Ted's Woodworking - don't pay for the plans!

This page is also available in Spanish

I have been aware of "Ted's woodworking" with his "16,000 woodworking plans" for some time. From time to time I get emails from people who want to buy an ad on my website to try to sell the plans. If I have the sense that they are new to advertising, I point out that I don't take ads for the "16,000 woodworking plans" scam in my initial response, because that's usually what they are trying to sell.

On review, it's apparent that Ted's Woodworking is a clever sort of scam. Basically, whoever it is that calls himself "Ted's Woodworking" encourages affiliates to sell the plans, paying 75% commission on a $67 "product". That sounds very attractive, especially if you believe the claims about conversion rate (percentage of people who buy) on the site. Enough people believe the get rich hype and sign up as affiliates to try to sell the plans. This creates a huge number of affiliates. Each affiliate, in turn, creates links back to Ted's Woodworking, which raises Ted's profile to Google, and makes tedswoodworking.com the second search result on Google (after ads) when searching for "woodworking plans". Even affiliates that never sell a single copy help boost Ted's page on Google. And if you find Ted's Woodworking using a Google search, Ted doesn't have to pay anybody a commission. So even affiliates that never sell a single copy help Ted. I suspect the primary motivation for having affiliates is to boost Ted's page, rather than generating affiliate sales. With 80% commission, direct sales are 5x as valuable to Ted as affiliate sales.

Spam claiming to be from me

So far, I considered this just a nuisance, until a spammer sent an email entitled "16,000 Woodworking Plans and Projects", claiming to be from "Wood Gears", with the return email address of woodgears.ca@gmail.com (not my email address). The mailing address included was for 750 Hornby Street, Vancouver BC. Googling that, it's the address of the Vancouver art gallery. I doubt the art gallery has anything more to do with this scam than I do.

Some of these spams were forwarded to me by followers of my website. I noticed right away that the links in the email went thru redirects on MailChimp's servers. The email itself also originated from a MailChimp server (mail52.us1.mcsv.net 204.232.163.52). Because I also use MailChimp for my mailing list, my first thought was that my MailChimp account had been compromised. But on further investigation, I realized the spammer used a list different from my mailing list. But I changed my password just for good measure!

MailChimp (unlike "Ted") has a reputation to uphold, and contacting them, I was able to get the account that was used to send the spam shut down and the redirects in the emaiils disabled. Unfortunately, without further help from MailChipmp, all I know is that the spammer sent using MailChimp. The spam was probably sent by yet another affiliate who believed the affiliate hype on the website and was hoping to make some money.

When I signed up with MailChimp last year, I could see they have measures in place to discourage spamming. I guess those measure aren't that effective. Maybe they should get into airport security! :)

Why it's fraud

Steve Ramsey has done a story on this fraud:
http://www.woodworkingformeremortals.com/2012/04/teds-woodworking-fraud.html

I have personally also reviewed the "16,000 plans" package, and it's a disorganized mess of random free plans scraped off the internet. Picking plans at random, I was able to find the original source, freely accessible, for every one of them with a Google search or two. Being able to download the plans online for free does not, however, make them free of copyright, so reselling them is not legal.

Ted's plans are actually a rather poor subset of what is available on the web free of charge. The actual number of plans in the package is less than 2500, nowhere near the claimed 16,000. There is a search box on the Ted's woodworking main page that allows you to search the plans, towards the bottom of the front page. Try typing in some random jumble of letters there and see what "results" come up. Further evidence of scam!

$$$
And the "150 premium woodworking videos"? Those are all publicly available videos from YouTube and Vimeo.com, embedded in the website. And these aren't even particularly good videos. The newest of them is from Dec 2010. Some of the links are to videos that no longer exist. I guess the list hasn't been updated for some time. At any rate, you can see much better woodworking videos, free of charge, by going straight to YouTube.

Ted's Woodworking is not really about woodworking plans. It's about getting money from people who should know better. The "plans" themselves are just enough to keep naive people from realizing it's a fraud so they don't ask for a refund. If you have fallen victim to this within the last 90 days, please go to ClickBank, or PayPal (or whoever processed the payment) and ask for a refund. The item is not as described, and what you got was pirated (illegal). That's reason enough for a refund.

