The Golden Rule

The golden rule: "Treat others as you would like to be treated."

A subset of that is: "If you don't have something nice to say... don't say anything at all."

What the Golden Rule Misses

That is a guiding rule which generally helps people prevent themselves from wasting time and/or causing an issue by offending someone. But there are a few things that are missed by that rule:

  • It is easy to tell someone not to internalize stuff, but the truth is if you don't respond at all then over time those sorts of people can start to wear you down
  • If you do not respond to someone they may think they are correct & then spread their misinformation further, as some of them attribute a lack of response to "the smoking gun."
  • Some consider bluntness to be impolite, however the alternative is the destruction of the English language.

The Rise of Enraged Consumers

With the rise of social media there is a rise of consumers feeling empowered to threaten, extort, and slander businesses. The media goes so far as training consumers to do so!

Some businesses deserve it, however others have done nothing wrong other than being in front of an overly important individual. I am having trouble finding it right now, but a couple times people have threatened to smear my name and brand if I didn't give them a refund for some scammy crap they bought from someone else! They acknowledged that I wasn't associated with it, but they wanted their money back from someone & were willing to take it out of my brand if I wouldn't give it to them. And so I spoke French.

What Caused the Freetardation of the Web?

One time The Conumerist said they wouldn't link to our website because some other sites using infographics are spam, but then they ran our infographic (sans the attribution to the person who spend thousands of Dollars creating it and marketing it) and they got tons of awareness and exposure from our content. Sites like the Huffington Post do that sort of stuff all the time, and often become the canonical source for YOUR content.

Not only are there business models built on paying users to steal other's valuable content, stripping attribution & make it free (like Youtube), but the model is so acceptable online now that you can simply program bots to do it (see Ask or Mahalo).

Google claims to make copyright better online, but if you search on Google they will recommend looking for torrents, cracks, keygens, and serial numbers. A friend of mine even showed me a YouTube video which shared a DreamWeaver serial code in it. As a person who has bought their software 4 or 5 times now I think that is just awful!

What caused this sea shift? What caused people to expect & even DEMAND the labor of others for free?

I think a lot of it is an extension of the penny gap, an online bias towards ads, and open source software.

The Penny Gap

A lot of dumb people the world over are trained that Kim Kardashian and other such celebrities are important to their daily lives. In spite of all of this sort of stuff, Bing reported that for 2010 "free" was one of the top 10 searched for keywords on the web.

The penny gap is a concept where by charging *anything* for what you do you have to make it exceptionally better than anything which is freely accessible. Free is such a powerful psychological motivator that people will do irrational things for free. Such moves are largely driven by the fear of loss. If you turn down free you potentially lose out on something, but if you accept it there is no risk (that you are aware of, anyway) since it is "free." Anything that is paid not only has the risk of you being wrong, but it also has the risk of fine print.

The fine print isn't the only reason people get screwed though. The people who do the screw jobs via fine print techniques often pay a lot for exposure. And since the web (as a network) is optimized for generating maximum revenues it means that the people who eventually find you will likely become distrusting by the time they do, as they will already have got conned by someone else who is great at sales, but nothing else!

That will only reinforce the penny gap

Profitably Publishing in a World Dominated by the Penny Gap

Since so many people chase free, a lot of publishing business models are built around tricking people to click ads rather than selling something. In some circles you are viewed as sleazy for having an affiliate link in your content even if you buy and use what you are promoting & spend hours writing in-depth reviews and tutorials. Many of the same folks who view any affiliate link as sleazy carpet bomb their own websites with AdSense ads. And lets not forget that AdSense even has an ad category for "get rich quick."

Further, with Google launching, selling CPA product ads on their search results, offering comparison lead generation forms on their search results, and running the Google affiliate network it is safe to say that Google is easily one of the top 5 affiliates in the world. If being an affiliate is so sleazy (and tricking people into ad clicks is somehow any better) then why is Google such a big affiliate & why do so many of their AdSense ads carry links promoting affiliate offers?

