13 May 2019 by Published in: Uncategorized 5 comments

A few months ago, a woman I’d never heard of contacted me via Facebook, offering her services to run my Facebook ads. I didn’t know her, but she came on confident and strong. The average returns she represented as relatively simple to achieve were impressive: 50% or greater ROI, per month. She billed herself as a “Facebook expert,” which you’ll soon see was akin to someone who’d started taking tap dancing classes last week billing themselves as a dance instructor and star of stage and screen.

At the time, using AMSAdwerks for my Amazon ads, I was seeing north of 100% monthly ROI on a five figure monthly spend, so the thought of being able to pull even half that from a platform I’d left for dead a while ago was appealing.

Her fee schedule was steep and scaled higher as a spend increased, but if she could perform, I reasoned it would be worth it.

I paid her base fee up front ($1600 USD), which she requested given the level of spend I authorized ($50 a day to start), and she “went to work.” Which it turns out consisted of generating a few ads, slapping them up, and then doing nothing.

After two weeks of my tech guru watching the non-performance on $531 of spend, which literally resulted in not a single additional sale, we pulled the plug. There was zero communication from her after the fee had changed hands, and no explanation for what amounted to maybe an hour’s worth of work for her fee.

We requested half the money back, since it was obvious she wasn’t doing anything. She refused. We told her that if that was the case, she could expect me to write about my experience with her. We never heard anything more.

The woman’s name is Kerry Gardiner, and it turns out I’m not the only one who’s been taken by her. Since I posted a FB rant about this last week, I’ve received quite a few PMs and emails, as well as public posts, from other authors who’ve been stung as well – everything from using quotes from luminaries who’ve repeatedly told her to take them down as they didn’t endorse her and didn’t want their names associated with her, to folks who paid for courses that never manifested or were garbage, to shady dealings on bundles she was involved with. You name it, I’ve got ’em, and they’re still pouring in.

Perhaps the most notable is million selling author and internet marketing guru (vs. purported “expert”) Mark Dawson. I’ll post a brief summary that appeared on his SPF site at the end of this blog. It leaves little to the imagination. I could also reprint the rest of the correspondence I’ve received describing various forms of fuckery, but then this post would be novel length. Take my word for it, though, there are numerous authors who got snowed in one way or another.

You may be asking yourself why anyone in their right mind, who was running a scam, would elect to solicit one of the top selling indies on Amazon, and also put the pork to someone with as much visibility as Mark Dawson. I have two theories. First is that she’s become emboldened due to having successfully taken numerous others who didn’t speak out, presumably out of concern of a nuisance suit, and figured she could just keep up the con with impunity. Second is that she’s insane or delusional or desperate to pay the light bill this month (or all three), and figured I would just write it off given what a pittance I’d paid.

Which shows that she didn’t do her research, or mistook her delusion that she could fly for the actual ability to do so.

I’ve been told that she’s blaming her non-performance on everything from “his covers suck” (which ignores that those same covers have shifted several million copies and are generating 75-125% ROI on Amazon all through this period, to this day) to “illness caused me to be unable to perform” – the ever favorite “blame the customer” converting to “I’m a victim.” Which is tantamount to taking $100 to mow my lawn, and then not mowing it and blaming the type of grass or that she hurt her arm – and ignores that I paid to have my lawn mowed, not a sob story or a string of excuses.

I was baffled by all this until I read Mark’s post, which illuminated what I was actually dealing with: someone who saw an opportunity to falsely bill themselves as an expert, in violation of their legal agreement not to compete by creating FB courses (based almost entirely on his material or publicly available content) or by soliciting his customers. In other words, a scammer.

A few of her “satisfied clients” have rushed to her defense, which of course ignores both my experience, and Mark’s partner’s disclosure. How many are genuine authors and not sock puppets is unknowable, and frankly I’m uninterested in finding out. If you’re going to take people’s money and fail to perform, you can expect a bright light to be shined on your methods, and the chips to fall where they may.

If anyone thinks that two of the most visible indie authors on Amazon are inventing all this to persecute some poor victim, I’d advise you to consider long and hard how plausible that is, versus that this is exactly what it looks and sounds like.

Here’s the post from SPF:

“We (SPF) have sat on this issue for some time. We’ve been reluctant to post about it, because we did not want to make an unhappy situation even worse.

However, in light of the comments in this thread and the ambiguity about Kerry’s relationship with SPF, I think it is time to put this on the record.

Please note that Russell Blake and Joseph Alexander are friends of SPF, they are both very experienced and successful in the world of self-publishing and we take what both of them say seriously.

This is our own experience.

