POLICY: TrainBoard Posts About Retailers

FriscoCharlie Feb 8, 2009

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  1. FriscoCharlie

    FriscoCharlie Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    This post is to explain our policy on discussions about vendors who sell model railroad items and other things commonly discussed on TrainBoard.

    Obviously, people have questions about where to buy things on the net. We are all looking for the best prices, largest inventory, fastest delivery, and honest people who won't rip us off or do something wrong with our credit card number.

    A lot of people that join TrainBoard are new to model railroading and quite often one of the first questions they ask is, "Where do I go to get what I need?" Certainly that is understandable.

    People have been asking these questions here since the inception of TrainBoard (in March 2000). We used to allow all of that, and even discussions about vendors that do not advertise on TrainBoard, in an attempt to not limit discussions and let people say what they wanted.

    Along the way, we've learned a few things and this issue is near the top!

    You'll note that from time to time someone will get angry at us and you'll see a post where we are referred to as "censors" or you see someone say, "I'm going to another site where there is no censorship!"

    Well, okay... sigh.

    TrainBoard has a list of advertisers that help support this site. That can be found here: Advertisers - TrainBoard.com

    Do we want to give preferential treatment to these businesses? Yes, we do. We want you to buy from our advertisers. We are honest and forthcoming in saying so. These businesses help support this site and when you buy from them, you help make this whole thing work.

    This doesn't mean that our advertisers have everything you want. It doesn't mean that you won't save a dollar on something by going somewhere else. It doesn't mean that there are not good, honest businesses that do not advertise on TrainBoard because there certainly are good retailers that simply don't advertise here for one reason or another. Some retailers have told us that they just don't see value in it. Others don't believe that they need to advertise in places that they aren't doing it already.

    That's fine. It's the choice of each business to spend its dollars in the way it wants.

    But, why don't we allow much in the way of discussions (good/bad service, prices, policies, etc.) about businesses that don't advertise?

    It's not really as much about protecting our advertisers as it is about avoiding big blow-ups of one type or another.

    It's pretty simple; Almost all of these kinds of posts take the same path. Someone will post something positive (or negative) about a business. There may be 5 or 6 posts that follow, usually praising the business and saying they are good people to deal with. Then, just as reliable as a clock chiming at the top of the hour, along comes someone who had a bad experience. They post something contrary and sometimes they are worked up over reading people praising the business when they had a bad experience - or at least believe that they did.

    Then, the people that like that particular business start e-mailing us to complain - or, an argument ensues in the post itself.

    One thing that you can always guarantee is that the retailer will be alerted by some member. Then, we get an e-mail from the retailer. If anything negative has been posted, they demand that it be removed.

    That's one thing but there have been a number of times that we have been threatened with legal action; "Either remove those comments or hear from our lawyers!"

    You might think that they don't have a leg to stand on, and maybe they don't, but we don't have the money to play that game. We survive on a combination of advertiser dollars (they don't pay the whole bill) and user donations.

    We are not in a position where we have to kiss our advertiser's butts and they don't pull our strings, but we believe all of our advertisers to be honest, good businesses.

    If you have a problem with any of them, let us know. If we had an advertiser that doesn't give proper service, then we would reconsider accepting dollars from them. We have successfully resolved a number of problems between retailers and members. 99% of the time, as with anything in life, it's just mis-communication and then tempers flare and someone else has to intercede if there's any hope of resolution.

    So, to take this further, you might be thinking, "Why did you closed this thread and not that one?"

    Like any policy here at TrainBoard, we try to apply this one fairly. But, we have over 40 staff members and each of them will look at a particular thread and see things differently. Also, we watch all posts but sometimes, we haven't noticed a particular thread until a number of posts have been made. Maybe a particular staff member has a slightly different interpretation of when a post violates our policy and when it doesn't.

    If we see a post where retailers are discussed in this way, we know where it will likely go.

    Does this mean that the shear mention of a retailer is going to get a post deleted or a thread locked? Most likely not.

    If during a discussion someone posts, "Those are nice boxcars and I bought mine at the ACME Train Store because they had them in stock", then that alone is not enough to cause us to edit/delete/lock a thread/post.

    Likewise, if someone posts, "I am visiting Pixley next week. Does anyone know how many train stores they have there?", then that's not a problem either.

    However, in both of those examples, if someone starts editorializing on the quality of the store, prices, problems they had there, etc., then that post is likely to disappear.

    It is not that we want to limit what people can talk about here. It's just that once you've been kicked by a mule, you tend not to repeat the same behavior that caused it. That's what happens here - just about every time. And, it seems impossible to keep in check.

    So, this is the reality of this and is the part that you don't see if you are not in our shoes.

    The bottom line is, we need to avoid posts where people say the following types of things:

    • Has anyone dealt with the ACME Train Store? Are they good to deal with?
    • Where can I get the best price on ____________?
    • I ordered from ACME Trains and they overcharged me on shipping.
    That list could go on and on from actual posts here on the site but I'm sure you get the picture.

    I know that many of you don't agree but this is how it is going to have to be on this. Again, we will make every attempt to apply this policy fairly. We know that some folks won't see it that way, but if you've spent much time here, you know that we try to do things fairly and above board.

    Some exceptions to the policy will be made, at our discretion, in regard to specialty products, special runs, items that are only available in one place, items of great interest, etc.

    If you have general comments on this issue, or have seen a post that you wonder about, please contact us. Alternately, if you see a post that you feel is inappropriate, then click the "Report Post" icon on that particular thread.

    Charlie
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 7, 2013
    Chops, Big Jake, mtntrainman and 5 others like this.
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