• Report: #771395
Complaint Review:

Website Designz

  • Submitted: Wed, August 31, 2011
  • Updated: Sun, December 16, 2012

  • Reported By: Marica — Louisiana United States of America
Website Designz
Internet United States of America

Website Designz Stephen Fitzsimmons Scam artist rips off contractors with bogus employment promises New Orleans, Louisiana Internet

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: Unpaid Contractor

*Consumer Comment: Another small prove...

*Author of original report: Update on Rebuttel by Stephen

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: Working for WEbsiteDesignz has been a nightmare

*Author of original report: Don't believe this report, do your own research

*REBUTTAL Owner of company: A Terminated Contractor

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This is an ultimate scam company that works on a fine line of legality they have very carefully orchestrated in order to take advantage of contractors and keep resulting profits for themselves.

They lure individuals from other countries and sites like Elance and promise big money for little work. The contract, however, is vague, with PO Box addresses, and of course what appears to be a very lucrative salary and/or bonus structure.

However, after a day or two (or perhaps less) expect to begin to be berated, yelled at and sworn at regularly. If you are working with this client through Elance, expect not to get paid, with various excuses as to how Elance works, and why they don't "typically pay their people" that way. 

Every month or so the Director fires programmers and graphic designers, many of which have weeks of pay they have yet to receive. He always finds some lame excuse about the employee not taking care of customers or doing some other terrible thing (like being sick and unable to work) then fires them and tells them he doesn't have to pay them because they haven't done the work "as expected" in the contract. [continued below]....

For most people, attempting to sue or follow up to get money deserved is too costly, so the company pockets the profit.

For clients, this high turnover rate results in constantly late milestones and deadlines. Stephen always has a good excuse for this of course (he is a great salesman even by his standards after all!) and the client, after investing in thousands of dollars with the company, has no choice but to put up with it.

Stephen always has a reason for why everyone seems to never do their job, or why his people are constantly quitting or being "fired", but in the end the truth speaks for itself. If you search for their profile on Elance you'll soon see that many others have provided similar feedback. This is only one of the several sites online that this company likely works, so doing research before spending money, or deciding to waste your time busting your hump for this company is a definite must!

Additional advice:

If you are thinking of working for WebsiteDesignz:

  1. Make sure you are working through a 3rd party with escrow.

  2. GET ESCROW FUNDING for everything! No exceptions, you'll thank me later.

  3. Ask the 3rd party escrow organization if they'll support your contract if WebsiteDesignz decides not to pay you for any part of it (including promised commissions or bonuses). Stephen and RC have spent many months perfecting their contracts so they can get away with screwing contractors out of money, so make sure you know what is enforceable in the contract and what isn't.

  4. Don't let them get behind in weekly payments. After all, if they can't even pay a few hundred dollars in weekly base salary, how in the world will they pay you the thousands they've promised you in bonuses or commissions later on?

  5. Don't even consider working for them if you don't appreciate someone swearing and screaming at you every day. I understand how stressful work can be just like the next person, but being sworn at and screamed at over computer speakers is not my idea of an enjoyable workplace.

  6. Ask to speak to employees who have recently left the company. My guess is they won't let you, because no one leaves WebsiteDesignz happy.

  7. Ask for a PHYSICAL address for the company, not a PO Box. If you deside to take legal action down the road this information will be important. Also check the city and state information on all documents (some say Kansas City, MO, others reference Deleware, and even others indicate a New Orleans location).

  8. Be certain that there is a clause for arbitration as an only resolution option. It will cost you nearly $1,000 to file, but it is a lot cheaper and easier to do online than trying to deal with multi-state lawyer issues.
If you are considering hiring WebsiteDesignz:

  1. Ask to talk to current graphic designers and programmers and ask them how long they have worked there. If you talk to more than 2, there is a good chance it'll be less than 3 months. Stephen will likely give you some story about why that is "not possible" but then if he's not willing, keep that in mind before you make a decision to work with them

  2. Be sure you get solid deadlines and make sure they keep them. Their staff turnover is so rapid that deadlines are always an issue.

  3. When a staff member is no longer working on your project ask to speak to them and find out why. You may decide not to do business with them again.

  4. Ask to speak to the elusive Martin about doing business with Website Designz.

  5. Keep in mind that Stephen will try to tell you that the person that made this report, or anyone else that has anything negative to say about Website Designz, is a "crazy person" and should be ignored. You have to decide for yourself, but don't just take the word of this site, do your own research and ask questions. You'll soon begin to see the holes in his stories.
I am quite sure this company has "happy customers". Just be informed before you do business with them. After all, you're the one spending thousands of dollars in programming and development fees! YOU should be asking the questions, not being told what to think.
Best of luck!

