Ask The Headhunter readers have been asking for it for years, and it’s finally happened. A consumer protection class action was filed against TheLadders on March 11, 2013 in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, for:
breach of contract,
money had and received,
breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,
violation of the Arkansas Deceptive and Unconscionable Trade Practices Act, and
The suit alleges that:
“From its inception until September, 2011, TheLadders scammed its customers into paying for its job board service by misrepresenting itself to be ‘a premium job site for only $100k+ jobs, and only $100k+ talent.’ In fact, TheLadders sold access to purported ‘$100k+’ job listings that (1) did not exist, (2) did not pay $100k+, and/or (3) were not authorized to be posted on TheLadders by the employers.”
Click here for a complete court-stamped copy of the class action complaint.
UPDATE March 19, 2014
Angry, frustrated customers of TheLadders who say they were scammed finally get their day in court. Federal Court OK’s Suit Against TheLadders: Breach of contract & deceptive practices
“Unlike other online job boards which are free to join, TheLadders charged a premium subscription fee to members for ‘hand-screen[ing] every job post and recruiter so you only see real, open $100k+ jobs in your area.’ In reality, however, its job postings were not hand-screened. They were ‘scraped’ from the Internet without authorization from employers or recruiters, and the employment opportunities were not for ‘real, open $100k+ jobs.’ Moreover, TheLadders had no process in place to ensure that these posted positions ever truly existed, remained open, or that they met its minimum advertised salary criteria of $100k+.”
If you believe you were scammed by TheLadders, you can obtain more information from Bursor & Fisher, the law firm that filed the complaint.
I’m laffing my ass off.
Not just because I’m happy TheLadders is finally getting exposed for its stupidly arrogant empty promises. But because it took so long for an attorney to read TheLadders advertising:
“Only $100k+ Jobs. Only $100k+ Candidates.”
In 2010, a very unhappy CFO who had spent loads of money on TheLadders — and even more of his valuable time — ran the numbers and reported that the numbers just didn’t add up. There was no way that TheLadders could deliver the number of “$100K+ jobs” that it promised: TheLadders: A long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled PR machine.
TheLadders has been lying for years. Evidence from TheLadders’ own customers — reported here and elsewhere — has revealed again and again that TheLadders’ database never had “only” $100K anything in it. TheLadders own representatives were admitting it to angry customers in customer service chats — that at least one customer had the good sense to save.
When it seemed job hunters doubted the database, TheLadders’ chieftain, Marc Cenedella, came up with a claim even stupider than that: TheLadders had experts checking over very single job to make sure they’re always $100K+.
Yah, right. Not long afterwards, after repeated reports that TheLadders was still lying, Cenedella dumped the $100K lie altogether. The salary checkers are gone (Oh, I’m laffing my noogies off, Marc!) and any salary goes!
But the lawyers at Bursor & Fisher saved all the advertising graphics and the lies and stuck them into a class action complaint. Funny how stuff like that follows a company around — and drags it into court.
I expect Marc Cenedella is gagging on that jpg right about now. There’s more where that came from, Marc. Read the complaint — and don’t miss all the nice graphics you paid for over the years. The filing is loaded with them.
A little history
TheLadders is not a new subject on this blog. We’ve covered the company’s questionable behaviors many times. No one should be surprised that Marc Cenedella’s company is being sued. Here’s a selection of posts:
TheLadders: How the scam works
TheLadders: A long-shot Powerball lottery tucked inside a well-oiled PR machine
TheLadders: Job-board salary fraud?
TheLadders’ rigid set of criteria
Got a Ladders story of your own? Tell it, tell it — now maybe something will come of it! Did you save some documentation that no one would pay attention to before? Share it, share it! Now somebody’s listening.
So glad to hear The Ladders is finally getting some serious heat. I’ve never been comfortable with them, and as I’ve interviewed candidates who work in ‘sales’ there, I’ve learned that they treat their employees horribly and have unreasonable expectations for them.
Hope this pans out for those who have been “scammed”.
I have no doubt about the truth of the negative press about the ladders. But, if the Ladders is half as bad as portrayed, I can’t understand why the rapacious class action law firms have not had them for lunch. Also, where have the state’s consumer fraud protection agencies been during this scam? I’m sure they have been notified by dissatisified customers.
My learning curve about unemployment started in Detroit in 1982 when I was “allowed” to resign in the face of a lie by my boss. Too late, I learned that the way I had been raised (if you lost your job, it had to be your fault) was no longer true. I lost everything and more on that go-round and never really recovered financially.
The next time “it” happened (at 5p Central time on a Friday so I could not reach anyone at company HQ on the East coast), I stood my ground and made them fire me – and started job hunting while I collected six months’ unemployment insurance. (It pays to keep copies of your HR paperwork – Nick knows what he’s talking about!)
