Let’s go shopping


For the past few months, I have been talking in this column about the rocky economy. After all, along with the presidential election, it’s all the media seems to be interested in.

But now that the election has passed and it’s been a couple of months since the economy started its downward spiral, I’m ready to think about something else. In fact, I’ve decided it’s my patriotic duty this holiday season to go shopping.

On the next page, Michelle Long talks about Buy Local Week, and really, I didn’t need the encouragement. I’m already in the holiday spirit, and I’m excited to be buying toys for the kids and making local gift baskets for friends and relatives.

Some may call it retail therapy, but I think we all need to give ourselves a little mental break from the doom and gloom. It can be stressful to listen to the news every day, check our 401(k) and retirement accounts, and watch the economy tank. But there’s not much we can do about the national crisis.

Not that I’m advocating spending beyond our means, which is what got the country in trouble in the first place. I’m just saying that for myself, I have overcome my sense of panic and am realizing that the world is still turning. It seems that others may be feeling the same way — and I hope so, for the sake of our local retailers.

So the end result is I’m going to go shopping for Christmas, and I’m going to enjoy it.

In other completely non-economy-related business, I also have a new buzz phrase this month: “vanity scam.” I was introduced to the vanity scam from an e-mail that I received from the U.S. Local Business Association. It stated in the e-mail: “I am pleased to announce that Bellingham Business Journal has been selected for the 2008 Best of Bellingham Award in the Marketing Programs category by the U.S. Local Business Association (USLBA).”

At first I was excited — although a bit confused. I mean, I know we’re fabulous and Bellingham knows we’re fabulous, but to be recognized by an outside organization? And we hadn’t even entered anything!

Of course, that’s when I started to think something smelled fishy. For one, I’m not sure why we would win anything in the “marketing programs” category, since we’re a newspaper. And it just didn’t sound right. So I did a Google search, and it turns out that while this isn’t exactly a scam, it’s close enough.

Essentially, vanity-award companies send businesses an e-mail and then hope that they will buy a plaque. It’s the same as some of the Who’s Who in Business e-mails or fake Yellow Pages bills that come. While getting published in some distant book or getting a certificate to hang on the wall might make businesses feel better, it doesn’t really amount to much. They’re just taking your money.

It seems that there’s always a new scam coming our way by means of the Internet, and the prudent thing is to always be skeptical and check the Better Business Bureau if you’re in doubt.

And besides, we at the BBJ didn’t need a fake plaque to know that we’re one of the “best of Bellingham.” The proof’s in the pudding.


Vanessa Blackburn is the editor and publisher of the Bellingham Business Journal. She can be reached at vanessa@thebellinghambusinessjournal.com.


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