Tag Archives: fraud

How to get money back from a credit card payment if you’ve been ripped-off

Yesterday’s blog was about a “computer service” guy called Jon Draper who basically ripped me off when I foolishly let him debit my credit card before realising he had buggered-up my previously OK computer. (There had been a WiFi problem.)

My friend Lynn interestingly tells me the following which, obviously, only refers to the United Kingdom.


You can claim the payment back from your credit card company if the payment is over £100.

Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, your credit card company is jointly liable if something goes wrong with a product or a service you’ve paid for by credit card. The Which? website gives further details.

You can potentially claim for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the company from which you’ve bought your goods.

This means your credit card company shares equal responsibility with the retailer or trader for the goods or service supplied, allowing you to put your claim to the credit card company.

You don’t have to reach stalemate with the retailer or trader before you can contact your credit card provider – you can make a claim to both the retailer and credit card provider simultaneously.

Section 75 is particularly useful if the retailer or trader has gone bust, or you’re getting no response to your letters or phone calls.

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I was perhaps impolite to a man who offered me £50 per week for advice

I have mostly been in bed since Friday with a bad cough.

Even worse than my normal one.

Perhaps I have started hallucinating.

I had a phone call from a very nice man today. He was calling from 07843-670273.

That is a UK mobile cellphone number.

His first words, after a slight pause, were: “Are you (after another slight pause) Mr Fleming?”

“I might be,” I said. “Who are you?” My voice was croaking a little.

He told me his name and the financial services company he was calling from. The company’s name was a series of letters. He said he was doing research.

I congratulated him on having a job is this very difficult financial climate.

He asked me if I had ever made online financial investments.

I said I had done, “many, many times – mostly in Madagascar.”

He told me how very good it was to hear that.

“So you know how the system works,” he said.

“Oh yes, of course,” I told him. “I give money to you and you take money from me.”

“Oh no,” he replied.

He explained that he was not asking for money. He was offering free advice.

“That is a very bad business model,” I told him. “You should have a word with your bosses. That is a very bad way to do business. Not to ask for payment in return for services. That is terrible. You should ask for money if you give advice.”

He reassured me he was not asking me to pay anything. He repeated this several times. And explained that his company was offering free advice. “Are you interested?” he asked.

“This is a terrible way to run a business,” I repeated.

“Are you interested?” he asked.

“If you pay me,” I told him, “I would be interested in giving you advice which you could pass on to your bosses and it would improve your business model..”

After some to-and-fro, he asked me: “How much would you want?”

“£50 a week for the next three weeks,” I told him.

He said that was OK.

“Just give me your home address,” I told him, “and I will send everything to you by post.”

“You want my address?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“There is no need,” he said. “Give me your telephone number and I will transfer the money to you.”

“But you know my number,” I said, surprised. “You phoned me on it and your number is 07843-670273.”

He said he did not know my number; only my name.

“But how could you phone me?” I asked, “without having my number? You are talking to me on my number. I don’t think I am hallucinating. But maybe I am.”

He insisted he did not know my number but would pay me the £50 per week.

“But, no, you must know my number. I still don’t understand,” I said. “How on earth could you phone my number if you don’t have my number?”

“I like you, Mr Fleming,” he said.

“That is deeply unfortunate,” I told him, “because you are a cunt.”

And I hung up and blocked his number.

Perhaps I was too harsh.

And I lost the chance to earn £50 per week for the next three weeks.

Feel free to contact him – 07843-670273 – if you want to give him any advice.

But remember a minimum charge rate of £50 per week for your services has already been set as standard.

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Mobile phones, Carphone Warehouse, dodgy deals and terrible PR in the UK

So, this week I bought a phone from mobiles.co.uk (part of Carphone Warehouse).

When you clicked on the links, the advertised £60 upfront cost was actually £94.99.

Still a decent price, so I bought it.

Now they have taken £95 from my account.

Dodgy dodgy dodgy.

Silly literal penny pinching!

And horrendous PR.

se_60_mobilescouk

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Debenhams’ Black Friday discounts = dodgy dealings and PR disasterama

I’ve said it before and I will say it again.

Oh yes I will.

What is the point of having a blog if you can’t have a moan?

UK department store Debenhams are giving 20% off lots of items because it is Black Friday and – if you have a Debenhams credit card, as I do – you get an extra 10% off this week with a SAVE AN EXTRA 10% voucher.

Yippee!! You might think.

Debenhams’ card voucher

But do you get an extra 10% off?

Well, no you don’t.

For the sake of easy mathematics…

If you buy something with a display price of, say, £100 and have 20% + 10% off, you might expect to pay £70.

Not at Debenhams.

Because the “extra 10% off” is actually off the 80% price after the 20% has been deducted.

So, in fact, you don’t get a 20% + 10% reduction off the original price. You get a 20% + 8% reductiion.

This is all perfectly legal because, on the back of the voucher on line 8 of the small print (line 12 of 15, if I’m being pedantic) it says: “An extra 10% will be deducted at the till after any relevant discount is applied.”

The back of Debenhams’ card voucher

The back of Debenhams’ dark and dodgy discount voucher

It does not make any earth-shattering financial difference, really.

