2/26/2013

NAHBS - the bad press review- Update with Resolution!

Update: After this got blown up on the reddit and the twitters and such to an unprecedented level (at least for this blog), I talked to Paul the communications director for a while tonight on the phone, I think we are good now. Some simultaneous time crunches and misunderstandings led to this not getting resolved as we both probably wish it did Saturday morning. I am good with Paul, I will write a bit more about this in another post tonight with the photos and such from the show...

I went to the 2013 North American Handmade Bike Show in Denver this weekend and had mostly a good time. The people running the media credentials were not a part of that good time, they pretty much invited me to use my tiny angry pen to give em some bad press, and since I am a blogger, I am contractually obligated to come through, so here it is:

A week before the show started I applied for media credentials for the show. I was not super optimistic that they would give them to me, but they did have a blog category on their media credentials page, and I blog and I know from handmade bikes, so I applied. A few days later I got a very polite yet somewhat oddly written email denying me my credentials that read more or less in full:

Tarik, thank you for your NAHBS media credential application. Sadly this year I am unable to offer you a credential. Build up your readership and we can revisit next time you apply. Best regards and every success with the growth of your blog.
Paul the Communications Consultant
North American Handmade Bicycle Show

I am fine with that. As awesome as my blog is, I don't have enormous readership, the value is really only seen in the advanced metrics like VORB* and RIPV**, which, frankly, I don't expect everyone to appreciate. I also understand that NAHBS is a "big deal" now. I thanked them for the quick response and went on with my plans to attend the show. I had intended to try to set up a couple interviews with some framebuilders I know from way back, and try to get some high quality pictures during the Friday morning media hours for blog gold purposes, but I am pretty flexible and planned on going and seeing what I got.

So I was walking around the show, waiting in front of a pal's booth to check out his bikes and I spot someone talking to the builder while wearing a badge with some familiar words on it:

Ran into someone who was not me wearing a press pass with my name on it, the press pass I was denied as my blog was too small for NAHBS

Hey look, someone is wearing a three day media pass with the words "Tarik Saleh, Moscaline". And yet they are not me. I was more than slightly taken aback at this and was not sure quite what to do. I decided not to push them down and take the pass, but instead find out what was going on. So I talked to them for a bit. Turns out their spouse is working in some press capacity for NAHBS and they gave them a badge from someone who the media people said is not coming to the show. This actually is not really that unreasonable, I have been to many big trade shows and there is all manner of badge swapping, borrowing and the like that goes on. The fact that they gave the spouse of someone working for the show a badge that was lying around is pretty typical. What is a bigger deal is that they denied me a press pass and then printed one out and gave it to someone who is not me.

I was kind of disgruntled at the media folks, but not that angry. But over the course of the day at least 4 people (all of whom had booths at the show) asked me who was wearing the badge with my name on it, which does not really reflect well on me or my blog (Moscaline is a "really big deal"), and after telling my story over and over again, reflects badly on the show. I was pretty prepared to let it go, but after other people noticed too, it kind of lead to my resolve to go and ask for my media pass the next morning.

So the next morning I go down to the media room to get my pass, the nice people volunteering have no trouble finding my name on the pass list, but they can't find my badge. So I tell them, look here is the deal, and explain that I was denied a pass, yet there is someone on the show floor walking around with my name on their badge, could I please have my media pass. They go back and talk to someone named Paul (could not see if it was the same guy who sent me the email or not) and they come back and say, sorry, we can't give you a press pass. Ok, can I talk to Paul? Sure they say, so I walk back there (with my daughter in tow) to go talk to Paul the decider.

I explain to him again what happened and he clearly does not want to talk to me as he refuses to meet my gaze as I am talking to him. He mutters a non-apology along the lines of "that should not have happened, we will look into it". I reiterate to him that I am not pleased that there is someone walking around the show with my name and blog on their credentials and I ask him to please issue me the media pass in my name he has already given to someone else. He refuses. I ask him if he realizes that this is going to result in bad press. He avoids eye contact and does not respond. So I ask him two more times much more directly if he understands that this causes bad press, until he finally looks at me and answers "yes". I tell him, OK you got it, and walk out. Hence the bad press you are reading now.

