The Price of Fame? About $750

By Kurt Cagle
January 8, 2009 | Comments: 26

I spent about an hour yesterday morning on the phone (at Canada's rather obscene cell phone rates) speaking with an "editor" for Continental Who's Who. The pitch is pretty typical (and I had an idea what was going on, so I decided to follow through with it) - you get an email congratulating you on being selected for inclusion in the Who's Who directory of "famous people", please send in the email in order to confirm your selection.

About a week later I get a phone call from an editor (I'll call her Cherise, though this wasn't her real name) congratulating me again, then asking for more information about I do as an editor for O'Reilly Media (I could almost see the filled-in blanks).

"Er..., well, I write articles, help coordinate a group of about a dozen XML bloggers and do similar editorial type things."

Cherise listens politely, then asks for a little more background. "I write books, speak at conferences, do the occasional consulting."

This was very good, and Cherise said so: "You certainly qualify for our listings. By the way, consulting is very good, Who's Who is a boon to consultants who are looking to set up high powered connections, and I would make myself available twenty-four times a year to provide you with high quality links to other Who's Who nominees."

"Hmmmm ....," I thought.

"You can also write your own entry in Who's Who, will get a copy of the book each year as well as (wait for it) a special certified plaque listing your inclusion in Who's Who."

"Wow!" thought I. " .. a special certified plaque!"

Now, came the price of fame. Moving smoothly into the sales pitch, she let me known (gently) that for the piddling price of $750 I could become a platinum certificate listee and appear for the rest of my natural life. If money was a little tight (understandable in these hard times), I could instead become a gold certificate listee for only $500, which would let me be in the book for five years, and which could be upgraded at any time.

"Um ... erm. Let me think about it."

"Oh, we're going to press in a couple of weeks, so I need to get a decision now. Look, if its a matter of budget, we can break it up into payments ..."

"Hmmm ... I, er ..."

"We can even get you in as a non-profit! Only $250, though you get only one copy of the Who's Who issue and are listed for only three years ..."

"Oh, look, there's a giant ruby-throated hummingbird outside! They're very rare!! Sorry, gotta go now, Cherise!!"

The funny thing is that over the years I have written about twenty books, I've consulted with a lot of companies, spoken at many conferences and in my own area of expertise I'm reasonably well known ... and I'm perfectly happy with that. It's a kind of fame I'm actually pretty comfortable with, and while, in the long run, it's probably cost me many, many times the cost of a platinum membership to Who's Who, in the main the money was well spent.

Services such as Linked-In or Plaxo or even Facebook provide a level of interactivity and connectivity that is far more immediate and generally far more useful than having a bit of self-laudatory praise in a large book that is owned only by fools who are willing to part with that much money in order to be listed as being important.

Oh, I have no doubt that there are many famous people in such directories, but the likelihood that they ended up there because of an email scam and solicitation is pretty remote (indeed, I can imagine that Linked-In, et al, have probably proved a real treasure trove for the good editors of Who's Who).

For those who bemoan the fate of book publishing, remember that there are predators even in that particular sea.

Kurt Cagle is an Online Editor for O'Reilly Media. You can subscribe to his Atom Feed or follow him on Twitter. You won't, however, find him in Who's Who.


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26 Comments

Good lord - I hate those solicitations!

But it does conjure up one particularly funny quotable line (having about as much impact as being in one of those guides) - from Steve Martin's "the Jerk"

"The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!"
"Page 73 - Johnson, Navin R.! I'm somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity - your name in print - that makes people. I'm in print! Things are going to start happening to me now."

In the US, solicitors are not allowed to use cell phones because the understanding it does cost the users for each minute. We also have a "Do Not Call List" for landlines or if someone got your mobile by accident. However, the law actually allows for calls for people that do not 'sell' anything. This opens up a BIG hole for politicians and their friends to call you for polls or fund raisers and such.

Actually, the first time I talked to you, I was VERY excited, cuz to me you are a celebrity. I know I am a geek, but you are the guy that wrote all the books on my shelves! It's funny that someone like you should be on a 'do not piss off' list, especially with your experience in XML vis-a-vis publishing.

I just received the same call, this time from "Diane Webster." While she was quizzing me I Googled Continental and came across your article. I've worked in communications long enough to recognize a telemarketing script when I hear one, but it was fun to follow where this was heading in your piece as I listed to the pitch. When I finally convinced her that I wasn't interesting in spending a dime on this, she closed with, "Then this isn't for you. This is for decision-makers." Ouch! I thought I was making a decision.

