Evidence Supporting Claims Made in Elena's Models Review
As you may have read on my Elena's Models - Review
, I have come to have a more negative opinion of some elements of their site and business, all of which are stated in the review. But I also make a few claims that fall under the category of "assertions of fact", and Elena's Models' management, specifically Darrin Field, the director, claims that these assertions are purely fabricated lies told just with the intent of impugning the company's good name in an effort to draw web traffic that I can then direct to EM's competitors.
They have now threatened several times to sue me (and others, they claim) for "trademark infringement" for mentioning their trademarked name in my page header (which are basically "invisible" parts of the page that tell browsers and search engines what the page is about). Although I dispute that mentioning a trademarked name in the headers of a critical review page constitutes "trademark infringement", I have complied with that demand and removed the name from the headers and replaced it with "EM" just to avoid the hassle of a legal defense.
But just to insulate myself from any claims of lying or defamation, below I offer evidence for the credibility of the claims I make that they say are complete lies.
Lost Gold Memberships, Lost Contact Credits...
I claim that with the new release in June 2014:
...that... members who had "Gold" membership status lost this status, for some members whose "Gold" status was restored, their previous unused credits were still not restored, etc...
Darrin Field, Director of Elena's Models, says:
All members received their status as held before June 2 2014 and received all unused credits before June 2 2014. In fact over 1,500 members that were gold received complete renewed memberships which in fact extended their term an additional month for free. This occurred no later than June 9th 2014.... We also point out there is no evidence from your client his information is from members of Elena's Models . Also there is no fact these statements your client relies upon where even Gold members of our site at the time. (Letter emailed to my lawyer from Darrin on/around October 31, 2014)
Here is the exchange between a user and the help desk. It is in abbreviated form, but I have the full email exchange. And I only alter this exchange by eliminating all but the most relevant conversation.
(June 2, 2014) User:
I was a Gold member till yesterday, and I just renewed that on May 9. Now it says I'm only a free member. Please fix this, and please be sure that all my contact credits remain.
(June 2, 2014) Help Desk:
Thank you for your message. It wasn't activated - you forgot to click the activation link. I've activated it for you and your new 6-month Gold membership starts today.
(June 15, 2014) User:
Did you also restore my unused contact credits from before my May 9 renewal? I can't see in your new system where I see how many contact credits I have remaining. Previously unused contact credits carried forward upon renewal (i.e. If I used 25 of my 50, then renewed, I would have 75 contact credits). I do not remember how many unused credits I had, but I definitely had some. If you can't find that figure in your old database, then I would accept 25 as a fair estimate.
(June 18, 2014) Help Desk:
I have checked your profile and it seems that your credits have been restored. I hope that everything is in order.
But since the site at the time still did not display the number of remaining credits, there was no way for the user to verify that the credits were restored. But later when that feature was finally fixed, the account still didn't reflect the unused credits carried forward from the previous membership cycle.
The user, realizing he probably wouldn't ever even use all of his new 50 contacts anyway, didn't bother to continue pressing to get the unused credits from the previous membership cycle restored. The screen shot below shows that only 50 contact credits were on this account (the previous unused credits did not roll over), AND it seems to offer the evidence Darrin seeks that this was in fact a Gold Member.
In the grand scheme of things this isn't a really big deal, and I'm sure it was their intention to do right, but this demonstrates the bugginess in their new system and in their customer service.
Full disclosure: I'm the customer in this case.
In my review, in order to illustrate what I felt was a decline in dedication to customer service, I say:
But in 2011 a reader of my site wrote me reporting that he had attempted to inquire about Elena's Models' "Individual Search", but received no reply. Imagine that... The service was offered on the site, but would-be customers couldn't get a reply to inquiries.
So I wrote to them and asked. Essentially the answer was something like "Oh, yeah, the Individual Search is a very involved process and right now we're at our capacity and cannot take on any new clients for that service". I wrote them back suggesting that if they advertised this service on their site (which they no longer do), and there was a demand for it, then they should try to increase their capacity to handle the additional demand (makes sense, doesn't it? :-) I received no reply to that suggestion.
