What Is Referral Key? (My Referral Key Review. Free Steak Aplenty)


Referral Key is one weird force to be reckoned with.

Three times in the past week I have received email invitations from someone in my address book that state, “If you’re taking on new clients, I’d like to include you in my private referral network to send you business leads through Referral Key.”

All three times these invitations came from a person I sort of know on varying degrees, and all three times these invitations have confused me immensely. So I decided to investigate what new, hot thing I was missing.

On the surface, Referral Key seems to be a way to get and give referrals on stuff. Although the concept of “cash rewards” sounds a bit spammy, to say the least, I’ll go in with an open mind and think that maybe that’s just bad website copy. I click forward, to presumably confirm my dear friend’s referral.

Here’s where things got confusing.

In accepting the “referral invitation” from one person, I had to enter in some data in order to “accept” the invite — never mind that I’m not entirely sure what that means. Most importantly, though, I encountered the following drop down menu, where it became blindingly clear to me that I didn’t (seem) to fit in.

I needed to choose one area of expertise, and these were my options:

Without seeing anything remotely near my true area of expertise, I consider clicking “computer” (not dentistry, although I was tempted, as you see above). However, we all know, “computer” is a pretty bad description of a silicon valley business type. I ended up choosing “consultant” — semi-accurately lumping myself in with everyone who has learned at least one skill in their lifetime they like to tell others about.

It was then that the weirdness of cash rewards re-entered the picture.

Cash, L.L. Bean, Callaway Golf (three decades into my life I still don’t understand what they do…), and wait…what’s that?

Yes! Steak! Who doesn’t want to refer qualified business leads for…wait for it…steak!?!??!!

I click on the steak of course, and then enter in to view my profile.

Amazingly, I already have a direct message waiting for me! Someone already knows I’m here!

Referral Key has taken a key from MySpace and my very own Tom has sent me my first welcome!

The Tom of Referral Key is Lewis Weinstein and it says he’s been in business 5 years. I’m assuming not at Referral Key, but you never can tell with these stealth start-ups;).

Most enticingly, though, I see that there’s a little wrapped present at the bottom of Tom’s Lewis’s icon that promises me $75. I love presents, and quickly click through to find that if I refer someone to Lewis I’ll be bringing home a whole lotta steak.

Meanwhile, I’ve got another direct message in my inbox, this time from someone saying they’ve already taken a “quick peek at my profile” (I haven’t uploaded one) and who also happens to offer a whopping $1,000 referral prize in the bottom of his profile picture. Although I am once again dazzled by the conversion of extra zeros to steak, I’m still confused…who do I refer, and why?

Granted, it seems like I could annoy everyone I’ve ever gotten the email of by sending them an invite and hope that 20 of those people sign up for Referral Key and one of them somehow finds their way to be a client (for what I’m not sure) of Lewis’s…but…that someone how just doesn’t seem like a very effective way to get steak. Nor to network.

Back to square one, I decide to look up some Referral Key reviews of how people are really using the service. I like Mashable, and I see they gave the following entirely, thoroughly cautiously tepid comment:

I’m not entirely invigorated by the fact that the “concept of this service is solid”, so I looked for more people giving reviews of the service. And I see this.

Well that’s funny, I think.

Let’s review those four reviewers again:

  • Boston Business Journal
  • The Boston Global
  • Investment News
  • Constant Contact

Now, if you’re a regular Jane like me with some experience with Constant Contact (say for sending newsletters for your non-profit organization), you may also be confused why they are listed alongside the Boston Globe as reviewers of the bright new service that is Referral Key.

Some digging found this quote from them:

It’s cool that Constant Contact likes referral key, but I’m a bit baffled why they are listed as an endorsement. Since, on the surface, they seem a bit of a competitor (and not a trusted international news source), I would assume that’s because Referral Key is using something of their back-end. Then I re-read the first phrase again. Ah yes, “working with” – collaboration confirmed! (Objective endorsement negated.)

My Conclusion on Referral Key:

After 15 good minutes my most concrete conclusion about Referral Key is that I should offer myself as a Consultant “referral” to Referral Key to provide them the valued advice that a) I am not a dentist (aka their expertise categories need re-hauling), b) Constant Contact is not a good endorser for their homepage, and c) simple case studies of Referral Key efficacy are needed to entice people to sign up.

Your Review?

Like all new things, Referral Key has the one in a million chance of being the next great thing. To get there, though, it’ll need some referrals (!) from people who have used it well.

Have you used it well and lived to tell? Tell us how, as I’m a) eager for mind-changing and b) always up for the possibility of earning FREESTEAKFREESTEAK off of my referrals for dentistry consultations.

Interested in starting a blog of your own? See my free guide to setting up a blog, and get a discount on website hosting through the provider I recommend. For more advice on blogging, sign up for my free blogging tips.

Comments

  1. Great review and thank you for saving all of us the time. You deserve a few steaks for doing this!!

  2. Thank you!! Great job reviewing then and saving all of us the time. I think you deserve a great steak for the review!

  3. A friend of mine on Linkedin sent me a link to the site. Like you said there was not a listing for my expertise so I used other, but was unable to put in a full description. I use a server email just in case I start getting juke mail from the site. I just signed up a few minutes ago on my phone and wanted to bookmark on my computer and the first thing I saw when I search for referal key was reviews. That got me worried because usually where there are reviews there are troubles. Oh well guess it can’t be any worse than sales spider.

  4. Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Taking a few
    minutes and actual effort to produce a good article…
    but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and don’t
    seem to get anything done.

  5. Thank you for this post! I’ve gotten these several times and they are tempting as they use my mail for kids business name as the subject line. As I haven’t been working that for a year or so, and have been missing it, it sets off an endorphin or two to jump back into it. I know I’m not really in a place to do so right now, though. But these emails make me want to. So today I almost filled in all the info, then I decided to do a quick Google search. So I appreciate your taking the time to spread the word.

  6. Over Board says:

    Great review! The email I got from Referral Key looked very suspicious – e.g. oversized font for the link. Glad to have found your review before I did anything silly. I had secretly hoped that it was a competitor to LinkedIn (which I use but would rather not due to its aggressive push to upgrade for every tiny bit of extra functionality). Sadly it was not to be. Thanks again.