But it does mean that Debenhams’ attempt to court a good PR image turns into the PR image of a dodgy second-hand car dealer.

Black marks for Debenhams on Black Friday.

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RT financial guru Max Keiser’s view of journalists, criminal banker wankers & financing new Edinburgh Fringe shows

On Tuesday, the American journalist Abby Martin seemed to commit premeditated professional suicide on Russia’s RT TV channel – her employer – by criticising the Russian invasion of Crimea, part of the Ukraine.

On Wednesday, her colleague Liz Wahl did resign live on air.

I asked RT’s American financial guru Max Keiser about this when I chatted to him in London’s Soho yesterday.

“Journalists report on the news,” said Max, “and, at RT, they’re free to report anything they want to report. There’s no editorial restrictions. The young woman who resigned didn’t have to resign. After giving her thoughts, she could have easily stayed on just like Abby Martin stayed. Abby had comments regarding Russian policy on Ukraine and these comments were – eh – widely talked about and that’s what a journalist does. They either report the news or they give their opinion. But to then resign on air… That’s not journalism. That’s being a drama queen.”

Max, of course, is not shy of expressing his own opinions. Nor of unexpected actions.

A couple of weeks ago, he launched a crowdfunding site called StartJOIN, just one week after he launched his own alternative currency – Maxcoin.

Maxcoin was the biggest launch in the history of altcoins and achieved a $5 million market capitalisation within a week. Maxcoin is similar to BitcoinLitecoin and other crypto currencies.

Max himself, as I mentioned in a previous blog, is a former Wall Street stockbroker and still occasional stand-up comedian. But launching your own crypto currency is no joke.

“The Mt Gox bitcoin exchange has now collapsed,” I said. “Doesn’t that mean all these crypto currencies are vulnerable?”

“That one exchange collapsed,” said Max, “but it has nothing to do with Bitcoin. It’s like saying the London Bullion Market Association might collapse one day – but that wouldn’t really affect gold.

“We launched Maxcoin and it very quickly got up to $7 million in value and now it’s trading at around $2 million and it’s still one of the most actively-traded currencies out there. The miners who are mining it are profiting from their mining activities. Maxcoin launched successfully. And, based on the success of Maxcoin, we may soon see Stacycoin.”

“Based on Stacy Herbert?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Max.

Stacey Herbert with Max Keiser on RT series The Keiser Report

Stacey Herbert with Max Keiser on RT’s The Keiser Report

“Your TV co-presenter on The Keiser Report?”

“And my wife,” added Max. “She used to be a comedy script doctor. She worked on lots of TV shows here in the UK, including an animated sitcom called Popetown, commissioned by the BBC. But it was never aired here because the Catholic Church found it highly offensive. It had the voices of McKenzie Crook, Kevin Eldon, Matt Lucas, Bob Mortimer and Ruby Wax. Before that, Stacy was in Los Angeles doing TV and mostly film.”

Roseanne Barr is trying to finance a new film via your StartJOIN crowdfunding site,” I prompted.

“Yes,” said Max. “It’s called Bailout 2. It’s a sequel to a film called Bailout.”

“Now there’s a thing,” I said.

Bailout 2 is described on the StartJOIN site as “a hard-hitting, mud-slinging, social and political documentary exploring the Eurozone Crisis”.

“So what is your new StartJOIN site?” I tried.

“It’s crowdfunding – proper crowdfunding,” replied Max.

“For anyone?”

“Anyone. Any thing. I’m particularly interested in the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“But there’s no money in the Edinburgh Fringe,” I said.

“Well,” said Max. “I went to the Fringe for the first time last year and fell in love with it. But you hear over-and-over again about performers going up there and losing money. Crowdfunding seems perfect as a way to solve that problem: to get money up-front so you don’t have that economic risk. All the shows: comedy, theatre, music, lectures, whatever.

“The economics of the Fringe are terrible because the performers lose money for the most part. They have to come up with money ahead-of-time, then they have to go there and try to make it back and, for the most part, they don’t. So crowdfunding is perfect for this; it allows performers to raise money before they go and, when they get to the Fringe, they can concentrate on just doing their show.

“I’m going to make it a personal goal with StartJOIN to try to get as many acts as possible financed and up there. It’s an example of where alternative economics can step in and solve what I perceive to be a problem.”

“You see yourself as a modern-day Medici helping artists?” I asked.

“My hope with the Fringe is that, if it works this year, next year we can get even more active by actually putting as much additional financial resources as we can behind acts. We wanna make it the crowdfunding home for Fringe in the UK. We’re going to promote it as aggressively as we can. My intention is to throw as much money as I can at good acts.”

“Isn’t launching a crowdfunding site and your own crypto currency dodgy?” I asked.

“I’ve already launched successful businesses before,” said Max. “The Hollywood Stock Exchange in Los Angeles which is now a $200 million business that was sold eventually to (the bank) Cantor Fitzgerald. And KarmaBanque (a hedge fund) was a big project. I did that with Zac Goldsmith here in the UK. Plus my TV show is very successful. RT has a huge global presence. It’s in 150 countries. We do three Keiser Report shows each week, each show broadcast three or four times. We figure my show gets about 20 million viewers a week.”