I tried to find work in another section of my field for those six months as I traveled from San Antonio, TX to (and throughout) California, living out of my car for the most part, and landing in downtown Chicago (sleeping on an old friend’s couch).
Finally that friend got a job and got one for me, too, that wasn’t what I had been looking for but certainly paid bills. And then, after just a year, all of our jobs disappeared.
Believe me, I understand due diligence; I’ve done my share over the years. And still I fell for a whopper that included a $5,000 payment plus additional charges for reference materials and mailing brochures and postage, not to mention the bus/train fare for all the classes I went to. (I was on unemployment again.)
There were no interviews for employment, only for acceptance by this ‘elite’ placement firm – Bennington-York, Ltd. – that was connected to what seemed to be a reputable group – the Midwest Assn. of Human Resource Professionals, Inc. There were all kinds of assurances and promises of help and leads ($5K worth), but once I ‘graduated’ those disappeared and I got no response from the firm.
The next job I got (from that same group of friends – whaddya know?) was working for a man who knew the mayor and his associates, and he put me in touch with the State’s Attorney’s office. People come, people go; after a few years I learned they had brought suit against the agency for fraud and that I might get my money back someday. Nobody could find the principals, though, and I believe nothing ever did happen.
That’s my sad story, and yes, I have kept the notebook full of exercises and evaluations and crap as a reminder to NEVER PAY FOR A JOB AGAIN!
I’m with John Zabrenski. How did it take this long? Surely lots of recuiters and job seekers knew almost from the beginning.
You are totally 110% correct about this! When I started looking for a job in the personal lines insurance industry several years ago, I got an email from TheLadders…and instantly bypassed it b/c I thought it was a scam. Obviously it was!
Thank you for informing the public!
@John and Addie: Four different law firms have contacted me over the past couple of years, because they were doing investigations into TheLadders’ practices. Attorney Yitz Kopel at Bursor & Fisher was the one who dogged it – credit goes to him.
I really think there is a problem of perception here. The world just has come to believe that this is the way it works. Job boards make big promises, but break them. Who cares?
Companies with sterling reputations chew up job applicants and spit them out – who cares? “That’s normal.” We all know it. So no one complains.
The problem is, it’s not acceptable – any of it. The bar for professional, responsible behavior by employers and job boards has dropped so low that the world now believes that watching the emperor trotting around with no clothes, family jewels hanging in the breeze, is just the new normal. It’s not.
I think this took time because lawyers are like business people – they find it easy to excuse too much. I think it’s no accident that Kopel is a young attorney, fresh out of law school, who hasn’t been worn down by the status quo. He looked at the facts, and saw dirty deeds. He filed the suit. And that’s good.
Now perhaps we’ll see some suits against other job boards that act like their lousy performance is no problem — and perhaps against employers who mislead job applicants through the recruiting and interview process.
Nick, I’m famous! I’m getting emails that my blog post is cited on page 9.
“Nick, I am celebrating with you and I am going to see if I had any archived messages from them to pass along to the legal firm. I think I do!
I was a Ladders customer for between 2007 and 2009. That was when I wised up.
It was when they ran the Super Bowl commercial. I lost it. How could a company who initially promoted themselves as “exclusive” do that? It was a deep violation of their brand promise to me. I felt cheated, because I know part of the cash I paid them helped pay for that commercial.
Anyway, all Ladders did was connect you with “resume writing mills” where you spent more money, and I have also had several other pay for a job experiences, and I wonder why they have not been exposed as well. Thank for all you do for us.”
The problem I have is that clearly this went on for far too long. In addition, it appears many others are doing the same thing in these type of businesses related to jobs and resumes without the ramifications yet (where were the so-called officials?) I ask was that man the only man who ran this? Moreover, who made money, big money as a part of this? I doubt it was just one person. If one goes down let them all, go down (and in my opinion that includes any officials who knew about this prior to this turn of events.)
I do not care for the holier than thou attitude I see from some. I do not take any pleasure in anyone in trouble, or going down for whatever reason, because in my view there is always a back-story, always.
There is always a story behind each story and it is their individual situation to deal with (and that includes anyone who allowed themselves to be taken in) but I certainly never relish in the idea of it, especially when it does not concern me.
No one is pristine. Yes, what goes around comes around, so also remember YOU do get back what you give out ten-fold, always both in thought and deed either good or bad.
So a run of the mill job board cannot provide $100K “talent” or $100K jobs? Shocking I tell you!
Good! They should also be sued for their resume scam. They provide free resume evaluations, and ALWAYS trash the resume submitted, no matter how good or bad it may be. One woman hired them to create a resume then later submitted it for a review–and they trashed their own resume.
Thanks to ATH, I scrupulously avoided The Ladders. Thanks again, Nick! You truly have our backs.
It is about time! I hope they get run out of business.