  7. Free Steak… I misss\ed that!? I might have signed up even faster! I found the invite a little creepy because I didn’t think I knew the person who sent me the invite… or the person who sent me the second invite as a colleague of the first ‘friend’ just a few moments later. I had noticed, by chance, on my website stats just an hour earlier that there was someone spending a lot of time on my site, bouncing around like 20+ pages (BTW_ thank you!), so I assumed the two were related and that someone was checking me out and extended the invite. Guess you could consider me optimistic! Regardless, I will not abuse my LinkedIn connections by sharing any such contact info. Thanks for the great post! I will look to gather more info and most likely be unsubscribing ASAP!

  8. Great information. Keep up it.

  9. Hi Claire, I met you at COCA in St. Louis last year.

    A few years ago, I wrote about Referral Key as well (click above). In the comments, one of the founders of the service accused me of writing a “spear piece.” We had a nice back-and-forth on that. Then, about a year or so after that, he called me and we had a much nicer discussion. He explained to me that they had made many improvements to the service. I don’t think Referral Key liked where my blog post was placing in Google results.

    I found your post because someone left a comment supportive of Referral Key that was eerily similar to one on your blog, and a reader of mine brought it to my attention.

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  11. Same Same says:

    High five Claire, everyone loves you. Great article and review.
    Not a bad idea, horrendous execution of it.

  12. Ben Lovejoy says:

    I, for one, am grateful to Referral Key for existing, sending me an email and thereby triggering a series of events that led me to find your blog. Subscribed. Downloaded e-book gift(s)(thanks very much) and deleted that Referral Key email. Glad to be aboard.

  13. Julesville says:

    Echoing all the others – thanks for the research. I think we should all pitch in and crowdfund you a steak.

  14. Well done Claire: great and helpful post: in a nutshell, it’s a stupid pointless and annoying system to get as much reach with as little value as possible, trading on people’s desperation to get referrals!

    If you want referrals, get feedback from clients, then get permission to ask for referrals (it’s a 3 step process, can be systemised, but definitely NOT about cash (or steak!) rewards!)

  15. I greatly appreciate your advise in this blog post Claire! I was just spammed and when I compare my brief interaction to what I’ve read here, it doesn’t appear that much has improved. I also find the threatening tone in the unsubscribe response desperate and unprofessional.

    “Unsubscribe – I never want to exchange referrals with professionals I know.”

    As if Referral Key has control over how I conduct business. Very tacky.

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  17. Marcus Davenport says:

    I’m glad I read this. Maybe they should link up with LinkedIn to gain some relevancy. They should integrate their website and add it as an additional service and remove the free stakes and use a point system that you can use on the website whether it be sit at the top of the time line for local vendors or sending gifts to friends. I’m surprised this spam has been around for so long I’m just getting it now.

  18. Hilarious in-depth review of your experience with Referral Key. Having been tempted to take it for a test drive after receiving several “invitations”, methinks I will sacrifice the FREESTEAKS and pass. Looking forward, however, to reading more of your posts!

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  20. I also tried to unsubscribe but the site wouldn’t let me, claimed it didn’t recognise my email address.

  21. Claire, love your article, thanks for saving me time and effort.
    I have received 3 of these jaunty invitations this morning alone. I am a recruiter in Cambodia and doubt very much I am ever going to be able to collect on my free steak!
    Keep up the good work.

  22. Samuela Finn says:

    Folks… STEAK??? With all due respect: 1. WHO pays me for sharing my information 2. WHO pays me for referring other people and 3. WHY would I want to be paid in steak when I am vegan??? LOL I find this hilarious, I was invited by a guy on my LinkedIn network, an ex-client I dealt with when with my previous employer, and I sort of disregarded his email, but now that I know SOMEONE pays me STEAK instead of Tofurky I must sign up!!! Dear God… PS Claire, thanks for the post!

  23. Thanks for taking the time to look into this Claire – received one of the emails today and thought it all seemed rather odd and you’ve confirmed that it most definitely is :)

  24. gourmetfrench says:

    Thanks Claire, great post and infos… I got “my” referral key this morning and the result is that I will follow you now… I guess you are a good investment of time!!
    :-)

    • Thanks for the info Claire. Glad the world contains folks like you. Mine came from a friend who I thought might really have business to send my way, but a small red flag showed up and I am glad you were here to verify this for me.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Hi Claire!
    Thank you very much for writing a very informative review of ReferralKey.
    Cheers,
    Kim

  26. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the secret to knowing it’s a hoax… All the dates on these post are extremely close together. It’s just a lot of people getting crap emails in hopes you’re stupid enough to click yes.

    • Sometimes getting your name on a list is good advertising.I joined and imediatly had my telephone ringing asking me what this is about.I think its a great way to get your name out there.Sure there will be spam,but its free advertising.The People who called me asked me what this was about,we talked and also exchanged our business wants.

      • That’s pretty much what happened to me. I let RK scoop my Linkedin address book. About 90% of the folks joined. About 10% asked if it was really coming from me. Telephone calls led to discussing business possibilities. It may not be what they had in mind, but it gave people reasons to talk, so that wasn’t a bad thing.

        One said that allowing private message allowed RK to access your entire computer. I haven’t seen that yet. Anyone else?

      • Referral Key User says:

        I just started using referral key too, and if you are already networking in other social atmospheres then this is perfect. We exchange business cards, but can’t keep track of them all. When I login to referral key I get to see the list of clients or other business owners with an option to send them a referral, perfect, I give the info and done. As far as spam and advertising, to me its no different then weeding through your site here with all the adds on the right, but the spam gets caught in my spam filters

  27. Great post, Thanks!

  28. I just got an invite today…googled it and ended up (happily) here. Thanks for the info.!

  29. Thank you for doing the leg-work (so to speak) on ReferralKey. It strikes me as a ponzi scheme of networking sites.

    • Marty, I just received an email asking me to join. My first impulse was to find out if it was legit, because it, also, seemed to be a Ponzi scheme.
      Claire, I’m grateful that you did some of the legwork for me.

  30. Balazs Vegh says:

    Thanks Claire to uncover this. I’m happy I found your blog after googling for referral key.

  31. Stacey J. C. Hovland says:

    ERMAGERD!!! Claire saves ALL THE HEADACHES FROM REFERRAL KEY!! (you deserve a Meme)

  32. Thanks Claire for enlightening us and making me smile in the process! Nerd question – I am looking hard but cannot see a date for this article about Referral Key. Thanks!

