Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thurs Post #3: MAC President responds to media fraud allegations. But this isn't the first time MAC's name has come up - Updated




==================

BC-CTV has now updated their website with McNeill's apology and state they will air it on the evening news at 6 o'clock.

==================

Cameron McNeill, President of MAC Marketing Solutions, has now responded to the media firestorm developing over the fake TV news story on the weekend.

This time it's the Globe and Mail Newspaper who headlines: Real estate firm confesses after employees pose as buyers in news stories
A Vancouver real estate marketing company is apologizing for having two employees pose as prospective homebuyers in televised news segments on a supposed spike in sales around the Lunar New Year.

The two young women – presented as house-hunting sisters, whose parents would be in town from China for the New Year to help them purchase a condo – are in fact an administrative assistant and a sales assistant with MAC Marketing Solutions, president Cameron McNeill confirmed to The Globe and Mail.

“All I can say is that I deeply apologize for having misled the media for being there,” said Mr. McNeill, who said he was out of town over the Family Day long weekend, when the news segments aired. “We were busy and I don’t know if the girls were put up to it, or just put on the spot, or if it happened spontaneously. Regardless, it was wrong and I take full responsibility, on my own shoulders.”

The news segments were on the supposed spike in sales activity in the weeks around Lunar New Year – a pattern Mr. McNeill insists is “100 per cent true.” In one news segment, the women tour a suite in downtown Vancouver’s Maddox condo development – which is being marketed by MAC. One woman tells the camera they cannot afford to buy on their own and must rely on assistance from their parents.

“We definitely like it here, but we have to talk to our parents,” she says. “Maybe tomorrow we will bring them here.

“If we like this place, we have to tell them and they make the decision. Usually, Chinese people like to buy during this time.”

In reality, the women are not even related.

The misrepresentation was first spotted by the local online community and then dissected on local blogs, message boards and comment sections. Some noticed a Google search of one of the women’s named turned up her Facebook and LinkedIn pages – both since deleted – which stated she worked at MAC.

Mr. McNeill said there have been discussions about the incident within the company but it is not yet known who is behind it.

“I’m trying my best to figure it out,” he said. “Will there be some heads rolling? I don’t know.”

When asked if the ploy may lead to terminations at the company, Mr. McNeill said it would depend on the depth of responsibility.

“If it was blatant and on the hands of one person, then I think there might be some severe repercussions, but it’s hard for me to answer that without knowing all the details surrounding it.”

He said he is not aware of anything like this having happened at the company before.
Of course, this isn't the first time we've seen real estate company employees posing as customers for news stories... and there is a MAC connection there as well.

Faithful readers will recall this Global-TV news story from the beginning of April, 2012:



Cam Good is said to be a former top MAC salesman who had branched out with his own real estate company - Key West Marketing. Key West was promoting a new gimmick which brought the Groupon concept to real estate.

We profiled it in this post.

That news story prominently featured a prospective investor named Tara Fluet.  Here is a screen shot from the above news piece.


Tara is identified as a ‘White Rock Investor.' What does she have to say about her experience in the new Groupon-style promotion?
“With Groupon, and the way it exploded, you do get great deals on there, so, why wouldn’t it work with condos, the developer here wants to sell the last few units, so if 20 people come in and buy them all at once, they’re obviously going to get a better deal than coming in one by one.”
Interestingly when we did a google search for Tara Fluet, this is what we found:


Apparently she was a realtor working for Cam Good and selling the very condos she was profiled on TV as an interested investor looking to buy!!  (hat tip VREAA).

So is this a case of a former top MAC salesman pulling the exact same style ruse MAC Marketing Systems fabricated the past weekend?

One of the commentors on the thread at VREAA said:
I phoned Global TV to complain about this and spent 10 minutes trying to point out why the lack of information about Ms. Fluet’s connection to Cam Good might mislead viewers into thinking her views as an “investor” were impartial.

