Is Bubblews A Scam?
Bubblews is a platform for writers to create content on the internet. Ads are included by Bubblews, and the company claims to share ad-revenue equally with writers. There are a number of obvious rules against spamming, plagiarizing, or being abusive.
Bubblews supposedly allows writers to withdraw their earnings when they reach 50 dollars. However, there have been a number of unpaid withdrawals, leading to widespread complaints and condemnatory articles on the web (see below). The most common complaint is that Bubblews pay the first 50 dollars before refusing to pay subsequent earnings.
Con-men refer to this tactic as the convincer. Just as a drug dealer gives you a free taste, or a gambling machine gives you an early payout, the goal is to build the victim's confidence before taking advantage of them.
This article describes an experiment that was performed to test if Bubblews honors their agreement to pay writers. As the most common excuse for unpaid earnings is that the writer broke the rules, the experiment involves a foolproof way of avoiding any transgressions.
The Bubblews Experiment
I joined Bubblews in June 2013 and wrote 71 high-quality posts in a month. I reached the 25 dollar minimum payout soon after, and I requested to be paid via Paypal. Not surprisingly, they paid me because I had followed the rules. Note that the payout limit used to be 25 dollars.
Then, I stopped participating on the site. I didn't write, like, or comment. I simply checked my Bubblews balance each day to watch the earnings accumulate from my old posts. After 3 months, I reached the 25 dollar limit for a second time.
When I requested my earnings, I was greeted with utter silence. After a week, I sent a message to Bubblews in which I politely asked about the status of my payment. This was ignored. After another week I sent a sterner message. Still nothing. To this day, those messages have not been responded to. Bear in mind that, at the time, Bubblews promised to process payments within 3 days of requests.
Given that the Bubblews shills regularly respond to articles like this with the usual "you must have broken a rule", let me make this next sentence as clear as possible. Without writing, liking or commenting anywhere on the site, there is no way I could have broken a rule between the time I was paid and the time I wasn't. They didn't pay me for the same content that they'd previously paid me for. Did they change their mind about it without telling me? The only plausible conclusion was that Bubblews is a scam.
UPDATE: Bubblews Paid Me Eventually
After 3 months, I finally managed to get through to Bubblews. They paid my redemption and apologized.
If I hadn't contacted them again after all this time, I don't think I would have been paid. Somehow, they were able to check their records to verify I was owed a payment. This leaves the unanswered question of why I had to contact them to be paid what they already knew they owed me. If Bubblews have this information to hand, then it suggests they're deliberately withholding money from authors who don't bother to spend months chasing up lost payments.
For this reason, I am unable to confirm if my payment issue was accidental or intentional. I remain skeptical about Bubblews and will still be advising everyone to stay clear of the site. At the very least, they have a lot of problems when it comes to paying people.
A Common Scam?
As I clearly didn't break any rules, the Bubblews shills claim that my payment issue must have been a technical malfunction. This seems unlikely because Bubblews ignored all my attempts to contact them. Also, it's worth considering these very similar experiences:
Distant Mind says: “They don't always pay and are very slow in processing payments. This is what keeps them (and all other long terms scams) afloat - they pay you from time to time, especially in the beginning.”
Alexis Pedrico says: “some were paid for a few months and then it stopped. They owe me $125”
MG Singh commented: “The site has no customer service and emails are never answered. I don't recommend it at all and mark my words a site that pays selectively cannot last.”
Tahni says: “I received the first payment … I am still waiting on my second and third payments, I have contacted them by email and have not received any answers.”
Qeyler talks about the victims: “These suckers will write readable prose. These suckers will get hits. These suckers will get that first payout… [but] Bubblews is a scam.”
Rohanfelix commented: “My experience on bubblews... honest writing... 75 dollars owed... no payment or response, and it's been 3 months”
Cendrine Marrouat says: "They will pay you the first couple of times, and then suddenly forget you because they are swamped."
Paxwill commented: “Fact is, many people have been random victims of non-payment at Bubblews, and Bubblews knows it can save money simply by ignoring these people's complaints and not paying them. Scam scam scam.”
Derek Ayre commented: "I got paid the first time and felt that people who were complaining about non-payment must be breaking the rules ... [however] It's been several weeks now and it is obvious they are not going to pay me, yet have deducted the whole of my $25 from my account. Looked for a way to quit the site, but they don't offer one apart from e-mailing them. As I get no response, why bother!?"
Vampirate commented: "Every day I read more and more complaints about missing redemptions. My roommate attempted to redeem for only the second time. She didn't receive it. She e-mailed. No response."
I hope you noticed the common theme. Most were paid the first time (the `convincer') before their confidence in Bubblews was exploited for all it was worth. Some poor souls reached as many as 5 further payouts before they finally gave up. What I've quoted above took only 30 minutes of research to unearth. There may be thousands more who were treated in exactly the same way. Indeed, The Lyric Writer recently noted that: “More and more people are having trouble getting paid.”
The Convincer Payment
There are a number of reasons why scammers give you a `free taste' to convince you they're a legitimate business. In Bubblews case, they may be paying the majority of people that first redemption because:
- They want you to market the site for them. Bubblews know that their writers will be people who blog prolifically elsewhere. Indeed, how many "I got paid" articles and blogs have you seen? Were you convinced to join after reading one?