@Donna: like you, I, too, avoided the Ladders like the plague, thanks to Nick.
This is what I got when I just cancelled my premier membership after 5 years –
Account Settings: Cancel Membership
You have canceled your Premium membership.
You will not be charged again. Your access to Premium expires on 02/18/2014. After that date, you will be downgraded to a Basic (free) membership. As a Basic member, your resume will no longer be searchable by recruiters, nor will you be able to contact them directly. Turn on auto-renew to be searchable .
We hope you enjoyed Premium. Thanks again for reading!
Thank you Nick for taking up this case! I’ve been one of those scammed and time and time again tried to get some relief from customer service with no answers whatsoever. I too went through the resume eval just to see how credible it was. I was shocked by the poor advice I was given and humored by it at the same time since I am a writer by virtue of my skill set so I know how to craft a results-driven resume and a successful cover letter. Now, how do we opt in to be part of the class? Go get ’em!!
@Debra: To get involved in the case as a litigant, use the link in my column above to contact the attorney at Bursor & Fisher. I’m not in the case — I just write.
I have been a subscriber to theLadders for about 12 months – in two turns. The same job posting appears multiple times on innumerable occasions in their search agent reports which I receive multiple times each week.
If the positions are “handpicked” why are two different postings by recruiters not converted into just one?
I also get notifications of expired jobs. I click on a hyperlink and I get a “This job has been filled” pasted page. Do I have to believe that barely a few minutes after I receive a notification, the position is filled – that too around midnight?
I have always knew that something was fishy about theLadders job site, I could just never put my fingers on it. I am glad that the truth is finally coming out about the site.
I just read a great posting by Seth Godin about marketing and swagger. It’s apropos of TheLadders getting sued:
“One way that marketers (of any stripe) make an impact is by displaying confidence… We often assume that confidence means that something big is on offer… The problem with swagger is that if you’re the swaggering marketer… if you don’t deliver, you’ve done nothing but disappoint the person who believed in you… swagger without substance can be fatal… The rule is simple: it’s essential to act the part. And it’s even more important for it to be real.”
TheLadders ain’t for real. And the swagger may be fatal.
Check out the rest of Godin’s post:
You have been relentless in exposing the evils of Marc Cenedella and his scam called theLadders. It kept me away from it because I knew your thoughts about the job board (can I really call it that?) were not only correct, but that you kept your word to expose them for what they are. It appears as though Jobfox, run by Rob McGovern, has already gone down although I think he was spared a class action suit by closing down before it came to that. Hopefully any company practicing such scams will be exposed.
I belonged to The Ladders around 2008-9–perhaps a year–until I realized it was a scam. A few months ago, I got an invite to a free upgrade to Premium for a couple of months, then extended. (At no point did I give CC info) Mainly I got nothing but useless emails with ‘a hiring alert with a job’. Clicking today on one of those useless emails, I got blocked from access. Then I got this note:
We have been unable to process your credit card to renew your TheLadders Premium membership.
Unfortunately, your Premium membership has been suspended. To renew your Premium membership and keep your benefits, simply update your credit card information.
Until you renew your Premium membership, you will not be searchable by recruiters or be able to apply to any of our jobs.
If you have any questions, or believe you have received this message in error, please contact us at 866-800-4640 or email@example.com.
We apologize for any inconvenience.
Click on the link provided and you get this:
Page Not Found
The page’s location may have changed or the page may be removed from our server. If you typed the address and feel that you may have mistyped, please try again.
Otherwise, here are some pages you might find helpful:
We welcome your feedback on technical issues like these. Please email us with suggestions.
Ladders is clearly trolling for unwary people to give credit card information and to renew. Hurting for money?
Or you get this if you click on a job:
Your Premium membership is no longer active.
You may have chosen to end your Premium membership. If you wanted to remain active, there may have been a problem with your credit card. Check the information below or enter a new card.
I live outside the US and Canada
Unfortunately for me, i have had my membership since 2008 and not one position i ever applied to resulted in a response, even if it is a no. i personally looked at some of the job descriptions and sometimes you can tell who is the employer. if you note the job description and then go to the employer’s site, the position simply does not exist. i am a highly qualified professional in my fiels at one of the largest bank and at VP level and i just find it ridiculously strange in 5 yrs, not one lead or feedback. Also, couple days ago i emailed them asking them to cancel my membership and refund me for the rest of the subscription period. well guess what, now i suddenly cannot even login as the system will not even accept my login info nor can i request new password, because the system does not recognize my user id. Coincidence? what a waste of my trust and very hard earned money. 5yrs worth too. Hope they dont continue to charge my credit card. the other thing is there is no custmer service number for me to call to insist on cancelletion.
does anyone know their customer service #?? nick?
DanPer – According to Donna several posts up, they were once giving out the number 866-800-4640. Good luck!
