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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Those Stinking Greedy Merchants

Today's pic is a little something I found in an archive folder tagged "Paul Keene Visit". My system of photo archiving is complex, detailed, and unknowable - especially to myself. I don't know why Paul's photo folder ended up full of pictures of last year's Halloween pipes, but c'est la vie. At least it gives me more pipe pics to choose from! Paul, however, might be unnerved to know that Halloween pipe pictures seem to be migrating to his proximity.

The title of today's post refers to a thread that recently popped up in Alt.Smokers.Pipes. It consists of a lot of outright attacks and insults leveled at those merchants (pipemakers, tobacco blenders, and retailers) who occasionally post advertisements on ASP but do not regularly participate there. From some of the invective hurled, I got the idea that many view this as despicable greed on the part of the advertisers - How dare they post ads without even coming here to chat with us regularly? This sort of attitude rankles, and I thought I would post an explanation of sorts here. I write this because I'm sure that many of ASP's newbies probably view me as one of those evil "Ad-Only" merchants, having no knowledge of the history of the newsgroup and my participation in it through years past. In short, I was a regular poster there for nine years, and am one of only a handful left today who can count our participation all the way back to the early nineties, in the heady days when Greg Pease was Skydog and no one had yet seen a "What are you smoking right now?" thread. I have faded out recently, and don't post anymore except for advertisements and a very occasional comment if something offbeat catches my eye.

Does this make me a greedy selfish merchant?

Before anyone answers, let me explain why many professionals don't turn up as regular participants in online forums. I'm sure nearly everyone reading this has been to a business dinner. Are they fun? Are they relaxed occasions to socialize and really "be yourself"? Of course not. Business dinners and parties can be enjoyable and genuinely entertaining on occasion, but there is always an underlying feeling of comportment - Namely, that you are chatting with people you do business with and must always maintain a certain sense of decorum. For those of us "in the business", I've just described online pipe forums. We can chat there, we can certainly have fun and make some friends there, but at the end of the day these forums are places where we are interacting with customers and clients, not pubs. After a while, it can get stressful and frustrating - vendors must bite their tongues a lot at some of the comments that pop up, and especially some of the mythology that gets promoted. It isn't relaxation when you're in the biz.

A second reason for these 'Ad-Only' posts is the sheer number of pipe message boards today. In the nineties when I regularly posted and chatted on ASP, ASP was pretty much it. There were boards on Compuserve and AOL, but nothing like the plethora of pipe forums today. Offhand, I can think of a dozen easily and twice that with consideration, and I'm sure there are many more than I'm aware of... not counting all the boards in other languages (There are two in French). What was once a central discussion forum for all has now splintered into multiple forums with specific individual focus - Some on pipemaking, some on casual chat, some on high grade pipes, some for beginners, and others for professionals. No one has the time to participate in all of these but anyone attempting to advertise their wares needs to hit all of them. Where once a single ASP ad post would reach most of the online pipe community, now one has to post ads all over the place and in far more venues than anyone has time to actively participate in. I hate this, because I personally enjoy interacting with customers and potential customers in these forums, but there is only one of me and I just don't have time to build ongoing relations in ASP, Pipes, Pipes.org, #Pipes chat, #ASP chat, Pipemakers' Forum, etc. If a vendor posts regularly in one forum, participants elsewhere accuse him of "just using their forum for advertising" because he doesn't post there too. Something to think about before jumping to the conclusion that a vendor is a greedy aloof bastard because he doesn't sit around for a couple of hours each day chattering with the regulars!

Which brings me to a third point - Most vendors don't post in online pipe forums because we are working. After spending ten or twelve hours a day making pipes, answering pipe emails, discussing pipemaking, packing pipes, shipping pipes, and entertaining pipe collector visitors... forgive me, but I don't want to sit down in the evening and "relax" by spending more time talking pipes! I don't go to ASP after hours for relaxation, I go elsewhere, to the Urban Dead forums or the Horror Channel forums or Message from Cyberspace or a dozen other places where I can kick back and relax and not think about business.. and especially not have to worry about watching what I say or behaving in a professional manner. While ASP is the place that office managers go to forget about their daily grind, pipes are what these vendors are getting away from! So, perhaps there can be a little more understanding for those vendors and pipe business people who advertise, but don't spend a lot of time personally chatting in one's favorite pipe forum.