- They want you to sign up your friends and family. If you convince at least one more sucker to join, then you've done your job.
- They want you to attack the unpaid folk for them. In the comments section below, and on other similar pages across the web, people are accusing others (and me) of breaking the rules. Presumably, they didn't read the experiment above before commenting.
- Most importantly, they want you to keep writing. If you write enough to reach a 2nd redemption, then Bubblews make their money back by not paying you.
- They want you to doubt yourself. They want you to think "I was paid before so I must have broken a rule this time". When Bubblews succeeds in this regard, you might continue writing on the site for months before finally giving up. Some of the cases cited above show that people can reach 4 or 5 unpaid redemptions before calling it a day.
Of course, not everyone will have the same experience. Some will never get paid, while others get paid all the time. If Bubblews treated everyone in the same way, they'd be figured out pretty quickly. Based on the experiences collated above and the comments below, `pay first but not later' appears to be the norm, but not the rule.
Is Bubblews scamming some people?
The Warning Signs
Perhaps my expectations for this `too good to be true' service were naïve. It's not like the warning signs weren't there:
- Bubblews is listed as an untrustworthy site on scam adviser (see picture below). Posting this picture on their site will apparently get you banned.
- When writers request a payout, they are required to enter their Paypal details before clicking a `redeem' button. Once clicked, all record of having any money on the Bubblews system disappears. Your earnings are reset to zero, and you're left to assume that they received your request. Without any confirmation email, you're completely at their mercy.
- Bubblews make a promise to respond to all emails/messages within 86 hours. However, they appear to ignore most attempts to contact them, especially when the topic is unpaid earnings.
- When Bubblews forget about your payment, they don't provide an explanation. They simply ignore you. The imaginary "rule breakers" aren't told what they did wrong because they didn't do anything wrong. Their posts would have been deleted if they did. Recently, Bubblews apparently started emailing some of the people who they claim have broken rules. However, it appears that most unpaid authors are still receiving no communication.
- This interview presents many of the problems and outstanding questions plaguing the Bubblews operation. Though the founder of Bubblews promised to answer the questions, he never did.
My Reaction to Bubblews
After 3 weeks without a response, I deleted all of my content from the site. That really is the only option when you believe someone is scamming you. Don't live in hope that it was all a big mistake, or that you're somehow at fault for breaking an unknown rule. If they're scamming you, they would rather you blamed yourself. Just chase them up, and if they ignore you, delete it all.
I told everyone I know about the outcome of this experiment, and many deleted their posts as a result. By all means, claim your first payment, but don't expect them to keep coming. Those that genuinely do get paid every redemption tend to be those with enough followers and readers to do some serious damage to the site.
Update: January 2014
As explained in the updated section above, I was finally paid after 3 months. However, I still urge extreme caution when approaching the site. The fact that they knew I was owed money suggests they are still withholding it from people who haven't bothered to chase up their payments.
Update: September 2014
Bubblews are still withholding money from a large number of authors. Based on the number of people commenting here and on other pages around the web, the frequency of complaints has gotten much worse in the last two months. It's clear that many have followed all the rules. I can say this with certainty because one unpaid author is someone I know very well in real life. He's an old guy from England with excellent writing skills and a good heart. He wouldn't dream of plagiarizing, like-exchanging, or doing anything dishonest.
- How active you are on the site.
- The number of connections and readers you have.
- The ad-revenue that you and your readers bring in.
- The value that your personal data fetches.
- The value that can be extracted from selling your browsing history. This is mined from cookies that Bubblews stores on your computer. They help ad companies to relate particular demographics to particular products.
- The value that can be extracted from the interests, beliefs, and preferences that you write about on Bubblews. Like your browsing history, these are used to create a profile of the sort of person you are and what you're likely to buy.
- Whether you criticize Bubblews or not.
Rules appear to have very little to do with it. If you're not worth enough to Bubblews, they won't pay you. For the reasons outlined in this article, I believe the first received payment allows for a smaller `worth' than later payments.
I also now believe my payment issue was intentional, and the belated reimbursement was part of a scheme to silence their more vocal critics. Indeed, other vehement critics on Hubpages were given hush money at the same time. Those with lesser voices got ignored.
My advice: If you're not paid, then kick up a furor. Write a condemnatory article about Bubblews and publish it on Hubpages or another blogging site. Also, I would suggest sending them regular emails to show you haven't forgotten. Put any replies you get into your condemnatory article. Let the world know how these people operate.
Experience shows they `might' give in eventually. Do NOT consider writing towards another redemption until you are paid, as they will likely interpret that as you accepting the situation, and you will run into further redemption issues later.
Update: November 2014
According to commenters here, and others I've spoken to, Bubblews are replying to emails more than they used to. However, the replies tend to make little sense. They'll ask in broken English for information about your payment, or tell you they're looking into it. After sending you in circles for weeks, the end result is typically the same: nothing whatsoever.
Recently, Bubblews drastically increased the delay between applying for payments and receiving them. For a site that appears to be regularly scamming its writers, this is a clear profit turner. Those who aren't paid will be losing much more time, effort, and earnings to the scam than they used to.
© 2013 Thomas Swan