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Friday, January 16, 2015

Open Invitation to All QBS Learning/Bill Smith Group Freelance Victims

I have just filed my FBI Internet Fraud and State Attorney General complaints against QBS Learning/Bill Smith Group. (See previous Screw You! post for details.)

In filling out the FBI report, I was asked for the names, addresses and phone numbers of others known to have been victimized by this company. I know there are many of you but you are all anonymous to me.

That said, I hereby offer an open invitation to any freelancer who is owed money by QBS Learning/Bill Smith Group.

You may contact me directly at theflawlessword (at) gmail (dot) com with details. Please use the Subject line "QBS/Bill Smith". Perhaps if enough of you respond we can initiate a class action lawsuit.

Monday, December 08, 2014

QBS Learning AKA Bill Smith Group/Q2A Resurrecting Screw You!

You know I've got a real doozy on my hands when I'm resurrecting this blog after several years. Read on to find out exactly what has prompted me to dig out Screw You! from its resting place.

In March 2014, I was hired by Q2A/Bill Smith Group now going by the name of QBS Learning (www.qbslearning.com) for a large project creating items to align to the CCSS (Common Core) for high school mathematics. Per the terms of my contract, “Payment of $3378.00 will be upon satisfactory completion, client acceptance of work, and confirmation of client acceptance of the assignment by QBS. Payment per invoice is end of week following 60-days of receipt by our offices.”

The project was billed in three installments. The dates and amounts of the invoices were as follows:
March 4, 2014: $644.00
March 11, 2014: $950.00
April 7, 2014: $1,784.00

Per the contract terms, I should have been paid IN FULL by the end of May. As of this writing, December 5, 2015, I am still owed over $1,200, with interest $1640.08 to be exact.

It bears mentioning that all previous payments were very late in arriving. These are the amounts and check dates (although many arrived weeks after the posted dated):
May 23, 2014: (a paltry) $201.82
August 8, 2014: $1,000
September 5, 2014: $950

Since that time it’s been nothing but excuses if I get a response from anyone at all.

On May 15, I was told, “Not sure if [we] told you, but the company has recently completed a merger and restructuring. The new organization is in the process of getting all of our financial processes updated--although we are behind in payments, we are working to get caught up. I will work with our new CFO (copied here) to project your payment schedule.” Marie Price and Brent Kunzel were the individuals copied in this message.

On May 22, Marie Price followed up with this message: “I am following up on your email to be sure that you know that have received your message. QBS Learning stands by our commitment to you. As part of the new management plan to get invoices paid as quickly as possible, we have laid out a plan to pay overdue payments via partial payments on a timely basis.  We pledge to catch up on these delayed payments as we work through the final stages of our transition in ownership.

Our goal is to catch up on these payment delays as quickly as possible. The newly merged QBS Learning remains a vital development business, backed by a strong investment team, GEM NY (www.gemny.com). Moving forward, QBS will be diligent in adhering to the terms of your 60-day invoicing.

You can expect to be paid on the following schedule/terms. Beginning May 23, you will be receiving payments on overdue invoices every two weeks. You will be paid in full for the overdue invoices by July 31.
Thank you for your patience. We value your continued support and look forward to working with you in the future.”

As you can see from my payment receipts, I received absolutely NONE of these promised payments after the $201 check.

On June 25, after many complaints from me, Brent Kunzel wrote me this message: “We are writing to apologize for the delay in your payment. We are committed to paying you in full.

This situation came about due to the recent acquisition of two companies. QBS Learning is working to pay invoices that were left unpaid by the prior owner dating back to the months before the March acquisition. We are actively fixing the situation created by the former management team and hope you can bear with us as we clear this up.”

At that point, I started receiving vague “To Whom It May Concern” responses from an anonymous email address (accounts.payable@qbslearning.com). On August 4, this cowardly individual told me “Your payment in full will be mailed to you on Friday.” Guess they meant Friday of next year.

Most recently I’ve been dealing with an individual named Apurv Goyal, who is good with apologies but not much more. On November 4, 2014 s/he sent me this email (sic):

First of all, my apologies that you did not get replies your email.

I have check you account and the following is the findings.

The value of the invoice is as per my recored ( $ 644+ $950+ $1784 ) = $ 3378 
Payment received from QBS : $ 950 – Check No. 45001 – date 09/05
Payment received from QBS : $ 1000 – check no. 44903 – dated 8/8
Payment received from QBS : $ 210.82 – check no. 44477 – dated 5/23

The total payment is $ 2160.82

Net amount due to you from QBS is $ 3378 - $ 2160.82 = $ 1,217.18 

Please let me know if I am missing anything. On confirmation, will work on your payment plan.”