Darrin Field, Director of Elena's Models, says:
This statement is false and in fact we had one client that contacted us asking if we still offered the personal one on one service and we advised clearly and promptly we do not offer this service currently as we do not have the capacity to take on more clients to this program.we can actually evidence that client and mails with that client so we find the posted commentary to be purposefully damaging and completely untrue . We have not offered this service to any member since 2009 or promoted such service therefore your clients posting is untrue and we have serviced correctly and promptly that member to a high standard. (Letter from Darrin Field on 10/31/2014)
I have some email evidence of my own, both with a reader of this site and with the help desk. First, me and the user:
(Note: This user has not authorized me to identify him, so I have edited out references to his name)
Aug 14, 2011, Email from Bob to User:
"I have seen a service advertised on ElenasModels.com that sounds like what you seek. It's called 'INDIVIDUAL SEARCH' (see http://elenasmodels.com/services/individual.htm). I have never used that service myself, so I can't offer any observations based on experience, but it sounds good. They don't say in that description that they will actually talk to you, but I can't see how that program would work without some conversation! They don't advertise the price for this service on that page, and instead simply route you to a contact form to get more information about the program. I would be interested to hear what you find."
Aug 16, 2011, Email from User to Bob:
"Thanks Bob for your prompt response. I had a problem registering on their website. They got me back to me with a email and a recorded conversation (FAQ-session) with a few different gentleman. It sounded like a tele conference. However, I was hoping they would email me and ask me about my preference and what I would like and my current personal situation and what I can also offer in terms of a life to my partner and then probably offer me a personalised match making service. This is how it should happen."
Aug 18, 2011, Email from Bob to User:
"I wrote Elena's Models inquiring about the Individual Search service and they answered... 'At present we are not taking any new clients for Individual Matchmaking service as we are very busy with the existing clients'. Seems a little short-sighted to me from business perspective for them to not find a way to accommodate demand for a service that they advertise... or at least be a little more clear about how they handle this. Seems like they could have just sent you a message to this effect and asked if you wanted to be contacted later when there was an opening. Oh well, obviously I'm not making the decisions there!"
Aug 18, 2011, Email from User to Bob:
"Thanks Bob for your very informative reply.... I would have liked Elena's Models handling my account but seems they are either overbooked or maybe actually not equipped anymore to give the personalised matchmaker service. I cant thik why would they refuse a a personal matchmaker business which generally pays higher than normal."
And then there's the conversation with the help desk that I referenced with the user:
Aug 17, 2011, Email from Help Desk to Bob:
"At present we are not taking any new clients for Individual Matchmaking service as we are very busy with the existing clients. Best regards, Anna, Help Desk" (Unfortunately I do not have the message I sent to the help desk to which they were replying, but this answer to me reasonably indicates the nature of my question for them).
Aug 19, 2011, Email from Bob to Help Desk:
"Hi Anna, Thanks for your answer. I have a suggestion... I know that on the page describing this service that you say that you don't accept as clients men who you can't guarantee success. That's perfectly understandable. But to turn down suitable clients eager to enlist this service for lack of personnel/resources seems short-sighted from a business perspective. Could Elena's Models either consider hiring additional staff to handle additional demand, or 'subcontract' out excess business to reliable, trained personnel when needed? Your 'Individual Search' is such a great service for some men it seems a shame to just send interested customers away saying, 'Sorry, too busy'."
No one replied to my suggestion (which I guess could be viewed as even further evidence of my overall point in bringing up the whole incident). But now I ask, assuming that I have not purely manufactured these exchanges and dates (everything here is copied/pasted directly from my email exchanges, edited only for space by removing irrelevant or redundant material), would you say that my claims regarding the "Individual Search" as described in the review are credible?
Clearly in these exchanges I was conversing with both the user and the help desk regarding a service offered on their site at that time, right? And clearly this customer WANTED to enlist their help in that service but was turned away with not much more than a "Sorry, we're too busy". And THAT is pretty much what I say in my review that Darrin says is "purposefully damaging and completely untrue". It is DEFINITELY true. If it's damaging, it's Elena's Models' own fault, not mine for pointing it out.
In my review I say:
...starting sometime between 2010 and 2012... women applicants were no longer screened very carefully. Maybe there was no change, but I know several Russian/Ukrainian women who assured me that they signed up on Elena's Models with no useful validation... Usually just a call asking 'Is your name Natalia?', 'How old are you?', etc. In all fairness, that may be more validation than many sites do, but it's not exactly infallible, and scammers have made it through that screening.
Darrin Field, Director of Elena's Models, says:
The above statements are untrue and false . Unless your client has evidence to provide with full disclosure about how our procedures work your client is suggesting to readers we have no proper or detailed screening process. Our process is more in depth than in 2004- 2010 and we are constantly upgrading methodology and data screening activities on-line with members that has further enhanced control over the quality f members on Elena's Models. (Letter on October 31, 2014)
I'm commenting on an observation I make based on evidence and am not required to provide any such "evidence to provide with full disclosure about how our procedures work". And the evidence I do have is offered right there in the review itself.
