Tag Archives: John Garbarino

Who Do You Love? How WhoWeUse Can Help Your Business

Here at WhoWeUse, we don’t spend all of our time fighting unjust laws, although it might have seemed that way the last two weeks. In fact, we spend most of our energy trying to make the app better for both consumers and local businesses.

Since our launch in early October, we’ve been mostly focused on consumers, gathering crucial early feedback to see how people are using the public beta version of WhoWeUse. This week, we’ve shifted our attention a bit to businesses, explaining how our app can help them strengthen ties with existing customers and find new customers. After all, the whole idea behind WhoWeUse is that it connects consumers with the best local businesses recommended by their friends and neighbors.

As part of this effort, Wednesday morning cofounder John Garbarino and I attended a meeting of the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce where we were invited to address the group. We gave a demo of the app and explained the benefits to local businesses.

The bottom line? WhoWeUse is a powerful marketing tool that can help your business do things like:

  • Tap your clients’ social circles & word-of-mouth
  • Help your clients become your best sales people
  • Identify which clients are spreading the word so you can thank them accordingly
  • Be part of your clients list of “go-to” services
  • Avoid bad reviews, as comments are only about services people say they use and recommend.
  • Avoid fake reviews, since friends can only share with friends there will not be “fake” friends sharing “fake” comments or reviews

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An owner of the local State Farm franchise attending the meeting said she saw a particular need for WhoWeUse around the holiday season because our referral tracking feature would let her identify the customers that referred her the most business during the year. That way, she said she could send them a thank you gift. Pretty cool, eh?

This week we also redesigned the promo cards we’ve been giving to local businesses. The images you see above are the latest version from our head of design Felix Sockwell. We’ve been asking business owners to hand out these cards to their customers. The owners then tell their customers to download the app and share their businesses they love in the app, starting with the one that gave them the card. Businesses get free marketing from their best customers, and we get a new user. It’s win-win!

If you like the cards and want some for your business, please send us an a note to feedback@whhoweuse.net and we’ll send you some!

Share the love! And download WhoWeUse here to start helping your local business!

– By Spencer Ante

Why WhoWeUse Should Win Its Dispute With Maplewood (Hint: The Law Is On Our Side)

This week, the Maplewood Town Committee ordered WhoWeUse to take down our pin drop signs on residents’ lawns. We argued before the Town Committee that the law, which only allowed signs by contractors and real estate brokers for a limited time, was arbitrary and potentially unconstitutional because it violated a person’s right to free speech. When the ordinance was written, the Internet and smartphones did not even exist, nor did digital businesses.

I’ve had some time to research the case law and it turns out I’m not totally off my rocker. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has actually heard several cases regarding local ordinances restricting the use of signs, and in most cases the Court has found that the ordinances violate a person’s right to free speech.

Ordinances that are not “content-neutral” and restrict certain forms of speech while allowing other forms receive particular scrutiny by the court. The government may place reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on public speech, but these restrictions must be engineered without regard to the content of the speech.

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Even content-neutral restrictions can be thrown out if they are overly broad. In Watchtower Bible & Tract Society v Stratton, the Court in 2002 struck down in an 8-1 vote the ordinance of an Ohio town that required all door-to-door advocates of causes, as well as commercial solicitors, to obtain a permit from the mayor’s office. The Court found that the town’s stated interests in protecting residential privacy and preventing fraud were insufficient to justify such a sweeping restriction.

Maplewood also requires the few companies allowed to place signs to get a permit from the town.

In another relatively recent case, City of Ladue v. Margaret P. Gilleo, the Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that a local ordinance restricting the use of signs was unconstitutional.

The city of Ladue had an ordinance prohibiting homeowners from displaying any signs on their property except “residence identification signs, “for sale” signs, and signs warning of safety hazards. The ordinance permitted commercial establishments, churches, and non-profit organizations to erect certain signs that were not allowed at residences.

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Ms. Gilleo owned a home in the town and placed a 24- by36-inch sign saying “Say No to War in the Persian Gulf, Call Congress Now.” The sign disappeared. Ms. Gilleo put up another sign but it was knocked to the ground. When she reported the incident to the police, they told her such signs were prohibited. She sued the city, the Mayor and members of the town council alleging the ordinance violated her free speech rights.

The Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1994. Justice Stevens wrote in a unanimous decision for the court:

Residential signs are an unusually cheap and convenient form of communication. Especially for persons of modest means or limited mobility, a yard or window sign may have no practical substitute. Even for the affluent, the added costs in money or time of taking out a newspaper advertisement, handing out leaflets on the street, or standing in front of one’s house with a hand-held sign may make the difference between participating and not participating in some public debate. Furthermore, a person who puts up a sign at her residence often intends to reach neighbors, an audience that could not be reached nearly as well by other means.

