Seedy Spam – The Phantom Is Finally Riled

Okay – I have given them time enough to reply on this one and I’ve had no response whatsoever, so I’m going public, as Darryl over at 853 has done.

For the last two weeks I have been inundated with spam comments from “local” estate agent Alex Neil – dozens of the things, smothering the Phantom archives with irrelevant pap. The comments are always the same sort of thing – a random subject is chosen from the archive, then someone who can barely speak English says something to the effect of “I don’t know much about this subject but buying property is a really good thing in Greenwich,” followed by a link to the Alex Neil website.

I have blocked all the ones I’ve found, but they’re still turning up at a rate of knots – I have just, five minutes ago, whacked a whole bunch of new ones. Please let me know if you see any more and I’ll zap them immediately.

Someone, who stays anonymous, of course, is clearly writing these comments individually, and to order, so I’m assuming that they’re actually being paid to spam local blogs.

I did give Alex Neil the benefit of the doubt and write to them suggesting that maybe a rival or someone who wished them ill was doing this to make them look like shiny-suited seedy scumbags as I couldn’t believe they’d be stupid enough to do this sort of cheap-trash marketing themselves.

I got the automatic reply saying that my email had been received and that someone would be in touch shortly. Well, it’s been nearly a week and I’ve had nothing. If I had found that someone was smirching my name by making it look like I was some tawdry spam-monger, I’d be emailing straight back, denying it, so I’m taking it that it really is that ill-judged and that these comments are coming from Alex Neil themselves. That they really think smothering local blogs with irrelevant comments is going to get them attention.

Well, Alex Neil, you’ve got your wish. I am voluntarily mentioning you. That your advertising tactics stink and that if you think that I am in any way endorsing you by allowing dozens of links to your site through this one, you can think again. You’re giving the guys who actually give a damn about the area (and there ARE estate agents for whom I have a lot of respect – who know and love Greenwich) a really bad name.


26 Comments to “Seedy Spam – The Phantom Is Finally Riled”

  1. Michael says:

    Excellent, I'll be sure never to use their services…I hate spam BTW

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ouch. That is pretty lame

  3. Benedict says:

    Hear hear Phantom!Take them to the Bloggers Ombudsman,
    but if you would like to buy a house in Toronto , just give me a call on …416 …….

  4. Old China says:

    I guess you can't storm into the local branch and shout at the Manager in person if you want to preserve your secret identity? Shame, sounds like they deserve it.

    Anyway, good to know. I'll make a point of never, ever using them.

  5. Michael says:

    A number of us have already retweeted this; let's hope it shames them into stopping.

  6. Marmoset says:

    I've had them spamming two blogs over the last week or so. Any blog that mentions Greenwich and housing seems to be fair game.

  7. darryl says:

    I've had a root around and found some more.

    Perhaps we should leave stickers on their Blackheath offices promoting our blogs.

  8. The Greenwich Phantom says:

    has anyone else actually written to them? Did you get a reply?

  9. Kat says:

    Sounds to me like someone in their 'marketing' department has the daft idea that repetitive bombardment may appeal/lead to potential clients. More fool to them if it has the reverse affect, which it most certainly does to me. They go on my list along with the con-artists over at Foxtons as agents I will never deal with.

    Have you actually tried to call them about this? Yes its wasting yet more of your time probably on people who care very little about your displeasure, but maybe it will be good to vent a little anger out directly at them :)

  10. Matt says:

    Could be to do with relevance of search hits – I understand that Google works by looking for links to your site from other sites with similar keyword hits, so the spammers probably don't care if people click them or not.

    Best defence is probably to require login to post, which is sad. Good luck defeating the evil spam monster – love the sticker idea btW darryl.

    Matt of East Greenwich

  11. The Greenwich Phantom says:

    I'm really unkeen to make everyone else jump through hoops just so I can stop one rogue estate agent looking like an arse on my site. They already have to do the squiggly word thing which drives me nuts.

    I have comment moderation turned on for stuff over three weeks old which catches 95% of it.

  12. Marmoset says:

    From their website: ''At Alex Neil we put customer service first. We are aware of how the public’s perception of the industry can be negative and strive to challenge that image. We appreciate the importance of communication and honesty and work to give each of our customers a positive experience when using any of our services.''

    Honesty, positive experience, challenging negative images? Hmmm…

  13. Anonymous says:

    I dont think they even have an office anywhere near Greenwich? Can they even be classed as a 'local' estate agent? They look pretty corporate/impersonal from the looks of their website. I wonder if they target other areas/blogs aside from those in Greenwich?

  14. Lucy says:

    I'm so glad you've told us this. It makes me tempted to view a property with them, and when they tell me how bouyant the market is and how you'll have to pay full whack I can ask them why, if that's so and they're inundated with inquiries, they have to resort to that type of thing to drum up interest?

    I'm sorry you've had them messing up your archives and had to spend your time deleting…if I see any, I'll let you know.

  15. Cameron Church says:

    I've worked in the online industry for over 10 years and watched with sadness and annoyance how people like spammers have taken advantage of the hyper global reach Internet communications have given us.

