Marya Jan: Strategist or Scammer?

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Marya Jan: Consultant and Ad Strategist? Or small business scammer?

It’s been awhile since I’ve written on Medium, and unfortunately it’s another bad review that’s drawn me out of pandemic hibernation. Very rarely have I written company reviews on the web, and this is the second such review I’m writing on Medium. My experience has been so bad that I simply could not let the moment pass without bringing it to public attention. I will try to keep it brief.

I am in the midst of revamping my online business and considering a new marketing funnel to advertise my services. If you’re like me, you might find yourself Googling all sorts of things. And when you find yourself on Facebook, like magic, timely ads start popping up in your newsfeed. Enter Marya Jan.

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One of Marya Jan’s FB ad

I clicked on her ad about how to build a profitable audience fast. It took me to a sales page for her FAB Course (Facebook Audience Builder) that’s designed to build warm audiences by selling a low-ticket product as an impulse buy—then, after the customer makes a purchase, pitching them your big ticket product. Given how fast I bought her tiny course (at less than $40, it was a no-brainer), I was totally sold on the concept.

So when I got an email later on about her flagship course, Tiny Course Project, I purchased it on the spot. I wish I could say that the experience went well, but I can’t. And beyond how annoyed I’ve been about wasting money on a course I never received—and likely never will, as it’s now been more than one month since I paid her—I have decided to post a review of the experience given that there are real lessons to be learned here.

I also believe this review is likely the only way to get Marya Jan’s attention.

Marya Jan describes herself as a Facebook Ad Strategist for coaches, experts and service-based entrepreneurs. I can attest that there was solid information in her FAB Course, which I found affordable, easily digestible, and timely. I also purchased the add-on course, Superseller, about “How to create a HOT course offer that will sell out.” The latter was less useful for me, as I already had built out a course and so was merely using hers as a benchmark.

But because of the relatively easy experience of the tiny offer (apart from my Discover card not working on the sales page, though it was listed as one of the accepted credit cards), I was ready to buy when I got an email about Marya’s new Tiny Course Project.

I can’t tell you how fast I clicked on the link to the free training! And after that, I immediately clicked on the link to the sales page and started calculating whether or not I could afford the $997 paid-in-full course fee. I figured if it delivered even the modest results she projected, then it was money well spent.

The first red flag: again, the sales page wouldn’t take my Discover card. I replied to Marya’s pitch email to inquire about what the problem was with the site’s payment processor, but with the clock ticking down on the 48 hours till course doors closed, I felt pressured to just use my debit card. (Actually, I wasn’t quite sure when the 48 hours was up, as she’s based in Australia and I live in New York.) Using my debit card meant I needed to sign up for the payment plan instead, which would end up costing me roughly $200 extra over time in installments.

Marya never replied my email asking what was wrong with the site. But I did get an email autoresponder welcoming me to the course.

The next thing that happened was fairly surprising: nothing. I mean nothing. Three days after I received the above email, I replied to ask when I’d be getting the course materials and more days went by with no reply. That’s when I realized the confirmation email was from a “no-reply” Clickfunnels address, which meant that it was a dummy email address. I dug around in my email for Marya’s personal email address, and sent the following message to her.

It was actually my sister who raised the possibility that I’d been scammed. Up until that point, it didn’t occur to me that someone would go through all the trouble to prey on a small business person. I’d certainly taken Marya’s tiny course, so I chalked her lack of response up to “disorganization,” thinking that she just couldn’t get her act together to deliver on her flagship course.

But then I finally got an email back from Marya, or whomever replies to her emails, which read:

By then, I was still confused, but actually relieved to hear that I’d be getting a refund. I no longer trusted Marya to deliver anything, respond to emails (and I’d like to note that her email response came from a different address than the one I emailed), or generally monitor her business well enough to know that a customer had paid hundreds of dollars and not received anything. Still, I wasn’t entirely sure I was being scammed, and was hopeful that I’d get the refund I’d been promised.

