Don’t Be That Guy – The Pimple

“If I show up at your door, chances are you did something to bring me there.” – Martin Blank, Grosse Pointe Blank.

Ever had a pimple that’s just the most annoyingly painful thing in the entire free world…?

You know…the one you try to pop to get rid of it, but the only thing that happens is this oily fluid dribbles out of it…but the core is still there and won’t go away?  And now you have this red blotch on your face that you can’t get rid of and people ask if you got bit by a spider or something?

We’ve all had them.  There’s no sense in pretending you have no idea what I’m talking about.

I’ve had one building for the better part of the last two years now…

By and large…I’m an easy going kind of guy.

I mean, yeah, I write blogs titled “Don’t Be That Guy” and call people out from time to time…but at least I’m nice about it.  Nobody ever gets called out by name, everything’s generic enough that there’s some plausible deniability (even when everyone walks up to me at the next event and knows exactly who it was about), and in general, I just generally try and help people.

So why do people keep just trying to screw with me?  Am I too nice?

You know we’ve been doing since late 2001.

You know our events have always (somewhat tongue in cheek) had a 5:01pm start time to them.  The point being that it’s about networkingafter work.  We don’t expect you to take a day off to come to one of our events.  We don’t want you to waste your lunch hour trying to rush somewhere and have a few hurried conversations.  We want you to do what comes naturally – relax, grab a drink, and have a chat.  You know, networking.  Building your networkAfter work.

You know that we would rather burn a bridge than sell you, or the group, out.  Because you’re a part of that network.  That we’ve built.  After work.

You know that we regularly and routinely try to keep the group as clear of That Guy as is humanly possible.  Because we don’t want them in our network either.  You know, the one we build.  After work.

So now picture me getting an email that says there’s someone out there that’s decided they’re going to file a trademark on the phrase “network after work”, and – even better – demanding that we stop using it.

When we’ve used that very phrase to describe what we do in various incarnations – network after work, networking after work, etc. – since, oh, about 2001.  It’s in the About Us page…which hasn’t changed much since 2003.

And from their Yahoo email account, they send emails threatening legal action over domains that we’ve had registered for quite some time, and use as aliases for one purpose or another.  Good thing I’ve got an actual attorney who’s a good friend who lives for, and I quote, “sport f-cks like this”.

Oh, that email came in from some random woman in Los Angeles, by the way.

Did I not mention that?  That they have nothing to do with Detroit at all?  No, this is the latest venture of some jerkwad club promoter.  Who couldn’t even handle sending us that email himself, apparently.  I guess maybe the club promotion business wasn’t going so great, and so why not go ahead and hop into networking?  Because, after all, there’s money to be made there…if you’re a jerkwad who’s okay with taking advantage of people.

Let’s go ahead and take a look behind the curtain, and reveal the mysteries of how to spot a networking group that might have some integrity problems:

You  have to pay to go the events…which take place in a public establishment.
You’re not paying the establishment a cover charge to get in…you’re paying the person or people running the event.  That should be the first big red flag for you.  This is almost inevitably the sign of someone who has failed in their chosen career path, and is now trying to find other ways to make money.  Sure, there are exceptions to that rule…but we haven’t noticed many.  So you’re showing up at these events and putting your career in the hands of a failure.  Good luck with that.  We’ve said a number of times that one of these days we’re just going to throw an event titled “How To Not Lose $20 On a Crappy Networking Event”…where you’ll show up and hand us $20.  We’ll turn around, walk to the bar, buy a $20 gift card, hand it back to you, smack your hand, and then tell you to never ever do that again.

There’s free drinks…for a short period of time.
So you might think “Okay, sure, I’m paying $10 to $20 to get in…but I’ll have three or four drinks while I’m there and get my money’s worth”, right?  Wrong.  The free drinks only last for an hour, and good luck getting anywhere near the bar before the cash registers open up again.  Besides, on average (yes, we’ve looked into it), an open bar with limited beer and alcohol selection will run you maybe $5 to $8 per person for the hour at any establishment.  So you’ve paid your $20, gotten maybe a $3 drink in return if you’re lucky.  And that $12 to $15 goes into the pocket of the jerkwad throwing the event.  Now that you’ve lined his pockets nicely and slapped on your color coordinated nametag, let’s take a look around the room, shall we?

There’s no focus to the event.
You’re in the IT industry.  You want to stay in the IT industry.  Or hell, maybe you’re in the medical field and you want to stay there.  You still have no interest in whatever miracle juice Multi Level Marketing Guy is selling today.  You’re not looking to buy a book.  You’re not there to learn how to use Twitter.  You might as well be walking into any random bar on any random night and looking at the same, random group of strangers.  What’s the point?  Sheri said it best at one of our past events: “If I want to get hit on by random idiots, I can go to any bar and let that happen…I didn’t need to pay $20 for the privilege at theirs.”  And the event is the same no matter where you go…because they go everywhere.  Here in Detroit.  Chicago.  Los Angeles.  Philadelphia.

Wherever there’s a $20 bill to be fleeced from someone…they’ll be there to take it.

Wherever there are people who are desperately looking to expand their network…they’ll be there to give them false hope.

So it’s a waste of money, a waste of time, it’s chock full of people who are of no interest or help to you…and it’s run by douchebags just to top it all off with a cherry.

I knew something was wrong two years ago when their ringleader joined our LinkedIn group and we started talking.  I saw he was doing something similar in L.A., asked if he was interested in partnering up with us to do events (cards on table – at the time, we liked that he had a decent liquor sponsor, and we were thinking of doing the same thing) out here.  Trade ideas.  Bounce things off of one another.  Help each other out.

Because…still…I’m an idiot who always tries to be helpful.

But then as we talked more, and I got to learn more about his ideas, his goals, what he did and how he did it…I pulled back.  This was nothing we wanted any part of…in fact, it was the exact opposite of everything we hold dear and to be true.

And so he went the way I figured he would – spamming our members through the LinkedIn group trying to promote his events.  Joining the group with fake accounts so that the spamming could continue after we got annoyed and banned him and anyone affiliated with him.  We get at least two to three emails forwarded to us every month…another account identified, another account banned from the group.

Oh, and having a woman in Los Angeles try and intimidate us with threats from that Yahoo email account.

God that feels better…

And as this pimple grew nastier and nastier…festering, if you will…probably even getting infected…

…I realized it was time to pop it.

I’m tired of always taking the high road.

I’m tired of always being the bigger person.

I’m tired of every douchebag on the planet getting away with whatever the hell they think they can get away with…because nobody ever calls them out on it.

So as you’re looking to build your network…especially if you’re looking to do it after work…I encourage you to remember how painful that pimple can be.

How much they suck.

And then Don’t Be That Guy…and don’t encourage That Guy, either.  Because, honestly…and we mean this with every ounce of sincerity we have in us…if that’s who you want to hang with…if stupid shenanigans like the above are what you want to support…then you probably don’t belong at our events or in our group.  We’re the exact opposite of all of that, and we don’t need people around who think any of that nonsense is acceptable.

Wow.  That actually felt really good to get that all out.

Oh, random side note – you know what the best defense against a claim of libel or slander is?

Telling the truth.

You know what the best defense against stupid trademark claims is?

Prior use.

So, sincerely, I say to them: GFY.  On both counts.

…and that’s all for this time. Check out our other Don’t Be That Guy entries, and we look forward to seeing you at future events.  Where you won’t lose $20, you won’t have to deal with pushy sales clowns (well, other than Bob…and we do our best to keep him under control) and you’re not putting your career in the hands of someone with an established track record of failure.