5 Online Business Models

The web has a bias toward making stuff somewhat free for most people & really monetizing the hell out of the pour souls who are naive enough to click the ads. As an online publisher you generally have 5 main business options

  • trick people into clicking ads
  • do biased reviews of hyped junk that rip people off
  • encourage negative reviews and extort businesses (illegal, and the model of some sites like RipOffReport)
  • honestly review and promote the best products and services available and monetize some of those efforts with affiliate links (I include networks like OpenTable in this category)
  • add enough value yourself that you can offer a product or service for sale

Anyone can easily do the first 3 models, but the last 2 are more challenging. The 4th one is hard because its easier to convince naive people to buy products that are built around the sales letters than it is to convince people to buy things where the sales letter was built around the product.

The tricky part with the last category...actually adding enough value to be able to that it is far harder than most people realize. The minute you publish anything publicly there are forces pushing to commoditize it (most open source software is a remake of an existing paid software solution rather than an entirely new category unto itself). Also, if someone buys something from you and gets a great return they may not want to mention it to others precisely because they rely so heavily on you and they are getting such great returns from your product or service. And even if you sell physical products, Google selling CPA ads to the likes of Wal-Mart can still drive you under unless you turn it from a product into a service (like Zappos has done).

Aggressive Sales Techniques Yield Bad Customers

If you are aggressive in your sales tactics you get customers you do not even want. The guy who created the Product Launch Formula stuff highlighted how he saw 30% refund rates on it. If you are not aggressive in your sales tactics then you will find affiliates tend to promote the stuff that is more aggressive, typically optimizing for yield rather than promoting what is best. That is how self-interested economics works.

Why You Should Give Something Away

The way to get around with having to compete with that sort of stuff is to rely on a freemium model.

In spite of the negative impacts of freetards, giving something away is almost a requirement of online marketing today in many competitive markets, particularly if you do not want to scam people & you are not sitting on an established brand and a mountain of cash.

You give some stuff away and set up a sales funnel, while hoping to eventually sell something else. This, in turn, is the tricky part. As soon as you set up *any* barriers you will get tons of complaints. If you optimize for minimizing complaints you would have to stop selling anything and just get a job working at Wal-Mart being paid just enough to live on (after you add in your food stamp income).

What Are You Optimizing?

Support is *not* free. Especially after you become popular and the value of your time increases. If people are too lazy to read the instructions or are too incompetent to follow directions they need to eat that. If you try to 'help' them they will not only eat your time, but also make your employees want to quit:

In talking with other plugin developers, it seems fairly universal that the reward for a successful plugin is a deluge of support email that includes the worst kind of sense of entitlement, rudeness and ignorance. The community as a whole seems to expect to be able to pay nothing, yet received expert and individual help and support for free.

One of my goals with WordPress HelpCenter was to try to affect change in this area. My belief was that we could work with plugin developers to have them send support requests to WPHC, have WPHC provide commercial support services, and give a revenue stream back to the plugin developers. While WPHC has been successful overall, it has utterly failed in this effort. What we found was that regardless of the actual issue, users experiencing trouble with a plugin blame the plugin. They assume it’s a coding problem (even though it isn’t in most cases), expect free support and are so rude that we’ve lost people from our team as a result

I would say anyone who pays you nothing and then steals your time *AND* your employees is the exact opposite of a customer: a freetard!

To clarify, all people who use your free stuff are not freetards, but the people who use it incompetently then curse at you and demand phone support and such certainly are freetards.

Ultimately you are not optimizing for the 99% of people who come across your website and never spend a Dollar. You are instead optimizing for the people who are considering purchasing. This gives you a diametric view of the market, where the same content receives a wide range of responses, which range from...

... right on through to ...

If you optimize to make that first person happy it means you lack internal respect and are throwing away over half of your income, because the second person won't have a sales funnel to build trust in you.

You can put an unsubscribe link in every email (we do), allow people to opt into the auto-responder or choose not to (we do), but you can't stop a person from taking steroids and/or missing their medication. A marketer who sets up a free email subscription on a site about marketing and then is angry about receiving free marketing tips is a complete idiot.

