clients, BoomerTowne. No doubt
you’re aware of the problems plaguing this website, in my opinion the
greatest of which is a complete lack of communication between site
administration and members, many of whom have been waiting for months for
their redeemed gift cards.
I read with great interest your September 5th interview with
eMarketer.com. There were several quotes in particular that I found
interesting and that I intend to post about on my website:
“We built an informational site, and found that people didn’t necessarily
want to come back frequently to the site. They’d use it, learn
information from it and then move on. So we developed BoomerTowne to be
more of a social networking site that’s rich in content.”
Mr. Brienza, wasn’t it the points system that motivated members to provide
the “rich content” you refer to here? The members are not being paid for
the content they contributed in good faith with the understanding that
they would be compensated for it. Isn’t this a serious breach of ethics
at the very least, or perhaps even outright illegal?
Also, regarding CPMs, “We’ve done very well with the healthcare-supported
side…it works well when you have a drug company that can go to the
health section and put ads in context…” My question, as you can
imagine, is, if BoomerTowne has done so well with any aspect of its
monetization strategy, what is the reason, then, that no points
redemptions have been honored since May 8th? Were you overstating the
website’s success to impress the eMarketer reading audience, or has the
website actually been far more of a disappointment, plagued by fraudulent
duplicate accounts, robotic clicks, and submission of inane content simply
to receive points?
And lastly, “[Advertisers will] be able to target these people, and maybe
not so much in the CPM or traditional banner standpoint, but more on a
sponsorship standpoint, where they sponsor various sections of a site, and
not just hit them with a 300 by 250.” Can I take away from this statement
that BoomerTowne is retooling its advertiser strategy with the intent to
stay in business despite its debt to members? If that is the case, can
you give BoomerTowne members some insight into what they can expect in
terms of wait time for gift card fulfillment, changes to the points
system, and any future incentives planned for contributing the rich
content you intend to monetize?
Mr. Brienza, in case you haven’t visited BoomerTowne’s message board or
Googled your client’s website name recently, you need to understand that
you have a full-blown PR nightmare on your hands. The sooner these issues
are addressed, the better your client’s chances of salvaging at least a
shred of respect and good will from the population it intends to serve.
I will be posting my comments about your interview and the situation at
BoomerTowne on Wednesday. If you have any response for the record about
my concerns or if there is any other information you’d like disseminated
to BoomerTowne’s membership, I would be glad to include that in my post.
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,
Becky Ford
CompareRewards.com
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Update: Minutes after posting this, I received the following email from Paul Brienza:
Becky:
Thank you for your e-mail.
While Laughlin/Constable was hired by the owner to develop and maintain certain aspects of the site, Laughlin/Constable does not own the site; was never responsible for any aspect of the points program; and no longer is working with the owner or manager of the site.
The owner has not returned our calls and has not left us with forwarding information.
Regards,
Paul

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