  33. It’s always a bit baffling to be invited to something and not know what it is. When you click over there (thinking ‘well, I’ve been invited. Perhaps I should show up.;) you land on a page that simply asks you to accept the invitation. Not an ‘About’ or’FAQ’ or ‘How it works’ page in sight. Considering how hard it is to get people to sign up for stuff even when they know what it is, I’m not overly optimistic about the success of this site, even with the free steak ;)

  34. Jessica Burde says:

    Well, I guess I’m glad I got that Referral Key email, b/c searching for info on referral key led me to this very interesting blog. So it wasn’t a waste, even if it was a stupid, spammy piece of BS I want nothing to do with.

  35. Referral Key is a waste of time. Their main business is building up their “member” number though a classic join and suck your contacts from other networks approach. Notice they have ads via AdChoices; By saying the service is free means they need to get any kind of person signed up to make the AdChoice ads pay off.

    Read through the posts people on Referral Key published (some below) will show you this is a site with little content policing, lots of scam like posts and a slimy feeling that makes you want to wash the keyboard off after visiting.

    Recommendation? Just avoid Referral Key.

    —-

    “How wealthy are you? Do you know how to calculate your wealth? I guarantee you there’s an unconventional secret that is effectively and accurately true than the norm. Feel free to contact Stewardship Finance for consultation of your Financial future.”

    or

    “B MAGIC VS Ill WILL SMACK/ URL – T”

    or

    “OFFICIAL LIVE INTERNATIONAL LAUNCH WEBCAST JAN-31-2014. BEST HOME-BASED WORLD-WIDE TRAVEL BUSINESS FOR YOU”

  36. Thanks for this post, Claire. I too was sent an invite from a LinkedIn friend, went to the link and couldn’t figure out what I was accepting from that page. Sounds like a self-perpetuating cycle that might have been a good idea at one point but seems to offer me nothing more than more spammage for my contacts and a steak dinner! Delete!

  37. Fred Harriman says:

    I received an email from a “Dave Simpson” who’s email was “member@referralkey.com”, and he claims to want to “send business my way.” I plan to block all future emails from referral key.com. There is no “Dave Simpson” that I know of from any business in the past. …really… as if this guy knows me… My advice is to block it.

  38. While I may not get any free steaks, I’m actually glad I received a referral key email invite just so I could google it and find this article. Dentist or not, I’m referring people to you Claire! You’re hilarious.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your informative post, it save me from mistakenly subscribing to a bogus site.

  40. Hi Clair, Great winning post, and thanks for doing the great research. Needless to say I will not be subscribing to Referral Key, however I will be subscribing to your blog and following you on Twitter and LinkedIn. Keep up the great work. Best wishes, Antonio

  41. Thanks Claire, very helpful post, I will be subscribing to your blog. Thanks again.

    • I received an invitation to Referral Key today. Since I know the name of the game is to get my name out there I went ahead and signed up.
      Honestly, I do not know if it spam or not, so at this point I guess I can hope in one hand and see what I get in the other.
      Due to the nature of my business, Scandinavian genealogical research, anybody with Scandinavian ancestors are potential clients, so if I can get my name and website in front of lets say 10.000 people who otherwise would not know of my existence and one or two decides to contact me for a project it may be worth while for me. Only time will show. Another thing is that neither my physical location or the location of my clients has any bearing on weather I can be of service to my clients because most of my research is done on the Internet. I have had clients on five continents and even though I am located in the United States I can honestly say that some of the smoothest transactions I have had has been with clients in Australia and Europe through the use of emails and PayPal.

  42. Like a lot of the other people who have commented, I received a referral email. It was form a linkedin connect that I’m not that familiar with. Before completely disregarding, I decided to do research and ended up here. It is one of the vaguest companies I’ve ever heard of. I suppose the purpose is to recommend people and/or businesses (?) to one another but it feels more like affiliate linking, a chain letter, and pyramid scheme rolled into one. I’m gonna pass. The owner should do more to clarify the company’s purpose and make (potential) users feel secure.
    mysocalledfashion.com

  43. Thanks for the post, Claire. Although I’ve received my first invite from a LinkedIn contact, I am not going to sign up at this stage. It seems like a good idea but in its very beginning. Anyway, a great post! I will definitely subscribe to your blog :)

  44. Thanks. Saved me some time and stress.

  45. Thank you Claire for writing this post. It was very helpful. I’m also going to pass it along to the person who referred me to Referral Key. Thankfully, I ALWAYS DO RESEARCH before joining any online program. I learned my lesson years ago. Now I go in with my eyes wide open!

  46. Great post. I received my first invite today and, wanting to do my due diligence, I did a quick review search and found your site. Because of your great post I will not be subscribing to Referral Key…but I did subscribe to your newsletter. All the best to you.

  47. Thanks for this post. It was very helpful.

  48. Thank you for writing this post. It was very helpful. I’m going to pass it along to the person who referred me to Referral Key.
    Karen

  49. Tomer Michaeli says:

    Great post Claire!

  50. Wow!, Thank you Claire and thank you Joseph the web guy. Steering clear. Sorry Claire, no pun intended.

  51. Thanks for the heads up…. just got an email from someone I don’t know very well about it… but if you ever need any creative art, please check out my website!

    thanks
    Ann

  52. Thanks so much!

  53. Claire -
    Thank you SOOOO much for taking the time to write your review. You have no idea how much time you have saved when you collectively count up all the people who have read your review instead of wasting time taking action on a fruitless endeavor.

    I have a busy day and even though I rarely have enough time to spend posting a comment, yours definitely warranted one, so a huge kudos to you!

    Fondly, Jeanne

  54. Wow, great review of RK! I just received an invite today from someone I semi met on a social network. So glad I googled it and found your review. I love your writing style too. It is so like something I would write lol! Thanks for all your research….saves the rest of us a lot of grief. BTW..if anyone wants a REAL free lead system and marketing tools….check it out.

  55. Jane Garrett says:

    I am now about to send the second invitation from them to my spam folder. I hesitated and googled ReferralKey and came across your excellent research! Confirmed my suspicions. Thanks
    Jane

  56. The net has spread to the UK, so Referral Key has been busy. You have very neatly confirmed my suspicions and saved me the time of delving deeper. Thank you. Since this has generated so many replies, maybe we should all network amongst ourselves… so, anyone looking for a fantastic holiday can contact me!!!!