I subscribed to TheLadders.com in mid June 2013 to apply for a single job which I was led to believe was exclusive to TheLadders. I found a marketing job posted on TheLadders. Although I was able to figure out that the job was with Husky due to some of the language in the posting. However I could not find that job on Husky’s website to apply directly. When I clicked on apply from TheLadders.com, it took me to their payment page. Since I was really interested in that job I decided to sign up for their best deal, a 3 month plan. After subscribing I clicked the apply link and the fraudsters at TheLadders redirect me to Husky’s website, where, you guessed it, job was long ago expired. I emailed TheLadders my concerns and basically it was an “eat crow” moment. Although their subscribe page led me to believe that this was an exclusive job, their agent “Timmothy S.” said that it was not exclusive and that it must have just expired. I promptly turned off the subscription auto renewal.
I will say that generally their email advice is OK but it is free anyway. At the time TheLadders were no longer promising that all jobs were above $100k, but they were still claiming exclusive high paying jobs. They are a scam and I would not recommend them. Use their free subscription and the google the job description to find the job. You can also look to see who the recruiters are that pull your profile and the connect with the recruiter via LinkedIn.
@Steve C: Please see the column I just posted based on the story you told about your experience with TheLadders. http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/6959/theladders-update-still-sliming-its-customers
The ladders dupes you into giving up your resume as if there is a position available, but this is often not the case. They sell their access to anyone willing to pay and grant anonymous access to users who list themselves as recruiters. That’s not validated. I found a hiring manager with an anonymous profile that downloaded my resume. I contacted the Ladders and asked about this practice and was told either a job didn’t exist or it was a confidential search. They would not divulge any information about the user that downloaded my resume and the user had no jobs or other identifying information listed.
So there it is. You sign up thinking there are valid jobs. And then anyone willing to pay The Ladders can buy your information. No job or identity validation necessary.
For the few posters here who express doubt that Ladders is unscrupulous, I’ll provide a few examples from my experience. Background: I’m an MBA with an consistent track record leading teams to award-winning new products and reliably delivering profit growth exceeding 100%/year. My first industry award was in the early 90’s and the most recent one was in 2017, and I have driven multiple patents.
1. Ladders will constantly pressure you to buy up-sell services because you aren’t viable, somehow. I was part of a big layoff at a Fortune 500 firm in the mid 2000’s. The firm informed us 3 months in advance of the end date of our business unit. They provided placement assistance, including pro resume grooming and interview coaching by a contracted firm. They also reimbursed any of us who wanted to use an external recruiting firm. So, I subscribed to Ladders. I posted my groomed, vetted resume. Ladders quickly called me. The caller said he’d reviewed my resume and based on Ladders’ research, I would be much more likely to get interviews if I he re-formatted my resume from paragraphs to bullet points (for a hefty fee.) My employer’s pro service had provided me with multiple resume formats to choose from, so I simply replaced my paragraph-style resume with the bullet-point one. I contacted Ladders to check if this resume were more acceptable. I got a call next day from another Ladders staffer. He claimed that Ladders experience showed that my resume would attract much more attention if they converted it from bullet points to paragraph format!
2. Ladders blatantly supports illegal discrimination. During the first 3 months of very targeted application through Ladders to over 100 job postings, I got exactly 1 interview for a job in the same niche where I had just delivered 10x revenue growth in 3 years. The interview quickly shifted from knowledge/skills/achievements to questions aimed at revealing my age. Since I was still employed by the Fortune 500 firm, I reviewed my interview with my employer’s contracted job search staff. Their conclusion a) the age-seeking interview questions were unethical and b) I handled the questions well. Ladders frequently posts articles on various topics, and around this time they posted an article on the importance of appearing young. For example, the Ladders article specifically recommended that men and women should seriously consider dying their hair, etc. I posted a reply to this article, noting that this actively promotes age discrimination. Marc Cenendella (Ladders CEO) publicly replied to my comment, emphasizing that it’s completely understandable that companies are biased toward youth.
3) Ladders consistently violates anti-SPAM laws. Anyone can easily prove this, today. Sign up for a free Ladders account on an email address that’s not critical to you. Sit back a few days and marvel at the sheer volume of Ladders spam you receive. Now try to unsubscribe, using the link in the email. Sometimes you’ll get a page saying you’re unsubscribed. Other times, you’ll get a page with 3 radio-button choices; 2 of the choices are * unsubscribe from this mailing or * unsubscribe from all mailings. You can switch between the radio buttons as you wish (they’re mutually exclusive.) But there is NO button to submit your chosen request. And regardless which of the 2 unsubscribe pages you get, you will continue getting SPAM from Ladders.
@Phillip: That’s a good summary of how the firm operates. I don’t pay them any attention any more. But it seems nothing has changed. It’s completely understandable that smart job seekers are biased toward value and credibility.