Max Keiser stands up for his beliefs - possible in Edinburgh

Max Keiser stands up for his beliefs – possibly in Edinburgh

“And, as for the Edinburgh Fringe…?” I said.

“I want to go up there this year myself with my own stand-up show Rage.”

“What are you going to rage about?” I asked.

“The bankers.”

“Isn’t that yesterday’s news?”

“I don’t think so, because the scandals are continuing and they will continue because there’s no reform. The regulations are getting weaker not stronger, so the criminality will get more intense.”

Criminality is rather a harsh word.”

“It’s an apt word because they break laws. They break laws and they pay civil fines to avoid criminal trials. They should not be allowed to simply pay civil fines for an amount of money that is less than the money they made breaking the law. These banks in the UK have a profit centre called Law Breaking.”

“Surely that’s a world-wide thing, not just in the UK,” I suggested.

“The UK is uniquely positioned,” argued Max, “because it has the weakest regulations in the world. That’s why so many other banks in other countries outsource their banking fraud to the UK.”

“The UK is possibly going to recognise Bitcoins, isn’t it?” I said.

“This is what could be the saving grace for the UK. They could become the Bitcoin capital of the world, which could save them from destruction. I’m all for that.”

“And the Bitcoin Foundation is moving to London isn’t it?”

Mark Carney: Is this man a brain-damaged ex-hockey player?

Mark Carney: Is this fine Canadian man a brain-damaged ex-hockey player or is he only Chairman of the Bank of England?

“Yes. This is potentially going to save Britain from economic destruction. It will replace Mark Carney, the Chairman of the Bank of England.”

“You’re just averse to him because he’s a Canadian and you’re a Yank,” I said.

“He’s a Canadian and he’s a shifty fellah,” replied Max. “When he played hockey in college, he played as a goalie. If you’ve ever played hockey, you know that goalies almost universally suffer brain damage because they get hit in the head so many times with the puck. Mark Carney’s a perfect example of that… and that’s an example of what I’m going to rage about.”

“That’s it then,” I said. “Thanks for the chat.”

“What about Charlie Brooker? asked Max.

“What about him?” I asked

“He does a show called Newswipe,” said Max.

“Yes,” I had to agree.

“And,” said Max, “he takes the piss out of TV shows and commercials. He hasn’t had a clip from my show on his show yet.”

“Am I to be blamed for this?” I asked.

“I want the people to know I’m not happy,” said Max.

“Why are you not happy?”

“Because, by all rights, he should have a clip of my show on his Newswipe show. He’s the only guy I like in UK media. Charlie Brooker’s got the best show in the UK right now. It’s the funniest and it’s very biting satire. He’s a very talented guy.

Max Keiser with friend Alec Baldwin in New York’s Upper East Side

Max Keiser with Alec Baldwin in New York’s Upper East Side

“We were going to do a show together – It was going to be Charlie Brooker and myself and Alec Baldwin. We were going to do a show here in London. A writer friend of ours put it together. It was going to be shot over at the Gherkin building and we were going to try to sell it to an American distributor. We were talking to Charlie Brooker’s ‘people’. Alec Baldwin was going to be the executive producer, because he’s been a friend of mine for 30 years. He’s thinking about moving to London and doing theatre.”

“Well, now Kevin Spacey is leaving The Old Vic…” I mused. “What sort of TV show was it going to be?”

“It was based on that BBC World News series I did called The Oracle. We’re trying to bring it back for another season, but I keep Tweeting about how the BBC is full of drunks, so it’s gonna be a tough sell.”

“If you can’t sell it, no-one can,” I said.

Max Keiser is such a good salesman he could even, in my dreams, sell laissez-faire rather than blindfolded pragmatism to the Russians.

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Filed under Bankers, Comedy, Crowdfunding, Finance, Politics

Russia Today’s American financial guru Max Keiser tells me how to make myself $100 million and why he can libel me

Max Keiser in a taxi in 2007, as the financial markets headed for collapse

Max Keiser in a London taxi in 2007, as the world financial markets headed for collapse

“I can tell you how to make $100 million right now,” RT’s Max Keiser told me over coffee at Bar Italia in London’s Soho.

“Join Al-Qaeda?” I asked.

“No, said Max firmly. “All you have to do is you call up someone like Jamie Dimon over at JP Morgan or call Goldman Sachs and say I want to open a Prime Brokerage Hedge Fund account and I need to borrow $100 million and then you sell short gold futures contracts in the open market along with all the other players who simultaneously sell gold every day at the same time.

“If you watch the chart of gold every day, at around 8.00am UK time, gold drops by about 3% or 4% – almost every single day at the exact same time.

“You do this repeatedly for a number of weeks. You bank your $100 million in profit. You pay back the loan to JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs. And you walk away. There’s nothing hard about it.”

“Unless,” I suggested, “it moves in the other direction.”

Today’s gold prices. The graph looks the same each day

Today’s gold prices. The graph has the same drop at the same time each day

“Well,” said Max, “since they’re all colluding together and they do it together and there’s no law against it – or, if there is any law against it they don’t enforce the law – the risk is almost zero. Every day traders working together – colluding – slam the price of gold for a quick profit using money they borrow at 0% interest – all gains are 100% cost free – and since the government bails out any losing positions, these gains are also risk free.