Kerry started working for SPF in 2016. She signed a standard contract with us that contains clauses that prevent her from competing with us and a duty to respect confidential information. These are standard terms.

She worked with us until earlier this year. We paid her to help moderate our Facebook groups and make sure they continue to be drama-free and safe places. Mark introduced her to Facebook Messenger bots and she became good at them, so much so that we paid her to produce a module for Ads for Authors. As far as we know, she had never used Facebook ads before; we believe that Mark taught her how to implement them.

Over the course of the last two and a bit years, Kerry asked for and received a lot of help and support. Mark helped her as she tried to build a business teaching others how to build bots (we had no interest in this ourselves, and so there was no grounds for competition); we promoted a webinar for her; we introduced her to other industry figures who might be able to help her. We’ve provided advice and acted as a sounding board for other problems that she’s had, of which there’s no need to get into here. She used her connection with us to introduce herself to the agency responsible for running the Facebook ads for SPF and, despite feeling a little awkward about it, we vouched for her when they asked for a reference.

Basically – we always treated her as a friend.

And then we found out that she has her own Facebook ads course. We were alerted to this by some students, who she seems to have been in dispute with, who told us that Kerry had set up a competing course.

Here are some of the issues we have:

– Kerry signed a contract that prevented her from competing with SPF. We produce a well known and popular Facebook ads course. We believe that setting up this course puts her in breach of her contract.

– Some of the students who have contacted us have assumed – since she was an admin and clearly associated with SPF – that we must have approved or endorsed her course. We’ve seen those sentiments in this thread. Their dissatisfaction with what they have received from her has caused us reputational damage.

– We’ve seen screengrabs of Facebook messages where Kerry has encouraged her students to post testimonials for her course into the SPF Facebook groups while working as a moderator in those groups. Some messages have requested that the posters do not mention that she asked them to make those posts because we try very hard to stop self-promotion. One of Kerry’s jobs as a moderator had been to prevent this type of conduct.

– Further, we’ve seen private messages where Kerry has spoken badly of Mark and SPF, often while extolling the virtues of her own offerings over ours.

– She’s shared information that we consider to be confidential. In one exchange, she gloats that the reason she continued to work for us was to stay on the “inside” so that she knew what we were doing.

It’s me – James – who is posting this because it’s easy to associate SPF with Mark. That’s understandable since his face is plastered everywhere, of course! What’s easy to miss is that the company includes me and John as directors. We left our previous businesses and took a huge risk to help Mark build the company. We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and worked hard, often seven days a week. We are certainly not complaining about that. It’s been an amazing experience.

We’ve made a successful business and community by being super-honest and open about what we do. We don’t take people’s money and hide; you can reach out to any of us and we’ll respond – normally within hours, and sometime minutes. When you buy one of our courses, you get it for life – with free updates. If you request a refund for one of our courses inside of thirty days, we don’t ask questions or make you jump through hoops, we just refund the money. We have a support team that works 24-7 and (almost) 365 days a year because we genuinely care about our students. If there’s a problem, we want to know about it – and help.

It’s therefore all the more upsetting that a trusted person who we’ve worked closely over the years should act in this way. It’s deeply hurtful. It is damaging to the open and honest community we’ve built; we don’t want our students to be compromised in any way whilst utilising our groups or support network.

SPF is how John and I support our families. We have a newly-appointed full-time contractor and other virtual assistants around the world, all of whom depend on the work that we are able to put their way to pay their bills.

Like other entrepreneurs who’ve built something from the ground up, we’re fiercely proud and protective of what we’ve achieved not only as a business but also of the community of thousands of indie authors who have become our students (and some close friends). We see that as being most definitely worth fighting for.

Given that this matter is the subject of an ongoing legal dispute, we will not be making any further statements at this stage and we have, on advice, closed comments on this thread.”

The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own, and do not necessarily represent those of my publisher or any of my associates.

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Comments

  1. Mon 13th May 2019 at 6:24 pm

    Thx for this Russell. Well presented. Scammers are
    everywhere and the web has given them a great tool

    Only true method to stop them is educating people.
    Even with education, creative scammers still persist

    I shut down one in my industry, mortgage, that ran for 10 yrs. there’s a pathway to getting BBB and FTC involved , but hard to get their attn.

    Reply
  2. Sean Hennessey
    Mon 13th May 2019 at 6:45 pm

    Thanks for posting this “buyer beware”.

    Reply
  3. John
    Mon 13th May 2019 at 7:53 pm

    Holy cow. Sorry to hear this happened. So hard to wrap my head around what it takes to be like this woman. You’d think the work it takes to be a scammer could be used constructively. Shows a lack of confidence in her abilities if she thinks lying/cheating is the only way to succeed.