When people are polite (like the second example) I respond right back and try to help them as best I can. When someone acts like a steroid addicted enraged freetard who missed this morning's medications (like the first message, from K. Boostrom) I either ignore them or tell them to screw off. I usually ignore them, but when they provide curse words AND threats then they typically get a response. ;)

What constructive advice can you glean from

Because media and many software products have no cost to consumers people think that everything online (except whatever they sell) should be free. Not only should products be free, but so should services. Look at this lovely email from France

Note that it starts off with the obligatory insult, then complains about all the free stuff we offer AND the free content we give away. They then suggest I should SPEND my time and my money to give them a free consult. He also wants me to schedule my life around him being half-way around the world. The flip side of that is I have received numerous 3am wake up calls from people who looked up my phone number from our whois and decided I would like to have a chat about how incompetent they are.

I wish I could tell you that the above was a remarkable outlier, but sadly, such interactions are becoming more common. Hence using private registration.

The web is a great economic force. It makes information more accessible and for free. Many millionaires and billion Dollar companies are built on free open source software. But the reason open source software is free is that there are other means of monetization:

  • support is not free and/or
  • the site is a PageRank funnel to another monetized website (see Wikipedia/Wikia & and/or
  • the software builds network effects and/or awareness that builds stature, which can be monetized in other ways
  • the software acts as a recruitment tool to attract employees
  • etc etc etc

Help Wanted: Millionaire Seeking Free SEO Consultant

Some people might say that "well the freetards are just staring out, so you need to give them the benefit of the doubt." And part of why we offer so much for free is that I do remember where I came from and we do try to help people out. A lot!

But some of the freetards are anything but poor. Case in point:

Freetard vs Customer

How does Wordnet define a client?


  • a person who seeks the advice of a lawyer
  • customer: someone who pays for goods or services

Prospective customers can make absurd claims and announce desires that will clearly lose you money but they are NOT your customer until they pay you. And even then, if they are abusive you have the right to terminate the relationship.

Freetards ACT like they have paid you and want the benefits of your services without paying a cent.

In the years to come these trends mentioned above will only accelerate. And that means that you have to make a choice on who you want to work for and what you want your work life to be like. You can choose your customers or let them choose you. But part of the process needs to be filtering what you don't want, lest you end up with freetards threatening to give your paying customers a beat down.

Published: December 1, 2010 by Aaron Wall in internet


December 1, 2010 - 4:25pm


Definitely agree you need to fire the freetards in your business and your life - massive drain on energy.

If only you had the time to engage these freetards in dialogue - just imagine some of the content you could create:

December 1, 2010 - 5:12pm

That page was epic. Saw it in the past, but being reminded of it again brought back another wave of joy, as though I was seeing it for the first time again. Thanks for that. :D

Jane Copland
December 1, 2010 - 4:36pm

Wow Aaron, some of those emails are just crazy. With the work I have done in SEOmoz's Q&A forum, which I'm still involved with on a part-time basis, it does often eventuate that the people who seem willing to spend money and work diligently on their own (i.e. value themselves and their time) also value yours highly.

People whose Q&A questions have multiple parts sometimes profusely apologise for what they see as taking advantage of the question credit: those are always the questions which are totally legitimate and appropriate for the forum. Incidentally, people who apologise for their "bad English skills" are also usually those whose English is pretty darn good ;)

The funniest SEO email I ever received (nothing to do with Q&A, just via my personal email) was from some guy who outright demanded I help him with a problem, and insinuated that he was doing me a favour by exposing me to his problem, so that I too could learn from it. I wish I could find the email so I could quote from it, but sadly it's lost to the depths of Gmail :)

I know this is a common irritation for you - definitely shared by a fair few people who provide online services, I would think.

And I mean, if all else fails:

December 1, 2010 - 6:04pm

Hi Jane
Yeah...we never really have problems with paying customers. It is just the people who do not pay and then want to see how much they can get for free that end up trying to push and push and push.

Recently got this one. Guy claims to have built a multi-million Dollar business that has been utterly decimated. And yet he was too big of a cheap ass to even join our community & expected me to fix his business for him for free.

please work for free to fix my multi-million Dollar business

How is that for equitable? The guy makes millions & my take is $0. But as soon as his take goes to $0 he wants me to work FOR FREE to restore his business. People like that can go to hell as far as I am concerned.

