Read between the Internet Scams: A tale of two companies

By: Dr. Robert C. Worstell

A review of two coaching companies, Prosper Inc. and Thrive Learning, LLC.

From a consumers view, they could both be scammers. And the common consensus on complaint boards is to keep your money in your pocket and your credit card locked up tight so no one can read the numbers - especially over the phone.

But is this "head in the sand" approach worthwhile? Will it actually get what you want in life?

What both Thrive Learning and Prosper are dealing with is coaching. You pay someone to show you the ropes and the shortcuts so you can get going better in life. This is all that higher education is all about in our colleges and universities. But now, this need has expanded online. So that credit card might be a way to save time in training - meaning that your profits will arrive faster if you pay for some help at the beginning.

There is also another commonality in this: while a scam is pretty commonly referred to as "you don't get what you pay for", both of these companies have the common approach that "you get out what you put in".

In other words, if you simply pay for someone to do the work, you should be handed the result. This is the classic consumer approach to living. And I've seen more than one case where the consumer thought they were buying into a pre-built business - and ended up building the business themselves - or backing out after trying.

A scam also has this flip-side - promising the stars, but not even delivering the dirt under your feet.

Most of the companies out there that are commonly accused of "scamming" are independent contractors. The lead provider is contracted by the sales floor to give them names of paying customers - likely prospects for a sale. These sales floors (call-center telemarketers) also contract with fulfillment centers (like Thrive Learning) to deliver the goods they sold.

Thrive actually goes to these sales floors to carefully coach them on how and what they do in their training processes. And it's up to that sales floor to brief the prospect on exactly what they will be getting for their money.

Thrive is on the delivery end of many different sales floors - each of them with varying ethics levels and scruples about the business they are in. And that delivery end can get pretty dirty real quick when someone is selling "get your money back in 90 days" when it takes longer than that just to learn how to build a website, let alone market it with advertising, get a solid product line, build a loyal customer base, and build a competent customer relations back-end.

Can't be done, actually. Unless you already had a business format and programs in place that you could borrow from.

Statistically, it takes at least a year to just build a business. Getting it profitable can take as long as five years. And most start-ups never make it past three years.

It's not surprising then, that Thrive Learning has a percentage of something like 95% of the posts on complaint forums being negative.

Prosper, Inc., on the other hand is running about 50-60% positive in these same forums.

What's the difference? Prosper is all in-house. They do their own lead generation, sales, and delivery. So there is a tight liaison within the company when there is poor performance from any single part. Delivery is going to have a few terse words with Sales if that customer has been sold the moon and stars, but the program is how to paint their porch. And Sales is going to have some words with the Lead area if they are getting customer prospects who aren't intending to actually make the program work. You can't get a person who won't get out of their rocker to scrape paint chips and caulk cracks so a proper coat of primer can be applied before the final coat on that porch they are sitting on.

Thrive is an independent fulfillment center. They don't do sales. They contract with sales floors. And depending on the quality of those sales floors will tell them what quality of customers they are going to get and how well they will work with them to get their sites built and prosperous.

Thrive doesn't have leverage over the sales floors. They only make about 10% of the total amount of sales. So any refund usually goes back to the sales floor to honor. And about 10% of their clients refund, on average. A $7.000 pacakage will net them $630 - which they then have to keep their operation going for the next year they service their customer.

And a year isn't even enough to get that customer off the ground and flying. I've heard that they also do extra coaching as necessary, which is just good customer service - but this again eats into the paltry amount they get to do their services.

Prosper, on the other hand, is able to utilize the entire amount paid by the customer to ensure that they are properly coached and cared for - and so they and and do offer programs that last three years or more. And can afford more in-house training of their coaches, as well as pay better to retain their coaches. This is simply a matter of economies of scale.

Both companies have their failures, at least according to the complaint boards. But read the percentages and you can tell the difference. This description above tells you why that difference.

So when you are researching a "scam" on the complaint boards, keep this in mind.

Or keep your money in your pocket and try to learn it yourself for free.

Your choice.

(Respective trademarks mentioned herein remain property of their owners; neither Thrive Learning nor Prosper, Inc. endorse any product mentioned in this article.)

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If you've been a victim of an Internet scam, visit for resources, links, and tools. Dr. Robert C. Worstell is a prolific author and blogger, having published over 4 dozen books. His latest research into Internet Scams resulted in a new book, "Scammer Jammer" and is available in pre-release at in print or as a download: Dr. Worstell may be contacted through his website for speaking engagements and interviews -

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