The woman I spoke to at Global could not for the life of her understand what I was objecting to, even though I tried repeatedly to explain it. In fact, she grew indignant. She insisted that if Ms. Fluet is an investor, it was perfectly appropriate for her to comment even given her connections to Cam Good.
It would appear this sort of media manipulation is somewhat commonplace.

Worse, there appears to be a compounding conflict of interest.

Faithful readers will recall that while discussing the one day sell out of condos at Marine Gateway, I mentioned that I had been told it is common practice to strike a deal with realtors that, if they want to be an exclusive agent to sell in a development, they had to pick up 5 to 10% of those options.

Once the development is finished, and all the developers suites are sold, then those realtors could sell the units they picked up to be a part of the sales team.

It means that these exclusive agents could be buying up half of the pre-sales at an offering.

As a sales representative for Cam Good's White Rock development, Tara Fluet probably had to pick up a few units herself.

If this is, in fact, what happened, that technically makes her an 'investor?'

Riiight!

Real estate investor? Or real estate con artist?

The public has a right to know the behind the scenes connections when these stories are presented as 'news'.

When the selling realtors are portrayed as eager purchasers in order to whip up a selling frenzy, a frenzy which could possibly help them flip their own pre-sale purchases, I doubt the average person would feel anything but duped when they found out.

==================

Photobucket
Email: village_whisperer@live.ca
Click 'comments' below to contribute to this post.

Please read disclaimer at bottom of blog.

22 comments:

  1. Thanks, Whisperer: This is exactly the correct next step. Don't obsess over MAC or the individuals involved; keep your eye on the ball, which is deceptive marketing practices and a complicit and complacent local media.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Has the Province paper been made aware of the Tara Fluet incident?They might want to follow up on this as well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah yes, the tried and true non-apology apology. MAC is just trying as hard as they can to figure out how this possibly could have happened! It's a mystery!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love this line.

      "Mr. McNeill said there have been discussions about the incident within the company but it is not yet known who is behind it."

      Really you mean CTV did not call to arrange this story? Oh and you were away and the two MAC girls came up with this alone?

      C'mon

      Delete
  4. "When the selling realtors are portrayed as eager purchasers in order to whip up a selling frenzy, I doubt the average person would feel anything but duped when they found out."

    BASINGA Whisperer... this is EXACTLY the heart of the issue. And local media has been an all too silent accomplice until now.

    ReplyDelete
  5. False or Misleading Representations and Deceptive Marketing Practices Under the Competition Act

    The Competition Act contains provisions addressing false or misleading representations and deceptive marketing practices in promoting the supply or use of a product or any business interest.

    http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/03133.html

    ReplyDelete
  6. I just can't believe that MAC is so LAZY while committing a fraud !!! All the had to do is have Lee be some fake name Ms.Chow...but they didn't. Now the public trust is gone !!! - that will cost them.
    This is just a scrach....now I would like to know what CTV and CBC gets for beging part of this great story.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Keep the ball rolling until some of these fraudsters go to jail. I see not difference between this and a OTC penny stock pump and dump.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Time to write on CTV-BC's facebook page requesting them to retract their fictional stories.

    ReplyDelete
  9. CTV is now running the story

    http://bc.ctvnews.ca/condo-marketing-company-admits-it-duped-media-1.1157243

    ReplyDelete
  10. It's disingenuous of Mr. McNeill to dump this all on the two girls as some sort of rogue elements of his company. What about Nic Jenson who did the on camera interview and would clearly know that this was all a charade for the cameras? What about the agent who is portrayed showing the girls the condo? (that they were in the business of marketing) Are we to believe that none of these other characters knew each other, knew that this was all a hoax or knew the girls were employees? Are they not also responsible? It seems unlikely that this could have happened without at least half a dozen people's involvement and if Mr. McNeill says he isn't aware of an operation like this taking place in his company he's either lying, blind, or incompetent.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Whisperer, prepare to upgrade your server as I see much more traffic heading your way.

    Great Job!

