Bark.com launched in 2014 as a web based service matching service providers with customers. Basically, you register as a client, say what you need done and it sends job leads to suitable businesses. A bit like computer dating.
And like any business relying on data matching, it will live or die by the accuracy of its data. It got off to an interesting start by purchasing the data from Dublin-based SkillsPages – 20M contacts of dubious pedigree. I know about this, because in the interests of research, someone registered as a supplier of a highly unlikely service in the name of a very well known science fiction character. No checks were made, but as no one needed the dilithium crystals realigned in the warp drive in a Constitution-Class Federation starship, no offers of employment were ever received by Chief Engineer Scotty. Until, that is, Bark bought the dodgy data and decided Scotty was an electrician in south London and then the leads started rolling in.
Okay, so we all had a good laugh at their expense before the account is cancelled once the joke had worn thin, but it should be an object lesson in data validation if you’re trying to give potential customers confidence in your “Professionals”.
And then this morning, in the space of 90 minutes, I received a load of emails to a made-up address on one of the domains I look after, but using my name. The emails contained quotes for a job that I had apparently posted. How could this be? I scrolled back down the email and found a “Welcome to Bark” message, giving “my” username and password, and implying I’d just created an account and posted a job request. Obviously someone had, but it wasn’t me.
My first reaction was to read the email carefully, looking for the “I didn’t register this account” link, but there was nothing of the kind. Of course, what they should really do is verify any email address; i.e. check that it actually belongs to the person claiming to set up the account.
Out of respect to the people who’d bothered to quote for the job, I emailed them all back saying “Sorry – someone seems to have done this as a joke”. However, Bark bounced these all back, because I’d sent them from my real email address; one that obviously didn’t match the fake one. So Bark can check email addresses when they want to!
Bark.com is leaving itself open to all kinds of trouble by operating like this. The killer is that the professionals putting in the quotes have paid bark.com to do so, but could claim that bark.com hasn’t taken enough care to ensure the job leads are genuine. By not even verifying the email address, they could be said to be making absolutely no effort at all.
When I spoke to Bark.com and raised this very specific issue, the claim was this rarely, if ever, happens. I provided the details and they promised to refund the people who’d been charged for a false lead, and said “This is not how we operate, this should never happen”, and that “when it’s brought to their attention they close down the bogus account and refund the money.”