I don't like to tell people how to do their job, but let me go ahead and make a few suggestions: The only possible correct response to the above screw up is to say something like:

" I am very sorry this happened, we made a mistake, here, let me print out a press pass for you"

That would have instantly made this go from a bad review, to a humorous aside in a positive article. It would not have cost the show anything, except possibly $22 bucks in lost revenue for that day. My daughter wanted more stickers, so I happily went and paid an entry fee so we could go sticker hunting. I don't care about the money I spent on attending the show, but I do care that the media people were unable to enact a simple fix for a pretty embarrassing error. Cross the mighty bloggers at your peril I always say. Finally, let me further go ahead and make one more suggestion, I recommend you media folks stash a few credentials for "John (or Joann) Smith, Monthly Biking Publication" to give to those people who show up without credentials but need some in a hurry. That way you won't have small blondes walking around with badges that say "Tarik Saleh" on them, or worse, having innocent spouses of show employees having to be associated with Moscaline.

For those of you wanting actual NAHBS coverage, I probably will post some nice photos of the show tomorrow, while I am not currently a big fan of the media arm of the NAHBS, the show does fill a gap in the bike world and is pretty good for the framebuilders and the public, also there were lots of cool bikes there.

*Value over Replacement Blogger

**Reader Independent Page Views

48 comments:

OGONB said...

Hey I work on trade shows for a living. What they did is wrong and very low.

Josh said...

Not cool.

Josh said...

Not cool.

Scott Loveless said...

I wonder how many other "small" bloggers were denied press passes. And I also kinda wonder how many of those Paul decided to print and hand out to his buddies.

David Stanley said...

Paul is slimy. He's sending out letters stating you've been denied credentials. BUT, he adds you to the official list. Then, he either a) gives your pass to a buddy or b) sells the pass to someone and pockets the cash. Either way, it's not tenable.

plum said...

That was an impressively level-headed response on your part. Are you part alien?

Desert Dirt said...

That's comically bad. The guy doesn't even have it in him to own up to his misdeeds when confronted on it. I'm certain with his skillset he could provide enormous value to a bush league organization like the Royals or possibly the Marlins.

Velocodger said...

Certain folks, when they get a little power, seem to really get off on saying "no", and ruining someone's day. There is a special place in Hell for them I'm sure.

Stevil said...

Fuck Paul. And not in a good way.

Kurt Schneider said...

That's not the way to do business, and make no mistake...the trade show IS a business.

I was fortunate enough to have attended the show on Friday and Saturday, and my only "bad" experience was the grass fed burgers and over-salted fries. ($17 for a burger, fries, and coke?) Otherwise, the show was a terrific experience.

Looking forward to the pics, and hope you and your daughter had a good time, outside of the credential problem

MM Productions Math Videos said...

Isn't this the very attitude that caused the hand-built folks to create their own show in the first place? Lame.

Andy D. said...

I would be pissed, too. Mistakes happen, and that's part of life. However, your name wasn't magically transferred to the press pass. If Paul was your only point of contact prior to the show, he had to have
been involved in its production. Could have been an easy fix, but now this. As a much less influential blogger, I won't forget.

It sounds like the wearer of your pass was more or less a nice person, but could have just as easily been an ass, while labeled as you. That, as we know, would have violated rule #2 on your behalf.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Welcome to Gettinscrewedville.

Cyclofiend Jim said...

No excuses. That was wrong on several levels, and showed a remarkable penchant for the Worst Possible Response Under the Circumstances™. The only thing he could have done worse was to throw you out of the show for trying to impersonate Tarik.

Ramona Wheelright said...

paul wanted you to increase your readership and surely he is helping you achieve that goal. what a great guy. he should use his last name, so we can love him even more.

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Defenders of Moscaline... SWARM! SWARM!

Here's my entry into the fray.

Epic, epic lameness. Like, on a Rapha-esque scale of epic.

Anonymous said...

That's a real bummer. I've been to NAHBS twice and would never go again. It was reminiscent of a tattoo convention I went to in the early 90s. If I'm gonna waste my time looking at bikes I'll do it at home on the interweb where I can lounge around in my underwear with my cats and my dog. Hell, I'd rather pedal around the city and look at bikes locked up around town than go to NAHBS again.

Oh, and fuck Paul.

And Tarik, I really do like your blog although AHTBM remains my favorite.

Sudz said...

Anyone else sense a bit of "tude" in this paragraph?

