As you may know, Media Shower is in the content creation business. Occasionally we like to check in on the competition—ya know, just to see if anyone else is using pictures of sausage in their comprehensive guides to freelance writing rates. Turns out they’re not—weird. But what some of them are doing is offering really low rates for really low quality content. That slightly ruffles our feathers.

This feather in particular was disturbed significantly.

But instead of going on some bitter, snarky rant about it, we decided instead to sample one of these services for ourselves. We settled on one particular low-cost provider, who we’ll call LoCo from here on out. LoCo bills itself as “your article writing service for unique and exclusively written content created to your specifications.” Apparently their “fixed rates make cost planning for projects of all sizes simple,” so we signed up for an account and hired them to write a 200-word summary for the classic novel “Of Mice and Men”.

Anyone wanna read this for me?

LoCo offers a few different levels of writing quality when choosing your project. I chose the 2-stars level – their cheapest – for the bargain rate of $0.012 per word.  At this level they warn you there will be grammatical errors. Even so, the cost for the project was just $2.80. Wow! But wait a second; while this particular project cost $2.80, you can’t commission LoCo to do anything until you deposit at least $25 in your account with them. So I guess it kinda cost me $25, didn’t it? Ouch.

Before they could start they required a phone call to go over the details. I called during normal business hours and got their voicemail. I chose not to leave a message. The next day I dialed at a different time and again got their voicemail. This time I left a message, and they called me back within an hour or so. The woman I talked to was friendly enough. She mainly wanted to ask where this content was going and to make sure I knew that the returning copy would have some mistakes in it. She said the work would be done within a day or two. I told her I loved her and hung up the phone.

This may or may not be the customer service team at LoCo.

Just two hours later I received an email from LoCo letting me know my project was completed. Nice! I could now ask for a revision or two, but I chose to accept it as is. What follows is the copy they gave me (I boldfaced any errors and awkward sentences).

“Of Mice and Men is a novel written by John Steinbeck. It is based off of some of the author’s own experiences. The story follows George and Lennie, who work in the fields in California. George is relatively smart, while Lennie is a big brute with limited mental capabilities. Their mission is to go to another part of California, and to one day own a piece of land together.

The story tests their friendship, as Lenny gets accused of trying to rape a young girl. George knows he would never do such a thing, and leaves with him. On another ranch, they are in luck as they find more work. The problem is there boss does not like Lennie. Furthermore, his wife is beautiful and she catches Lennie’s eyes. Here, they actually meet a friend who will help them achieve their dream of owning land. He will do so if he can live on the land with them. Things are looking up, but not before the boss tries to fight Lennie. The rest of story involves all the obstacles these men have to overcome to achieve their dream. Specifically, George has to keep Lennie out of trouble long enough to be able to afford the land they want.”

OK, so just one misspelling and one phrase butchering. Not bad. But wait a second here: Lennie doesn’t fight with the boss, he fights with the boss’ son Curley.  And what about the part where Lennie kills Curley’s wife? And hey, WHAT ABOUT THE ENDING!? It seems as if LoCo stopped reading halfway through the book. I guess that’s to be expected for a rate of $2.80. But oh yeah, they actually have $25 of my money. Soooo, with $22.20 left to spend, I guess that means…