Condo marketing company’s own employees posing as buyers from China to drive condo sales; busted by blog

Mac Marketing poses own employees as condo buyers with backing of parents from China

UPDATE: this is getting better and better. Parody twitter of Vancouver’s condo-boosting blog, Vancouver is Awesome. And this expose in Business in Vancouver magazine, one of the few press outlets that doesn’t take advertising dollars from the developers who dominate this town. BIV also ran this follow-up story on the Vancouver Is Awesome blog/Bob Rennie/condo marketing relationship. Thanks to Glen Korstrom and Bob Mackin for those stories. Here’s a Storify of some of the Twitter fracas that ensued.

Here’s the story. It’s the case of a condo marketing company, MAC Marketing, posing two of its own employees – who are not even actually sisters – as sisters scouting for condos before their parents arrive from abroad carrying wallets. The photo above is a screenshot from a CTV news broadcast. This little bit of fraudulent theatre is a bald-faced attempt to drive speculation in the condo market, which is currently in an unprecedented slump, in the hope that it will start up again. Obviously the danger is that local buyers will pay far too much for starter condos if they believe the hype that money from abroad will reignite the still-inflated yet stagnant Vancouver real estate market. This story is reprinted from the Globe and Mail, in response to the blog that originally broke the story. Read on:

“A Vancouver real estate marketing company is apologizing for having two employees pose as prospective homebuyers in televised news segments on a supposed spike in sales around the Lunar New Year.

The two young women – presented as house-hunting sisters, whose parents would be in town from China for the New Year to help them purchase a condo – are in fact an administrative assistant and a sales assistant with MAC Marketing Solutions, president Cameron McNeill confirmed to The Globe and Mail.

“All I can say is that I deeply apologize for having misled the media for being there,” said Mr. McNeill, who said he was out of town over the Family Day long weekend when the news segments aired on local stations, including CTV and CBC. “We were busy and I don’t know if the girls were put up to it, or just put on the spot, or if it happened spontaneously. Regardless, it was wrong and I take full responsibility, on my own shoulders.”

The news segments were on the supposed spike in sales activity in the weeks around Lunar New Year – a pattern Mr. McNeill insists is “100 per cent true.” In one news segment, the women tour a suite in downtown Vancouver’s Maddox condo development – which is being marketed by MAC. One woman tells the camera they cannot afford to buy on their own and must rely on assistance from their parents.

“We definitely like it here, but we have to talk to our parents,” she says. “Maybe tomorrow we will bring them here.

“If we like this place, we have to tell them and they make the decision. Usually, Chinese people like to buy during this time.”

In reality, the women are not even related.

The misrepresentation was first spotted by the local online community and then dissected on local blogs, message boards and comment sections. Some noticed that a Google search of one of the women’s names turned up her Facebook and LinkedIn pages – both since deleted – which stated she worked at MAC.

Mr. McNeill said there have been discussions about the incident within the company but it is not yet known who is behind it.

“I’m trying my best to figure it out,” he said. “Will there be some heads rolling? I don’t know.”

When asked if the ploy may lead to terminations at the company, Mr. McNeill said it would depend on the depth of responsibility.

“If it was blatant and on the hands of one person, then I think there might be some severe repercussions, but it’s hard for me to answer that without knowing all the details surrounding it.”

He said he is not aware of anything like this having happened at the company before.”

More to come.

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