"As in previous years, if your reach is below a certain threshold, arbitrarily determined by the media director, Paul Skilbeck, we will either outright reject your application, or offer in exchange for your day’s credential we will ask you to provide us with a complimentary 150-word news story, with photo, each day for publication in our online show coverage. You will be given a name credit for this. If you feel you might be in this cohort, please contact the press officer Paul Skilbeck"

Just a guess but I am betting this is the "Paul" you refer to.

http://2013.handmadebicycleshow.com/media/media-briefing/

Tattoos by David said...

I've been to the show three years in a row, talk to Don every time, and got a pass this year (shooting not for myself but for two other overseas bloggers). I really feel his heart is in the right place but the show is getting so big that things happen that are sometimes unpleasant. That being said, this could have been handled better. Also, while not defending anyone's actions, I know people corned can make bad decisions. I don't know Paul, or anyone else on Don's crew at NAHBS. But I am going to suggest sending Don himself and email with a link to this and see what happens. I run a restaurant as a day job and if someone working for me gave anyone a bad experience, I'd feel wronged if they didn't tell me about it directly.

Kent Peterson said...

Yeah, what the other guys said. You handled things in a very cool way, as is your nature and some folks were very uncool as seems to be their nature. Don't give 'em buttons, they can't even follow the very simple rules of the club.

D.B. Cooper said...

If you had printed your own press pass, could they have objected, since you were on the list?

Or, could you have printed a pass with Paul's name and credentials, since that's the way they roll?

Btw, did the little blonde holder of the pass offer to give it to you?

I'm thinking if you wear Tarik Saleh's pass, you quickly get to meet Tarik's bemused friends. You and she are practically in the same gang now.

Well-told, made me laugh.

Pondero said...

Great restraint and coolness, Tarik. Perhaps Paul will soon learn that it is about PEOPLE.

I hope your blog skyrockets viewers to help the learning process.

Carl said...

Until Don figures out the PEOPLE thing, his family of minions probably won't either. This is old news for NAH-BS.

David said...

Seriously not cool. I think your daughter needs a blog called 'NAHBS'. She can write about stickers and tricycles. See how they like there name and professional reputation out of there control. Bet you hear from a lawyer before the 3rd post.......

EthanPDX said...

Methinks you should have handed the blonde a nice adhesive mustache.

rhys said...

I learned something about composure from you today. Thanks. I hope locusts eat Paul's crop for the next three seasons.

eric said...

interesting:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Skilbeck

Anonymous said...

Sleazy. I admire your poise in the circumstances.

Forbes Black said...

This is appalling. Here is a copy of the email I just sent to DW:

Hi Don,

I read this article with a certain amount of horror:

http://tsaleh.blogspot.com/2013/02/nahbs-bad-press-review.html

If I were you, I would terminate Paul immediately and publicly, while issuing Tarik, who is a popular and well-respected member of the bicycling community, a well-publicized apology.

This incident is a real stain on NAHBS's otherwise stellar reputation.

Just my two cents, but I know that my feelings are shared by many.

Sincerely,

Forbes Black
Editor and Chief Bottle Washer, Cycloculture.com

Michael_S said...

well, hearing your story with the NAHBS staff, thought I'd add to the positive responses on how you dealt with their very poor way of handling the situation. Maybe they were just greedy and wanted your $22?

Paul Skilbeck said...

I apologize for not putting a sticker over the name on the credential. No harm was done, but it could have been. Normally I have some wrist bands to give out, but this year I didn't have any.

Issuing a credential to somebody who has applied but falls short of the minimum standard would have been unfair to all the other bloggers who were denied credentials.

There's another side to this story, but I am not about to start airing dirty laundry.

Anonymous said...

Did he look like this? http://o2sm.com/about/

Jc Breslin said...

I can say that I am quite offended by these comments and accusations that are being made. I am a employee of NAHBS and work very closely with Pail Skilbeck. He is a well respected longstanding industry veteran who has served us well over countless years of our show. I can attest first hand to his integrity and of his commitment to the best interest of NAHBS and the entire handmade industry. I feel that he is being unfairly criticised at this point. There are always two sides to every story.

Philip Williamson said...

Everyone practice saying, "Oh, cool, you have my badge! Thanks! Paul said there was a mixup," and hold out your hand.

I'm seeing a few bike bloggers here that will NEVER get press passes to NAHBS. Ever.

Dean Patterson said...

Okay Paul and Jc....this is a BLOG...time for truth...you got"another side to the story"...well, let's hear it! Or, just shut up.

Rogelio Portillo said...