I can tell him what his problem is that is preventing him from ranking: he is a freetard. I could have also helped him fix his other issues, but that one got in the way. ;)

December 3, 2010 - 3:09am

Aaron - I've been using your free tools for a while now. They have helped me grow my business by increasing my value to my customers. Because of your free tools, I can now afford to step up to the paid services which I suspect will help me grow even more. That's pretty exciting for me.

And by the way - thanks for the help. I couldn't have done it as well as quickly without you.

December 3, 2010 - 3:14am

Glad you got value out of them. :)

December 1, 2010 - 5:02pm

I want a shirt! Will Spencer and I laugh a lot about being freetards. Now we have a unifying symbol to worship. Maybe I'll get a tattoo! :)
When you share stories of these morons, it makes me cringe for the future of mankind. Scuttlefish hiding behind anonymous nicknames, hurling inane insults, all with their hand out, begging.

Inspired by his warm and winning ways, I went to see what cuddly Ken Boostrom was up to, and he is a little upset by all this. He is going to "take on Goliath" whatever that means. Good use of his time, I bet. He says: "And as for SEO – quite frankly do you see them on page 1?"

Well, yeah, quite frankly - this site is on page one for SEO, among many, MANY other things, sir. You might want to actually perform a search first, and then start in with the silly, unfounded statements. Freetard logic wins again!

I'll be praying for you, Aaron - good luck dodging all the tiny stones about to be hurled uselessly your way. :)

December 1, 2010 - 5:14pm

Thanks Marty. That post you were referring to was humorous in a variety of ways, but I don't care to share them all, just in case *he* decides to read this post. :D

December 1, 2010 - 5:16pm

Speaking of fun, here's a great companion piece to that wonderful link bicroc shared, that always makes me laugh:

December 1, 2010 - 5:51pm

Hehehe. Full of the win.

December 1, 2010 - 5:47pm



March 18, 2011 - 3:45am

Just got my all time best freetard rage email today. And it wasn't for this site, but a different one. But it really makes me wonder what planet some folks were born on!

And here is yet another one, complaining to me about how Firefox is a second-rate product! They don't even realize that it was Firefox who spurred Microsoft on to improve Internet Explorer after about a half-decade of rust. Worse yet, they state that Firefox is a second rate product when compared against Yahoo! & there isn't even a Yahoo! built browser, well other than them labeling an IE browser with their toolbar. The world is a strange place & reality is stranger than fiction. :)

Then, without response from me, they send another email full of curse words, while stating they are not one to send nasty emails. ;)

December 1, 2010 - 6:18pm

Freetard extraordinaire Ken Boostrom says: "And as for SEO – quite frankly do you see them on page 1?"

Good thing you aren't vindictive or you could be on page one for Ken Boostrom. Oh wait, I forgot to actually check his name; you already are at #4.

Good thing your loyal readers aren't vindictive and are too busy building a business to link bomb this post or you would be #1 for Kenneth Boostrom.


December 1, 2010 - 6:28pm

I intentionally wasn't trying to rank for his name. The issue is much larger than him. He was just a recent provoking example of a person who curses at you and threatens you out of the blue with no context and without being provoked. That interaction is largely what inspired me to write the above blog post. Going forward when anyone contacts me like that then I will just send them a link to this blog post. :)

Josh Fleischmann
December 1, 2010 - 6:19pm

I agree with your point entirely. But I truly hate the word 'freetard'. If you wouldn't use the word retard to refer to a retarded person, why is it OK to use the word freetard? Besides, I think that the characteristics of a 'freetard' bear no resemblance to retarded people, so the comparison/link between the two is not apt. Isn't there a better term to refer to people who think they're entitled to valuable tools and services at no charge? I suggest:
Freeloaders - time honored and highly accurate
Freeks - rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? And it's true!
Jerkoffs - hey, I'm from Brooklyn.