    Reply
  4. Mon 13th May 2019 at 10:01 pm

    I was one of the unfortunates who signed up for her scammy course and believed she knew something. I’m also pleased to share that she’s finally taken down the blurb of mine on her website, which she put up without my permission and took out of context from the early days of a group where she was grooming us to buy her course.

    I wrote to her many times to remove the and it was only after Russell’s post and all the kerfuffle last week that finally she took it down when I wrote again with a DMCA notice.

    All I can say is that she sprouts a very good line to begin with and, as everyone can see, she took in some of the biggest names in the industry. We all want to believe that somebody is good to their word and it took several weeks of pushing her to complete this course before we realized all her excuses were false.

    We knew so little about Facebook ads that anything she told us sounded smart. I since have learned a lot about them and certainly she doesn’t know her stuff. Her suggestions range from ill-advised to expensive ways of testing that don’t work, with a sprinkling of completely wrong in there too. The rest is stuff you could learn yourself or from Mark Dawson’s course.

    What she put was a mess with plenty of errors, looping, repeating videos, incorrect information, not everything covered as promised, and very little group support. She’d drop in answer a couple of questions, not very well, and then disappear for days, sometimes weeks. People who asked for their ‘no questions asked 30 day refund’ were ghosted with a few being lucky to get refunds or half-refunds.

    She eventually promised to finish the course by the 6th January after launching it on the 1st December. When this day came and went and us being told a week later that, no, now the course was finished, at least 15% of the course participants, that I know of, asked for their money back. I was lucky and got mine as did a couple of others.

    With the rest, she did what she did with Russell and Joseph Alexander. (Russell you should share Joseph’s experience… more scamming.) She ghosted them and never replied. A few she told them, “Too late, you’re past your 30 days refund period.” This is her ignoring the fact that she led everyone to believe the course had another 50% to come and then only told everyone what was there was now course completed only in mid-January. This is when a 30 day clause begins not back on the day you paid for a beta course that wasn’t finished.

    Not only was this course not worth the money, many poor participants, myself being one, wasted an enormous amount of time and expense implementing her mode of operation to test ads and run them that were not successful. This is the other egregious result of this course and her scamming of Russell and others. You lose time dealing with it and money and faith in human nature.

    It’s the lost time and loss of opportunity that rankles me and that she feels it’s okay to do this without apology. Oh yeah, scammers don’t apologize, do they? They’re entitled to do this because… it’s our fault, right?

    I know she has some supporters but if you check their books on Amazon, certainly they’re a long way from the top 2k, where the money lives on Amazon. When they supported her in the Facebook groups regarding this post last week, they showed a couple of screen-grabs of growing earnings but they didn’t share, when asked for proof, the expenditure to gain those earnings, nor did they show the actual figures. The numbers were notably absent. Could this be because an increase of 2 sales to 3, to 4, is hardly startling and enviable results?

    Thanks to Russel and SPF, she’s gone underground. Closed both her original course groups and led a small band of followers to another group. Some of them don’t know what’s going on, which is unfortunate. Some are misguided in believing that she has some knowledge of Facebook that will help them reach the same success as Russell and Mark Dawson. This has been her line all along. Promises so much, delivers so little. I have the screen-grabs.

    Russell’s post is a very timely warning that now that we are in a saturated market and the gold rush is well and truly over that we need to ask more questions of businesses and individuals wanting our money. We all know marketing is king, but there are very few genuine experts on this in our industry.

    I consider myself a reasonably smart operator as are my course survivors escapees and yet we were duped for a good six weeks. We all did some diligence like checking out her books (A.J. Carella) and they had no rankings, but she talked a good game and is a great ‘groomer.’ So we ignored the simple logic that if somebody can’t get their own books selling, how can they help you? And, if they did have some marketing skill, then why aren’t they applying it to their own products?

    I won’t mention that the photo on her Amazon page isn’t of her, or if it is, it is decades old and very flattering compared to the person who was running our course, a middle-aged woman with a weight issue compared to a pretty Swiss blond in her early twenties, late teens.

    Going forward, friends and fellow authors, just do these simple checks. Google the business and look for any social media posts or blogs on unhappy customer like this blog or on facebook. Allow that to set off your alarm bells. Don’t hope that they have changed their ways or these other people got it wrong. Don’t believe positive feedback on their site if it is counter to this. Could be fake, could be taken out of context, like mine. You don’t know the validity of anything really on the internet.

    Check their books on Amazon and other platforms. Are they successful? A ranking of such as she has for her most popular book of 111k is not success, at least not for someone purporting to be a marketing expert who can help you.