“This is a well-documented occurrence in the gold and silver markets that many have tried to get regulators to stop – but it’s too profitable for the insiders who have control of the regulators.”

The price of gold price on another day

Price of gold drops on another day

“What’s that name you have for bankers?” I asked. “It’s not wankers, it’s…”

“Terrorists?” suggested Max.

“Banksters,” I remembered. “Banksters – a combination of bankers and gangsters.”

“They’re also terrorists,” said Max. “(A major British bank) just admitted they laundered money for HezbollahAccording to David Cameron, Hezbollah is on the list of terrorist organisations.

The price of gold on yet another day

The price of gold on yet another day

“I mean, a lot of people don’t think Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation but according to Israel, according to the EU, according to the British administration, Hezbollah are terrorists and (a major British bank) just said Yeah, we do launder money for them. We will pay a little fine. That makes (a major British bank) financial terrorists. There’s no equivocation here. There’s no hyperbole. They are financial terrorists and they have no way to counter-argue what I just stated. If there was, they would.”

“Well, they would probably sue me for libel,” I said.

“But I get an American exception,” Max told me. “Under the Speech Act of 2010, no British person can sue me for libel. Any libel suit against me where you’re seeking damages would have to go through and comply with American free speech law. You’d have to persuade an American court I was violating free speech according to American law.”

“You can say I fuck sheep and I can’t sue you?” I asked.

“I can say you fuck sheep all day long,” said Max. “You can sue me in the UK, but you’d have to go to America and prove the libel to get at my American assets.”

“I can only imagine what those are,” I said.

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Cunning stunts at the Edinburgh Fringe & US comic Laura Levites left destitute by crowd funding site Indiegogo

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Broadway Baby in Edinburgh yesterday - or is it?

Broadway Baby in Edinburgh yesterday – is it?

Cunning stunts seem to have escalated at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.

Yesterday was to see the announcement of the shortlist for the Perrier Awards, now re-named the Fosters Awards, presumably because their parentage has been very variable.

Shortly before the announcement Barry Ferns, already nominated for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award, distributed a second edition of his fake Broadway Baby review sheet – this one headlined FOSTERS AWARD NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED.

After an apparently self-publicising puff for Broadway Baby, the Fosters five Best Newcomer nominations included Barry Ferns and the six Main Prize nominees also included Barry Ferns.

At the Pleasance Dome, I watched as people picked up sheets of the fake edition to study what they thought were the real nominees.

edinburghcomedyawards_fakepage

Edinburgh Comedy Awards maybe?

Meanwhile, an Edinburgh Comedy Awards website appeared online at the address  www.edinburghcomedyaward.com in the same colours as the Fosters Awards and with a logo sporting an E instead of an F. I think the Edinburgh Comedy Awards was a previous name for the Perrier/Fosters Awards, but there have been so many it is difficult to remember.

The nominees for this years Edinburgh Comedy Awards included Nathan Cassidy (a Malcolm Hardee Award nominee last year) and it was said: “The Winner of the Edinburgh Comedy Award 2013 will be announced at 7pm on Thursday 22nd August at Finnegan’s Wake on the stage at the end of Nathan Cassidy’s show (starting at 6.15).  This in no way reflects a bias towards Nathan.”

The site includes a clip of “the ‘great’ comedian (Broadway Baby) Nathan Cassidy in action.”

In a further confusing twist, explicably, it also turns out that the web address www.fosterscomedyawards.co.uk takes you to the Malcolm Hardee Awards page.

Andrew J Lederer in Edinburgh - not

Andrew J Lederer now in Edinburgh – not

To confuse matters even more, esteemed New York based comedian Andrew J Lederer sent me an e-mail saying: “I think I should have been nominated for the Cunning Stunt Award by figuring out the cheapest, laziest way to do Edinburgh yet devised – by simply not going.”

Instead of coming to perform at the Fringe this year, he has been posting a daily Fringe blog that makes no mention of the fact that he is not actually in Edinburgh.

“More people read the posts every day than typically came to see my Edinburgh shows,” he tells me. “And I have been receiving e-mails from people who think I am in Edinburgh saying Where are you? and We can’t find you listed.

Where all this leads next year, I barely dare to think. Life is anarchic enough at the Fringe.

For example, the final two days of my Fringe chat shows had their line-up thrown into turmoil yesterday.

Yesterday’s chat: Tim Fitzhigham (left) and Patrick Monahan (photograph by Garry Platt)

Yesterday’s chat: Tim Fitzhigham (left) and Patrick Monahan (photograph by Garry Platt)

Today’s show was to have featured Perrier/Fosters boss Nica Burns with iconic 80-year-old American performer Lynn Ruth Miller. Nica will no longer be appearing and has been replaced by flame-haired young comedy temptress Laura Levites. So we will be having two feisty American Jewish female comics from different generations.

And tomorrow (Friday) – adding to the anarchy – Martin Soan of the Greatest Show On Legs will no longer be coming up to Edinburgh from London after being kidnapped by a group of Bosnian gangsters when he was walking along a street in Peckham and held for a ransom which his wife Vivienne is unable or unwilling to pay.

At least, that is what I am going to tell people.

Anyway, he is not coming up.