Whaddya say? If you vow to switch from using -that term- to any of these, or one of your own choosing, I'll make a donation to an organization that provides services to retarded children. Weigh in with other suggestions, people. Let's banish the term 'freetard' forever!

Paul Gailey
December 2, 2010 - 3:01pm


December 1, 2010 - 6:42pm

Jerkoffs doesn't work because it is such a generic word. It is a keyword with a low discrimination value (in the information retrieval sense of the word) due to its frequency.

Freeks doesn't really work because it sounds like a word which describes early hackers on phone systems: phreaking.

Of those words, only freeloaders is remotely close.

But even it is quite off, because it only captures one aspect of freetardism.

Freetardism is both freeloading AND acting like a dissatisfied paying customer.

Josh Fleischmann
December 1, 2010 - 7:02pm

So what's a better term, one that describes the behavior without being nasty to retarded people?
If freeloading doesn't work as a describer because it doesn't match up with the behavior, then freetard can't possibly work either, no? The only reason 'tard' is part of the term is because it delivers an insult to freeloaders who act like dissatisfied customers. It feels wrong to sling an insult that is only an insult because it rhymes with the word retard.

December 1, 2010 - 7:05pm

I don't think it is slinging an insult. Rather I think it is an accurate word which is quite literally defining. It scores high in terms of relevancy.

Beyond the definition of retard that you are thinking of there is another one "cause to move more slowly or operate at a slower rate."

I think the people who are afraid to pay for anything and permanently stuck on "free" (even after making MILLIONS in profits) are indeed being retarded by their desire to keep making money without INVESTING in the growth of their business.

And the square head in the freetard logo was to highlight the block headed nature of such folk. It is not to say they are mentally under-developed, but that by acting like an idiot they are slowing the potential rate of growth of their business.

Josh Fleischmann
December 1, 2010 - 8:28pm

I see what you mean, but I would be surprised if the definition most people take from it is the technically accurate but less common usage you mention. I still hate the word and wish it would be replaced with something else.

Sean Maguire
December 2, 2010 - 1:19pm

...and like Aaron, I disagree with you. Another definition of "retard" is:

a person who is stupid, obtuse, or ineffective in some way: a hopeless social retard.

I'm pretty sure that Aaron's "freetard" derivative of free and retard hits squarely on freetarted heads of the kind of persons he is referring to.

As for your offer to make a contribution, why don't you go ahead and do so anyway.

Aaron - this post was absolutley brilliant and like Marty, my first thought went to the t-shirt. The illustration is quite hysterical and something I plan to steal and claim as my own idea. Of course, I'll change the color and the font first! ;) If you want one of the t-shirts I'll be selling, drop me an email. You'll have to pay retail though! :)

Thank you for your continually amazing contributions to the community!

December 2, 2010 - 10:52pm

I have a client in the antiques/collectibles niche, and they get a ton of emails and calls from people asking for help researching/identifying/appraising their antiques. Most times, they ask for a specific "value" of an item. They also have a 1-800 number, to which people have the nerve to call and take up their valuable time to get help with researching their antiques, and since it's a 1-800 number, my client PAYS for the privilege of answering these people's questions. It's just plain rude to expect people that are running a business to help you for free, especially when all you need to do is Google it yourself.

December 3, 2010 - 2:12am

Thought this came at an interest time ;)
Keep on fighting the good fight.

December 3, 2010 - 2:41am

Nice. It only took a few years of complaining & a Viacom appeal to a lawsuit Google has already spent $100 million on. :D

December 3, 2010 - 2:29am


I love the graphic! Put it on Cafepress and I'll buy a mug.

The welfare mentality of some people is just incredible.

Just yesterday I got a pissy email from someone that was outraged that I had the AUDACITY to bill him for an hour of my time.

I sat on the phone with him for 48 minutes walking him through how to open a Google account, "Go here . . . click this . . . enter this here . . . press this." . . . Seriously, it was that bad.

Then he asked me to upgrade some things on his site. I didn't even bill him for all of the time he took up out of my day, and still he was pissed.

He told me he was taking his business elsewhere. Really? You mean you will start calling someone else taking up hours of their day and expect them to work for free? Let me bust out the happy dance.

