Don’t Plagiarize like the UPS Store

(See the end for an update. To the credit of UPS, they did reach out and resolve this issue in a professional and satisfying manner.)

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The UPS Store is plagiarizing.

It’s certainly not what I would call givegive.

I found an article on their site that was posted this Wednesday November 28th that was a near replica of an article I had written as a guest post for the Salesforce blog on October 3rd.

My article title: How to Grow Your Business Through Client Referrals

Their article title: Using Customer Referrals to Grow Your Business

My Subtitles in this exact order:

    1. Give More Value Than Your Clients Pay For
    2. Let Your Clients Do The Selling
    3. Say Thank You
    4. Process Follows Culture

UPS Store Subtitles:

    1. Exceed Client Expectations
    2. Empower Clients to Become Brand Evangelists
    3. Always Say Thank You
    4. Create a Culture of Appreciation
My content:

“People are naturally motivated to share things of value with their friends and associates, but only if they have something worth sharing.”

UPS Store content:

“It’s only natural that people are motivated to share valuable experiences with friends and associates.”

My content:

“When your clients are actively engaged in the referral process, the likelihood their introductions turn into business increases drastically. Try to make it as easy as possible for clients by offering to write the introduction email for them.”

UPS Store content:

“Business owners who have clients who are actively engaged in the referral process will notice a substantial increase in sales. It is helpful for business owners to make the process as easy as possible for clients. Business owners can even write an introduction email on their behalf.”

My last line:

“Building a referral driven business through meaningful client relationships will always be more art than science.”

UPS Store second to last line:

Creating a referral-driven business by developing meaningful relationships will always be more of an art than a science.”

I did a little more digging and found that I wasn’t the only one.

They’re plagiarizing from sites like Salesforce, SheKnows.com, and get this, SBA.gov.

Yes, SBA.gov as in the Federal Government’s dedicated site to small businesses.

In honor of the UPS Store’s blatant use of mine and others hard work to market their business without our permission, and since apparently I’m working for them for free anyway; UPS Store, heres a little bonus advice:

5 Lessons on How to Plagiarize so You Don’t Get Caught

1) Avoid using top ranked articles from google searches

Google’s job is to add a layer of credibility to searching for information online. They’ve built and continue to update an algorithm (read- fancy math equation) that pulls in all sorts of information to rank and stack the sites based on value. So naturally, the sites that show up first in google searches are the most valuable.

If you’re going to steal, steal articles from page 3 or 4 in your searches. Not the first page and certainly not the top articles that show up!

Your laziness means you’re stealing from sites and people with large social media audiences,  highly paid legal teams, and the organization that makes and enforces the laws.

 

2) Avoid plagiarizing articles with obscure themes, titles, and subtitles

Search engines are highly skilled at helping you find information. So when I thought you might be plagiarizing other people, I was easily able to find more near identical articles with a simple theme, title, and/or subtitle search.

 

3) Re-order lists within articles you plagiarize

When you use an article that is in the form of a list, consider reordering it. It’s pretty easy to see that you’re stealing when you keep it in the exact order.

For example, look at the apps and order chosen in your article titled Mobile Apps for SBOs:

  1. Evernote
  2. DropBox
  3. Nozbe
  4. LastPass
  5. Square
  6. Mint
  7. Expensify
Now here are the apps and order written in a post I found (At the request of the author, the article has been removed from this post)
  1. Evernote
  2. DropBox
  3. Nozbe
  4. Lffft
  5. LastPass
  6. Square
  7. Mint
  8. FlightTrackPro
  9. Expensify
  10. RecruiterBox

The chances that you would choose, out of the millions of apps available, the exact same 7 apps out of the 10 in the article are about 1 in some multiple of a million.

But lets assume you somehow randomly chose the exact same apps from the list. What are the odds that you would happen to order them in the exact same way?

Here’s the math:

1 / 7!   (that reads, 1 divided by 7 factorial –> 7x6x5x4x3x2x1)  = 1 in 5,040

My guess, this was not a coincidence.

 

4) Mediocre plagiarizing won’t cut it

When you post something online, it gets archived in the public domain forever. This means that even if you take down all of your articles this instant, there are companies that have already archived your site.

The moral, if you’re going to plagiarize, don’t be lazy because it never goes away.

Here is an article posted on SheKnows.com on March 2, 2012 titled How to Work From Home With Young Kids In the House.

Here’s  the title and subtitles:

Here are the titles and subtitles from your very original article Working At Home With Young Children:

 

5) Oh yeah, avoid plagiarizing the Federal Government

It’s stealing from the very people that write and enforce the laws on stealing.

I need to emphasize this point. You literally copied the title, the subtitles, and even the content almost verbatim from the Federal Government.

Here is the SBA Article titled How to Set a Marketing Budget that Fits Your Business Goals and Provides a High Return on Investment:

Here’s the UPS Store’s article titled Evaluating How Best to Spend Your Marketing Dollars:

SBA subtitles:

    1.  How to Calculate Your Marketing Budget
    2. Spending Your Budget Wisely
    3. Revisit Your Plans Often and Track Your ROI

UPS Store subtitles:

    1. How to Calculate a Marketing Budget
    2. Spending Marketing Dollars Wisely
    3. Revisit Plans Regularly and Track ROI
The SBA content (reformatted without changing the content):
Many businesses allocate a percentage of actual or projected gross revenues – usually between 2-3 percent for run-rate marketing and up to 3-5 percent for start-up marketing. But the allocation actually depends on several factors:
  • the industry you’re in
  • the size of your business
  • its growth stage.
UPS Store content:

Most small businesses set aside a certain percentage of revenue—projected or gross—for marketing purposes. But the disbursement of marketing dollars actually depends on a few factors:

    • Industry
    • Business Size
    • Growth Stage

SBA content(reformatted without changing the content):

For example, during the early brand building years retail businesses spend much more than other businesses on marketing – up to 20 percent of sales.
As a general rule, small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. This budget should be split between 
  • 1) brand development costs (which includes all the channels you use to promote your brand such as your website, blogs, sales collateral, etc.)
  • 2) the costs of promoting your business (campaigns, advertising, events, etc.)

