Monday, October 04, 2004

Accountability in the After-Market Performance World.

This is an email I sent out to a few site owners (automotive, performance), reguarding some concerns I have w/ the after-market world... we'll see if I get a responce.

This past weekend I met up with a fellow vette owner and friend Pat Colwell (a moderator on z06vette.com). We met up at the Red Hook Brewery, here in Seattle on what could be our last dry weekend in nine months. After talking with Pat for a while, he felt I should put my thoughts down in email, and shoot it out to a few of you guys.

I’m writing to you for a couple of reasons, maybe you’ve been involved in less than honest dealings with a “forum” vendor, or maybe you run a site with many performance enthusiasts that visit and read your site in hopes of finding other performance enthusiasts. You might consider this an “essay” but more importantly, I would like to bring to light an all too familiar situation that runs frequent in my hobby, and likely yours. I was recently involved with a less than pleasant dealing and subsequent screwing over by a recognized “vendor” in the Corvette / FBody community. This “vendor” has consistently under performed, under delivered, and in my case, yet to deliver a product as promised. After a year and a half of trying to resolve my issues, I have decided to walk away and try different alternatives, one of which is what I am writing to you about.

Some of you run large web sites targeted towards automotive enthusiasts; your sites offer a wealth of information, offer community building, and in some cases put individuals in touch with vendors that advertise their products on your site. By attracting individual enthusiasts to your site, you also increase the likeliness of attracting advertisers, by showing your websites reach, in terms of eyeballs that reach your site each month, quarter, and year. This system seems to work well for the most part; however in some cases I feel this very system hurts the very reason why your sites exists… by not protecting the common hobbyist / enthusiast.

What I am proposing goes beyond my issue, and helps my fellow enthusiasts. I would like to throw out a couple of ideas to help protect others, which might find themselves in a similar situation, additionally to help keep forum vendors honest and accountable.

- Create a vendor rating system, possibly third party. We can learn lessons from other industries case in point is EBay. EBay offers a similar vendor rating system, that helps potential buyers rate and evaluate sellers of products the buyer is interested in. This system works well, although not foolproof does offer good information and protection as a buyer.

- Somehow, get SEMA involved, maybe they could act as holding third party, oversight, or validate our model?

- Create a BBB for the after-market world, with some criteria listed above and below this bullet point.

- Make our unbiased third party information publicly available, to all that are interested, vendors and site visitors. 1. Sites could also potentially charge a nominal fee for access to this data… possibly as a premium services. I suggest this, in case site owners are fearful of lost revenue by pulling ads from offending vendors.

- Push more responsibility to site owners to help protect their constituents. As an organization, we could also empower sites to protect site visitors, against unsavory and untrustworthy worthy vendors. 1. If a vendor can no longer pay their forum advertising bills, it is likely they are not able to deliver on customer promises.

Sure, anyone could pursue a vendor legally in court by why start or end here… why not hold these vendors accountable from the get go.

In the end, you might feel this issue does not affect you personally or impact your user base, or you might even think my ideas are too radical. Do not get me wrong there ARE a number of great vendors out there; however, there are also bad ones that have not been held accountable for their continued bad practices. If anything maybe we as hobbyists are enabling them to act badly, by not holding them accountable?

I am 100% open to comments and suggestions on these topics. I would also like to offer further support and possible funding for such an initiative, resulting in a system in which we hold vendors accountable for their actions or lack there of, in a fair and honest way.

Rob Sherrard
rob@robsherrard.com

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