  57. Love your writing style, Claire. And even more do I love your expose of this spammer. I was suspicious of Referral Key because I couldn’t figure out how they make money!

  58. Hi Claire – or should I say ‘AHHH’!(to the dentist in you) Thank you so much for your post, as I also received the RK email today and began to research as I did not want to sign up for one more thing, and I also did not trust. I was glad to find your review in my research, thank you for showing what they really are, so we can be safe.

    Thank you to ‘Joseph- web designer, Oct. 8th’ post also, as the review made me not want to sign up and reading Joseph’s review of contract for them made me want to mark it spam, so as not to receive it again!

    One final note, because Constant Contact is now ‘working with’ RK, I wonder if they will begin pulling from this account as well? I wanted to mention another possible database that is similar: Oprius.com, (maybe better in my opinion) as an alternative and very easy to use. I have used it for over five years. I would not be happy if my database or my client’s data was invaded to collect data for others. My clients trust me to keep their data safe and uncompromised.

    Thank you again for reviewing RK and bringing it to light!
    ~Tammy of Tammy’s Office Solutions
    http://www.tammysoffices.com

  59. I all the time used to study piece of writing in news papers but now as I
    am a user of net so from now I am using net for articles or reviews, thanks to web.

  60. Claire your a star – Thank you

  61. Hi Claire,

    i got a referal key too. Looked suspicous to me therefore I googled and found your nice report.
    I love your writing style!

    Thanks a lot

    Regards from germany
    Michael

  62. Hi Claire – Thanks so much for this thorough and very entertaining piece of research. Saved me a lot of headache! I definitely think they should pay you consultancy fees…

  63. Xavier Allen says:

    Hi, Claire -
    Thank you for this post! You saved me a mountain of headache…do not need another fire to put out.

  64. Thank you Claire! You saved me (director of operations) and my employer a lot of headaches with your post! We are a tiny young family company (5 years young)
    No thank you Referral Key, I think we prefer the old fashioned way of rolling up our sleeves to improve our business!

  65. Thanks a lot for this complete article it helped me a lot. I don’t trust many pages, so I also made some research about it, glad to find your post. It helped me a lot.

    Have a great day!! & Thanks for shareing.

  66. Thanks for this info Claire, we received so many emails from our reliable contacts from Referral Key and it looks like a spam. Good we did our research first before signing up.

  67. Did you get steak?

  68. Be very wary, when you read through the terms and conditions that you have to accept in order to proceed and register your account, it says that they do not delete your data even if you close the account. It also says that it reserves the right to sell on any personal or company data that you enter in to their system forevermore:
    “The Company retains an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free right to duplicate, improve, distribute, publish, sell, remove, retain, add, process, analyze, use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, any Information you provide directly or indirectly, on the Site, including but not limited to any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques or data, without any further consent, notice, and/or compensation to you or to any third parties.”

    They also have huge charges of $1000 or even up to $10’000 that they will charge you for breaching their terms and conditions in any way. They say that they may not even warn you before pursuing you for the money! :
    “If you post content in violation of this Agreement, you agree to promptly pay the Company One Thousand Dollars ($1,000) for each breaching item of content. We may (but shall not be required to) to issue you a warning before assessing damages.

    If you copy, duplicate, reproduce, sell, re-sell, or exploit for any purpose any content in violation of this Agreement, you agree to pay Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000).

    If you use computer programming routines that are intended to aggregate records or reports from the Site or the Services or otherwise damage, interfere with, disrupt, impair, disable or otherwise overburden our Site, you agree to pay One Hundred Dollars ($100) for each report or record that is aggregated, disrupted, damaged or otherwise affected by you.

    In all other cases, you agree to pay the actual damages suffered by the Company, including, but not limited to attorneys’ fees and court costs, to the extent such actual damages can be reasonably calculated.”

    I would strongly recommend that if you dont want your personal details being sold to the worlds spammers and who knows what other companies or people, then dont give them to this company.
    And if you dont want to be pursued by debt collectors for perceived breaches of contract, dont enter in to this very one sided contract in the first place by opening an account with them.

    If however you happen to have any web design leads and you need someone to pass them on to, look me up…..

  69. Hi Clare
    I’m glad that I found your post.
    I received the invitation and look spammy.
    I still don’t know that to do, if register or not.
    Regards

  70. Sam Lowry says:

    Thanks for the analysis. My invitation came from a LinkedIn contact, but I’m also a Constant Contact solution provider/associate. I’m not sure what the point-of-entry of these spammers is: Linkedin or CC?

    Spam has a longer shelf-life than steak, but it’s easier to get rid of.

  71. Thank you for this, Referral key just smacked of spam, I’m so glad I googled and found your post!
    I can get my own steak, TYVM!

  72. So glad I found your comment. Seems Im more likely to receive spam than steak, which I hate, so will delete .. and check through for bogus Linkedin contacts.

  73. Bob Davidson says:

    Hi Claire,
    Thanks for all of your investigative work. Like you, I have been receiving emails from LinkedIn associates that I really do not know. As I got curious, I checked my LinkedIn contacts and everyone that I have received an email from to go to the ReferralKey link does not have a phone number so that I could not call them to find out about this service. Thanks to you, and every one that has posted, I will immediately delete those emails.

  74. This has been very helpful, thanks! I like that you put some humor into your writing as well. I received the invitation from a respectable friend who owns her own business but decided not to sign up after I clicked on the link. So, I just deleted the email thinking that was it. This morning I had another email that was letting me know that my invite was about to expire, which got me thinking that maybe I should go ahead and sign up. I ended up having doubts right after I accepted the invite, which is when I decided to do a search and found your blog. I cancelled my account before filling in the rest of my profile. It might be legit, but it’s not for me. I think this is geared more for people who own their business and are looking for clients.

  75. Oh Yay to you for doing all the research! I received my first Referral Key invitation today and headed to Google to see if anyone knew anything about it.
    Your very thorough research has reiterated my initial questions – “‘What the heck is this?” closely followed by “What the heck does it do?”, and so humorously confirmed my thought that no-one seems to have a clue.