This percentage also assumes you have margins in the range of 10-12 percent (after you’ve covered your other expenses, including marketing).

UPS Store content:

For example, during the early years spent focusing on building a brand, businesses usually spend much more on marketing than they will later – this amount can add up to nearly twenty percent of sales.

Generally, most small businesses should set aside between seven and eight percent of revenue for marketing purposes. The marketing budget should be divided between the following:

    • Brand Development Costs
    • Promoting the Business

Of course, this percentage assumes business owners have margins in the range of ten to twelve percent. It is also important to keep in mind that this amount should be calculated after other expenses are covered.

. . . . . . . . . .

Here’s a quote from an article on the UPS Store site titled “Protecting Your Businesses Online Reputation

“Some business owners don’t realize that they may not be the only ones publishing information about their business online. In today’s world, consumers are publishers too, and consumers can be extremely vocal online about their interactions with a company.

Address any issues in a diplomatic and timely manner. Always be mindful that interactions with consumers are visible to multiple parties.”

UPS Store, listen to your own, or most likely someone else’s advice and do something about this.

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Side notes:

- I did write UPS Store directly asking them to handle this situation and never received a response. This was before I wrote this post and also before I realized they were plagiarizing everyone.

- This article was not motivated in any way by the fact that the UPS Store lost all of my belongings in a move from New York City to San Francisco in August, 2012. But it certainly doesn’t help.

______

*** UPDATE:

The UPS Store reached out to me first thing this morning (Monday) to address the issue.

We had a very nice conversation where they apologized, shared exactly what had happened, and what they’re doing about it.

Here is part of the formal letter I received from their PR Department:

“Thank you for bringing this important matter to our attention. The UPS Store relies a third party vendor to provide much of the content for our blog, and this news came as quite a surprise to us. As a leading resource for the small business community, we take this very seriously and have since removed the blog posts in question from our site, which were all found to have been written by a single author. We are also seeking new content providers for our blog moving forward.

 On behalf of The UPS Store, I apologize and want to assure you we are doing everything in our power to correct this issue.”

I was impressed with their efforts and following our phone conversation, truly feel that they were unaware of the plagiarized material on their site which has all been removed as of noon today.

Bravo to the UPS Store for taking ownership over the issue and making it right.

 






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9 Responses to Don’t Plagiarize like the UPS Store

  1. Kyle Visser says:

    Well played, Givegive…. Well played.

    Hope something cool comes out of this. We could get your musician buddy (the name escapes me) and write a YouTube song like the country artist did about the airlines throwing/breaking his guitar. I can always freestyle. Something like this….

    Surfing the net like I usually do,
    Then what did I stumble upon? Let me tell you.
    My article plagiarized but just a sloppy copy,
    Yo UPS, that’s my f’n personal property.

    The scholar in me wrote them a redemption letter,
    Gave these clowns a chance to make it all better.
    No response, I will get the best, you’ll see,
    Yo UPS, that’s my f’n personal property.

    Check yo self. K-Viss productshizzle foshizzle.

  2. Whoa. Someone is going to get fired! Not only is this bad, but it hurts both of your SEO. I would have someone’s head for that alone.

    • Jeff Riddle says:

      Thanks for the note Gini! And yes, it’s bad for everyone re: SEO rankings.

      Hopefully you’ve seen the update. They acted fast, apologized, and made things right.

  3. Excellent piece. Most writers have experienced this very thing, not usually by such a big company. My question: Regarding SBA.gov, my understanding is all content and images produced by a U.S. government agency is public domain, the concept being they run on taxpayer dollars and what they produce is technically owned by all of us. Having sourced a great deal of content over the years from .gov sites, I’ve been assured time and time again that it is all public domain.

    Even if that is the case, it doesn’t diminish the plagiarism of UPS Store’s 3rd party vendor. Shame on them! They give all freelance writers a bad rap.

    • Jeff Riddle says:

      Thanks Aliza! Plagiarizing content and ideas is unfortunately common practice around the web but you’re right, more often than not from small sites and companies.

      I hadn’t heard that re: .gov but I also haven’t heard it otherwise. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’ll have to check it out and share if I find anything useful.

      Well the good news, this particular freelancer was fired. The better news, the money formerly paid to them is now going to a freelancer that deserves it :)

  4. Nicole says:

    Am I the only one disturbed that they’re paying a service to write their blog posts? Why do they have a PR department if they don’t have to actually handle their PR?

    • Jeff Riddle says:

      Great question Nicole. Whether we agree or not, this is often common practice amongst larger companies that are still learning their way around the social web.

      I do however have a call with them later this week about doing some guest posts. So perhaps this whole experience will help them move in a direction where they have real thought leaders share ideas instead of a 3rd party company.

      To progress…

  5. [...] Plagiarism is a fireable offense here. I won’t stand for it, nor do I want our clients to have to endure what the UPS Store did when they outsourced their content development. [...]

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