So the billed Friday afternoon chat with multi-award-nominated Adrienne Truscott and Martin Soan will now instead be a chat with multi-award-nominated Adrienne Truscott and ultimate Scots comic Janey Godley, author of the bestselling and excellently-edited autobiography Handstands in the Dark, still in print after eight years. (I allegedly edited it.)

The bare image promoting the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards

Increasingly chaotic Malcolm Hardee Awards

Martin Soan’s enforced non-appearance on Friday also has an interesting knock-on effect in that he was due to perform with the Greatest Show On Legs in the Naked Balloon Dance as the climax to tomorrow night’s increasingly prestigious and increasingly chaotic Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show.

No… At the moment, I have no idea what will happen either. But at least I have some money in my pocket.

Which brings us back to young flame-haired American comedian Laure Levites.

She crowd-funded her utterly brilliant current Edinburgh Fringe show Self Helpless through what seemed to be a trustworthy online site Indiegogo.com

Indiegogo may or may not actually be a competent crowd-funding site in the same way that Saddam Hussein was a humanitarian.

“I didn’t have the money,” Laura told me yesterday, “so I thought What a great way to fund my Fringe show. I wanted to raise $7,500 and the fundraising finished on July 15th. I was supposed to get the money I raised 7-15 days afterwards – the end of July – just before the Edinburgh Fringe started.”

“And has the money appeared?” I asked.

“As of today – 21st August – no,” Laura told me yesterday. “On July 22nd, I received an e-mail saying that Indiegogo didn’t have my bank account information which I’d previously set up.

Laura’s crowd-funded show was not

Laura’s crowd-funded show was not funded

“So I went in and put in my bank’s routing number. I put it in three times and their system declined it. So I got in touch with my bank and they gave me a different number. I put in that number and Indiegogo accepted it. By now I was in the UK.

“On August 1st, I received this message: We noticed your campaign Help Send Laura Levites To The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013 contains content that is prohibited by our Terms of Use. Our Terms of Use states that campaigners may not use Indiegogo to raise funds for ‘obscene or pornographic items, sexually oriented or explicit materials or services.’ Because the minimum age for using Indiegogo is 13, campaign pages may not include any explicit language or depictions, or offers of sexual services. Typically, we put campaigns and disbursements on hold.

“Did you have anything dodgy in your appeal?” I asked.

“No,” Laura told me. “I was very careful not to curse or anything. The next day, I got another message: Congratulations on raising funds. Today, on August 1st, we triggered a disbursement to your Bank. They said it would be in my account by August 8th.

“On August 9th, they said that the bank information I had put in on July 22nd and which their computers had accepted was incomplete or inaccurate, so they couldn’t disperse my funds.”

“I was in the UK by now so, on the 9th, my brother in the US sent a message to Indiegogo and, on the 10th, I sent them a message. My brother tried to get a phone number, but they don’t have a phone number. By the 12th, they hadn’t replied.”

Indiegogo, by this point had stopped claiming Laura’s appeal had been obscene and had started claiming her bank routing number (which their computer had accepted) was incorrect. It was the same bank routing number she used and uses on her PayPal account and it worked and works perfectly OK with PayPal.

She, nonetheless, got another routing number from her bank and gave it to Indiegogo on August 13th, adding: “I have already started my project and I don’t have money to eat.”

She then got an e-mail from a Brittany of Indiegogo: “Hi Laura, I spoke to your brother a couple of times today and we have done everything we can to get you your funds as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the routing number provided was incorrect, so I did a little research and had your brother update it with the correct number. You should be good to go. We expedited the process as much as we could so you will see your funds next week.”

Laura wrote back pointing out it was the third time she had updated her number.

Brittany replied: “The routing number you provided was in fact not correct. You provided a ‘Wire Transfer’ routing number as opposed to an ‘ACH/Direct Deposit’ routing number… I understand how this information may be misleading, so I would be happy to bring this up to our product team for further review… I spoke to your brother and we were able to input the correct routing number and we expedited your disbursement to occur next week.”

Laura wrote back: “I’m not happy with this as the routing number I originally provided for you was correct and you told me it wasn’t.  I can’t get my money next week, I have no money to eat. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? I HAVE NO MONEY TO EAT. YOU GUYS HAVE SCREWED THIS UP NOT ME. I NEED MONEY TO EAT, IT CAN’T WAIT TILL NEXT WEEK.”

Laura Levites yesterday, reduced to borrowed Coca Colas

Laura Levites yesterday, reduced to borrowing Coca Colas

Yesterday, Laura told me: “Their customer help team is called the Customer Happiness Team so, at the end of every fucking message you get from them, it says Cheers, Brittany, Customer Happiness. Are they fucking kidding me?”

“What happened next?” I asked.

“On the 14th August,” Laura told me, “I get a message from Pam of Customer Happiness. It said: Please update your bank account information.

“So I write back to Pam and tell her the whole story again, because no-one at Indiegogo reads their e-mails. I said: I’m very upset with Indiegogo. You have put me in a horrible position. I have used this platform because I needed help. Now I’m in the UK with no money to eat, in debt, and the people that have donated to me are furious. They want to cancel their donations and just give me or wire me money. Everybody has emailed me saying they want to do this. So I urge you, to please get my funds released to me.