I felt like asking him if he thought I was running a charity for cheapskates.

I am running a business. You know, one of those things where money is given in exchange for services rendered.

And the kicker is that the site he wanted help on is a news/magazine site where he is charging advertising. Yes, that's right, I'm supposed to be willing to maintain his site for free so he can make money from advertisers.

The mistake I made was throwing in some extras when I first started working with him.

From now on, if I feel like giving something I'm going to go volunteer at a soup kitchen. No more freebies for users.

December 3, 2010 - 3:04am

Hi Carla
That sounds like a familiar story. ;)

Here you go. :)

December 3, 2010 - 9:00am


I have to say that not only do you teach me more about SEO than anyone else, you teach me more about business and people than anyone else.

I seriously sometimes feel guilty for reading this content. It's too damn good. Once school gets out for the year, I'm going to try out the SEOBook membership. If this is the free content, geez, I can only imagine what the premium content is like.

Thanks for teaching small businesses how to stick to their guns.

December 4, 2010 - 12:47am

Thanks for the kind comment Joseph :)

No need for guilt. The people who should feel guilty (but don't) are the types of folks I highlighted in the above article. ;)

December 3, 2010 - 4:56pm

Just for the fun of it, I checked the whois on It is owned by a gentleman in the UK. At the time of this writing there is nothing but an unused WordPress blog situated at the Url.

I wonder if this fellow knows what a suddenly valuable domain he has?

December 4, 2010 - 12:45am

I doubt the domain has much value :D

I mean, what exactly does a person do with that domain? How do they monetize business owners complaining about rude leeches? (I realize the opposite model is often funded through extorting businesses, but the opposite direction doesn't have much revenue opportunities IMHO).

December 3, 2010 - 7:27pm

Thanks Aaron!

I can't wait to get my mug. ;D

December 4, 2010 - 1:10am

On you could give away Freetard mugs and tee-shirts for FREE and only charge for "Shipping and Handling". There has to be a fortune in that revenue model;]

December 15, 2010 - 3:10pm

I really liked this article - just last month, I got a class A douchebag complaining about my free classifieds site and demanding a phone number so that I could call him to explain something. He them closed by saying "Get a fucking life."

Your last email screenshot of "Better delete your site of the web! You scum head!" gave me my first laugh of the day :D (English motherf***er, do you speak it?)


April 29, 2011 - 5:01pm

Undesirable customers

Instapaper Free always had worse reviews in iTunes than the paid app. Part of this is that the paid app was better, of course, but a lot of the Free reviews were completely unreasonable.

Only people who buy the paid app — and therefore have no problem paying $5 for an app — can post reviews for it. That filters out a lot of the sorts of customers who will leave unreasonable, incomprehensible, or inflammatory reviews. (It also filters out many people likely to need a lot of support.)

June 29, 2011 - 12:02am

Extreme couponing is another form of freetardims. A TLC show highlights how people stack things like spending weeks of their lives clipping coupons, military discounts, rebates, double coupons & sales to basically get free groceries. But rather than buying a useful collection of items, the couponers buy a nearly unlimited supply of whatever is on sales: 100 jars of mustard at 12 cents each, 84 tubes of toothpaste at 4 cents each, etc.

Then they have to figure out how and where to store all the unneeded junk. Some people have entire rooms dedicated to storing such crap.

It has got so bad that people who watch that awful reality TV show are stealing coupon inserts from newspapers, photocopying coupons, using the wrong coupons and acting enraged if they are not accepted & have ultimately caused stores to stop offering double coupons and/or limit them to only a few items per person.

Reality TV: taking America to its logical conclusions...and then going a bit further. :D

August 25, 2011 - 12:37am

according to DeWitt Clinton:

If you have a billion users, and a mere 0.1% of them have an issue that requires support on a given day (an average of one support issue per person every three years), and each issue takes 10 minutes on average for a human to personally resolve, then you'd spend 19 person-years handling support issues every day.

If each support person works an eight-hour shift each day then you'd need 20,833 support people on permanent staff just to keep up.