Kurt-I just received an e-mail that stated I am selected for the Continental Who's Who list. Thanks for the heads up I won't be entering info.
Thanks for the article and like you I am also a nobody although I have over 1000 How to Garden videos on Youtube through ehow.com and expertvillage.com. I used to be somebody in the Who's Who in high school and college when the fee was only $25 for the book. I still have a copy where I am listed as being somebody.
I read an article in the local paper in Woodland, WA and they had written an article about someone who had made it to the Who's Who list. Congratulations he spent $500 or more to be in the paper. I guess they won't be writing an article about me being in Who's Who.
That's okay-I am still somebody on-line and in my fantasies! Who needs Who's Who?

Yolanda,

I daresay your gardening videos will mean a lot more in the long run to people than being "important". Oddly enough, since I posted the article above, I've been practically bombarded by CWW emails telling me I've joined the Inner Circle - apparently as a nobody I'm still someone who's well known enough to be a thorn in their side ...

I went a bit further as the initial ad says registration is free. That is a three line entry. If you really push you can get a $189 deal but you don't get a wall plaque to cover that rip in the wallpaper. I asked directly as to how they made money with free registrations. He - Alexi - got rather pushy so I backed out. I am sure I'll get another call later with yet another lower cost deal - maybe just my initials and a phone number.
Not anywhere on my "gotta have" list.

Thanks folks,
I've also received a call all the way to Australia. You've given me the snapshot I was anticipating.

Take care all!

Who's Who? I'm who,
you too
i'm through
boo hoo.

I received an email from them today. I was not asked for any monies. They already had me in their who's who profile. No one ever called me.

Well, I got a call from "Diane Webster" just now... offering all those for 3 levels of pittance, $789, $589 and then, hold on to your collective breath, a dirt-cheap $349. Decision, she said, had to be NOW, so sorry since they're about to go to "press"... hmm.

Alarm bells had been going off in my brain but I wanted to see how far would they go--I wasn't aware of this type of scam, though am quite aware of the email based ones--and then I told them I would not do anything without checking out things for myself. I wasn't on the comp then so fired up the laptop and checked... confirming my suspicions and more.

Just now "Diane Webster" called again! Whew... pretty cheeky, what?

The more worrying aspect is the sharing of my personal information... from some source. Linked-In and Facebook appear to be the chief though there could be others too...

Just got the same call from Diane Webster. She must be doing a good job at this as she's still soliciting memberships. She's way too pushy for my liking, demanding my credit card number for this 'exclusive" honour. I can do without Continental Who's Who thanks.

Well I haven't had the call yet, but I've just got the email from Continental with a link to my new profile site http://www.santa.melbourne.cbrnnews.com/

Funnily enough they've called my site 'Santa' which isn't my name, just part of my nickname 'Santa SEO', amongst friends and biz associates. The only place this is live is in my Facebook biz profile as an email address so it tells me they're gleaning contacts over they're but not looking deeper to discover my real name.

If I was famous and had the matching ego, I'd be really pissed, however it made me laugh which is always welcome. Like many others, a Google search led me here to Kurt's article, so thanks mate for going live about this band of would-be's.

Thanks for the heads up. I figured this was a scam, and five minutes searching on Google revealed the facts. The price of fame indeed.

I get these scams all the time.. in fact, I just got one signed thusly::

John Preston
Vice President Member Services

Who's Who World Class Alliance
23 Briaroot Drive
Smithtown, NY 11787

"Continental Broadcasting Network", whoever they are, is NOT the publisher of "Who's Who in America".. that enormous red book has been published by Marquis Publications for eons, and IS totally legitimate..

My late Dad was invited to be listed in Marquis' "Who's Who in America" back in 1967.. he was the Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts at one of the Calif. State Universities. He wrote his own bio, which they edited, sent him back the galleys for corrections, yadda yadda, and he's in the 1967 edition, which I believe they sent him for free.. they also sent him the 1976, BiCentennial edition, which is two volumes consisting of over six thousand pages.. my firt name is listed as one of his children, but I've never been invited by Marquis to be in the REAL "Who's Who", although I've been a freelance writer for over 25 years, had over a thousand bylined articles published (consumer electronics stuff).. and am lited in a bunch of journalist directories and get endless tons of PR..

I have all the paperwork involving Dad's
invitation to join the real Who's Who, I inherited the books, (the 2011 edition comes out this October, and costs $900.00!).. and it did not cost him a cent for his listing. He might have been in more years' editions between 1967 and 1976 and even after that.. he passed away in 1985, but those are the only two years editions of Marquis' "Who's Who in America" that he owned.

One can't ask Marquis to be listed.. one has to be invited, and it's quite an honor..

But this "Continental Brocacasting Network"'s Who's Who is a total scam, and has absoutely NOTHING to do with Marquis' "Who's Who in America" or any of Marquis other variations of their monsterous directories of famous people.

