Why I Broke Up With Er*s

© Artur Szczybylo

A handful of people have asked why I don’t use or am no longer on Er*s. I realized I didn’t write anything about it in my blog. Because I think it’s worth talking about, and may be helpful for both other providers and our clients, I’ll share my experience and reasons here.

I actually haven’t been using their site for almost two years. The last time I had an active ad was May of 2018.

I started using Er*s probably a few months after I went pro at the beginning of 2015. In the three years I used them, they were terrific. Attractive interface, good ad builder, excellent customer service, and, I thought, reasonably priced. I also got quite a lot of traffic from them. And a decent amount of people who became clients.

Fast forward to March of 2018. Suddenly, I couldn’t get a payment to go through. Because I thought the problem might be the dollar amount, I reduced the charge to the lowest possible amount I could: a one-month, base ad renewal. It still wasn’t going through.

When I called them about it, there was a message that said they were no longer providing phone support and that we had to email. The sudden change was puzzling because they always provided phone support — very good phone support.

So, I emailed. I think it took them two months — you read that right — to respond. Someone calling himself “Esc0” replied to me. The problem, which had nothing to do with the dollar amount, was fixed and I was able to active my ad again. This was May of 2018.

When it came time to renew my ad, at the end of May, I wanted to pay for a few months of my base ad and the corresponding amount of time for premium placement. I once again had problems getting the payment to go through. I once again emailed. And, once again, I waited a ridiculous amount of time for a reply.

When I received that reply, it was from a different URL, “us- call . zen desk . com”, instead of the usual er*s . com. This was a flag for me because the footer of their emails always said, “Any correspondence regarding your account with Er*s will only be sent from an @er*s . com, @er*s-guide . com, @er*smail . eu, or @er*sads . com email address.” When I mentioned this to “Esc0”, I received a reply from “Julia” stating, “We have received your email in regards to the email service we use, and we thank you, for the attentive notice. We will be checking with Zen desk as we are not aware of such change.” This didn’t make sense to me because they should be able to see the domain in their own email exchanges and it would seem strange that they hadn’t noticed it. I added this to the Suspicious Behavior folder in my mind.

As I was trying to figure out what was going on, I considered that Er*s was working with the government. This seemed plausible because their North Carolina servers were raided in November 2017 (a quick web search will provide some articles) and, between the seizure of B*ckp*ge in April of 2018 and signing F O STA/S E STA into law just days later, I couldn’t imagine the government would just allow them to keep working without some catch. I wasn’t the only one who suspected this and read others share similar concerns. And despite this newsworthy event, I couldn’t find any additional information about what happened afterward other than Er*s assuring everyone they were now working out of the Netherlands and everything was fine.

Between my frustrations trying to get my ad back online, and my suspicions about what they were really up to, I asked them outright if they were the government or working with the government. While I got a reply about getting my payment to go through, my other question was ignored.

Finally, the payment went through for three months of services, but yet another hurdle surfaced. I received notification my ad could not go live until I completed two things: (1) I had to remove the watermarks from my photos and (2) I had to send them another copy of my ID and a verification photo (even though they already had done both).

I emailed and asked them for an explanation. I complained that removing our watermarks will turn Er*s into a great place for scammers to pick up easy material. I also questioned why I needed to verify myself *again* when my ID is still valid and I look the same.

When they replied they rescinded the watermark request, I assume because many providers pushed back. As far as the ID and verification photo, they said it “expired” and I had to send a new one. That was it. No reasoning, just that I had to do it.

At this point, I had a growing feeling that maybe the story they had told us about now being based in the Netherlands might not be as innocent and safe as they wanted us to believe.

I tried to find whatever I could about Er*s. Updates about the raid, other people’s experiences, other people’s hypotheses, whatever. I saw a lot of people complaining about ad renewal, lost money (some said they believed it was being outright stolen), and little to no response to inquiries. I saw more people speculating that they too believed they may be working with the government, and, I think, at least one “proof” claim from someone who I seem to remember said they had worked for or was otherwise was intimately familiar with the company.

In my next email, I told them I would prefer that my “verified” status be revoked rather than my send in another copy of my ID (they never acknowledged this, by the way) and I also asked if they could change the start date of the services I paid for, since during all this back and forth my ad was not online and some of the services I paid for had expired. They refused.

I also asked two more times if they were working with the government. No answer.

Between the now atrocious customer service, the constantly changing standards with ad copy and photos, the suspicion I had that they were either taken over by or helping the government, a lawsuit against the owners of the site with a possible plea bargain (can’t find the docket right now), and now they were telling me that despite no fault of my own, they weren’t going to give me the service I paid for and basically just pocket my money, I decided I was done with them. (I have since heard people saying that law enf0rcement may be using the site to create false profiles to lure men, do stings on workers, and that some people have had their bank accounts closed when transactions from the site have come through. So, add those to the “reasons” list.)

I have heard others say they also have stopped using their site. Clearly, many haven’t. There are still a lot of people who are putting up with them and taking the risk.

I encourage fellow providers to consider other options. There are other advertising venues. There is also a lot to be said for investing in areas where you have more power: your own site and your content. (Now, I get most of my clients from people finding me through web searches.) But if you do feel you must use to them get clients, please be very careful. I would hate to see truly innocent people get hurt if our suspicions are true and someone comes figuratively (or literally) knocking on your door.