    How nice to have the opportunity to receive steak, for seemingly doing, um…. well nothing much of anything.
    Actually, now that I think on it, receiving anything for doing nothing seems awesome! We should all wish for this. Referral Key may just be the answer to all the prayers of each and every lazy bugger on the planet.

    Hmmm…. I’m off to get some free steaks ;-)

  76. Thank you so much Claire !

    I have also experienced to receive this kind of mail in what it was hard to believe if it is real mail or just a spam. I also tried to search for more information about this RK and finally, I saw your post which helps me a lot. I don’t think that RK is worth to sign up because it seems to make me spam my other contact.

    But if you think it is good and valuable to be a part with RK, please suggest me!

    Thank you,
    Ratanak

  77. Judith Watkins says:

    I have received an e-mail inviting me to join. I ignored the first one. Got a second one that said if I wanted to “unsubscribe” ??????? I NEVER subscribed in the first place!

  78. Kinjal Dixit says:

    I got the point early on in your post and then spent longer than I care to admit going through the interesting comments spanning over 2 years.

  79. Robyn Tuttle says:

    Extremely helpful. Thank you, Robyn

  80. Anonymous says:

    +1

    thx

  81. Randy Enman says:

    Thank you for your insight and investigation on this Claire.
    Another one for the trash can!
    Ciao…

  82. Julie Larson says:

    I got an email from a linkedin colleague and clicked the link. The uploaded all my linked in contacts. I got an out of office reply immediately in my inbox and I thought…what the heck. Little did I know that they send out invites on my behalf WITHOUT MY CONSENT OR KNOWLEDGE!! There are people in my linkedin (like my retired Father) that would be puzzled at the email. I even got a scathing email from a linkedin contact that I should have removed, but had neglected to do so. I am furious that these people can send out spam on my behalf. I am sure this is against the law and I plan on doing something about it. I sent out apology emails to all my contacts telling them the were spammed…great…

  83. Thanks for this write-up Claire. I received an invitation a few days ago but didn’t act on it. Toady, I received a reminder, so copied and pasted the text of the link (I’m an old hand at this!) out of curiosity. In the couple of years since you wrote your post, they haven’t updated their categories. Doing a quick bit of research I came across your site. I must say I’m glad I did. This is one I’ll definitely be avoiding.

    Best regards,

    Martin

  84. joe beck says:

    What I have found is they are data mining from linked-in I got a e-mail from one of my friends on linked-in asking me to join , I checked back with her via linked-in and se told me she had NOT sent the e-mail to invite me to this site ! I then went to my ” who has looked at your profile page ” on linked in and found a “someone on web power had looked at my profile , when checking back with my friend it seems she had also had a visit from someone from “web power ” my advice to anyone getting a e-mail from a so called friend is not to open the link to the invitation it is just a scam

  85. After joining referral key after responding to a request I spent 3 days responding to my Linkedin contacts on wy they got this email…tainted my A+ social reputation…not a happy camper right now

  86. Michael says:

    Wow a gal who still eats steak! Thanks for the review, just got hit with a random RK request. Very helpful.

  87. Thank you, Claire, for sparing my time, and doing this with the great sense of humour :)
    Reading an article saved my time and made my day :)

  88. Great post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and I am impressed!

    Extremely helpful information specially the remaining part :) I maintain such
    info a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a long time.
    Thank you and best of luck.

  89. Thanks for taking these informative few steps so we can cautiously proceed wisely.
    I like your article, your steak, and the cut of your jib~

  90. Hi Claire,

    I was getting similar emails & today, thought of joining it. Compared to your review, there are many changes I see :

    1. The list of profession is much less, more focused on marketing.
    2. There is no money involved. At least, I didn’t get the $75 update, just a minute video showing how you can use Referral Key.

    I don’t know how it will work out but hoping that its not a spam site.

  91. Thanks Claire.

  92. Thanks so much for the review Claire…. I too like many others it seems have had a strange email arrive in my inbox from Referral Key. Despite reading through their website I have NO idea what they actually do and I’m wondering if they may work well in some industries but not others.

    If you don’t run a business that uses “clients” it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Your run down clarified I was not the only one stumped :)

    Thanks,
    Karen

  93. sammy smoo says:

    Thanks Claire, Think I will just stick to LinkedIn for referals

  94. Thanks for the review Claire… This has helped me make my mind up to ignore the requests and to continue on as normal with my internal referral and recommendation system that I already embrace.

  95. Hmm, not even one good review. I wonder….

  96. Very helpful …joined LinkedIn recently and started receiving these in the past week ~ thank you !

  97. This discussion has been so helpful and informative, and many thanks to you, Claire, for your investigation and humorous discourse on the Referral Key network. I’ve just zapped a half-dozen emails inviting me to join. Best wishes for happiness and success to all!

  98. UK based – received my first Referral Key this morning -had no clue what it was about and first look at their site didnt reveal much. Thanks for the informative review.

  99. Thank you for this post also. I have been receiving these emails from people I don’t know also. SO I like to do research. They go to my junk mail also. Social media is great and we use it, but I think word of motuh referrals are the greatest! You can still offer your clients a great offer and gain a new client without all of the loops and holes. Thanks for a great article. We’re on twitter too! @delaproductions

  100. thanks claire, you have, as well as all the other comments, confirmed my suspicians… Just another wannabe company. {sigh}

    Cool site by the way.

    And damn we’re a savvy group ain’t we?

    Go us!

    Jamie

  101. Hey Claire, I just received what appeared to be an automated invite from a friend. We exchanged notes, & she said: “I had no idea the system was going to email a bunch of people on my behalf. Kind of annoyed with it.” I told her that any referral I make is sincere. I never buy or sell referrals. Thank you for sharing this post.

  102. Joe Blough says:

    Worse than Angies List, the north end of a southbound mule.

  103. I appreciate all the work you put into investigating Referral Key. That is work well spent that I don’t have to do now. Thank you!

  104. Thanks Claire, glad to see your keeping everyone honest! Your review was perfect, truly appreciate your efforts and I even had a laugh along the way. PS I wont be signing up for the free steak! lol

  105. The nationwide Claire Fan Club of grateful readers grows by one more as I also tip my beanie and bow deeply in appreciate for your valuable public service.