Justice Stevens also shot down concerns of the town that signs would be popping up everywhere, a concern also raised by the Maplewood Mayor.

It bears mentioning that individual residents themselves have strong incentives to keep their own property values up and to prevent “visual clutter” in their own yards and neighborhoods — incentives markedly different from those of persons who erect signs on others’ land, in others’ neighborhoods, or on public property. Residents’ self-interest diminishes the danger of the “unlimited” proliferation of residential signs that concerns the City of Ladue. We are confident that more temperate measures could in large part satisfy Ladue’s stated regulatory needs without harm to the First Amendment rights of its citizens. 

One obvious and reasonable solution is to limit the amount of time that all signs can be placed in a person’s property.

Our signs, to be clear, are not advertisements. They are expressions of support by residents in our town of our mobile application and business. But even if they were deemed to be ads, the Supreme Court has also ruled repeatedly that commercial speech is also protected by the first amendment.

So the law is clearly on our side. Now, it’s up to the Maplewood Town Committee to update the ordinance and allow people to speak freely about all types of businesses, especially digital businesses that are growing fast and generating jobs and wealth for communities.

Technology is frequently ahead of the law. But times change. And so should the law.

To support WhoWeUse and all digital businesses, please download our app and like our Facebook page.

WhoWeUse Challenges Maplewood Lawn Sign Ordinance

The Village Green reported on the controversy we triggered with our pin drop lawn signs, which the town declared illegal Tuesday night.

We are gearing up to challenge the ordinance again and petition the Town Committee to update the law to give online businesses the same commercial speech rights as contractors, which are currently allowed to use signs for a limited time.

At the Tuesday night Township Committee meeting, WhoWeUse co-founders John Garbarino and Spencer Ante argued that their business and the signs are a boon to the town, “drawing attention to local businesses.” Garbarino said that as WhoWeUse grows — the app allows users to find recommendations for local services and businesses from trusted friends — Maplewood should benefit. The founders hope to soon be renting office space in Maplewood and hire more local tech talent.

“We are Maplewood proud,” said Garbarino. “We can put Maplewood on the map.”

Garbarino also argued that the homes displaying the signs are doing so voluntarily. “You call these ads. These are our friends.” He said that WhoWeUse was not planning to make more signs and only planned to keep them up until harsh winter conditions hit town.

Ante said that WhoWeUse wanted to “be treated the same as other local businesses,” meaning contractors. He argued that residents should be able to display the signs as long as homeowners are using the service.”

Read more here.

Local Boys Do Good

The Village Green, a news website focusing on the Maplewood-South Orange area in north central New Jersey, wrote up a nice profile of the company (“What the Heck is WhoWeUse?”), calling attention to our local roots and awesome pin drop signs popping up on lawns across town.

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“WhoWeUse is the brainchild of Maplewood resident John Garbarino, who founded the company with Pete Clark and Garbarino’s new neighbor Spencer Ante. Another Maplewood resident Felix Sockwell rounds out the team as Head of Identity and Design,” wrote writer Mary Mann.

WhoWeUse Cofounder Spencer Ante Demo’s App on Fox Good Day NY

We love it when a good plan comes together.  October 2, day two of WhoWeUse’s launch week, got off to a great start when co-founder and CEO John Garbarino and head of design Felix Sockwell hit the South Orange train station and handed out WhoWeUse cards to tired but curious commuters.

Later that morning, in an awesome bit of serendipity, co-founder and President Spencer Ante wangled an invite to appear on America’s #1 morning show, Fox’s Good Day NY. Spencer demonstrated the app for co-hosts Greg Kelly and Rosanna Scotto. Check out a video of the appearance.

Scotto called WhoWeUse “awesome” and Kelly quipped that “there’s a new app on the street” and it “will revolutionalize life as we know it.”

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TechCrunch Covers Launch of WhoWeUse

The day got even better when Jonathan Shieber, senior editor of leading technology blog TechCrunch, covered our launch. Check out the story here.

“As local services ratings and recommendation companies like Angie’s List make headlines thanks to rumors of a prospective sale to potential buyers like Amazon, Google, or Home Depot; it’s clear that companies still need a good referral for how to get at local markets,” wrote Shieber.

“And WhoWeUse thinks it has the mobile answer to all of your local problems. The Maplewood, NJ-based company was created in the backyard bar of serial entrepreneurs and developers John Garbarino and Pete Clark and former Wall Street Journal reporter Spencer Ante.”

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