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 08/31/2011 09:30 AM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/website-designz/internet/website-designz-stephen-fitzsimmons-scam-artist-rips-off-contractors-with-bogus-employment-771395. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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Updates & Rebuttals

#1 UPDATE EX-employee responds

Unpaid Contractor

AUTHOR: Smith and Team - (United States of America)

I never once missed a day of work, often was asked to stay late, and behaved tactfully with all of the team members, including bosses. I was invited to client calls and asked to assist people in other job specializations with their work, in addition to my own. 

I was employed here for less than two months. I voluntarily quit when I did not receive any payment for hours worked OR in promised bonuses. I spoke with other employees before leaving to find that none of them had been paid in months either.

I finally received payment after filing an arbitration on Elance six months after quitting and threatening a lawsuit. Steven called me yelling and cursing, calling me a "pencil d*k motherf-----," a nickname which my friends and I had a good laugh about and has (unfortunately) stuck until this day. In the course of being berated, Stephen let it slip that I was being sued for $25,000 for violations of my NDA and libel. I notified Stephen immediately that I had begun recording the call, providing the name and phone number of our family's lawyer, and warning that any further contact would be considered harassment and that I would seek the advice of my lawyer myself if he was to call again.

I was paid within a week. Treat this guy like you'd treat any other bully.. and, obviously, quit working with or for him immediately. Others in this thread have shown solid evidence that support our claims. If you get caught with your pants down, we told you so.
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#2 Consumer Comment

Another small prove...

AUTHOR: Peter Pumpkineater - (Poland)

Below you can find part of email exchange with Stephen:

I am sorry but after reading comments and taking a look at your website I am forced to call our meeting off. Please consider my application cancelled.

Thank you for your time. I wish you good luck finding right candidate.

Yep you're right. I absolutely do not need another hand wringing contractor who doesn't have enough common sense to ask questions instead of making assumptions. Enjoy your unemployment.

As you can see thats just another prove there is something seriously wrong...
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#3 Author of original report

Update on Rebuttel by Stephen

AUTHOR: tunafishcupcakes - (USA)

Here are some additional statistics supporting the complaints that have been made here and elsewhere regarding the scam company Website Designz, who have been allowed to continue their scam through Elance and elsewhere.

Over a two year period WebsiteDesignz has created 134 postings for PHP programmers, virtual assistants, QA specialists, designers and others, as of this date. While they have chosen individuals for over 50% of these posted positions their cash outlay through Elance is only $162,930. That's just over $2,000 for EVERY contractor hired. That is barely one month's pay for a salary between $10-15 an hour.

This means that they go through contractors at a very high rate and any contractor who has been promised bonuses (which they SWEAR they pay through Elance per Elance policy) have to be non-existent, as there is no WAY they could actually pay additional bonuses based on this small per-contractor amount.

Additionally, they continue to hire the SAME position, over and over and over and over again, resulting in the over 134 postings in a two year period. These figures indicate that they replace approximately 3 people every month. This is a pretty high figure considering how small the company is.

But most significantly is the high number of complaints from former contractors, all indicating the same thing -- ripping them off with bonuses that never get paid, being sworn at and yelled at, travelling expectations that can never be met, and others. The few positive comments they have received are from contractors working with the firm for less than one month -- and most always, never working for them again. 

These statistics just reiterate the same complaints heard from other contractors -- this company cannot be trusted, and Elance is helping them continue to find new people they can scam and take advantage of.
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#4 UPDATE EX-employee responds

Working for WEbsiteDesignz has been a nightmare

AUTHOR: has-worked-for-websitedesignz - (Antigua and Barbuda)

I had the misfortune to work for a brief time with this company as a contractor for a developer job and I have to fully agree with this report and the other one that exists on this website. I've also had the misfortune to be sweared at, watch other people get cursed on in joint meetings, and seen radical changes within hours to payment promises, project specifications and deadline expectations.

This post is about two things: a rebuttal to what the owner of the company said as a reply to this report and my advice for other developers that might want to work for this company.

First, their stats on Elance (all time): 165 Jobs, 307milestones, 417 hours billed. A different story than the 300 jobs they claim on Elance. And yet not a single complex website in their portfolio. If you want to, take a look at the average opinion of the contractors. On most pages you'll see at least a terrible review. The would be more bad reviews if not for the cancelled deals with both providers and contractors. Elance just be aware that this company is ripping off a lot of contractors with excellent score. Take a look at all those contractors that had their jobs cancelled with Websitedesignz. Average retention rate based on Elance data is less than a month. Their linear approach to website design means that they don't know how to use Agile development and includes poorly defined specs that will change over time.

