Warning: Fair Guide, Construct Data, Expo Guide, Commercial Online Manuals are at it again

Dealing with the Fair Guide people is like being swarmed by mosquitoes -- no matter how many you slap, they just keep on coming, trying to suck your blood. If you are not familiar with Fair Guide, you need to read this now!
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Dealing with the Fair Guide people is like being swarmed by mosquitoes -- no matter how many you slap, they just keep on coming, trying to suck your blood. If you are not familiar with Fair Guide, aka Construct Data Publishers, aka Construct Data Verlag, aka Expo Guide, aka Commercial Online Manuals, then click here to read our March 2008 story, "Beware: Has Fair Guide now morphed into Expo-Guide?" -- one of our many stories over the years warning industry companies to stay away.

The Fair Guide’s apparent strategy is to use very deceiving letters and directory correction forms sent to companies that have exhibited at either an Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, SIA, Health & Fitness Business, FlyFishing Retailer, SHOT or Interbike trade show. If anyone at your company fills a solicitation form out by mistake and sends it back, your company will soon descend into a dark hole of frustration. You'll be buried in a flood of demand letters and threats of legal action for not paying an advertising contract that was signed with good intentions, but always unknowingly.

Both SHOT and SIA have issued statements to their membership indicating they have nothing whatsoever to do with the solicitations, even though their names are being used on the letters implying there is an endorsement.

In a statement, SIA wrote:

“It has recently come to our attention that Expo Guide S de RL de CV of Mexico has once again been targeting SIA Members/Exhibitors requesting company data updates for an online directory. They are specifically mentioning the SIA Show. In addition Expo Guide is asking for a three-year advertisement commitment of $1,571. DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS SOLICITATION! SIA does not have a partner agreement or relationship with Construct Data Verlag AG, Commercial Online Manuals S de RL de CV, Fair Guide, Expo Guide NOR any of their other brands.”

SHOT Show also posted the following statement on its website:

“SHOT Show organizers have learned of a new scam running out of Mexico that is targeting show exhibitors by using the SHOT Show name and trademark. The company Commercial Online Manuals is sending solicitations to show exhibitors to advertise in its Expo-Guide. The scam is almost identical to the FAIR Guide operated by Construct Data Publishers Verlag AG and is intent on misleading show exhibitors into believing that the solicitation is associated with the SHOT Show - it is NOT! Furthermore, exhibitors can easily be tricked into placing a directory listing in the Expo-Guide believing it in all cases will be "FREE." However, by signing the form exhibitors will actually be entering into a three-year, irrevocable agreement requiring them to pay a significant amount of money with no foreseeable benefits. THE SHOT SHOW DOES NOT SUPPORT THE EXPO-GUIDE! Commercial Online Manuals and its directory Expo-Guide are not associated with, or endorsed by, SHOT Show organizers. Furthermore, the use of the SHOT Show name and trademark by Commercial Online Manuals in its solicitations is unauthorized."

And, right on cue, SNEWS just received three letters ourselves (one is pictured above), for exhibiting at Winter Market, Summer Market and Health & Fitness Biz. The difference in our solicitation letters is now it appears the company is based in Bratislava, Slovakia. But make no mistake…regardless of address, this is the same company we’ve all been dealing with for years.

We'd love to know how they are getting our exhibitor information, but that's another question for later. Though slightly different in design and layout, the tone and information requested, and style of each form, no matter who the sender is, matches that of the original Construct Data (Fair Guide). And while the company or companies behind this deceit are at least getting more obvious that there is a free way to update a listing, we suspect few folks will read it, meaning if the cover letter gets separated from the form in a stack of office paperwork, the appearance is that the only way to update a listing is in writing, using the form – and once you do that, they’ve got you for $1,717 per year, automatically renewing each year unless you cancel in writing three months prior to the expiration date.

Our advice? Instruct your mail department that if they receive a letter that looks like the one below to simply mark “return to sender” on the envelope and give it back to the post office. It appears there is a request for return of undelivered mail and that means the idiots at Construct Data will have to pay some extra nickels for their scam.

--Michael Hodgson

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