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'Discrimination' alleged in local chamber's best business competition


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TRURO - An area businesswoman who has been excluded from a Chamber of Commerce competition is crying foul.

"I feel I'm being discriminated against," said Dana Hernden, who owns the local real estate listing service, PropertyGuys.com.

"I would say that they are trying to keep me out of the competition because they don't want me to gain any votes or they don't want people to see the results of the votes."

Hernden said her business was nominated in the real estate category in the chamber's annual Best of Colchester competition but when her clients visited the site to vote, there was no listing for PropertyGuys.com.

She then received a phone message from the chamber "stating that they had revoked my nomination and that I didn't suit the category of real estate," Hernden said.

"I'm not exactly an agency but that is the category I was nominated for," she said. "I asked why my category was pulled and they said that they didn't define me as an agency. But I imagine I would still fit under the heading of real estate ...."

Hernden agrees she is not a real estate agency but feels her business could've remained in the competition by simply adding "real estate/services" in the group heading.

"I wouldn't be having this argument if there weren't other businesses under a broader umbrella of the category that didn't exactly fit or suit the exact name of the category," she said.

The Best of Colchester contest is an online competition hosted by the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce in which members of the public vote for their favourite services and business in 25 separate categories.

Given that some of the categories, such as Financial Institutions, Veterinarian/Groomer/Supply/Boarding, Contractor Building/Renovations/Repair and Computer Sales/Repair/Support do encompass broad definitions, Hernden questions the reasoning she was offered for her exclusion. And that is especially so, she said, in light of the fact that the new chamber president Todlyn MacPherson, is also an associate broker with Royal LePage in Truro.

PropertyGuys.com franchises are direct competitors with traditional real estate agencies.

"I clearly am different from them. But I'm still in the real estate business, it's a different kind of business ...," she said.

"My customers have a right to vote for their favourite person in real estate. And the problem I have with it ... I have clients who want to go on there and vote and they're not seeing my name."

Hernden said she joined the chamber specifically as a way to help market her business but now feels it is working against her.

"The chamber's mandate is to help all businesses and give everybody a shake in business and one of the reasons I joined the chamber as a new business is to promote and profile my business. And they're not letting me on (the competition site)."

Tim Tucker, the chamber's executive director, said the decision to not include Hernden's business was solely his and it was done at the last minute after he determined the company did not fit under the category of real estate agency.

"What I told Dana is that if she was a real estate agency, then I totally agree with her. But she's not," Tucker said.

"The categories were made to try to get them as broad as possible, unfortunately, there's a bit of a sticking when it comes to real estate agencies, it has to be fully licensed as a real estate agency," he said.

"Where the category is called Real Estate Agency, then it makes it very difficult to include somebody in there who isn't a licensed real estate agency."

And with more than 450 members under the chamber umbrella, Tucker said there is just no way to accommodate all the individual categories that would be required to be all inclusive.

As far as trying to make adjustments to be able to include PropertyGuys.com, Tucker said, "we're definitely looking at that for next year but we just didn't have it done this year in time for the voting."

And given that the voting had started before the issue came to his attention, Tucker said it was too late to change the heading for this year.

As for any conflict on the part of the chamber president, however, Tucker was adamant that was not the case.

"Absolutely and 100 per cent not," he said. "I'm completely sorry if Dana gets that impression but it has nothing to do with it."

 

 

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