    It's important that people stay informed as things are changing rapidly and I strongly encourage everyone to stay up to date on the current legal structure around this.

    In 2003 a bill was passed setting the framework and boundaries in the UK for unsocilited electronic messages- best read here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/09/18/uk_govt_fouls_up_antispam/

    It's not watertight and new arrivals like blogs are not covered very well but it's a start.

    As an online community we should all be willing to report any spammer (persistant or not) that falls fowl of these regulations straight to the Information Commissioner – http://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints.aspx – who is set up to handle these cases (put your hard lost tax money to use!)

    Sadly these strong arm tatics are needed even in the most benign of cases because it's too easy to sit in the shadow of the browser and reap unchecked havoc to all netizens.

    Also for those lighthouses of the Internet like this blog you should be actively lobbying the Commissioner and Government to update these laws to be better protect yourselves and your community.

    Don't forget to remind the brands and services for whom these spammers operate that it's them that will pay the fine – not the individuals doing their dirty work.

    Happy surfing…

  16. EnglishRose says:

    Alex Neil are obviously having a bit of a marketing blitz at the moment. I had something from them pushed through the door the other day; it came in a hand-written envelope and I thought it was personal mail (a marketing technique I hate, but never mind). The leaflet inside the envelope was a glossy A4 number showing how they'd marketed a "similar property in your street". Fair enough. There was just one fatal flaw. The floorplan on the reverse of the leaflet was quite clearly the wrong floorplan! Such an obvious error in marketing materials would hardly persuade me that they were competent to market my house, if I were looking to sell, never mind their underhand techniques targeting blogs. Goodness only knows who's doing their marketing but whoever it is ought to be sacked.

  17. Anonymous says:

    It looks like a marketing strategy designed to make search engines associate anything Greenwich-related synonymous with Alex Neil Estate Agents. A bit of an own goal if one of the side-effects is that the search term "Alex Neil Estate Agents" gets associated with "seedy spammers" and "rogue estate agent" by Google (and others) as it seems to have done.

  18. Anonymous says:

    if they are doing it for the benefit of search engines they are wasting their time.

    Blogger automatically adds rel="nofollow" to all links placed in comments. Nofollow is an instruction to search engines that they should pay no attention.

  19. Anne says:

    I think you could also argue this is harassment. Might be worth calling Consumer Direct for advice as they are pretty good about advising what to do/who to speak to/etc with problems involving companies.

  20. Sarah says:

    Wow, I'll add them to my list of a few double-glazing types I wouldn't touch with a barge pole.

  21. Richard says:

    What I find really odd is that they don’t even have an office in Greenwich!! I am fed up with their bloody leaflets as well. I phoned up to politely ask them to stop and got a mouthful from the Alex Neil Area Manager, a Mr David Hatch. Well done to the Phantom for taking them on!!

  22. David Hatch says:

    Maybe you should at least contact me directly before spreading such false information and hiding behind an anonymous identity. Anyone who is dissatisfied with the services being offered by Alex Neil, please feel free to contact me directly. David Hatch, Company Director david.hatch@alexneil.com, Direct Line: 020 7232 5792. (You may even be shocked to find we are actually just trying to run a professional service, keep another local shop open, keep local people employed, whilst helping the local housing market recover!!!)

  23. Actually, I did. I called emailed twice before posting, suggesting that perhaps someone was using your identity to make you look bad. Had I received such an email I might have looked into it. Since I got nothing and the bombardments continued the only way was to go public.

  24. James says:

    Well Mr Hatch, when I tried to complain, I was just stone walled – I gave up. As for your comment “keep another local shop open, keep local people employed” – YOU DON’T HAVE AN OFFICE in Greenwich – stop pretending you do. You firm is unheard of in Greenwich apart from when associated with spamming – why? Well done Phantom for exposing this appalling practice.

  25. David Hatch says:

    Dear Greenwich Phantom,

    I have now noticed your recent comments and can respond as follows:
    In accordance with our full membership with The Property Ombudsman, Alex Neil Estate Agents operate a comprehensive Internal Complaints procedure and having spoken to both my Blackheath Branch Manager and my Rotherhithe Branch Manager, who operate throughout the Greenwich area, (JAMES- Please Note: I don’t recall ever stating we had an office in Greenwich? Nor even wishing to have untrue comments placed on a Greenwich website) and having checked my personal records, I can formally confirm that I have not received any correspondence from any representatives from The Greenwich Phantom. As previously stated please feel free to contact me via the contact details stated within my last comment and I would be more than happy to fully investigate any concerns you may have relating to the comments placed on this website. As I believe the comments placed on this website are completely untrue, please be aware that unless these untrue comments are removed from this website within the next 14 days I will have no option but to seek further legal advice regarding the removal.
    Once again my direct email address is david.hatch@alexneil.co.uk, for anyone wishing to contact me in confidence to discuss these or any other matters relating to the services provided by Alex Neil Estate Agents.

  26. [...] count a number of those bloggers as friends, I am quite annoyed by that. Especially as I know they get annoyed by blog-spam as much as I [...]