“What happens? I get a message from Brittany: My apologies that you’re unhappy with the current situation… We do not currently have a banking information verification for our system.

“They don’t have a verification system for checking anything?? We’re talking about money here! Money! No bank verification system? PayPal has bank verification. How are Indiegogo taking money from banks and credit cards without a bank verification system? They have a bank verification system for the money coming in but they don’t have a bank verification system for the money going out?

“Then I get a message from Jordan of the Customer Happiness Team. It says: I help manage disbursements here at Indiegogo and Brittany shared your note with me. I’m happy to help clarify the status of your current disbursement… Unfortunately, Indiegogo does not currently have the ability to verify bank account routing numbers. Our system can recognize when a routing number is the correct format, but our system cannot recognize when a routing number is correct… I completely understand your frustration thus far, and I do agree that it would be extremely helpful to have built in verification systems on Indiegogo… I’m reaching out to our payments team to see if there is anything we can do to help you receive your funds.

“Then, on August 15th, I get an e-mail from Sandy. It says: We have expedited your disbursement to be included in the current cycle and you should expect to see your funds in the next 3-5 business days. I got this on the 15th. It is now the 21st!”

Laura wrote back to Sandy on the 16th: “I find this totally unacceptable. You haven’t kept up your end of the deal. My campaign finished on the 15th of July it’s now the 16th of August. This is a breach of your contract. I’ve had to borrow money… My show is suffering as I don’t have the funds needed for essential promotional activity.  Now, I’m going to lose money as a result.”

Laura then got a message: “Today, August 15, we triggered a disbursement to your bank account… We estimate that you will receive your new disbursement by Thursday August 22.”

Today is Thursday August 22nd. No money has arrived. Laura’s fundraising finished on July 15th. Her money was due 7-15 days afterwards, at the start of August, to fund her Fringe show.

“People have asked how crowd funding has worked for me,” Laura told me today, “and the truth is it hasn’t worked for me at all. Extreme unhappiness doesn’t even begin to cut it. I don’t have my money.”

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The surreal world of accounting in the music biz and the missing £500,000+

(A version of this piece was also published by the Indian news site WSN)

Bobby Valentino, when he was Young at Heart

Bobby Valentino, forever Young at Heart

Last night, Searching For Sugar Man quite rightly won the Oscar for Best Documentary.

It is partly about the search for missing royalty payments due to the Detroit-based recording artist Rodriguez, who sold zilch in the US but who was selling shedloads of albums (“bigger than the Rolling Stones”) in South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s… and, indeed, in the 1990s and 2000s…

Coincidentally, in the UK, musician Bobby Valentino has just issued a press release about the surreal lack of royalties he received on the worldwide hit song Young at Heart.

I have touched on this before – in July last year – in a blog headlined Surely not a £500,000+ music biz rip-off? How a hit record made “no money” which was about the surprising lack of royalties Bobby (did not) receive from PRS (the Performing Right Society) but Bobby provides more details in his latest press release. Last year, Bobby told me: “On average, the figures are about 5% of what you’d expect them to be.”

Now Bobby says: “By careful investigation it has been discovered that there was a change of sub-publisher on or about 4th March 1993. What is peculiar is that the royalties disclosed by PRS for the whole of 1993 are taken as those for the period 1st January until 4th  March 1993. In other words, about two months’ royalties were offered as representing the royalties for the whole year. So where did the royalties go? Quite simply to the new sub-publisher.”

The next bit takes a bit of careful reading but, says Bobby:

“The royalty information was supplied by PRS. Unfortunately they supplied the incorrect information in 2003 and since then have denied that they did so. Inconveniently for PRS there are a number of indicators that they did supply incorrect information.

“Some of this is complex but we can first focus on one key issue: On 4th March 1993 PRS recorded a change in the registration of Young at Heart. This change is shown as the (incorrect) noting of a German version of Young at Heart known as the Baerenstark version.

“In fact the existence of the Baerenstark version was not registered with PRS, as shown in their main records, until 5th February 2007. In other words whoever made the change on 4th March 1993 had supernatural powers of foresight.

“A less fantastic explanation is that the original entry on 4th March 1993 noted the change of sub-publisher and that when this became an inconvenient truth the entry was changed to a noting of the Baerenstark version.”

There is a second, related, indication of psychic gifts by someone at PRS, says Bobby, and it involved sheet music.

“Sheet music royalties,” he says, “are shown as paid to the new sub-publisher for July to September 1993. This is a further recognition of the supernatural influence of Young at Heart. Given that PRS claim the change of publisher occurred at the end of 1993 how can the new publisher receive payment for sheet music for July 1993? Someone or something is revealingly and inconveniently ahead of itself.”

Bobby Valentino says he wants PRS to treat him and fellow writers fairly and in his case to acknowledge the surreal accounting so that he can recover what is due to him.

Seems reasonable to me.

But, then, reason and moral accounting seems to be something alien to the record business and, indeed (I can tell you from personal experience) the film distribution business.

The rule of thumb is that, if they can screw you, they will.

With Bobby Valentino, though, they may have bitten off more than they can chew and gone several accountancy twists too far.