CBN is playing a VERY deceptive game using the name "Who's Who", and I'm surprised Marquis hasn't sued them yet.. or maybe they have, I haven't investigated..

Just emailed this to all emails I could find @ Continental Who's Who:

To whom it may concern,

I just spoke with someone at your office named Jerry Nelson. I had an issue with you sending me a package that was cancelled. I had called and cancelled the package after talking to a representative named Tina. My phone calls were not returned after I left 2 messages asking for the account to be cancelled just minutes after I spoke with Tina. I did this after Google'ing information on your company and found out that you aren't as reputable as she said. After this I sent an email to your company again requesting a cancellation of the order. Jerry Nelson called and left a message stating that the order could be cancelled after proof of my phone log was submitted. This was emailed to him and the request was granted. I then received the package a few days later (which was dated after my cancellation request..almost a week later). I then sent emails to request an adrress to send it back. These emails went unanswered for 2 days before I called today to request an address to mail it back. I spoke to Jerry Nelson and told him I needed an address for this package to go back. He gave me the address and I asked him how I wanted it to be shipped back. He then got rude and told me to take it to the post office. I meant signature confirmation, type of delivery, etc. I did not expect such a rude reply from a 'Sr Account Director' who is supposed to be my representative from your company. After getting rude with me, I told him that I thought the way you do business is a 'scam' After stating this to Jerry, he threatened to go down to the credit department and talk to them about issuing my credit. This is absolutely ridiculous. You had stated to me that I was being given a credit and I stated my opinion that I thought the ordering/cancellation process was 'scamlike' I asked him if he was threatening me and he proceeded to just say BYE and hang up the phone on me. I then called back and he answered and I asked for his name, he hung up on me again. He asked me why I needed it before he hung up. He then called me from a BLOCKED phone number (probably a cell phone or a line that you guys don't record/trace) and stated 'Someone just told me that you had called in asking for my name' I told him that it was him I had just talked to and that I needed his name because he treats people with no respect. He finally stated his name and called himself 'Sr Account Director' He referred to himself as 'my' Sr Account Director. I asked him why he threatened to not have my credit processed. He then stuttered out a statement that was totally contradictory to what he had said 2 phone calls previous. I just thought you would want to be aware of how he treats your clients. I guess since I am not becoming a member, I should be treated like dirt? Please remove me from all future contact. I want nothing to do with your company at all. I will be posting this on the internet as well so other people can understand the way you guys conduct business. I will also be emailing this to the emails I see to the right of this comment box. Thanks for your time and I hope that not everyone in the company acts like Jerry Nelson. He is a liar and I don't even think he knows what he says. I have all the voicemails saved stating that I will be getting credit back on my account so don't let Jerry go talk to the credit company like the way he threatened me to do so. Thanks for your time!

Brad Baker

Thanks for the heads-up. I was contacted by Continental Broadcasting Network to be a member of Who's who. I to do some consulting and web dev (asp.net). Mostly I teach game dev. Thanks for the warning

DC

I had a conversation with a gentleman at Continental today. I went through the entire song and dance with him. When it came to the money request, I stated that I wasn't about to give him a dime. He went through his script of low payments, etc. I stated again that I wasn't about to give him a dime. He said that I didn't have to get upset with him and that obviously he had made a mistake in thinking that I would possibly be worthy enough of making their book. Scam, scam, scam.

Many thanks for your post, Kurt,

It seems that this is a scam of an international scale since I've just also received an invitation from them.

I think that they take the information from LinkedIn because this is the only foreign social network where I have a profile.

BR
Anna Shmalyuk

I just received a solicitation from them and was trying to figure out if this was the "Who's Who in America" and did a search on Google and found this article. It sounds like Continental Who's Who is deliberately trying to use the Who's Who name to try and get people to sign up. This seems a little deceptive.

Would there be any benefit to paying the listing fee and appearing in the volume?

I try and do networking both online through LinkedIn and other online sites and in person through conferences, etc. If I knew there were networking advantages to joining this Who's Who I likely would do it, but I agree with Kurt Cagle - it seems like it would help me network with other people who paid the fee to be in this who's who and I am not sure that would be of any benefit to me.

Anyone thinnk this has an merit, any point in spending the money to be listed in this Who's Who other than plain and simple vanity?

For hundreds of dollars we will stroke your ego by placing your name in a book and sending you a plaque.

I am interested in legitimate opportunities to network but not interested in wasting hundreds of dollars on something unlikely to pan out.