    Then there’s inexcusable behavior with customer service. After being exposed last week, this woman posted a response in the course private group claiming that everyone was lying (like all these well-known authors and others like me are colluding to bring some innocent sweetheart down.) She blamed Russell’s book covers, his facebook account, saying he didn’t have any assets in there, that he didn’t give her enough time and that he threatened her with this blog post. And she changed her avatar on Facebook to a skeleton giving the finger or the bird (depending on what country you are in.) So I guess that’s a message to all of us in meme.

    Another warning sign to those who are still set on following her is that she is behaving in this unprofessional way. A person who is serious about their business would do everything they could to keep their customers happy and that includes refunding when you don’t deliver. It doesn’t include disappearing, changing your avatar and not explaining yourself in a coherent way.

    The problem with Kerry Gardiner is that her business isn’t based on delivering service or anything that will help others. She has solely been working in the indie author industry to benefit herself alone and used many kind-hearted people along the way to further herself in her scams.

    I fear though that someone who earns a living this way will probably continue to do so. Let’s hope she moves on to another town far, far away and leaves good, honest indie authors alone. What would be great is if she stopped hurting innocent people who can ill afford the time or money. However, I fear, that this is a way of life for her and though she’s not that great at it, she knows no other way.

    Buyers beware!

    Reply
  5. Carla Toby
    Fri 09th Aug 2019 at 9:02 am

    I’m sorry to be so late to this party. I hope what I contribute at this date might still be helpful to at least some.

    In my former life, I was a chargeback specialist for Satan, oops, I mean Chase Bank. That means I worked in a call center and analyzed and processed disputed credit card charges for customers. There are many kinds of valid disputes, and, sadly, many more which are not valid (e.g., “Yes, I paid for the food, ate it, didn’t complain to the manager, and then gave them my card to pay for it. Now I want *you* to give me my money back.” Yes, that’s the kind of stuff I heard repeatedly, and no, there’s no recourse via the bank. If you don’t understand why, then what I have to say about this Facebook scammer won’t make sense, either, so you’d best stop reading now).

    The charges for the courses offered yet not provided *might* be disputable, if paid for by credit card (even if the payment was processed by a third-part biller, such as PayPal). It depends on a few things:

    1. What was the latest date by which the service should have been provided? If we can get that date as close to 118 days prior to today as possible, we are good to go, especially if the following apply…

    2. Did you make an effort to resolve? Meaning, did you email or otherwise communicate with Ms. Gardiner-Scam and request a refund? If so, great! (If not, we can still proceed; we’ll just be sure to use non-receipt of service as our dispute reason. Merchant efforts are advised but not required for most Visa/MasterCard disputes. I can’t advise about Amex, beyond saying that since they’re not a bank their criteria are different, and potentially more flexible.)

    3. Do you have a written contract, or anything from the Gardiner-Scam camp (email, something from her own FB/website/whatever) stating what services would be provided and how long you had to avail yourself of them? Again, if not, that’s okay; it makes a stronger case if you have this, but isn’t required at first phase.

    Call your bank and ask to speak to Disputes–NOT FRAUD. Although you may feel you’ve been defrauded, (and as a consumer I totally get that), in this case that becomes a legal term, and your credit card issuer is not a law firm. The dispute process involves this sequence of actions:

    Your issuing bank will take the money back from the merchant, and give you a temporary refund to your account. That will be either full or partial, depending on weather you received any services or none.

    The merchant (Gardiner-Scam) will be notified of the dispute, and her bank will advise her of the chance to respond (refute what we are saying on your behalf).

    If she responds, your bank will tell you. She has about two billing cycles to try to prove you’re not entitled to be refunded. If she doesn’t respond, the temporary credit applied to your card will become permanent, and you’ll be notified in writing.

    If she does respond, and your bank doesn’t think the response is valid (such as, she doesn’t give any proof of services rendered, but instead says something like, “See refund policy”) they’ll respond back to her via her bank, and let them know the response doesn’t resolve the dispute. They then have a brief window of time to prove otherwise, and again, you’ll be notified if that happens.

    The good news in all of this is twofold:
    1. As soon as you contact your bank and file the dispute, you no longer need to deal with the scammer.

    2. You stand a very good chance of getting your money back, and you don’t have to pay a lawyer.

    Same thing applies for those who paid for ads or SEO or other services. There is another way to dispute those, potentially, and that’s called “not as described.” Though the criteria are different, the process is the same. There’s also more leeway time-wise, if you’ve been making ongoing efforts to get a refund.

    Hope this info helps. If anyone has any questions, I hope you’ll ask me. I’m happy to make some positive use of my six-year sentence in Satan’s den, oops I mean the San Antonio call center from Hell.
    Ha!

    Reply

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