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Comic Charlie Chuck remembers the late Malcolm Hardee patting himself

Like Malcolm a unique one-off performance

I recently blogged about how violinist Bobby Valentino, who supposedly gets 25% of the writing royalties on the worldwide hit song Young at Heart, has been getting tens rather than hundreds of thousands of pounds over the last 20 years.

It sounds to me like the film distribution business. They call it creative accounting.

Things are much more straight-forward in the world of British comedy.

Dave Kear performs in his comic persona of Charlie Chuck and remembers how the late comedy club owner Malcolm Hardee used to pay him. Well, sort of…

______________

If you agreed a fee with Malcolm – let’s say it were £200 twenty years ago at Up The Creek – any acts on there had to try to get to Malcolm before he got too drunk or before any of the other comedians got to him. If they were sensible, whoever was on first went up to him immediately afterwards and they got their money… usually. But the comic that went on last – it might have been me or Lee Evans or Jack Dee or Jo Brand – we’d go up to him and he had a routine almost.

You’d ask him: “Have you got the money?”

And he’d say: “How much was it?”

“Two hundred pounds,” you’d say.

“Two hundred pounds?” he’d ask, as if he were surprised.

Then he’d put his hand in his inside jacket pocket and pull maybe £30 out of there. Then his outside pocket and he’d pull maybe £50 out of there. Then £20 out of another pocket and he’d ask: “How much is that?”

He’d give you the money and you’d be counting it. There’s £80… £100… £120… and then he’d start tapping his body and he’d say: “Err, well, you’re coming back again, aren’t you? I’ll have you back again. It’s been a great show and I’ll… I’ll… sort it out with you then… Err… Is that alright?”

Well, he was such a great bloke, you couldn’t… You’d say… Well, that’s what happened regular with Malcolm and it depended, I imagine, on how it had gone earlier that day, with him having a bet on the horses.

If he’d won on the horses, well, you knew you were going to get paid and he’d perhaps give you a bit extra. He were like that.

I don’t know any other promoter that were like Malcolm. He were unique. He were a smashing bloke. What’s the word? Lovable. He were loveable. They were great times.

He seemed helpless. That’s what he’d give off. Being helpless. Of course, he wasn’t helpless, but he’d give that impression. He were so innocent. Brilliant. Great times.

______________

Charlie Chuck is one of the acts on this year’s Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on the final Friday of the Edinburgh Fringe’s Free Festival. He will not be conned out of any money, because no-one is getting paid. They will be performing in memory of Malcolm, who drowned in 2005.

I am organising the show and I do not take any money to cover any costs. Any money donated by the audience at the end will go 100% to comedy critic Kate Copstick’s Mama Biashara charity.

It is what Malcolm would have wanted…

Well, no, of course it isn’t.

But it will certainly be memorable. It always is.

Like Malcolm, a one-off.

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Surely not a £500,000+ music biz rip-off? How a hit record made “no money”

(A version of this piece was also published by Indian news site We Speak News)

Bobby Valentino – when Young at Heart

This morning, Bob Diamond of Barclays Bank resigned because of the interest rate fixing scandal, which most ordinary people might consider fraud. Apparently it was not legally fraud and, of course, I would not dream of implying that anything illegal was done by anyone. Clearly, in the case of Barclays Bank, everything which was done was done in a perfectly legal way – even if, to ordinary people, it was amoral and arguably immoral.

Amorality and lateral thinking where money is concerned, of course, is not limited to the banking industry. The movie industry and the music business are notorious for creative thinking where money is concerned.

Last week, I was chatting to the superb violinist Bobby Valentino in London.

I think I first saw Bobby perform when he was part of the Hank Wangford band in the mid 1980s. He is arguably most famous for his violin intro to The Bluebells’ 1993 release of their song Young at Heart.

This resulted in a 2002 court case in which Bobby claimed he had composed the very distinctive violin intro and that it made a significant enough difference to the song to be considered an original contribution. He won the case and won 25% of the writer’s royalties, backdated to 1993.

You might think that would have made him a lot of money.

Last week, though, he told me it had not.

“How much do you reckon you are owed?” I asked.

“Maybe between half a million and three quarters of a million pounds,” he replied.

“But you won the court case,” I said.

“You like surreal comedy,” he said, “so you’ll like this.”

“Mmmmm….” I said.

“I won the court case,” he told me. “The publishers were ordered to disclose their statements and PRS (the Performing Right Society) volunteered their statements. But they are, to be charitable, surreal. Young at Heart seems to have been the only pop song in history that didn’t earn anywhere near the expected royalties. On average, the figures are about 5% of what you’d expect them to be.”

“How do people calculate the expected royalties on a song?” I asked.

“By comparing it with other songs which sold similar amounts and had roughly the same amount of radio and TV play,” he replied. Bobby studied Mathematics at York University.

“There was a very high-profile TV ad for VW,” he explained, “which should have made about £80,000 for the song on just one run, from 14th February to 31st March 1993. The PRS statement for that first run shows less than £2,000 to the writer. And there was a second run of the same ad from 5th October to 4th December 1993. That should have made another £70,000.

“So how much did that second run make?” I asked.

“There are no royalties shown for that at all,” said Bobby. “None.”

