I’m being blackmailed by someone I’ve considered a friend for years.

There is nothing uplifting about this post.  It’s a sad state of affairs and I’m disappointed to be compelled to share this with you.

Unfortunately, I’m choosing to take this matter public, because the only real way to fight blackmail is to be public about accusations that are being made (or threatened).

Here’s the definition of blackmail form Wikipedia …

Blackmail is the act of threatening to reveal substantially true information about a person to the public, a family member, or associates unless a demand is met. This information is usually of an embarrassing, socially damaging, and/or incriminating nature. As the information is substantially true, the act of revealing the information may not be criminal in its own right nor amount to a civil law defamation; it is the making of demands in exchange for withholding the information that is often considered a crime. English Law creates a much broader definition of blackmail, covering any unwarranted demands with menaces, whether involving revealing information or not. However, from a libertarian perspective, blackmail is not always considered a crime [1][2]. Some libertarians point out that it is licit to gossip about someone else’s secret, to threaten to publicly reveal such information, and to ask that person for money, but it is illegal to combine the threat with the request for money, which raises the question, “Why do two rights make a wrong?”[3]

Blackmail is similar to extortion. The difference is that extortion involves an underlying, independent criminal act, while blackmail does not.

Here’s what happened from my viewpoint …

A friend decided to attend the Social Media Road Trip Event and made payment via PayPal.  I’ve included a screen capture of a portion of the page and inserted three arrows to highlight a piece of “fine-print” that caused all of this to happen.

On the actual payment page the “fine-print” isn’t so fine, but you will be able to read the relevant text below:

The problem text was …

“***Because of the limited seats available, we can not issue cash refunds for ticket purchases, however if for any reason you are not able to attend our event, we will be happy to exchange your ticket purchase for any future event.”

As it turned out …

My friend was not able to attend the event and asked if I could credit her payment for jvAlert Live Orlando.  Of course I said yes.

Then on Wednesday, November 10th I received an email with a request for a refund to which I responded …

You must have missed my e-mail on crediting your payment to jvAlert Live Orlando.  I’m happy to do that.

Here’s the refund policy on our sales page:

http://kenmcarthur.com/PayPalSocialMedia.htm

Because of the limited seats available, we can not issue cash refunds for ticket purchases, however if for any reason you are not able to attend our event, we will be happy to exchange your ticket purchase for any future event.

Looking forward to seeing you in Orlando!

All the best,

Ken

For better or worse, here’s what I was thinking …

There’s a reason that line is on the purchase page.  Most of my events require me to be personally responsible for tens of thousands of dollars worth of expenses based on the number of people who commit to show up for my events.  I know that there’s a risk that people won’t show up after they commit to come and I willingly take it.  The hotel doesn’t cut my commitment if they don’t show up — no matter how good the reasons are — and I can end up personally covering the expense not only of my event, the meeting room,  audio/visual, etc., but if enough people don’t show, I end up paying for the hotel rooms that they don’t use.

Those of you who have spent 3-5 days at an event hotel know that for one person it’s a tough bill to cover.  Now imagine if ten or twenty people don’t show – for legitimate reasons – and I have to pay their hotel bills.

So after gaining a bit of experience with event promotion and seeing how many people would decide not to show for the event at the last minute, I added the line so that I would at least be able to cover my costs for the current event, even if I gave them tickets for a future event.

My usual practice if someone can’t make the event is to remind them of the policy and my willingness to exchange their ticket for any future event.  Usually, if they still want a refund after being reminded of the agreement, I’ll go ahead and do it because I want my customers to be satisfied, but in this case …

I got back the following response …

Hi Ken,

I am indeed disapointed to be told “too bad your money is mine and you get nothing for it”. I honeslty did not see the no refund on your website as most if not all IM convention even offer a refund if after the first morning you are not satisfied you get a full refund.

This is not even my case as I said in advance that I cannot attend. As for getting credit: well… I do not like to be tied to someone by force.

When I canceled the hotel they did not force me to use their hotel, they just canceled my reservation understanding my situation.

I went to the JV alert site and there is not even a date yet. My schedule (especially my vacations or conventions ) have to be planned in advance (and even then like this week, it does not always work).

I have always admired your honesty and way of doing business. This time I cannot say it is the case.

I have to admit that I was hurt and responded …

I didn’t say, “too bad your money is mine and you get nothing for it” and I’m not forcing you to do anything, I also didn’t lie to you, so I’m disappointed too.    What I did was remind you of the policy and agree to give you a free ticket to any future event.

There’s a very crucial reason that policy is in place and that is because I am put at significant financial risk when I commit to a hotel based on the numbers of people who I agree to bring to the event.  It’s not an insignificant amount of money and for most of my events, I’m committed to pay for rooms that cancel or increased conference room fees that amount to tens of thousands of dollars.

The hotel doesn’t tell me that it’s okay, because 10 people couldn’t make the event at the last minute even if the reason is that a loved one died or they unexpectedly became overloaded at home.

What they do is charge me full price for rooms that are not filled.  So a single cancellation can cost me as much as $500 – $600 in some cases.

I’m not whining.  I know the risks that I take every time I put on an event and I try to remove as many as possible, because I have a responsibility to my family as well as my customers.

I hope that you can see some of this from my viewpoint and understand that I am not trying to treat you unfairly.

All the best,

Ken

Her response was …

If you think that ignoring me will make me go away, then you do not know me well.

here is a draft of a blog post that I made:  (URL DELETED BY KEN – the link was invalid.)

I will make it live if I do not hear from you. This is not blackmail as I am only stating the truth.

I also plan on blasting traffic to it (the way I so well know how to…) as I want to warn people about your new way of doing marketing.

I am honestly sorry to be telling you all this and I am deeply sadened to see that you took a weird turn into the “dark side” which as you know will not get you anywhere…The laws of the universe do not work that way.

I will make my post alive in 24 hours if I do not hear from you and drive like they say in IM “insane amount of traffic to it”.

Someone who appreciated you

It’s sad …

I could be completely wrong about my policy or my choice of words or actions.

And I may decide to refund the payment … but this isn’t about the lousy $297.

Two of the things I hold most dear are my friends and my reputation.

I fear the friendship I valued so much is over – on her part at least.

Obviously the easiest way to protect my reputation is to immediately refund the $297 and no one would be the wiser about it.  My precious reputation would be intact — all I have to do is remain silent.

But then I thought of all of the people who try to serve others and how easily we attempt to bring them down.

I thought about times I’ve been silent.

There are no perfect people.  We are all self-centered and selfish at times.  If we are spotlighted in our worst light we will not look pretty.

I prefer to think of my friend as the wonderful humanitarian she is.  She has so much value to bring to the world and she does it so unselfishly.

I choose to see all of the people I meet in the clear white light God shines on us – good, bad and indifferent – and know that I of all people am not capable of judging anyone.  I refuse to judge her.

Blackmail isn’t about spreading lies.  It’s about using the partial truth to hurt others.

But, it’s better to put the ugly out there with the beauty and live with the results than to allow blackmail to go unchallenged.

All the best,

Ken McArthur

Tobri.com
KenMcArthur.com
jvAlertLive.com

And more, more, more.