No vendors. No forums. Just pure impact.

A cautionary tale...

February 3, 2012 — P

B&Banned

Once upon a time, I took to the internet in search of a better shave.  One of the first places I found was a website full of all kinds of information.  Despite the logo that looks like it was drawn on a short bus, I found myself quite drawn to B&B.  Over the course of almost 2 years, I spent many hours on that forum, helped a lot of guys, spent a lot of money "contributing", and dedicated a lot of time and information in an attempt to improve their Wiki (for which I show zero contributions to the wiki in my user stats). 

Like many, I eventually came to know too much information for my own good.  There's no reason to get into most of it, but there are some things that knowing would help you understand how I came to be on the "outs" with the largest forum related to wetshaving on the net. 

The history from before its founding is not relevant to this piece, but it's actually quite entertaining.  Fast forward to the Fall of 2009.  By this time, I'd become friendly with many members on B&B in both real life and on the net.  In fact, I spent a day in NYC with some members of B&B and found myself "friends" with one guy who happened to be pretty high up in the hierarchy, and things were pretty good there.  

Almost immediately after the NYC trip, the moderators began priming the community for a major event.  It was obvious from the beginning that it would be a major deal, and it certainly was.  Unfortunately, they spent a couple of weeks starting thread after thread titled "IT IS COMING" in various forums.  After a while, they became quite tedious, and quite a few members started getting irritated by them, including me and even others with much more time on the board than me.  I later learned that I made some people behind the curtain angry at that time, but I was still quite active and kind of oblivious to it. 

In the Spring of 2010, they came up with the idea of appointing Stewards over various forums to help promote a positive atmosphere.  I learned that I was named a Steward early on because the moderator team, in general, considered me to be intelligent and knowledgeable, but just not a good fit, yet they hoped that I'd "toe the line".  Unfortunately, that was also about the time that I got a call from Robert Williams telling me how he'd been banned.  After digging around, I learned, that it was done unilaterally without even a conversation behind the scenes. 

Having great respect for Robert, it really bothered me that he'd been "ninja banned", but I didn't say anything about it... I also cut down my participation.  The next thing I know, this thread about my friend Ray showed up.  There were a few things about this thread that were were wrong on many levels.  First, it was quite well known that Ray was dealing with some major, life threatening health problems at this time.  With that in mind, it wasn't surprising that he had some difficulties in his store... What was surprising is that this thread appeared on B&B before Ray had been contacted about the "issues".  Wetshaving's biggest villian, Lynn Abrams was the one who was the first to tell Ray that he'd been banned... not one of his "good friends" on B&B. 

You see, what wasn't so well known is that Ray was working pretty closely with Lynn to make razor scales and sell gear in his store.  I'm not sure what all the details are of the difficulties in the business between Ray and his customers, but I do know that if I were friends with someone who was having major health issues, I would give him an opportunity to fix it, or at least discuss it before attempting to publicly ruin him, and I certainly wouldn't give the incident a stickied thread.  This becomes especially true in light of their policy of not discussing members' banning and even having their "bad" vendors filtered automatically. 

So, after all of that, I was pretty well done with B&B in all practicality.  Concurrently, I was also participating at SRP and Coticule.be where I have been equally active.  In fact, that has created some additional tension between B&B and me.  I had one of their moderators send me a private message saying that I needed to choose one or the other between SRP and B&B.  No problem, I was happy to go where I wasn't asked to choose.  In fact, I have long believed that SRP and Coticule.be were the only places worth visiting for straight razor related information, but because B&B was full of members who eventually wander into the straight razor world, I always tried to remain active there to help out.

On Cutthroat, we have spent a lot of time discussing shaving, doing reviews, and talking about issues/problems that we see in the straight razor world.  What we haven't done much of is discuss B&B, only tangentially touching on them.  Robin recently did a comparitive analysis of shaving fora, and in it, he mentioned that people should go to B&B if they want "world class information on leg shaving" or have "been banned at The Straight Razor Place." Considering, I laugh when he tells me to DIAF (Die in a Fire for those who might not know), it should surprise no one that I laughed at that.  That apparently indicated my "contempt" for B&B...

Now, for anyone who knows B&B really well, what happened next should be no surprise.  An administrator started trying to goad me into doing something "ban-worthy" (interestingly enough by the same guy mentioned earlier in New York who was my "friend"... you know, the B&B kind).  When that didn't happen, I started noticing my signature being regularly changed (sometimes to homo-erotic things), and it became obvious they were tying to get me to go away without banning me.  As I said, this isn't particularly surprising because the moderators at B&B typically are among the most abrasive and ungentlemanly group on the board.  They went further than that, though.  They deleted my private messages, they deleted my thread subscriptions, they deleted almost half my posts, they changed my avatar numerous times, and they even went so far as to change my password.  When asked by mutual friends why they were doing this to me, the word has been put out that they want me to go away, but they don't want me to have a good screenshot to post on Cutthroat (oops). I've had several members tell me that the same thing has happened to them.

I'm not particularly upset about what they've done to me on B&B.  In fact, they're doing me a favor for giving me a reason not to worry about them, and I wasn't even going to share this with our readers.  It just seems like there is too much of this behavior going on at B&B for it not to be exposed.   This is especially true in light of what is allowed to happen with respect to vendors competing with some of their favorites (of course you know the most recent example)... Not being a good fit at B&B is quite a bit of a compliment after all. 

The simple fact of the matter is B&B has been reading people's PMs, running anti-vendor campaigns under the 'everybody is free to express their opinion' mantra (of course posting the lie that "the vendor can always post their side if they find it necessary"- neglecting to mention that they've already banned them).  And of course, SRP moderators' post are almost immediately deleted, and they are told that they should stay away from those anti-vendor threads and to go back to their own playground. Of course, when B&B members post complaints about their "preferred vendors" they get deleted, or the big brass comes swooping in to defend them.  And people are told they can go to another forum to post it if they wish, just not on B&B... this is even true of their Stewards, writing as one who's witnessed it and can speak from personal experience.  I've had several posts defending the "wrong" vendors deleted.  

As I said in the teaser, B&B is a popular forum, but at best it serves as a cautionary tale to anyone who dare disagree with those sporting the pretty blue badges.  I can only imagine their reaction if I didn't ignore B&B's myriad shortcomings for so long... Funny enough, I've shared opinions that can't possibly be popular about goings on at SRP, and I've gotten very little push back.  If anyone had a reason to act like petulant children, it's certainly them.

Don't say you haven't been warned...