one trend that is fast becoming part of a growing number of web 2.0 success stories is to build initial audiences via questionable to illegal business practices and then clean it up later. myspace is the best example of a company that has long been rumored to have built its initial audience from a massive list of illegally obtained email addresses. this may have been related to the elliot spitzer investigation into the former parent intermix.
i recently made two attempts to buy plane tix through sidestep. in both cases a site called 800-cheapseats had far better deals listed than any other site. the first time it made me fill in all my credit card, address and email before informing me that that deal was no longer available. amazing that its database was showing it available to sidestep a minute earlier. ok, so i tried both sidestep and then cheapseats again a few hrs later for a different trip. this time it told me that my reservation was ‘successfully submitted’. concerned that that sounded a lot less confident than ‘your seat is booked’, i called their customer service rep, who told me that ‘it was clearly stated in the terms and conditions i agreed to that they would attempt to buy me the published deal within 48 hrs.’ she was very surprised i hadnt clicked on this link and thoroughly read the small print. when’s the last time you did that when buying a plane ticket?
it’s disappointing that a reputable, vc backed startup like sidestep would choose to show deals from such a misleading site. in the fast and furious world of performance marketing, anything seems to be fair game these days…SO MAKE SURE YOU READ THE FINE PRINT AND REMEMBER IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT’S PROBABLY BACKED BY A VC NEAR YOU AND ALREADY PLANNING TO GO PUBLIC:)