“They claim there were zero royalties from the transmission run of a high-profile VW ad over two months?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Bobby. “And zero royalties for the song from America. It wasn’t a hit in America. It was only a ‘college hit’, so there would not have been a lot due. But there should have been something. Plus there were a load of British TV shows which used the song and which played in America – Midsomer Murders, all that sort of stuff. But there’s absolutely not one penny from America on the publisher’s statements or the PRS statements.”

“But Young at Heart is like Blur’s Song 2,”  I interrupted. “The sort of song where TV shows and promo & ad makers use the opening and not the song itself. Song 2 has the Wooo-Hoooooo! opening bit and Young at Heart has your violin intro.”

“Yeah,” agreed Bobby. “The number of times they use the Young at Heart opening – Diddle-diddle diddle-diddle diddle-yup-de-yup – in You’ve Been Framed!… When people are falling over, they use the violin’s Diddle-diddle diddle-diddle diddle-yup-de-yup.

“People have said to me,” Bobby laughed. “Surely there must be something dodgy with the figures that are being provided? and I tell them: Well, YOU may say that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

“PRS’s excuse is that every UK radio station failed to report to them correctly, every UK TV station failed to report to them correctly and every overseas rights society failed to report to them correctly.”

“Who’s saying this?” I asked.

“PRS.”

“What’s the explanation?”

“Well,” said Bobby. “Someone suggested to me that the upper management at PRS has no idea what the lower echelons are doing. But that can’t be true, can it? I’m sure PRS are honourable guys. But the lower guys have come up with these statements of literally 5% of what you’d expect. You can only laugh.

“I get a bit of money. But what I should have got was the money backdated to 1993 and these statements are surreal: 5% of what you’d expect.

“In fact, I’ve got paperwork that contradicts the PRS figures, but apparently that paperwork is ‘in error’.”

“Where’s the paperwork from?” I asked.

EMI Publishing,” Bobby replied.

“PRS is saying the EMI paperwork is in error?” I asked, incredulous.

“Yeah. And they claim the whole song made £25,000 in the first year. In that first year, it should have made about a third of a million pounds. And it would have made £2 million over ten years.”

“It’s PRS who are due to pay you the money?” I asked.

“No,” said Bobby, “it’s the publishers and the main writer who are due to pay me the money. The publishers did not disclose their performance statements. You get statements for Mechanicals (which is sales), for Synch (when something is part of a TV ad) and for Performance. Hit records usually earn considerably more in Performance royalties than they do in Mechanical royalties. And the publishers did not disclose their own Performance statements.

“So they (Clive Banks Music, Anxious Music (Dave Stewart’s publishing company) and Universal Music) relied on the PRS statements. They said The PRS statements are good enough, because PRS is supposed to be Blue Chip. But, like I say, the figures read like they are from some obscure surreal comedy.

Young at Heart was a hit in Denmark. You’d expect maybe £25,000 in writer royalties for a hit in Denmark but the writer supposedly only earned £185.

“It was a hit in Portugal. The writer supposedly earned £141 – and the VW TV ad was also shown in Portugal which made the song No1 in the air-play and sales charts!

“It was a big hit in Italy. PRS claimed the writer was only due £31. There was a friend of mine in a bar in Italy and he asked about the song and the whole bar just started singing it – in English.

“When you average out all the amounts that are missing, it works out I got about 5% of what you’d expect.”

“And you reckon you might be down maybe £500,000 to £750,000 on it?”

“Yes,” said Bobby, “Of course, there are always cock-ups. It didn’t help that the publisher changed on 4th March 1993. Maybe, in that year, what might have happened is that we got shown the statements for money due before 4th March instead of for the whole year, but the odd thing is that PRS have matched the publisher’s statements to the penny. And that is weird. Statements never match each other to the penny. They might up a fiver; they might be down a fiver; it all evens out. But, in the real world, they never ever match to the penny.

Bobby Valentino smiles at surreal figures last week

“PRS claim that the sub-publisher changed from MCA to EMI on 31st Dec 1993 but I have a statement from EMI Music which shows them collecting royalties in July 1993 because, in fact, the change happened on 4th March 1993.

“This thing where the figures match exactly despite all those complications is just plain weird.

“I’ve done calculations on lots of other songs in the past and they’re never quite right. They can be a fiver or a tenner out each time. It’s up and down – swings and roundabouts – but these ones match to the penny. That never happens normally. If you don’t know the system, you might think the fact that they match seems reasonable: Well, they’re supposed to match, you would think.

“But not in the real world. For them to match to the penny is bizarre.”

I certainly have to admire Bobby’s ability to face the bizarre and the surreal.

What is even more bizarre is that I know someone else in the music business who tells me that there was a meeting of the Music Publishers’ Association shortly after that 2002 court case in which the judge (who was musically-trained) awarded Bob 25% of the royalties on Young at Heart.

“They were up in arms,” my friend told me. “They were going: We can’t have musicians getting royalties as writers! The world will fall apart if musicians get royalties as writers! And their whole vibe was: The judge got it wrong. So maybe someone decided to ‘put it right’.

“Someone told me PRS really stands for the Publisher’s Rip-off Society and not the Performing Right Society.”

But surely she must be wrong.

I believe that, like the movie distribution business, the music publishing business is an honourable world filled with honourable people.

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