Yesterday, I became aware of an email from our management company, about AmbitEnergy. Had the email come directly from AmbitEnergy, you might not be reading this today. It would have been just one of many such emails I have received about switching energy providers, and it is a topic I have covered in other posts. I would have simply trashed it as I do the others.
However, coming from our management company, many residents thought this was something the board has acted upon or at least discussed. Neither is the case. We got this the same time you did. Additionally, AmbitEnergy, is not your typical energy supplier. It uses a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) business model that made the matter more concerning. (More on this later.)
It is at this point where I want to take a moment to clarify that this post is coming partly on behalf of the board and partly on behalf of Art Wolinsky, school teacher, technlology consultant, Educational Technology Director of WiredSafety.org AND Sherwood Glenn community member.
From The Board
The board feels the mailing is inappropriate and may be a conflict of interest on the part of management company. We in NO WAY endorse the mailing or AmbitEnergy. We have contacted the management company and expressed our concern about marketing directly to residents. The email of clarification from them came shortly after that.
Please be aware that any information or offers of this type which have been acted upon by the board, will clearly be indicated in the message. If it is not clearly stated or obvious that it comes from, or on behalf of the board, cavaet emptor!
From Art Wolinsky, Sherwood Resident
Let me begin by says during my five years at Sherwood Glen, I have had nothing but praise for our property managers. The incident in no way changes that view and I look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with them. I feel this is a learning opportunity for everyone.
A Little Background
I was a technology teacher and consulted for many years. I served as the education technology director and online non-profits, and still volunteer as the educational technology director of the WiredSafety.org , an online charity devoted to protecting people and privacy online. It provides me with a unique perspective. WiredSafety is run by Parry Aftab, one of the top Internet privacy lawyers in the country. I've watched Parry testify and work with Congress on every issue that has involved the Internet, privacy and protection online. I've had the pain of personally working with a congressional committee in the writing of at least one of those bills and dealing with the belt line BS. It was a real eyeopener for me, but that a subject for another day.
Additionally, I have been involved with and done some consulting for friends and family successfully involved in MLM, I have a fair grasp of that concept as well.
It have NO ax to grind with ANYONE, but I think there are some lessons to be learned here and my 35 years in education want to make that happen.
You are all familiar with the chain letter concept. It has been around as long as people learned to write. You know what I'm talking about. Put your name at the bottom, send this to ten friends and and you will receive a flood of whatever the letter or email is promoting. Depending on what they are promoting it can an annoyance or down right illegal.
As time passed, the MLM business model evolved. You are probably familiar with this concept through Amway or Mary Kay cosmetics. Many people make pocket money from these pursuits, many more get disillusioned as the promise of riches never materializes. Only those who really hustle can make money and only those who get in early AND hustle reap the big rewards.
With the advent of the Internet, things took a quantum leap and gave birth to technology infused MLM. Before the Interent, people in MLM were limited by time and money needed to make the phone calls, send the letters and present their product. With email, YouTube, Twitter and other online tools, individuals now had global outreach. The money making potential skyrocketed and many new businesses were born.
Some MLMs are fly-by-night scams in which the vast majority of folks suffer. Others are based on products or services that are less than top notch. Others are based on good products and have a clear plan for future growth. In the vast amount of cases, these pyramids eventually collapse, sometimes over night with the resulting fall out.
Switching to AmbitEnergy
Ambit, from my research, is not a fly-by-night company and they do seem to have a plan, but you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. There are just too many variables involved there are too many variables involved for me to make the switch to them..
Their ultimate success depends on their ability to sign customers and keep buying electricity from the big guy at a price that will support their business model and how efficient they are. This is true of all alternative energy suppliers. However, Ambit's MLM model is unusual among energy suppliers and for me, is at best an untested model and at worst, leads to deceptive sales practices by AmbitEnergy Consultants at the bottom of the chain.
Aside from offering an initial period of electricity at a lower price than the big providers, Ambit allows customers to further reduce their bills by getting others to sign up and/or getting others to become consultants, thereby making it a MLM company. In many ways it is an opening technology frontier, and it IS an opportunity for a HUSTLER to make a killing (at the eventual expense of others). The earlier you get in and the more people you can enlist under you, the more you can make.
I was a technology consultant, I taught teachers, school districts, students, parents, and community members how to us technology as a tool for learning. Before I became a consultant I had honed my skills over many years of work and education. As a technology consultant, I got my reward when I help others learn
and grow. I made a living, but there was no way I was going to get rich.
It that different than being an Ambit Consultant? Well let me put it this way.
You probably won't be surprised if I tell you Ambit consultants don't teach you how to use electricity. Unless you live in a cave, you know how to do that. What do they teach you? What is their expertise? IMHO, they are simply salespeople with one objective, make money by getting others to do what they did, and many are very good at it.
Some Position Statements
Let's start with the board position. Since anyone in NH can switch electric service providers, the board has no say in that matter and no position as to whether individual residents should switch. Cavaet emptor is the order of the day.
The only reason you were reading this is because the offer came through our management company and the board feels it was at inappropriate and possibly a conflict of interest. We have hired them to be property managers. We have entrusted them with resident information and don't appreciate them using it for direct marketing purposes
My Personal Opinion
Since moving here, I have received dozens of emails and postal mailings from companies seeking to get me to change. I have taken none of those offers and will not be taking Ambit's. Taking it means saving money in the hopes that rates won't rise on renewal. Sure, if they rise, you can always switch back to to another provider. However, what do you do if you sign up and a consultant made and error or misled you? If you think it will be easy to resolve, you have another think coming. Just do some research into complaints about products or services in ANY MLM business, not just Anbit.
There is much much more to this whole topic and if some of my Sherwood residents would like to delve deeper, give me a shout. As a fellow resident (not a board member), we can get together at the clubhouse over a bottle of wine and have a good time discussing the ins and outs of technology and marketing, online privacy or technology in general.