It has come to our attention that you have posted this blog

Continental Who's Who has been publishing detailed biographies of professionals and executives since 1994. We have created a network of professionals worldwide and our members are able to network with each other, create business relationships, and build partnerships. Over the years the words “Who?s Who” have become synonymous with the acknowledgement of ones achievements and it has been assumed that this is an honor or an award of some sort and this is a misnomer. Please let me clarify. To be published; it is not an award although you can be awarded a wall plaque certifying your membership. In addition, it is not a book of famous individuals although there may be notable individuals published with us.

We act in the capacity of public relations, and as a marketing liaison to our members. There are some social sites out there that may perform similar functions, yet some have costs associated with them and some do not. As per the comments you made in the blog, I take it that you are not a big fan of our this type of marketing which I can certainly respect. We here at CWW are member funded. If we were not member funded, we would not be able to keep our doors open. However, individuals that submit their profiles and choose not to fund our membership program are still published with us online at no charge enabling them to be networked with.

CWW?s mission is dedicated to the recognition of excellence. We do our best to engage professionals and executives to increase the scope of what we do which is advertise for our members whereby people can see who you are and what you do, enabling them to utilize your services. Members are encouraged to do business with other members so that they are involved in an inner circle, a private membership organization for those that are proactive in our marketing approach.

We feel it is very unfortunate that the blog has come to be posted and that you had such a negative experience with our business. However, this blog, subtitle and and reference to Continental Who's Who have done a detrimental amount of damage to our company?s online presence. People contacted by our organization often decide to do a quick online search to check our company reputation. They come across a blog such as this and then read comments from people who were given a choice of membership and apparently were not on board or proactive which they are entitled to but to make derogatory comments about our business practices is slanderous.

Ex: Brad Baker who posted earlier was offered a full credit on the basis that he provide proof he called our business office within the time he said he did. He was told if he provided proof of a phone call to our offices he would receive a full credit in good faith. Even though he left no message on the company voice mail he was still issued a full credit. This was done after he had already blogged badly about us in different forums. If we were not doing the right thing Mr. Baker would not have heard back from us nor would he have been issued a credit If Mr Baker wants to contest his receiving his credit, I can happily provide proof. He received a credit in spite of his actions against our company in this blog.

We have learned through the years you are not going to please everybody and some of the most well known companies can receive bad press. The way the search engines work today anyone can say anything about anybody and it becomes "NEWS". Our company's mission is to help businesses grow and to forge new business relationships, not to hurt or take advantage of anyone. The "Who's Who" industry may have received a few black eyes where by in days of old companies of a different name but under a similar title published people with out an associated cost further solidifying the recipients enamored ego that they won something. I said it before and I will repeat it again, “Who?s Who” has become synonymous with the acknowledgement of ones achievements and it has been assumed that this is an honor or an award of some sort and this is a misnomer. To be published; it is not an award although you can be awarded a wall plaque certifying your membership. In addition, it is not a book of famous individuals although there may be notable individuals published with us. change and in today's marketplace our membership dues are what keeps us afloat.

Tantamount to joining an exclusive country club we screen each applicant and if they are proactive with our PR efforts we have membership options available that have dues. However, It is not obligatory and because we have membership dues does not mean that are business practices are at fault. To speak candidly hear on this blog one other issue that people here have had is buyers remorse in most instances after reading blogs such as this, the issue being that our membership policy is that all membership sales are final. Again, this is disclosed to our members at the onset. Because we work with strict publishing deadlines and timetables we need to allocate settings online in newletters and our magazine, Other items are also personalized so we often do not have the luxury of time and with that we incur costs ourselves. We try our best to accommodate all of our members and will continue to do so. If you have further issues with our organization please tell us what steps we can take to resolve them. Once again, we appreciate your consideration and hope to resolve these matters.

Sincerely,
Continental Who's Who

I just received the Continental Broadcasting Network's email invitation and immediately googled the company. Wow! Some of the reported behavior above borders on harassment. My thanks to Kurt Cagle and all of you for posting your negative experiences with this company!

This is the 2nd time in my fairly long life that I've been solicited to be in a Who's Who of People Who Are Full of Themselves, so I smelled a rat when I saw the e-mail. This blog was useful in confirming my suspicions -- and also comforting. At least this outfit isn't inserting computer worms.

Hi,All thanks for the post... I just saved myself $189 which i was about to pay for through my VISA instead of the original $889 bill. I asked him for a mail ID to revert but he dint give me. The Number from which i got the call was +1(516)216-4487.
They are now active in India as well.

Thanks Google!
I got a call from Caroline Ferguson, but I can call her Carolina.

I googled "continental who's who" while she was on the phone, and it automatically provided several choices, continental airlines, continental who's who, and continental who's who scam, so I was prepared...

I googled some of the famous persons appearing on their website, and they do not exist.

I just received the email today and was immediately suspicious. Google led me to your article. Thank goodness!

Lol! Glad I didn't answer. :)

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