I corrected him/her that check #44477 was in the amount of $201.82 and that the amount actually owed to me was significantly more with six months of interested attached. I then proceeded to offer him/her a steeply discounted reduction on that interest if I was paid in full by November 30. No response and since then absolutely nothing from anyone. I have since reassessed all the interest and am filing a complaint with the FBI Internet Fraud Department as well as the State Attorney General's office in both states the company has offices.

My intention in sharing this story is to alert other freelancers of the danger in working with this company. I am not, by a longshot, the only freelancer who is not being paid by this company. Check out this link for all kinds of complaints: http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Q2A-Bill-Smith-Reviews-E512241.htm.

As of this writing the QBS website is down (surprise, surprise), but this is the contact information for the company’s various offices.

New York Office                                            
450 West 31st Street                                        
New York, NY 10001                                                
Phone: +212.529.9292     

Austin Office                               
8310-1 N
Capital of Texas Hwy, Ste 285      
Austin, TX 78731
Phone: 512.349.2500

New Delhi Office                                                      
Noida, U.P -201301, India                             
Phone :+91 120.4833350      

Sao Paulo Office

Rua Alexandre Dumas, 1268 cj. 132, 
Chac. Sto. Antônio - São Paulo – Brazil
Phone : +55 11 4305-3805

The original owner, Bill Smith (bill.smith@qbslearning.com) can be found at this LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=5771979. The Gem NY investment team can be found at www.gemny.com.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Freelance Guest Post

I should be back shortly with a new batch of Screw You!s. In the meantime, enjoy this (rather hysterical) guest post.

“Lateness Excuses from Freelance Writers: as Funny as It Can Get”

Imagination is one of the defining qualities of a professional and successful freelance writer. However, a successful freelancer should also incorporate other professional qualities: education, articulateness, punctuality, etc. This list includes some freelance writers who only got the “imagination” part right. These folks’ lateness excuses are, to put it mildly, quite creative.

I merely looked through the list of deactivated writers with Custom-Writing.org project whose orders were routinely late, and always had a unique excuse to go along with the lateness. Therefore, I'm fairly confident that most of these explanations were simply made up. If not, then these folks make a dandy list of the most unfortunate people on the planet.

These are just in random order, so you can pick your “leaders”. The quotes here represent their messages to the support team. They are slightly edited to remove some personal information and make them more understandable apart from their context. OK, here we go:

“Usually before I go to bed, I have a glass of warm milk. I usually finish with the milk and leave it next to my lamp on the drawer. But this time I didn't feel like finishing the glass, and left it half full on the drawer. I left my laptop right next to my slippers, on the floor. It turned out that during the night, I probably moved the glass with my hand. So it fell to the floor, spilling the milk all over the laptop. Now it’s not working, I have to take it to the repair shop and it might take more than couple of days to get it back. I have all of the work saved there and so now I can't finish the assignment. Begging for an extension!” At least for him, the glass is half-full.

“I had to travel to Dubuque to visit my cousin. His girlfriend dumped him just a couple of days prior to my arrival. So he was really depressed. Plus his PC went down, leaving him without his favorite pastime – online games. I felt really sorry for him, so I left him my laptop, because I knew, I'll be coming back within a couple of weeks, and can take it back then. What I didn't realize is that my home computer did not contain the files I used for the work on the project. They were also gone from my inbox, although you sent me them to my address. So if you could just please provide an extension and send the files all over again, I'll have the order completed in no time!” Additional comments: he only responded with the tale of his PC when we contacted him regarding the lateness.

“I lost my car keys after a birthday party of my friend. I don't know why – but I walked home and fell asleep, in the morning I realized that I had to finish up the paper. The flash drive with the work was in the car. So I was determined to break the window to get it out of the glove compartment. When I went to my friends house to get the car, it turned out that he got it into his garage, because he actually had my keys. But I only was able to find that out when he came back from the mall, and told me everything. I waited for him on his porch for a couple of hours until he arrived. I wasn't able to get him to answer my calls, because while he was at the mall, he left the phone in the car, because he didn't want to be bothered after last night. Anyway, that's how I wasted almost 12 hours out of the deadline and I would appreciate an extension, if possible, to have this whole thing done and avoid any penalties.” I don't even know what to comment about this one. She would have been better off just saying that she's sick and needs more time.

