Albert Martino of Hot Igloo Internet Marketing/TheThinkhouse.com/NEPA web design: an update

I have no news about Albert Martino, he of Hot Igloo Internet Markeing/NEPA Web Design/TheTHINKHouse.com/Astorian Stigmata. I thought I’d just post a quick update anyway, because we’ve had such a lot of support from you guys, and I know some of you have been wondering where things stand at the moment: I’ll try to get back to my usual talk about … whatever it is I usually talk about … next week, but for now this is really taking up all of my headspace, so I hope you’ll forgive another update, even although there isn’t really much to update you about.

So far Albert Martino has ignored:

  • Emails
  • Phonecalls
  • Facebook messages
  • Twitter messages
He’s also blocked the entire world, with the exception of the United States, from viewing his Facebook page. (I’m not sure what this was supposed to achieve, by the way, because he’d already blocked everyone from commenting on the page, and it’s not like we don’t have any friends or clients in America who can tell us what he posts on it, anyway.) I would imagine his next step will be to take his Twitter account private, which would be another odd move for a business, especially one “specialising” in search engine optimisation and social media management. It’s pretty hard to do business with your head in the sand, your phone on silent and the whole world blocked from viewing your websites, but these are the lengths Albert Martino is prepared to go to to avoid speaking to me. I had no idea I was so frightening!

Actually, just on the subject of Albert Martino and his social media management, I had to laugh when I read this paragraph on his website:

“SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT:
The way you present your brand is critical to the success of your business. Often times, we see many mismanaged social media accounts that actually have a detrimental effect on businesses. Dont [sic] be one of the profiles that gets ignored!

(Bolding mine, punctuation Albert’s.)

The man speaks from experience, obviously. We can only hope that he wouldn’t mismanage his clients’ social media accounts in the same way he has mismanaged his own, although given that this is someone who thinks it’s OK to rip off someone else’s brand, I have my doubts. He is right about one thing, though: the way you present your brand IS critical to the success of your business. This is why we’re so worried about the fact that Albert is doing “business” under OUR name: it is OUR brand he will ruin with his complete lack of professionalism and ethics. This is someone, after all, who states on one of his public profiles that his hobbies are “smoking dope and loading guns”. You can see why we wouldn’t want our brand to be associated with this person.

I’ve always believed that,while anyone can make a mistake, it’s what you do about it that matters. That’s why, every time something like this has happened to us, we’ve made every possible attempt to speak to the person privately, and give them the opportunity to explain themselves, and put it right, before taking the issue further. I’m not naive enough to think that I’m the only person in the world capable of coming up with a particular business name, and I’m not cruel enough to call someone out in public without first of all giving them ample opportunity to talk to me about what they’ve done and why. If the person who is using my name, or my images, or my text, or whatever, genuinely believes that they have done nothing wrong, and that they they have every right to be doing what they’re doing, then they should have absolutely no problem with speaking to me about it. In fact, they should WANT to speak to me about it, so they can explain to me why I’m wrong to be upset about it, and why they believe they have every right to keep on doing it.

What do you do, though, when someone appropriates your brand, uses your name in public, refuses to answer your emails or phone calls, deletes your posts (and everyone else’s) from their wall, and, finally, blocks almost the entire world from their page in order to try and hide from you? That’s what Albert Martino of Hot Igloo Internet Marketing – also trading as TheTHINKHouse.com and NEPA Web Designers – has done to us. And really, I guess Albert Martino HAS answered us, in a way. He hasn’t spoken to us directly – not even once – but his actions speak louder than words, and what his actions say is, “Screw you. I don’t care about your business, I don’t care that I’m ripping you off, and potentially damaging your livelihood: I’m going to just keep on doing it, and I’m also going to HIDE so you can’t catch me.” And that makes Albert seem malicious, as opposed to simply misguided.

Honestly, I think it’s important that anyone considering doing business with Albert Martino knows that this is the kind of man he is: not just a thief, who is desperately trying to profit from someone else’s hard work and established brand, but also a coward, who is so frightened of speaking to one woman, that he will go so far as to block most of the world from his site. Clearly Albert Martino Martino is not a professional, and if this is how he does business, then he doesn’t have much of a chance of success, regardless of what I have to say about it. Unfortunately for us, though, Albert may be an amateur, but he is an amateur who  is passing himself off as being associated with my brand, and anything he says of does under the name of “Hot Igloo” has the opportunity to reflect badly on us, because he is using our name.

(He’s also a so-called Search Engine Optimzation specialist who has apparently failed to realise that ignoring my attempts to contact him privately just forces me to address him publicly instead, and that these posts will appear on Google any time someone searches for him or his business name. )

At this point, I have to admit that I’m rapidly running out of patience with the people who persist in copying me and my various brands. As I said in the comments section of my last post, in the past three months alone, I’ve had two brands duplicated by competitors, I’ve had large chunks of my sites plagiarised by multiple websites, I’ve had someone set up a Facebook page impersonating me (and using my business logo and personal photo to do so), I’ve had someone steal my intellectual property and try to extort money from me in order to make them stop, I’ve had someone cyber-squat on domains associated with my business, and I’ve had numerous other people steal photos of me for various reasons.

I think that if you don’t make a living online, or if you’ve never been in this, admittedly bizarre, position, it’s probably quite difficult to understand why any of this matters. But it DOES matter. There IS a cost to all of this, and while I know I will always have my critics, who want to insist that I’m the bad guy for not just allowing these people to profit from my name and work (I was told in the comments section of my last post that it would be terrible if people lost jobs because I won’t allow Albert Martino to use my brand: perhaps I should just send Albert my client list too?), I hope that most reasonable people will be able to see that I cannot just sit back and allow people to constantly do this to me. If I allowed lots of people to set up shoe blogs called “Shoeperwoman”, for instance, my OWN blog called Shoeperwoman would suffer because of that. And if we allow lots of people to set up website design firms called “Hot Igloo”, then OUR website design firm called Hot Igloo will no longer be able to distinguish itself from all of these other sites, with their identical names, and it will struggle too. (And just to quickly address another misapprehension: yes, we DO have clients in the United States. We are an online business, and actually, the majority of our clients are NOT based in the same town as us: they are all over the world. This is why it’s called the world wide web.)

Lately, though, I feel that this is the way the Internet is going. It is no longer a place where creativity is valued, where people try to stand out from the crowd, and where unique content is created. Instead, it has become a place where everyone just copies everyone else, and everything is the same. All of those Tumblr sites, with their endless reblogs of images which are being published without credit; all of the content scrapers; all of the sites which encourage users to upload images and content from OTHER sites, and not to worry about asking permission or giving credit. This is the internet now? How utterly depressing.

This has become a much longer diatribe than I intended. You know, you aim for “short rant”, you end up with “tl;dr”. What’s a blogger to do? And what do we do about Albert Martino?

Well, luckily – or not-so-luckily, really – Terry and I have just gone through exactly the same issue with the person who copied our “Shoeperwoman” brand, and because of that, we know exactly which options are open to us, and what we need to do to make sure that Albert Martino is prevented from using our brand. If Albert had had the courtesy to get in touch with us, or to respond to any one of our many attempts to contact him, we would’ve been happy to have shared with him what our next steps are, and he could perhaps have prevented us from taking those steps, but as it is, we’re going to let him find out the hard way. I’m sure he thinks our current silence is a sign that we’ve given up, but he take it from me: we haven’t, and we won’t.

Thanks again for everyone’s support on this: it has been the one bright spot in the past couple of weeks.