    Seriously, well-done! I already had deleted the give-me-a-break invite from a casual non-business acquaintance, and wondered how many other antennae had twitched.

    No wonder your post earns pride of place atop Google search results, C D-O. You’re a one-stop shop of readable, researched reality-checking!

  106. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this, I wasn wondering what these invites were and now you’ve saved me the trouble of having to research any further!

  107. I’m glad you went through the process so I didn’t have to. I’ve been getting emails here and there for months, but today is the first time I decided to see if they were legit. I like your assessment because you kind of leave it open, but it tells me enough to know that I’m not bothering with it, even though I really am a consultant. lol

  108. Thanks for sharing Claire. There is only few famous DJ’s today who can actually charge 10.000 dollars or more and I ‘m sure it’s not hobby DJ Dave who is hammering karaoke hits at the weeding parties. I would never pay such a money for the artist with such a lousy home made webpage. It says a lot about your business and it also says everything about the Referral Key business strategy if they are referring to DJ Dave.

  109. Wow. You are brave to have went that far into the process. I wound up here because the site looked too suspect to go any further without doing some research.

    Thanks for taking your time to provide this information!

  110. this is all a farce. The supposed web site DJDavid.com is a thrown together basic site with no pricing, nothing..just some verbiage tossed together to make it seem like Referral is legit…don’t fall for it. Anyone can toss together a 2 minute web site and list bogus emails set up to go to the same folks that push the referral key…stay away… A rip off….

  111. Interesting review Claire, brought to my attention only after having signed-up for RK and inviting my LinkedIn contacts to join me.

    I interpreted RK as a platform where I could consolidate all of my contacts under one roof and interact with them professionally, with a view of developing collaborative synergies. Perhaps this assessment was incorrect, I have yet to really find out, as it’s still very early days. What I do see however, is that a vast amount of my contacts are already members.

    Notwithstanding, the first big surprise to me, was the fact that the referral email sent to my contacts reads like spam, and is very unprofessional in its presentation. To say the least, I was not best pleased with this, as it prompted a number of my “highly valued” professional contacts to contact me, to ask if the mail was actually from me! Of course, the mail was not actually from me, as it is auto-generated by the RK servers, albeit off the back of my valued contact base.

    When I checked the RK site, I saw no mention of cash referrals or the like, so perhaps this element has been removed from the site, I have no idea. Likewise with regard to the drop-down list of categories, I paid no attention to this, as their is an “other” category which enables you to custom as you wish, so the lack of appropriate categories is really irrelevant. What I did find a problem however, was the lack of multiple choices. I for wonder work in numerous sectors of the fine arts industry, and in several global locations, but in RK, I am restricted to one profession category and one geographic location (not unlike LinkedIn I may have, which presents me with the same problem). These social networking sites seem to assume that we must all live in one place, and I for one live between two opposing sides of the globe!

    To summarise, I do not believe RK is a scam, nor do I think it is spam. I do not understand how referrals can originate from complete strangers, because they seem to extract names from existing connection data-bases, e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Granted, the latter is pretty ambiguous, as Twitter is not at all a network of professional contacts, but the likes of LinkedIn most certainly is, and perhaps Facebook also, depending upon your personal use. In whatever case, I am signed-up, and have raised some of these issues with Chris Ott, so I’ll be interested to see what response it generates (if any!). I have to say that I am not inspired by the comments above, although many of them seem not to have tried RK at all, and therefore are perhaps commenting more on assumption that actual fact. Time will tell!

  112. I just go a couple of these in my inbox this morning. Much thanks for the explanation, you saved me from having to figure this out my self. Kudos and love the site!

  113. Think Ill just email all my contacts myself and offer them a nice gift in return for a referral…

  114. Mark Moulton says:

    There may actually be something more sinister going on. The day after I responded to an invite to Referral Key from a colleague, my gmail account was hacked to send erectile disfunction spam. I don’t know for sure that it was Referral Key, but I had used my gmail password as my Referral Key password. Are they selling passwords?

  115. Agreed, a bit dodgy. Received my first message today from someone I don’t know in Florida and I’m in Western Canada. Seems to have the potential to plug up “in boxes”.

  116. Hi Claire,
    I was reminded of a drink called Claytons’ that was available in Australia;

    “Claytons – the drink you have when you’re not having a drink”

    It seems that RK is the Clayton’s of referral programs …

    Thanks for saving me the time in verifying RK
    I too enjoyed your writing and informative ‘step by step’ guide
    Great work

  117. Thanks for your review, Claire — funny, clear and informative — I appreciate your style!

  118. Thanks Claire:
    Like others I truly appreciate your terrific review information. I sent a return email to the local contractor who sent me the invite because A) his name is the same as a wonderful hippy I went to college with in Little Rhode Island in the 1960′s- (he came straight out of Greenwich Village); and B) he says he’s a local contractor. If there’s some chance that John has found me, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to reconnect. If I get the phone call, whoever he is, I’ll let you know.

  119. Wait, so, what does Referral Key actually DO?
    I just started getting these invitations, and am not opposed to referrals or sales or money or even free steak… But at the risk of sounding dense, I still do not get what the site is supposed to do. Who pays who for what? with what? Person A refers a client to Person B, client busy something from Person B, so then Person B pays a fee to Person A, and then Referral Key sends free steak to everyone?
    I guess it is my biological imperative to say hooray for the internet and websites and stuff… I just still don’t get it.

    But, thank you, Claire, I really enjoyed your review and appreciated the time and thought you put into it. It is not your fault that I don’t get what RK does.

  120. THANK YOU! I appreciate the thoughtful, intelligent review on this latest “social experiment.” Gave me the insight I needed to look before I leaped…

  121. I think its another form of SPAM or those irritating pop-up ads.

    I marked my “referralkey” email as SPAM. And I also removed my Linkedin connection from the person who sent me the “referralkey”.

    If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. NOTHING IS FREE.

  122. Hello Claire,
    I just received a Referral Key request in my inbox. I recruit Managers/Execs in Production Agriculture, and I was quite suspicious. Your post came up first in a Google review. You saved me a tremendous amount of time in figuring the gist of this. One of your replies commented that they would like to see Linkedin or Facebook leverage referral bonuses. Linkedin does have an area where referrals can be offered but it’s not advertised prominently.
    Thank you for sharing your research. I think Referral Key better serves true dentists, plumbers, DJs, or similar service providers. Besides, “other” is a pretty big category!