Ted's address on tedswoodworking.com is:

Ted "Woody" Mcgrath
219 Tama Street
Slater, IA 50244
United States

Evan Zerby lives not far from there and went to check it out. No such address. Wherever "Ted" lives, I guess he doesn't want any visits or fan mail. Geez, I wonder why?

Why Ted's Woodworking is harmful

The MPAA and RIAA are always making inflated claims about how much piracy is costing them. Their assumptions are based on the idea that every unpaid pirated copy is a lost sale. I don't want to use that sort of bogus math, and I don't have to because this is different.

Every dollar spent on "Ted woodworking" is a dollar that could otherwise be spent on legitimate quality woodworking content, which would in turn encourage the development of more quality content. But aside from hurting producers, it also hurts the buyer. Whoever buys Ted's plans is no further ahead than they would be by searching for plans using Google. Arguably, they are further behind because they might waste time trying to use Ted's plans instead of finding better woodworking plans for free using Google.

How much is this scam worth?

According to compete.com, tedswoodworking.com gets an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 visits per month. quantcast.com produces a similar estimate.

Let's assume 1% of people who visit buy the plans. People generally refer to such percentages as "conversion rate". Ted's affiliate page actually claims a 10% conversion rate, but I see no reason to believe any of Ted's claims. At 100,000 visitors per month, a 1% conversion rate means 1000 sales per month, at $67 per sale, that's $67,000 (67k) per month, or $804k per year. If all those sales were affiliate sales, Ted would only keep about $200k per year. But I would expect that at least a third of Ted's sales are not affiliate sales. Affiliates boost Ted's page on Google, but they don't get paid for that. So if one third of Ted's sales are thru search engines, Ted would keep the $22k for those. Paying 75% commission on the remaining 44k would leave Ted a total of $33k per month, or $396k per year. A lucrative scam, even by conservative estimates.

How to stop this

The obvious thing to do would be for the copyright holders to sue "Ted" to get him to stop selling these plans. But that would require the copyright holders to spend money on lawyers and some investigation to find out who "Ted" actually is. The actual address on "Ted's" website doesn't exist, and the image of Ted is a stock photo. Even if successfully sued by one copyright holder, "Ted" could just remove the offending plans and keep selling.

And really, anybody who knows what's on the internet (such as readers of woodgears.ca) is unlikely to fall victim to such a scam. The target victims are people who are new to looking for woodworking information online.

The best strategy is to make sure that people new to the internet realize that Ted's Woodworking is fraud before they buy the plans, and to make sure they find legitimate sources of plans before they find Ted's. And this is where you could help. Ideally, when searching for "Woodworking plans", there would be many other pages that show up before Ted's. Pages with many links to them get ranked higher on Google. So the solution is to link to better sources of plans, such as my woodworking plans. Of course, I'd like my plans page to rank higher regardless, but that may be out of general self interest :)

It would also be good to have this page, or Steve's article rank highly when searching for "Ted's Woodworking". That way, if somebody is considering either buying Ted's plans, or becoming an affiliate, and they search for more information on Ted's, they can be made aware of the scam.

Neither of these measures will "stop" Ted's Woodworking, but legal action hasn't been successful at stopping spam and scams in general. The best we can hope to do is to make scams like this less profitable. Even if Ted's were shut down, the perpetrator would probably just re-launch under a different name.

For example whoever is behind tedswoodworking.com, is likely to also be behind woodprofits.com (very similar to Ted's Woodworking, and also hosted through the same IP address). Woodprofits.com provides a mailing address of
"12925 King Circle Drive, Cypress, Tx 77429"
No Google street view for that city, but Google maps does show a "King Cir drive" in Cypress, Texas. If you happen to be from Cypress, Texas, might be worth checking if the address is real (I'm pretty sure it isn't).
Another variant on the scam is woodworking4home.com. Simiar layout, and if you look at the list of folders, it's identical!

More info on copyright infringement relating to woodworking plans:
http://www.woodworkersworkshop.com/copyright-infringement.php


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