Finally, on a personal note, yes, I have dropped out of ASP after many, many years. I did not depart in a huff, and did not announce my departure because A) I'm not looking for attention and pleas to stay, B) probably no one there today will even notice I'm gone, and C) I just really didn't feel like making a "deal" out of it. I bear no ill will and wish everyone there the best, but I don't feel I know anyone there today very well, and often sense a sort of " cold shoulder" effect directed towards those like myself who just don't have time to post regularly. I also didn't announce I was "leaving" because one does not really "leave" a newsgroup, one simply stops regularly reading it and posting in it. I'm sure I'll post the occasional odd remark in future as events and threads warrant, and of course I'll still post occasional advertisements there to reach the broad pipe community, but that will probably be the extent of my involvement.

9 comments:

  1. You know, I read some of those posts on ASP and contemplated sending a reply (yes I do read ASP occassionally). I didn't reply for many of the reasons you cited in your message. You hit the nail on the head afaic. Good post T, and all I can say is "ditto".

    Paul Tatum

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  2. I think it's really too bad that people feel the need to characterize the motivations of others. Usually, those characterizations are little more than projections of their own stuff. I've bought a number of pipes from you, Trever, and I've never felt anything like greed coming from you. I certainly appreciate the need that any professional feels to get away from thinking about daily business matters. For the record, I am always grateful to find your ads or get an occasiona e-mail from you. These things signal an opportunity to me to consider another Talbert acquisition - something that always delights me, even if I am only able to contemplate it. I wish you all the best, Trever, and I also hope that you won't think too much about people who may choose to question your motives. They are not worth it.

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  3. Well said, Trevor!

    Bob Landry

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  4. They way I feel about merchants posting ads to ASP is quite simple: as long as they're relevant (i.e., pipes, tobacco, supplies, accessories, etc.) why not? Not all of us are as knowledgeable as others, and for many of us (myself included) this is the only way we learn about who is out there offering what.

    Now if you were to start advertising Viagra or Cialis, I'd definitely have a problem with that.

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  5. Excellent article Trever... many truths indeed!

    Best-
    Jeff Suter

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  6. Great post Trever. I agree 100 percent. As Neil stated reference to motives being questioned... Do not let that deter you as the people that question motives have a motive for doing so. Let people think what they may and I look forward to your post and your email notices about your pipes that are avaiable. Keep up the good work and "full speed ahead"

    Your Flat Footed fried in North Carolina,

    Robert Lawing

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  7. Trever I hope that someday we will have the opportunity to meet, you seem like a very down to earth individual.

    As for the post- jeesh, I'm sure the gentleman who posted it didn't realize that it would affect you so. I hope that he sees how serious you are about your work and sees your point of view. I'm certain that if he did than he would understand where you are coming from. As for me- I appreciate your sentaments and will be happy to read your posts when you can from time to time, either anticdotes, advice, or advertisements.

    Kind regards,
    Ian Weeks

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  8. To Robert Lawing - (A) Thanks for the kind words! and (B) Did I ever send you that video snapshot I managed to grab of our local "PD mobile"? I remember that I meant to, but can't recall if I actually did.

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  9. To Ian - I was probably overeacting a bit, but it wasn't solely that particular thread on ASP, but more an overall frustration with the anti-vendor sentiment that gets expressed there all too often. You know, "the vendors are always bad", "unethical pipemakers", "I bought this pipe and smoked it nine times before I discovered that you can't run a pipecleaner through it, and the seller wouldn't take it back, don't do business with them, they are evil", etc etc... That kind of stuff pops up all too often, and has led to pipe vendors adopting a strong "bunker mentality" regarding ASP - They monitor it more out of self-defense than involvement, because one never knows when one's name will get dragged through the mud there just because you never received an email that you're supposedly ignoring, or something. To quote a friend, "It is frustrating"

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