Should I name the deadbeat gun dealers?


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Monkeyleg
July 23, 2005, 02:57 AM
As many of you know, I operate a subscription-based website. I offer retail gun stores a minimum of six months for free to brag about every last thing they do, and every brand and accessory they carry.

I've been more than pleased with the number of shops that have paid to renew; it's far more than I expected. And I haven't been emotionally devastated by those owners who've decided not to renew. It comes with the territory.

What I didn't expect, though, were a very few shop owners who said, "oh, yeah. Send me an invoice for a year ($100). I've seen some customers come in from your site already."

OK, fine. But I have one shop in MO that I invoiced back on 3/17, called again about 4/28 and was told to send another invoice ("lost it"). Sent another, then called on 7/13. Still haven't seen payment.

Another shop in PA. Invoiced on 3/24. "Lost the invoice." Sent another on 6/1. Called on 7/1, and was told that I should just fax a copy of the invoice, and he'd send a check for that whopping $100 right away. Called on 7/13, and he said he'd mail a check right away. Still no check.

There's other slow payers, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, as well as the time and money constraints that most of us deal with.

But....if there's a few shops out there that will try to screw me over for a mere $60 or $100, would you want to know about them? After all, if they'll try to screw me, they'll probably try to screw you as well.

Granted, if I would name these shops, they'd never approach me to be on my site again. OTH, if they're such sleazebags, I don't want gun owners to know about them, or at least be associated with the quality shops I'm striving for.

I already have shops like Coal Creek Armory and others that come highly recommended by THR members. I don't want dirtballs. Don's Guns in Indianapolis? Long gone, and never to return, certainly not on my site.

Opinions, please?

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pax
July 23, 2005, 03:03 AM
Heh. I'm an evil bad person. What I would do is simply add a prominent note to their page(s), that says something like, "This dealer's advertising invoice is XX weeks overdue."

Then I'd drop them a note encouraging them to look at their site.

*shrug* They'll either pay up or tell you to go shove off. Either way, you'll know where you stand.

(But then, I'd probably go out of business right quick ...) :D

pax

Justin
July 23, 2005, 03:26 AM
I'd simply de-list them.

A call to your local BBB to see what they do in the event of a member who is caught operating dishonestly might provide some good ideas.

S_O_Laban
July 23, 2005, 03:42 AM
I'd simply de-list them.


+1

det.pat
July 23, 2005, 03:50 AM
i for one would like to know, just call it a public service announcement.
pat

carebear
July 23, 2005, 04:10 AM
I'm with pax, public shaming THEN delisting. Perhaps with a permanent the "non-payment" page until they pay up. Like the "bad check" lists you see in stores sometimes.

Bob R
July 23, 2005, 04:18 AM
Make a non-payment page, and then link their name from your website to it. Explain nicely that these people do not honor their commitments to pay, so you can not be sure of their service to the public who wants to deal with them.

bob

Monkeyleg
July 23, 2005, 05:19 AM
Sorry, Pax, but for at least once in your life you're probably wrong. And the other posters are right.

The absolute worst I could do would be to name (sounds like: Army & Navy in PA) or (sounds like: Bob's in KC, MO), and then out them for not paying their bills.

The more genteel way is to simply to eliminate them from the database. Takes all of two seconds.

The problem with either approach is that I then have to search THR threads, or ask anew, what stores in XYZ city people think are great.

And I then have to make several calls to the owner, or his internet person, to get the store on my site. For free for six months, with no guarantee that this internet person will be able to explain to his old "pen and paper" boss what my site offers.

Meanwhile, I've lost the $100 from the deadbeat that I honest-to-God worked with months ago to make his store sound like the best thing since the .50 BMG.

If this sounds like kvetching, well, it is. I had a shop in Phoenix, AZ---Gun Showroom--that has had the second-highest number of visitors on my site look at their page. 6,024 to be exact, since April 1st, as of 2:22 AM CST on 7/23. That's 6,024 people who were interested in Phoenix gun shops and probably had never heard of Gun Showroom.

I've had owners of shops with 20% of those number of page views say with 100% certainty that my site had brought them new customers.

What are the odds that Gun Showroom hasn't received any new customers from my site? I'd say those odds are close to zero. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that he's gotten more than enough new customers from my site to pay that $100 per year.

Yet he told me that he isn't going to spend even one dollar on any new promotions.

OK. Fine. THR members have mentioned Legendary Guns, Lone Wolf, Shooters World, and a couple of other shops as being ones that they like to frequent. Gun Showroom will soon be off my site.

I have no problem with a store owner who tells me that business is bad. I've been over the last eighteen years on my own in business, and know what it feels like. If I get the impression that the hard luck story is true, I'll sometimes extend the trial period, with the condition that when business picks up, they pay me. It's good business all around: they continue to get exposure on the internet they wouldn't already have, and I don't have to go searching to replace them.

OTOH, if I get the impression that some store owner is just trying to use me, well, there's always another shop in that town whose owner is hungrier and who better understands the impact of the internet.

