The CD Plan Scam

Any search for woodworking plans will return multiple links for one particular vendor that claims to offer 16,000 plans on CD for a little over $60. I am not going to give them the benefit of even mentioning their name, since you probably already ran across multiple versions of it before finding this site.

The scam tactics employed by the site should be enough to deter anyone from handing over their credit card. But for those who may have missed the warning signs, I feel compelled to offer a little analysis.

I have not seen the CD, so I can’t address the contents. Multiple other website owners have purchased it, however, and have shared their opinions, which I’ve discussed below.

The problem I have with the site is the unethical sales tactics. They employ a vast army of affiliate sales people that post false reviews. They include invasive code in their web site. Their listed mailing address is non-existent, and the namesake of the site, “Ted”, appears to be a fictional character.

Affiliate Overuse

The affiliate program is the reason you have seen so many different sites that seem to lead back to the same place. Affiliate advertising is a program where owners of small web sites, such as this one, place ads on their site to market the products of some other company. When a visitor clicks on the ad, and ends up making a purchase, the owner of the site gets a commission on the sale.

Affiliate commissions on things like CDs and books can be a very high percentage. One review of that site says they pay an 80% commission. This motivates many people to set up a simple web site praising what a wonderful package of plans it is, and include an affiliate link. Some have simply uploaded a video to YouTube with an affiliate link in the caption. This is why you have seen so many apparently different sites that all lead back to the same spot.

Unfortunately, there far more false reviews with affiliate links than real reviews. For every review you see that praises them, you will find that they have an affiliate link to make money on the sale of that CD (If it’s an embedded video, right-click on the title to get the link to the Youtube page, copy and open in a new tab. You’ll see their affiliate link in the comment.) Note that many of the reviews present the initial appearance of impartiality, listing pros and cons. But every single one has an affiliate link, revealing the “opinion” to be a sales pitch.

Website Tricks

If you happen to make it to their main page, it immediately starts playing their sales video. It’s a slick animated piece that reminds me of another scam site for a foreign language CD. But the insidious part comes when you try to close the browser tab (if you have blocked Javascript, you may not see it). Rather than closing your tab, it pops up a warning message asking if you really wanted to close it.

It is very risky to click on either answer to those pop ups, so I just close the message window, at which point it stays on the page and restarts the video, basically trapping you. If you’re quick, you can escape from the message and close the tab before it reloads the annoyance code.

That type of behavior is only employed by sales scams. There is simply no such thing as a legitimate site that uses those tactics.

Contents are Freely Available

As for the content of the CD, the consensus from the other websites is that nearly all of the information on the CD can be obtained for free with a little web searching. One review points out that the material seems out of date, and much if it is merely links to other sites, where the plans may not be free. And each reviewer is concerned that many of the plans are in violation of someone’s copyright.

While the question of copyright may be a concern to some, it isn’t to me. Anyone is free to use, copy, sell, make money building, or doing anything else with any of the content on this site. (Note: copyright law is so messed up, it is unclear whether the previous statement actually provides legal protection if I lose my mind and attempt to sue anyone for copying the contents of this site.)

Frankly, if anyone ever copies my plans and publishes them, I’ll be bragging about it right here. But I doubt you will ever see any of my plans on that CD, since it appears it is all older material, and is unlikely to ever be updated.

I’m not going to tell anyone not to buy that CD. But it should be clear that no one should have any trust in, or expectations of, a website that uses those tactics.