Thursday, August 14, 2014

That Cake Award You Just Got Isn't Exactly An Oscar.

There's a series in the Sunday paper that's called "10 things the ------ industry won't tell you." It covers a different type of business every week, and one week they did weddings. I found it to be humorously accurate, and one of the ones I liked best was the comment about wedding industry awards not being Oscar quality.

It never ceases to amaze me that a wedding group will create an award or a certification, ask people to pay to take the test to win the award and buy study guides, take their money then test them, give them the award, then tell them that they should be really excited about earning the award. And people keep paying them! I find it fascinating... It's obvious that these awards and certifications are manufactured to make money for the group giving them out, but I guess people really like to get plaques with their names on them.

If you've read this blog for any length of time you know how I feel about awards, and that I've written about them in the past. The majority of wedding industry awards are either paid for by the "winner,"  are backlinks disguised as a seal of approval, or are given out based on how much review and vote-begging people do online. Very few awards are given out on the basis of merit, it's just too difficult to monitor.

Even if the award is actually given in a controlled way, there's no way that you can have every single person who might be qualified to win it participating. Many awards should be called "the best of the ones that we chose to judge even though there are better ones that we didn't include."

I've spoken to a few people who have an inside track with some of these "Best Of" awards, and they're as frustrated with the voting fakers as anyone else is. They do things like eliminate multiple votes that come from the same IP address, or disqualify people who actively posts ballots that are already filled out online. But there's no way that you can keep up with the ways that people will cheat.

Some awards have been given to businesses that don't even sell the product that they won for. One bakery here won a groom's cake award and they don't even do them, and there's a dress boutique award that was given to a nail salon. When another boutique owner called to ask why that happened, the answer that she was given was that they got "so many votes they decided to just go ahead and give them the award." But at least they did promise that next year they'll check to see that the business who gets the award actually does the thing they won for.

The online websites that hand out "best of" based on reviews only take into account the people who have accounts with them and who get their customers to send reviews in. They might claim that makes it legitimate, but how simple is it to put up fake reviews, or to get people to write bad reviews for your competition? Pretty easy. I know of a wedding planner who's arguing with one of the big sites right now because a disgruntled ex-employee wrote a scathing review for an imaginary event. That can ruin your "best of" seal of approval that they hand out, so anything based on online reviews is a specious award indeed.

I received an email recently that told me I'd won the honor of being named "Best Of Henrico 2014" for bakeries. Never mind that I'm not really a bakery, I wanted to see how I was chosen to win this high honor.

When I went to their website I learned that I had won this prestigious award that I'd never heard of and would be included in their online database of winners and I'd get a fancy plaque. All I needed to do was send a small fee to them to buy  accept my award and prevent them from going on to the other best bakery who might want to buy receive the plaque.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that another baker I know who lives in another state had also won this high honor for best bakery in her area! Again, she doesn't have a bakery, but I'm sure that was just an oversight on the part of the people who thoroughly vetted both of us before offering to let us buy win the award.

Since I received that offer, I've also been told that I'm eligible for several other business awards and certifications, all of which are totally worthless. Sure, I could load my website up with seals and banners proclaiming that I've been named grand poobah of this or that, but to do that I'd have to abandon all self-respect.

So as you can see, I don't worry about awards too much. I've said it before, but the most accurate estimation of how well I'm doing doesn't come from a random website giving me a plaque, it comes from knowing that even if I decided to only do cakes for the wedding professionals who refer to me based on my work, I'll be busy all year. That's the true test of whether you're doing a good job or not.


Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC,  online cake supplies at  www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

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