  123. I think Referral Key is spam. From what I’ve gleaned before clicking on the link from other reviews, it seems like blind contacts. You’d do just as well to pick a page from the phone book. Also, I’ve had to mark the guy who sent me the “referral” as spam so he’s just burned a connection.

  124. Thanks for the detailed and witty review. I agree with the wait and see approach as I highly value my network (and integrity) so do not want to have anything that could be seen as spam sent to my contacts with my name attached to it.

    Personally, I’d love to see LinkedIn or a Facebook app that leverages those existing networks to develop a solid referral program. On a side note, I work in social media and enjoyed the comments on this post. Particularly that Chris Ott sent a detailed reply. Unfortunately for Referral Key another poster’s review on Chris Ott later on took away from what he had said and he did not come back to respond again.

  125. Presenter 1 says:

    I received one of these in my email from someone I know to be in Scientology which sent me on a search to see if this is another one of those Scientology front names and if the board, leaders etc are in Scientology. Perhaps? I don’t have time to fully investigate but my gut says yes… I do not support cults…..excellent work Claire and sounds like something I would not want to part of because it sound like”work” and a scam.

  126. Thanks, what a great review! I already alienated enough people by joining linkedin and having them send multiple invites to my contacts.

  127. Very good review. I have received a couple of invites in the past, but never pursued it.

    The limited categories is somewhat bothersome as you just get lumped in with others.

    I did sign up though as any visibility is a good thing especially as it costs nothing.

  128. Thanks for the research. The other thing that stands out to me is the concept of getting paid for referrals, an absolute no-no for anyone in the medical field. Hands down a violation of anti-kickback laws in medicine. I am running away from something that sounds to good to be true.

  129. Thanks so much for the review that came at the top of my google search for “reviews of referral key”. Looks like people are getting lots of emails about this service. I appreciate your thorough research and will wait to see what happens before I decide to sign up.

  130. CarolinArizona says:

    Your hard work and thorough analysis saved me a ton, especially in the embarrassment department. In today’s world, not to have detailed and credible expertise categories is sign of carelessness and ‘under utilized’ marketing opportunity. Thank you.

  131. Thanks Claire.
    I just received my first RK invitation. So I immediately started researching and did not find very much. Your analysis confirms my opinion and hold off even trying to sign up. But I think I’ll keep an eye on this for a while

  132. At the risk of repeating what others have said – thanks so much for investigating this new company for me. My instinct said there was something fishy going on, and I don’t like it. It could be an honest mistake on the part of the developers, who have just went for throat so directly that it is off-putting to some people who are used to a slower lead-up before signing on and sharing valuable email addresses, referral contacts etc. And thanks to Shama for a balanced opinion – looking forward to hearing more on how it all works out. For now I will not be signing up but I will keep an eye (and an ear) on RK.

  133. Just to be fair here, I got an invitation also and filled out my profile info. No, I am not a dentist but a massage therapist, so I clicked on “other”. That allowed me to fill in whatever I wanted which was “massage courses”. This then showed up correctly in my profile. So although the list of choices is not that long, the “other” category allows you to customize it to whatever you want.
    They state that you only pay the referral fee if the referral results in a sale for you which is a perfectly valid concept. I’d be happy paying referral fees all day long if they result in sales.
    I don’t know if RK will take off, and yes, they could provide clearer instructions how it all works, but I think the concept is a good one.

    • Let us know if it works for you!

      • Claire ~
        Thanks for the information. One note that should be considered: they have a drop down for real estate. I live in CA, and it is a violation of RESPA (Real Estate Settlement and Procurement Act) to pay a referral fee in a real estate transaction to anyone other than a licensed real estate broker. So I find it strange that a company who’s been in business for 4 years hasn’t been notified of the situation. If my dentist (since everyone seems to be using this analogy) refers me a client and I close that transaction, I cannot pay a referral fee (prohibited by law), but I can extend a hearty Thank You. Would this violate the sites rules? Either way…think I’m satisfied with LinkdIn. Great research and excellent information Claire! Cheers!

        • Anders:

          Obviously, agents in Georgia are constrained by the same regulations – and there are more commercial real estate broker to broker referral sites in place than I can possibly keep up with. I look forward to seeing how RK progresses, since it may be of benefit to some of my clients; however, I will wait a while before I make any recommendations.

  134. Hey Claire–thanks for the info! I just received one of these emails. And as Mom always taught me, I didn’t touch that “cause I didn’t know where it’s been”! I immediately googled for reviews and found yours. As the others have said, you saved me a lot of work and potential spam. Thank goodness I don’t eat beef or I might have been hypnotized by the free steak! ;-)

  135. Thanks, Claire, I appreciate the time you have put in to this. I have only received one invite, and I also noticed that I will have to be a DENTIST as they just don’t have Genealogist in their list! This is not something that I will be subscribing to, as I have more than enough work to keep me going … with referrals from people who know my work, not just my name.

  136. Great job, Claire – I too have been wondering what to do with all of these new found “opportunities” and you just saved me a lot of time, and gave me a chuckle at the same time. Good stuff and thanks for sharing it.
    Tony

  137. Carolyn says:

    Claire,
    Thank you for posting this information. I looked for reviews of said Referral Key as soon as I found an invitation in my Junk mail (that came from someone I didn’t know). My suspicions were confirmed.

    Oh, and Chris, ‘me thinks thou missed the point’ … Claire said Referral Key may be one in a million. She did not say it is.

    • Haha – like Lloyd in Dumb & Dumber – “You’re married? What was all that ‘one in a million stuff?!’”

  138. Hi Claire,

    I say run like the wind from this outfit! First there was the confusing sign up process, then the export/import mess and when I called the number below form more help your new friend Chris Ott was the most impatient, arrogant, rude ass I have ran into in a long time. In fact after being insulted by his rude, pushy demeanor just a few sentances into the conversation I promptly told him to shove it @#!$%$#% !! I don’t think I have ever told a business acquaintance that… if that tells you anything.He emailed me back to say I was banned from the sight :) I will bet that was a first for them too as they sure do seem to push their “free” service and need people to join.. As I told him in my rebuttal….nothing is free! The other problem besides Chris (AKA Jekle/Hyde) is the same thing you mentioned. How can someone recommend me if they do not even know me……useless time waster I would say…right? If I have to pay you to say good things where is the integritty here? I have plenty of clients after thirty years of business that can recommend me on viable grounds. Good Luck!