Just a couple of short ones as a dessert:
“I was backpacking in the mountains; my laptop was struck by lightning...” OK...stop...just...Wow! I won't even type the rest; it gets even crazier from there.

“My PC was hacked in, now I can't open anything on it and can't even use it. It has to be repaired and I'm writing to you from my iPhone.” This one is also brilliant because we initiated an investigation determined to shut down his account because all of the latenesses. Moreover, the IT department determined that the IP address of the sender was the same as usual and the browser version he used wasn't a mobile edition. This means, he was using his PC, to inform us that his PC was disabled.

I hope that if you work in the freelance writing business or are going to order something from a freelance writer, you won’t find be like one of these folks, or get partnered with one of them! :)

Have a great day, and good luck with your career.

James Whitaker,editor at Custom-Writing.org

Visit him at his Twitter account: CusWriting.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Freelance Writers' Worth Week

While I'm on a short break from blogging, I encourage you to stop by Lori Widmer's blog for Writers' Worth Week. Lori's a year-round advocate for demanding one's worth in this profession, but her efforts this week are particularly tireless. You'll find not only daily posts from her, but also links to guests posts on external sites and to other writers who are participating in this very worthy cause. Definitely plenty to keep you busy until I'm back with my Screw Yous!


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Inside A Real-Life Freelance Job Interview Exchange

I recently got an email from a freelancer copywriter (who shall remain anonymous) I look up to for advice, insight and how to play the professional payment game. This individual easily commands top rates, so I was rather surprised to discover s/he even has to contend with this type of situation. Sadly, it seems, we all do.


The aforementioned copywriter receives a message from someone who as been referred to her/him and who is looking for a "suitable copywriter." Said copywriter is amenable to offering up some names but wants to know more. This is where s/he asks for a ballpark payment figure. The inquirer writes back with the offer of around $15 for 400 words "maybe more" if research is involved. BAD move!


The copywriter and her/his contact exchange in a back-and-forth debate about how ridiculous (or not, depending on the perspective) that offer is, with the emailer resorting to the good old: "I wouldn't have thought it would take much longer than 15 minutes to write a 400 word article, at $20 an article, that is still $80/hr, which works out at something around $200k/yr, isn't that still quite good pay?"

When the copywriter breaks down the numbers, pointing out the error of the emailer's ways, the emailer counters with, "I meant no offense, it's just that's how much my current copy writer charges me who is based in the US."


The copywriter is, deservedly, angry but quickly realizes it's not entirely the inquirer's fault for harboring such sentiments. The final sentiment s/he wanted to get across to both the emailer and fellow copywriters is this: "The only reason many of these people offer such low rates is because all the writers willing to work for such rates have trained them to expect it. So, in that case, can you blame them?"

Precisely! As a prospective client said to me the other day, if you don't believe in yourself (and your worth), who will?


Monday, May 02, 2011

The Ultimate Get-a-Clue Freelance Request for the Week of May 2, 2011

This week's Middle Finger Award comes from a high school pal of mine and fellow freelance writer/editor, Melissa.

Project Description: News Writer Needed

Specific Project Request: Hello,

I run several news websites and I am in need of a writer. This work can be done from home.

I need a writer that can provide 5-10 news articles per day that are about 200 words each.

** Most of these news articles will be business related in nature**

Each article must meet these requirements:
* 200 or more words
* Most of these articles will be rewrites but must pass copyscape
* No Spelling or grammar mistakes
* I will need the articles as early as possible in the day (before noon would be great)

I will pay $2 per 200 word news article - So if you did 10 per day - I would pay $20 per day

I need a writer that can provide a minimum of 5 articles per day.

If you are interested in this job please respond to this ad. I will explain more to people that respond.

Thanks John

So here we have the oh-so-typical one cent (or less) per word content rate with the usual laundry list of requirements. But this one has the added bonus of an "early as possible" daily deadline. As I told Melissa, "Oh boy! Just what I want to do is get up at 6:00 in the morning to earn $20 a day. Yippee!" And Screw THAT indeed!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

AOL Joining the Free Freelancer Bandwagon

AOL to Movie Writers: You’re Fired, But We’d Love It If You Write for Free.

Seriously? According to CNET News, AOL had revenue of $596 million in the fourth quarter of 2010. Granted, that figure was "down 26 percent year over year," but you make over half a million dollars and you ask your writers to work for free?

Is it just me, or, the grand scheme of things, is such a request worse than those that come from startups?