What baffles me is that I cannot find a pattern for those shops that will renew. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that Butt's Gun Sales in Billings, MT would renew right on the spot. But Jack saw the new business, and was right there with his credit card. Ditto for other shops in small towns as well as large cities.

I guess the only "I told you so" tactic is to email the few dunderheads like Barney at Gun Showroom with testimonials from his competitors that I've put on the site.

But that may not work, and I'll tell you why (warning: another ramble).

What was once one of the largest gun stores in WI is now just a shell of itself. One of our group's volunteers visited the store recently, and counted a whopping 72 guns in stock. Many THR members own more than that.

They never showed respect to their customers, certainly not to me. More importantly to me, they would throw in the trash the hundreds of flyers the WCCA printed urging gun owners to help. Why did they trash them? I have no idea.

If the owners are planning to retire, good luck to them. Just don't expect "kissy-faces" if we meet at some gun-rights related events.

pax
July 23, 2005, 08:30 AM
MonkeyLeg ~

Well, that's why I said I would probably go out of business right quick. No doubt you're right.

Sorry it's like that! :banghead:

pax

Wiley
July 23, 2005, 08:54 AM
I'd put a note on ALL (promo and subscriber) invoices: "Payable on Reciept. Any account 30 days past due will be removed from the site." Send the invoice 30 days prior to expiration.

Those customers who find your site beneficial will pay up. Those who don't, won't. Those who have had a brain-fart, will get in touch with you.

Kinda making your customer do the chasing around. Nothing to say that if you have a good, long time customer, you can't spend the time to give them a call. Or not. It becomes your choice.

And don't actualy remove a subscriber, just 'coment' him out until he renews or you do your normal semi- or annual cleanup.

Bruce H
July 23, 2005, 09:51 AM
Burn them in large print everywhere you can. Freeloaders are nothing but thieves under another name. Make all invoices payable in thirty days in large print. Delist at thirty days and one second. If they don't have time to take care of their bills what else are they sluffing off on.

ksnecktieman
July 23, 2005, 09:51 AM
I agree with Pax. leave the name of his shop in the index, or search, or whatever, and when it is used, show a closed account page. If/Whether you give a reason or not. (I would, probably just a delinquent account notice.)

Good luck with your choice.

bogie
July 23, 2005, 10:33 AM
Just pull their info. Someone can click the link, and it says something like "no longer active."

"Well, shucks... they musta gone outta business."

Next lesson: NO FREEBIES.

Zrex
July 23, 2005, 10:43 AM
Monkeyleg -

I used to do consumer collections a while back - make sure you do not run afoul of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). If the deadbeat you are pursuing knows anything about the FDCPA, and you publicly OUT them for not paying a debt you are trying to collect, you might find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit. About half of what the people here are advising you to do would probably be considered a violation.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fdcpa/fdcpact.htm)

carebear
July 23, 2005, 03:13 PM
Zrex,

I guess this is part of what you mean. Criminy, yet another "let us take care of it" regulation. :rolleyes:

806. Harassment or abuse [15 USC 1692d]

A debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:

(3) The publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a consumer reporting agency or to persons meeting the requirements of section 603(f) or 604(3)1 of this Act.

I can see the purpose of preventing debtees being libeled publically, but if they truly "haven't paid the debt" i.e. you have a contract and invoice and they have no receipt, then what's the rationale (if you happen to know its history)?

jefnvk
July 23, 2005, 03:26 PM
Either delist them, or keep them in, but replace all their content except their name and location with the words 'Cotent replaced until subscription paid' or something of the sort.

45Badger
July 23, 2005, 03:44 PM
Just drop 'em from the site. If it was valuable, they'll come back and pay. If not, they'll move on, and so should you.

I've been in sales/sales management for last 20 years. You are wasting entirely too much effort, emotional energy, and brain power over this issue. You are always gonna have sales lost to competition, lack of repeat business, bad economy, stupid customers, etc.- take your pick.

You should be spending every minute of your working life increasing the volume of business coming in through your primary revenue source/stream. Any extra time ought to be developing new revenue streams/sources of income for your business.

Asking internet gun freaks if you should "out" you lost sales or stupid customers is not effective, does not enhance your revenues, and does not make your business better or more successful. All we have is opinions, and you know what those are worth to your bank :D

Zrex
July 23, 2005, 04:13 PM
carebear -

there is also another section that may be applicable:

805. Communication in connection with debt collection [15 USC 1692c]

(b) COMMUNICATION WITH THIRD PARTIES. Except as provided in section 804, without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector, or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as reasonably necessary to effectuate a postjudgment judicial remedy, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than a consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.

carebear
July 23, 2005, 04:32 PM
I didn't read that far in. I stopped while trying to figure out a rationale to prevent publishing that info that wouldn't be already covered under libel or slander laws.