  139. Thanks for this analysis, Claire. I got an invitation too and was suspicious. The wording is the same as you received. For a four year old site, there’s surprisingly little about Referral Key online. That’s also a concern.

    I don’t see a compelling reason to join another site. I’m happy to give/get referrals where my network already is — on LinkedIn :)

  140. Claire,

    It’s Chris from Referral Key. Thanks for the write up and visiting the site.
    Cool blog! I’m not sure Lewis is the “Tom” from MySpace, Lewis isn’t a colleague on Referral Key by default, I think the point on MySpace was that Tom was your friend of the break. We didn’t want to do that. because only you can choose who you want in your RK network. It isn’t about who you went to college with or who worked at your first job.

    We work on transparency and you can call us anytime. Most people think that’s pretty nifty for a website, and Lewis’s message is just a welcome message.

    btw, thanks for the “One in a million”, considering the network size and number of satisfied people I talked with, most members think we are a one in a billion but we’ll take one in a million.

    Obviously since referrals are private you guys don’t get to see what we do but thousands of referrals ain’t bad.

    While I was typing this, I just got this message on my voicemail…

    “Phone Message: “Hi Chris, I joined Referral Key two days ago and landed a $10,000 gig at the Jacob Javits Center. Thanks so much, I’ve used social media to grow my biz for years and have never seen anything like this. It’s unique, simple, and to-the-point. I’m sure there are people all over the world generating real dollars because of this idea. I will tell all of my friends” – Dave Maskin http://djdavid.com/

    We don’t advertise, we let satisfied members refer us.

    If you guys need help stop by the office or give me a call anytime!

    We love to help because we know it can take time getting used to something new. Yes there are a lot of people inviting eachother and we think it’s because we are trying to answer the toughest question in social media, “Beyond making connections and promoting oneself, is it possible to have a network of small busienss owners that actually refer new business to eachother.”

    We spent a lot of research and the last 4 years answering that question.

    Stay in touch…

    857-241-3764
    chris.ott@referralkey.com

    • Referralkey is a weak linkedin wannabe based entirely upon lame social media spam email “tricks”, mostly underhanded, attempting to get you to interact with their content-free website.

      You should sign-up if you really enjoy receiving spam email and want ALL your friends to also enjoy receiving spam email. Especially excellent if you want the spam email to include embedded links that look exactly like virus vectors.

      This is a really stinky one folks.

      Summary: AVOID!

    • What I wonder is, how one goes about enticing the already crowded world of social networks and business referral networks to trust something new that lands in an Inbox and from the get go looks suspect.

      Yes there will be needs surrounding good and trustworthy business referrals no matter the distance but what’s better than connecting with our voice, face and a cup of coffee? Would’t it be wonderful to meld what you think your research has delivered in the way of data with that of actual people building the best relationships possible with real live in person connections? WHat has your research, if any, told you about that?

      I received a referralkey.com email from an acquaintance, followed it, allowed referralkey to harvest my over 500 LinkedIn contacts and all I’ve gotten from it is WORK! I’ve had to both apologize – at this point – to any response and explain what I DON’T know it is and to ignore the link in the email.

      This doesn’t bode well for your endeavor.

      Sincerely,
      Richard Mauro Ricchiuti

      • I got an email from a linkedin colleague and clicked the link. Then like you uploaded all my linked in contacts. I got an out of office reply immediately in my inbox and I thought…what the heck. Little did I know that they send out invites on my behalf WITHOUT MY CONSENT OR KNOWLEDGE!! There are people in my linkedin (like my retired Father) that would be puzzled at the email. I even got a scathing email from a linkedin contact that I should have removed, but had neglected to do so. I am furious that these people can send out spam on my behalf. I am sure this is against the law and I plan on doing something about it.

        • Julie, the same thing happen to me. I have over 1500 contacts that were exposed. This is unbelievable that they would send these inappropriate emails number one, and then without my consent. I found no phone number for customer service to express my concern.

    • This is such a joke. I too got an email which led me to this blog. The guy from the company who posted a response doesn’t even take the time to explain what the company is really about? As far as I can tell it’s a way for people to get other people to sign up for a company/website that does nothing for the people that just signed up. This is like Mary Kay cosmetics without the cosmetics!

  141. Thank you so much for taking the time to investigate this and saving me from having to do it. Like you, I’ve recently begun receiving these from people with whom I normally have little contact. I had my suspicions and they’ve been confirmed by your research. Though Referral Key may indeed become a useful tool at some point in the future (one in a million), for the present I plan to turn these “invitations” down without a moment’s hesitation.

  142. I appreciate all the work you put into investigating Referral Key. That is work well spent that I don’t have to do now. Thank you!

  143. I appreciate your review. Looking at the invite again, I noticed this small print at the bottom of the message: “This email was initiated by franz ates through Referral Key Inc. 20 Park Plaza, Suite 448 Boston, MA 02116, USA”
    This is not the claimed sender at the top!!!

  144. Mike the Mike says:

    Your review did bolster my initial BS guage for referral key and cement my opinon of spammage. Tanks. However, after reviewing the replies to this review (meta review) let me offer a summary to the replies: Claire is pretty, witty, please like me.

  145. Claire Diaz-Ortiz says:

    yikes!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Cathy Miller…”How Referral Key’s Spammy Practice Embarrassed Pollyanna.” AND this article is another one I wish I would’ve read before this happened – it wold have saved me a ton of […]

  2. [...] Claire Diaz-Ortiz compiled a full and humorous review of the service on her blog: http://clairediazortiz.com/what-is-referral-key/ [...]

  3. [...] recently brought to my attention when I was researching the company Referral Key. I came across an influential review of the site from Claire Diaz Ortiz (Social Innovation Lead at Twitter and over 324,000 followers on Twitter) [...]

  4. [...] been a few months since I first wrote about Referral Key, and the comments don’t stop coming to that now-popular post. The Referral Key main guy [...]

  5. [...] ReferralKey seems like a good idea, there are parts of it that just don’t work. Claire Diaz Ortiz has written a great post about Referral Key and suggests that she knows some ways to fix it. [...]

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