@Philip Williamson: I guess certain bike bloggers will have to resort to showing up and covering the event like they probably do now. Again.

Vik said...

Wow! Someone at NAHBS told me you had into the Federal Witness Protection Program and they barely recognized you.

Now I understand!

;-)

Vik

Tarik Saleh said...

Well that just blew up beyond expectation. Thanks for all the comments, there is probably a lesson in all this somewhere, not sure exactly where. I am going to close the comments on this as I think everything that could have been said has been, including by the NAHBS media peoples.

Tarik Saleh said...

OK, opened the the comments back up. I was unable to moderate the comments properly at work and this really blew up where I could not deal with the volume of comments or the vocal and passionate support upwelling. Just a bit ago I did get a personal call from Paul Skilbeck and we are good, I will talk more about it on another post. I think we both got to the point we should have gotten on Saturday morning. So keep the comments civil please.

Anonymous said...

Nothing like this would ever happen at a Renaissance Faire. Just sayin...

Forbes Black said...

Good to know you are working it out, and my apologies to Paul if I over-reacted. I hereby retract my suggestion that he be terminated. Perhaps a rough beating with a wet noodle will suffice for this first infraction...

John smith said...

This whole mess started with "about a week before the NAHBS, applied for my press credentials". I spent about 20 years in just about every aspect of the bicycling business and know what it takes for a decent trade show to get off the ground, and NAHBS is way more than 'decent'. You knew this show was coming up for a year and didn't deal with it until the week before. You should be accepting at least 50% of the blame for this blip, which is turning into a minor fiasco. Get over yourself. Until Don created this show, small builders were mostly 'depending on the kindness of strangers'. Don can be an a-hole sometimes, but for 8 years this show has been going and growing - as it will continue to , and not because of blogs, but because of hard working framebuilders, of which Don is also one. John From Canada

Unknown said...

When "Sudz" printed out that paragraph about Paul "arbitrarily" deciding whether you were worthy I thought this must be a satirical comment... then he provided the URL. I cannot believe than any media "director" would make such an assbag comment. He deserves any and all the bad press he gets. Too bad NAHBS is associated with him.

Paul Skilbeck said...

@John Smith, thank you for taking an even-handed approach in this. My part is probably more than 50%, but as I mentioned to Tariq in our conversation, blogs play an important role in getting the word out about the handmade bikes industry to some of the most passionate cyclists. IMO blogs are a key part of the mix. Working with Darryl Kotyk (ex-pat Canadian blogger) in Austin 2011, NAHBS organized a blogger's reception on Thursday evening. I am open to doing so again in 2014 if anybody is interested in helping organize it.

Unknown said...

What is missing from the NAHBS response is an explanation of the crux of this screw up. After having been denied a press pass for whatever reason (low readership, late submission) HOW did a pass bearing Tarik's name and the name of his blog come to be issued and given to someone who was obviously NOT Tarik? Paul's response was disingenuous. "I ran out of wristbands"? This is a misuse of Tarik's name and his property and could have had repercussions. The least he should expect as the person responsible for press "relations" is some bad press.

Paul Skilbeck said...

@Unknown. How else would I do it? If applicants always gave me accurate figures about their readership I would go back to using objective measures, but many people have exaggerated their readership in the past so I can no longer rely on that method.
in recent years I have found the most reliable way to make the call is to visit the website myself, look at subject relevance, the frequency of posting in recent months, the number of comments, and any references to the forthcoming NAHBS (the latter will always result in a favorable call should other factors be borderline).
Yes, this is arbitrary, it's a judgment call on my part, but what's wrong with that?

Tarik Saleh said...

Alrighty, good enough, I think time to close the comments once more. Thanks Forbes for your apology, thanks John Smith for providing the first "get over yourself" in 50 odd comments, thanks Paul for clarification and comments. Thanks anonomy for pointing out some possibly productive stuff. Looks like I will write a quick followup post tonight to explain a little more, but in short, I am very satisfied that Paul realizes why I was motivated to write this post. He is well aware of why I am angry at the misuse of my name and has apologized for it. I accept that apology. Thanks again all.

Forbes Black said...

John Smith, I think you are missing the point. Tarik makes it clear that he accepted the denial of his press pass. His problem is with the fact that NAHBS issued a pass with his name and blog name on it to someone else, then would not make things right when they got caught red handed. No one, certainly not Tarik, is questioning the fact that NAHBS is a great show and has come a long way in the last few years.