ROTTO
July 23, 2005, 04:42 PM
I've been in collections for over 10 yrs. The FDCPA applies only to consumer debts not commercial debts which is what you are dealing with. I did commercial collections for over 3 yrs and you are able to do alot of things to collect from a business that are not allowed when collecting from an individual. For instance sometimes when I called a business a customer would answer the phone and it was perfectly legal to tell them why I was calling.

ak47nevada
July 23, 2005, 05:23 PM
I agree with Bruce H, and would also like to add that you should make it known to ALL the dirty business practices of the Gun Dealers who aren't paying you.

There's nothing I hate more than small to middle sized businessmen who are dishonest and/or greedy. :fire:

...especially gun dealers in Las Vegas who are located by the airport that charge $150 OVER MSRP for half-assed quality FALs.

carebear
July 23, 2005, 05:38 PM
...especially gun dealers in Las Vegas who are located by the airport that charge $150 OVER MSRP for half-assed quality FALs.

Not to name names or nothin'. :evil:

iiibdsiil
July 23, 2005, 09:25 PM
Hell ya, list em here. If it costs them one or two sales, that should cost them that $100. Consider that debt paid. :D What a joke. I could cough up $100 for advertising anytime I needed, and if I saw even one lead from you, I would know that people are looking. I'm sure there are more people that come in that don't mention how they found the place.

I would put just their name up under their profile, and a kind "After many attempts to collect advertising fees, this company has not paid. Just fair warning of their business practices."

WayneConrad
July 23, 2005, 10:12 PM
Just delist 'em without saying why publically. No matter how justified you are in pointing fingers at the deadbeats, doing so makes you look a bit sour -- something that might bother even those potential new clients who do pay their bills. It also burns the bridge permanently rather than closing it: Sometimes being refused service is all a deadbeat needs to come to their senses, pay up, and continue doing business with you.

Standing Wolf
July 23, 2005, 10:22 PM
Burn them in large print everywhere you can. Freeloaders are nothing but thieves under another name.

That's what I'd do. Politic? No. Effective? Maybe or maybe not. Cathartic? Yes.

txgho1911
July 24, 2005, 12:33 AM
Maybe a listing of shop names with a brief explanation.
You could sell subscriptions to it!

Monkeyleg
July 24, 2005, 01:16 AM
Thanks again for all the replies.

There's too much downside and too little upside in "outing" them, as others have pointed out.

What I'll need to do, and as I said what consumes too much time, is to find a quality replacement store in the immediate area.

Once the new store is established and getting responses from my site, I can then remind the owner of the shop that I "zapped" from my site that those are customers who may have bought from him.

As someone on an earlier thread about my site said, the owners need to see a loss before they recognize the value of what I offer.

The difficulty lies in trying to show that the "zapped" owner has lost business.

Some will understand, while others won't. One of the most common reactions to loss of sales is to cut back on advertising, which is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Yet I've seen major companies adopt that stance.

One of the most ironic situations I've had concerns a gun shop in the Northeast. I contacted them back in September or so, and they said they weren't interested. Then, a couple of months ago, they contacted me to get their shop on the site.

Why? I don't know, except that AccuSport is really pushing their dealers to try out the site. And this week a major gun industry newsletter has published an article about my site, and has quoted three gun shop owners who have all seen increased sales and customers from the site. I gave the writer more owners to contact, but he felt that three was enough.

The desire for revenge is a strong emotion, but it's also one that drains energy that could be directed more positively. I need to keep that in mind.

Here's an email that I sent out to a shop in Ogden, UT the other day after the owner said he wouldn't spend a dime on any type of advertising:

"Hello, Jeff. Per our phone conversation this afternoon, we have removed the page on Gunshopfinder.com for Kent Shooters Supply from our site.

As I mentioned in our conversation, we've been getting a very good response from the majority of the shops on our site. I know that Impact Guns in Ogden has definitely received new customers from the site.

We'll keep the information about your store in our database. Should you decide in the future that you'd like to be on our site again, we can quickly restore that information. You can reach us by the email address above, or by phone at 414-543-XXXX.

Thank you for your time, and for trying out the trial subscription to our service.

Yours truly,
Dick Baker
Gunshopfinder.com"

I'm hoping that a polite but to-the-point email like that will leave the door open for the owner to reconsider down the line.

And I'm obviously hoping that, with enough time and effort on my part, being listed on my site will become almost as necessary as having a listing in the phone book.

I'm a patient man. Perhaps a stupid man, but patient. And I think this will all come together in time.

In the meantime, I really want to thank all of the THR members who've been helping me in this effort. It never ceases to amaze me that, when one of our members needs help, so many rise to the challenge.

As for the shops who've stiffed me on the invoices: I just may post their names here in a week or so. The entire world doesn't need to know that they're people of questionable ethics, but I think THR members would like to know.

iiibdsiil
July 24, 2005, 01:51 AM
You definitely handled that well. I wish more companies were like you.

Black Majik
July 24, 2005, 01:53 AM
I'm curious to see the list od dealers that are skimping out...

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