So here we are again. I had hoped never to need to write another post about cheating in a charity contest.
When Vivint Gives Back started, several people asked me if I was going to be keeping an eye out for voting irregularities and compensated voting, given what’d happened during Chase Community Giving. I said I would, and if it happened, I’d write about it.
Yesterday, Sabrina Melanie posted a link on my blog’s facebook page to a post at SwagBucks Offer Zone, in which iRazoo credts were being offered in exchange for Vivint Gives Back votes. That led me over to the Phoenix Rising forum, where payments being offered in online currencies were being discussed.
The group offering the credits? A Chabad organization in Conejo, CA.
The organization is Conejo Valley Friendship Circle, which, like Conejo Jewish Day School, is part of Chabad of the Conejo. Friendship Circle is a group that provides families that have special needs kids with support. Their main activity is supplying teenage mentors for those kids. The teenagers spend time with them, giving their families a bit of respite and providing the kids with friends outside their family. The Friendship Circle was founded in the Detroit area in 1994, and in West Bloomfield, Michigan, they have a special facility where the kids can come to practice life skills through roleplay. I absolutely love that – I wish I could visit and see it in action.
Now, going back for a moment, for those of you who missed the Chase contest: Conejo Jewish Day School placed sixth in the 2011 Chase Community Giving contest. They won a total of $125,000. They were one of five schools – the VoteFive.com group – that ran up the leaderboard in the last few days. It’d been a pretty steady contest up to that point – not much change in where various charities were situated.
Of the other four VoteFive.com schools, Silverstein Hebrew Academy placed 3rd, winning $325,000 (after winning $500,000 in Kohl’s Cares the previous fall), Southern Connecticut Hebrew Academy placed 7th, winning $125,000, Hillel Academy of Milwaukee placed 9th, also winning $125,000, and Lubavitch Cheder of Oak Park, MI came in 13th and received $65,000.
These schools offered game currencies and also direct payments in exchange for votes – up to $0.28 apiece. Silverstein Hebrew Academy paid the most and also placed the highest.
So what’s going on in Vivint Gives Back?
First, there’s this spare-looking little website, VoteFriendship.com, which gives you instructions on how to vote in the contest. But what’s that tiny text under the instructions say? Ah, it reads: “Please note: To be awarded, the endorsment [sic] must follow the above steps in order.”
But what can we be awarded for voting for Friendship Circle? Well, take your pick :
The remainder of these are cached links, because the offers are too hard to find on the regular pages. Click on the link above each image to be taken to the cached page. These cached links may not continue to work; that’s why I grabbed these screenshots. (Also, see how all of these say in the small print that you’re going to vote for SHA? Remember that in Chase, one of the VoteFive schools was Silverstein Hebrew Academy – but Silverstein isn’t even in this contest. I bet they reused the deal template from the Chase contest and forgot to change the small print.)
Helen Watkinson was able to get some of the offers to connect to VoteFriendship.com. Here’s an example of one she found on gWallet:
First, here’s the offer (click to enlarge).
Clicking on that took her to the VoteFriendship.com site, like so:
This is totally discouraging, right? Same basic thing as Chase, no recourse to do anything about it…or is there?
Early on in the Vivint contest, I asked if raffles and prize giveaways were permitted. Vivint said this: “Vivint does not condone or support the process of charities compensating voters for endorsing or voting for their charity. We feel that it is against the spirit of the competition and that the process should be avoided.” So they weren’t supported, implying that they were not disallowed, either. But they seem to have evolved their position since then.
A group called CHERUBS (Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Research, Awareness and Support) appears to have planned a raffle (click on See More on that page) and then had to cancel it because Vivint disallowed giveaways. The pertinent paragraph:
We are very sorry to have to report to you that Vivint has changed the contest rules and decided to *not* allow raffles or any type of exchange of goods for votes, including raffle tickets. They did this to even out the playing field a bit more and to encourage people to vote just because they believe in the causes. This is beyond our control and we have to abide by the rules.
Kudos to them. I’m sure it was really disappointing to have to call that off.
ME/CFS group May Twelfth (it’s ME/CFS awareness day, if you didn’t already know that) asked whether vote exchange is allowed in Vivint Gives Back. Vivint’s answer?
So there you have it. If raffles and vote trading aren’t allowed, is outright compensation allowed? It doesn’t seem like it would be, but I suppose we will have to allow Vivint to make the decision. I supplied this information to them, and received back a message that read, in part, “Thank you for this information. I will begin looking into this right now. Information like this helps us to successfully maintain the integrity of the Vivint Gives Back Project.”