But Darrin may be comforted to carefully note a few things that I actually DO and DON'T say. I DON'T actually say whether Elena's Models' screening is "detailed or proper". That's pretty subjective, isn't it? What does that mean?
But I do use my own slightly more descriptive term: "I know several Russian/Ukrainian women who assured me that they signed up on Elena's Models with no useful
validation". The bold font there is in the actual review, and highlights my observation. Darrin says their screening is "detailed and proper", which I don't actually dispute. I just don't think - based on what my Russian/Ukrainian women friends tell me - that it's very USEFUL
And, I also say "Maybe there was no change..." (since before 2011-2012 when Elena "lost interest" - more on that below).
But I DO say that I know Russian/Ukrainian women who tell me they signed up on Elena's Models with no more than a single call asking their name and age. I would never disclose their identities without their permission. Is one call asking the lady's name and age "detailed and proper"? Is it "useful"?
I also do say that a reader of my site contacted me informing me that he had been scammed out of $17,000 by a lady he met on Elena's Models. He forwarded me scanned pdf copies of his "Internet Crime Complaint" (which specifically references Elena's Models), and his letters to prosecutors in Kiev and Kherson Ukraine about the lady he met on Elena's Models. He has authorized me to use these documents as I see fit. Click here to view those documents
[Note: Although this reader gave me permission to release his identity, I have masked his identity in these documents as they are posted on the open web. I possess copies of these documents showing his full name, location, and contact details, and if/when required by law I will release them].
Elena's Loss of Interest
In my review I say:
When Elena lost interest she probably farmed out the operation of her site to people who didn't truly share her core convictions, and consequently many of her values vacated the scene with her. [In the interest of full disclosure, the word "probably" was added to that first sentence very recently, probably after Darrin's reply]
Darrin Field, Director of Elena's Models, says:
The above statement made by your client is not true or correct . The owner and founder Elena has not 'farmed out the business' and your client was advised factually on all aspects of the company on July 30th 2014. However your client has continued to advise readers she is not operating or involved strongly with her own company. (Letter on October 31, 2014)
Off the top of my head I can think of three points to make in reply to Darrin.
FIRST, note that in my recently revised review I changed "When Elena lost interest" to "When Elena ANNOUNCED her loss of interest" just to make it clear that this is not just my speculation. I'm not guessing at this. SHE ANNOUNCED IT, DIRECTLY, CLEARLY, IN WRITING, TO ELENA'S MODELS' CLIENTS at the time
(Oct, 2012). How can there possibly be ANY dispute about this?
In an email sent to EM's clients on Oct 15, 2012, subject "I think I owe you an explanation...", Elena said, in her own words:
I have been working in the dating industry for 13 years (since 1999) and during this time I have written hundreds of articles and blog posts.... I have talked to thousands of people and answered many thousands of emails and questions from my visitors and clients.... So, I gave the dating industry 13 years of my life and many hours of hard work, sometimes working for 16 hours a day, writing articles and answering people's questions. But since recently I have not been involved that much with the dating industry. The reason being, I found a new passion - Fashion...
Maybe her interest in the dating industry was renewed when she started noticing a drop in traffic and revenue, or maybe her "new interest" in fashion faded, but she herself announced her departure and loss of interest, so it's not a large leap of speculation on my part.
SECOND... "The owner and founder Elena has not 'farmed out the business'"?
Maybe we have a language problem here. But when Elena announced her reduced involvement in the dating industry in October 2012, then who ran the business when she backed away? Whoever it was, it seems like a fairly normal thing to say that she "farmed out the business" to this person. I guess I'm not so sure why such a comment would be taken so "personally". Well, I have a guess as to why, but I'll keep it to myself for now.
There were rumors that Elena's Models had been sold to a Chinese company who was now managing it. I still hear that rumor a LOT. And maybe Darrin assumed that is what I was implying. I wasn't implying that, and there is nothing whatsoever in my review that could possibly be construed as suggesting or implying it.
THIRD, Darrin says I "continued to advise readers she [Elena] is not operating or involved strongly with her own company". In my review I say "Well, depending on what they mean by 'contributing head' this may be true, but...". I think any objective reader would probably understand that comment on my site to directly contradict Darrin's accusation.