So the next thing that happened was really interesting: nothing. I mean absolutely nothing. In the past month since I received that email from Marya Jan, I’ve sent almost a dozen more emails and received no refund. Not only that, but I got so frustrated I posted a comment on one of her FB ads and she blocked me. And still hasn’t responded to any of my emails or issued a refund.

I don’t know how someone who says she helps small business owners can do that and look herself in the mirror, but there you go.

It bears stating that, if the course enrollment was closed, shouldn’t the sales page have been closed down, too? Why was it open? Why was I allowed to put in my payment details? Up till this moment of writing, the training page and order form are still accessible—which means that many more people could be in my situation. (It reminds me of a previous review I did of PopSocial, an Instagram growth hacking service that has essentially shut down although the website is still live and open for sign ups.)

I will say that my response to this scenario is both heightened and blunted by the pandemic. Money is tight now. I am spending down my savings and each dollar is precious. Maybe I should have done better due diligence before purchasing the Tiny Course Project. (I definitely could have. If I search for her now, most references to her online were self generated. Frankly, the whole thing could be a deck of cards.)

To add fuel to the fire, I had a close family member sick in the hospital with COVID, which put an added strain on an otherwise fragile situation. I lost the money at the same time as my COVID Rent Relief request was denied, ostensibly because I’m not poor enough. It felt like being kicked while down.

I finally called my bank to file a payment dispute regarding the charge. I submitted all the paperwork, including copies of my emails to Marya, and her one reply stating she would refund my money. The bank told me it could take 60–90 days to resolve, if she never refunds my money willingly.

To add insult to injury, because I’d purchased a payment plan, I grew concerned that a second installment fee would be automatically deducted from my debit card. My bank told me the only recourse was to cancel my card. That’s right, I had to cancel my debit card—and I’m still, as of writing this, waiting the standard 7–10 business days for another one. I’d like to note that the day I cancelled it happened to be the day before my birthday, a few days before I was planning a party, which really cemented the experience in my mind as one of the worst online experiences I’ve ever had. If I had an emergency right now and needed cash, I’d just be out of luck, simply because I paid this sketchy woman for a course I really wanted to take.

But there is a silver lining.

This whole situation has made me think about how important it is for consultants, course creators, and small business owners alike to deliver on their promises—especially at a time like this, when everyone is struggling. It’s not acceptable to take money for products you can’t deliver. It’s not acceptable to ignore customers’ emails. It’s not acceptable to promise a refund and not give one. It’s not ok to block people whom you’ve essentially robbed.

And being “shortstaffed” is not an excuse for doing any of the above. To put it plainly: If you’re providing important services to people whose livelihood depends on it, it’s immoral not to deliver them. Don’t pretend to be credible to get somebody’s dollars. If you’re not equipped, you have no business taking anybody’s money right now. Just get out of the game. People work too hard to deal with your foolishness.

(To be honest, I’d really like to think I haven’t been scammed, that she’s really just an incompetent businesswoman. This is truly an elaborate way to rob someone, so much so it defies belief.)

But what Marya Jan helped me realize—whether she’s a scammer or merely a poor businesswoman—is how important it is to properly address administrative issues BEFORE you get an uptick in business. If I wasn’t outright robbed, then all of the drama I experienced could have been prevented with proper staffing: someone to close down her sales page, check emails in a timely manner, and process refunds.

And frankly speaking, the fact she doesn’t have those things in place definitely disqualifies her as a business consultant.

As for me, I’d like to hire a virtual assistant, accountant, and course enrollment coordinator, for starters, in this next phase of my business development. I’ll post an update in a few months when this is all resolved (fingers crossed).

Or before then, if Marya wakes up and decides to finally refund my money.

Dec 2020 Update: See comments section! Spoiler alert, I finally got my money back after 3+ months fighting with my bank and receiving no response from Marya. I also met another disappointed customer who was promised a refund and never received it. She hasn’t been so lucky at getting her money back. Marya is a definite scammer.

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Iquo B. Essien is a writer, director, and business consultant with an MFA in film from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Writer, creator, and consultant to artists and entrepreneurs. NYU Film & Stanford alumna. Let’s chat: https://calendly.com/iquoessien

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