Secondly, developers beware: if you work with this company, your pay will most probably be less than advertized. On my first project i was promised a pay that was 40% lower than the minimum advertised. They also say that the payment is on the 15th but they will hand you a contract that will state something different. This may still seem like a good deal if you're from a poor country but there's more: don't agree to a contract that says you will be paid when the project is complete. This guy will go out of his way to delay the project by adding more tasks to it. Also, don't agree to give up your rights to your work before you get paid for it. Just read the reviews mentioned, this has happened many times. In fact, if you're reading this, you might want to consider what has been said in every report about this company so far: you'll probably, like the others, be cursed at, you'll probably, like the others, hear things like 'you don't leave today until this is finished'. I've had managers before, and I've never been told things like that because they had realistic expectations about what's humanly possible and what isn't. For this guy, everybody is moving too slow. You'll probably be given a project that has been started by somebody else. You'll probably get specs that are too vague to work with. You'll probably not get anything in a contract about terms and payment, and what project you're working on. If you still decide to work with this company and see these signs, you'll soon realize what a mistake working for this company is.

Sadly, I expect more reports like this to show up. I hope the potential developers see them.
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#5 Author of original report

Don't believe this report, do your own research

AUTHOR: tunafishcupcakes - (USA)

This report was not created to discuss the circumstances of any one individual or any one situation. Based on Elance feedback I am only one individual with the same issues. If one were to truly look into this situation, it would be fairly easy to see the pattern simply based on information easily found on the Internet.

You don't have to believe this report or the writer. Simply ask questions before investing time or money with this firm. Make sure that payments and requirements are fully outlined. And be willing to take a risk if pay is based on commissions or bonuses.

If you intend to hire this firm, ask to speak to clients who have left. Ask to speak to current clients about meeting deadlines. Ask to speak to employees who will be working on the project, and employees who have recently left.

Check all the feedback on their Elance profile. Notice how many times the same position is advertised and how many people are hired to do the same job, many of whom have made similar complaints as those outlined here. Note how many others have referenced Stephen's anger issues and his treatment of his employees. Notice how each time, Stephen indicates the employee was "fired" or otherwise incompetent for their position. Why continue to hire people from Elance if they all end up being incompetent?

This firm has their scam down to a science. They find people willing to take a chance for the hope of commissions or bonuses with no intention on paying more than the base salary, and only that because they don't want trouble with Elance where they get much of their work. If this isn't true, then why are they always hiring for the same positions over and over again? On Elance the same positions are constantly being advertised, and each time a new person is hired for the same position every couple of months.

Don't take the word of this report. Ask to speak to others who work there, and ask them how long they've been there. Do your own research, then decide if you'd like to do business with this firm.
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#6 REBUTTAL Owner of company

A Terminated Contractor

AUTHOR: Website Development Company - (United States of America)

What is paramount to this company is the satisfaction of its client base, period.  In general, if an employee or contractor fails to perform and it jeopardizes the success of a client's project or the relationship of this firm with the client, then the employee or contractor is terminated without question.

This post was written by a recently terminated contractor.  She was hired to fill the position of site planner.  Her contract called for an hourly wage and bonuses based upon awarded projects.  Her responsibilities included the creation of site plans for clients.  A site plan is defined as structure/page scenarios, graphic design points of development, and programming points of development. Everything was going fine for this contractor until she decided to stop working for 4 days without notifying management.

This contractor would check in on a daily basis, accept her assignments and then supposedly would get to work.  When the clients' respective account managers started receiving complaints that their plans were not complete, the contractor was questioned about it.  She indicated she hadn't "been feeling well" and just had not done anything.  Sure a voice was raised at her.  Clients were left with expectations which were not fulfilled.  Cussed out?  Sworn at?  Abused daily as alleged in this post?  Absolutely not.  This contractor was with the company for less than 60 days in a full time active capacity.

We categorically deny the contractor's remaining assertions.  The contractor was served by our company's attorney with respect to numerous violations of her NDA.  Apparently she is upset.  If I had to deal with our company's attorney, I don't believe I would be happy about it either.

However, her actions absolutely showcase this individual's lack of character and integrity.  These two qualities are integral to the trust relationship we expect from every member of our company's staff.    If we can't trust you, we will not employ you.  This site planner was terminated with cause due to the lack of the very foundation of ethics and integrity necessary to deliver what is expected, when expected by the client. 

This is why she was terminated instead of management attempting to work the situation out with her in a mutually beneficial way.  If the contractor's work had been 100% complete instead of 25% complete, her commissions would have been paid.  Instead, we paid her hourly invoices in full and terminated the contract.   There were no provisions in her contract for a partial bonus payment in exchange for partial work products.  She was paid just under $4,000.00 for her services.

Our feedback and standing on Elance will speak for itself.  We are ranked in the top 100 providers out of over 300k.  We are in the top 10 providers from North America.  We have completed over 300 jobs with excellent feedback.  We employ the most excellent talent we can find.

We are incredibly picky regarding who this company will employ.  And indeed, we do demand the best of the best because our clients demand the best.  Not everyone is capable of rising to this standard.  Those who do are richly compensated.  Those who do not, like this individual, do not make the cut.  But they are definitely paid what they are due.
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