October 21, 2011 - 11:36am

Wow. You start out with the Golden Rule then proceed to use a slur that is associated with the intellectually disabled population. Nice. Maybe you should spend a little less time blogging and more time doing volunteer work with disabled kids and then maybe your sensitivity might increase to the point where it would be inconceivable to you to use or concoct words like this. I bet it would never occur you to create a word like "freetards" that riffed off the "N-word." Because that would be insensitive, right? You didn’t have to go there to make your point.

I’m looking forward to the day when people like you will stop using the word "retarded" and its variations to describe any kind of behavior they don't like. I'm a mom of an intellectually disabled kid (and a small business owner) and I find it really offensive. Whatever message you were trying to convey was lost on me when you indulged in that. Try being professional in your language next time.

October 22, 2011 - 12:11am

"Try being professional"

When people are rude to you (especially if they have done nothing for you other than being rude) then the only professional ways to handle them are to either ignore them or be rude back. If you bothered to read the above post you would see why I suggested that ignoring doesn't work online. And if you bothered to read the comments you would know what "freetards" was riffing off. But you didn't.

Your worldview isn't the only correct worldview & if you are too lazy to read then I can't help you!

You will never be one of my customers. You never would have if I didn't write this post either. Thus your opinion on how I should run my business is entirely irrelevant to me.

I won't tell you to not be racist with your "N-word" stuff. If that is how you want to be then your pejorative is your prerogative.

November 10, 2011 - 12:28am

I loved reading this post Aaron. It brought back memories from the 80's and 90's when I owned and operated a local motorcycle dealership and high performance shop here in my home town. It seems there were 'Freetards' even back then... lol.

Being somewhat specialized, we didn't cater to just anyone owning a motorcycle, but rather to the true motorcycle enthusiast. None the less, we still bent over backwards to help anyone walking through the door.

The result was that we had a continuous stream of 'non customers' coming in asking questions and looking for advice on anything and everything to do with motorcycles. Some wanted second opinions (after the fact), free inspections or simply a place to rant about the problems they had had with the competition.

All good most would say, a perfect opportunity to gain a new customer. And they would be right, but remember, I already qualified these folks as 'non customers', meaning non paying folks. We even had people wanting to borrow tools and shop supplies so they could maintain their machines out in our parking lot.

Ironically, their regular shop of choice wouldn't allow such things, so they came to us.

The thing is, these Freetards expected the good service we offered, but then when it came time to spend their hard earned cash would run down the street to spend it. That of course was after nickel and dimming us and taking full advantage of our good nature.

Thank Heaven for all our real customers that made the business the success it was... Amen!

November 10, 2011 - 7:48am

... offline some people will want something-for-nothing & if something is their hobby they may just want someone to talk to, without realizing it is a business and/or treating your business like a business.

What the web does (and especially email) is drastically intensifies it. People do some super rude & super stupid stuff over email (or other places online) that they would never do in person. Some examples...

  • One person stole our "about us" page & only slightly reworded it. The same person later wrote a flame blog post targeting us!
  • I have had people suggest they would join our membership site to learn how to do SEO only if I would rank them #1 in the search results first for a few months :D

The space between people & not seeing the person on the other end dehumanizes a lot of online interactions...which helps people rationalize actions that would be much harder to rationalize doing face to face.

January 3, 2012 - 12:33am

...awareness of the freetard phenomena

Free customers are higher maintenance than paying customers. I think it’s because they aren’t paying, they show little or no attention to directions. I focused on making the UI of the site drop dead simple and easy to use. I created a pretty thorough FAQ to answer 99.9% of the questions people might have. I even linked to the FAQ in the email response they got with their download links to the letter they created. I still had hundreds of free customers ask for help with simple questions that were answered in the FAQ. One the other side, the rate of paying customers who asked for help was much lower, under 20 people in fact.

How he worded that made me further appreciate an important mitigating factor for this type of behavior offline: shame/guilt/embarrassment. In the offline world a person too lazy to read the instructions would also be likely to be too embarrassed to ask for help, whereas online people make demands right away because they don't have any shame or guilt or embarrassment...there is no opportunity cost in firing off a rude condescending email right away.

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