    ReplyDelete
  12. It is hardly surprising that MAC is treating this issue as a management issue that "it regrets" and will "ensure is fixed". A head will roll, and advertising dollars will continue to flow. Tragically, absent a formal investigation, I'm not sure much else can be done without significant resources being allocated to a journalist investigation. And while I have strong suspicions the issue and practices extend well beyond MAC, a lot of vested interests would rather that didn't happen.

    In the meantime, my concern is that this story will turn into a "company fraud" issue, when it is really a door to a much larger issue: standards in real estate marketing, and the enforcement of those standards. Vancouver residents in particular have been sold a constant story over the past decade that offshore investors are driving up the prices, and if you don't play ball you'll be left out on the street. And yet neither realtors, the REBGV, nor any civic or provincial governmental agency has to my knowledge provided a single number or piece of data to support these claims. All we are given is anecdotal evidence of prospective foreign buyers who are here shopping. No one in Vancouver would dispute that offshore investors have bought up a lot of real estate in Vancouver. But the issue is how real estate promoters and marketers are framing their presence in the market. The story is that they have deep pockets, don't care how much they pay, so if you don't bid high you will be priced out. Just as plausible, is that the story of overseas investors with bottomless pockets is inducing buyers to make much higher bids on properties than they would otherwise make - and that this myth has created a self-perpetuating bidding war over the past decade. In this scenario, it is not offshore investors that have driven up the prices, but the myth of bottomless pocket rival bidders. Convenient that nobody keeps any stats that might test this. Looking back to the MAC story, it is not simply that employees posed as potential investors, but that they posed as investors who were "candy shopping", with mom and dad coming later to foot the bill - perpetuating this bottomless-pocket, fear-inducing bid-promoting myth.

    In my view, I don't see why realtors and real estate marketers are not held to the same standards of disclosure as stock promoters. I think this story highlights the glaring lack of due diligence exercised by the investment community and media when digesting information from people whose sole job is to inflate the prices of what they are selling. And why this lack of due diligence? Because a culture has been carefully developed by real estate promoters that has buyers operating out of fear and hope, rather than reasoned and informed analysis. In my view, realtors and real estate marketers should be prohibited from commenting in any way on who a bidder might be bidding against (including offshore pockets) without providing full disclosure of verifiable information backing those claims. This story highlights the need for that.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Time to write to Cressey (developer of Maddox which MAC is marketing) to ask them whether they want to continue to use such deceptive company to sell their condos.

    ReplyDelete
  14. McNeill said the responsibility rests "on my own shoulders". So when the head has to role for the responsible person, well guess what -- you're fired!

    ReplyDelete
  15. A huge thank-you for your coverage on this, I believe you were a big reason this finally got picked up by the MSM.

    The only change I expect is that future fraud will be more carefully concealed so it does not come up on the first page of a Google search.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly my expectation. Time to up our game too :)

      Delete
  16. Wow, this story is moving fast:

    25 hours ago, this was just breaking, now this (from Twitter):

    Matthew Black‏@TheMatthewBlack

    MAC/McNeill face having their licenses to sell real estate suspended and/or fines of up to $20,000 #VanRe

    Matthew Black‏@TheMatthewBlack

    The Real Estate Council of B.C. is investigating both MAC Marketing and Cameron McNeill for false/misleading advertising #VanRe

    ReplyDelete
  17. Wasn't the infamous 'yellow helicopter' of White Rock as scam too. I seem to remember the 'Chinese investors' Cam Good rolled out were actually local Realtor's.

    I also seem to remember one of them uttering
    "Hmmm, School's! Chinese like School's"

    ReplyDelete
  18. Just saw the story on CBC, headlining the Whispers from the Edge of the Rainforest blog right in the segment. Great going Whisperer and all.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Just watched the CBC news story at 5:30 PM.

    By looking at Cam McNeill's face during his interview, it looked like he inserted a coal suppository and it came back out as a diamond.

    ReplyDelete
  20. My Dad always has said - "Relators are like Gypsies". In the sense that they will do and say anything for their commission.

    ReplyDelete