Many of you may know that for the last 3 years I’ve been a member of the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers as an “Internet Media” member. 2011 was the first year they instituted that membership category, and it came with an application process where one had to provide traffic data and references. I think about 15 Internet Media members were admitted, of which I was one. The membership dues was $150 that year, and that got us one pass to the trade show. Where retailers membership was $295, they got two passes to the show, lunch at the show, along with a lot of other benefits throughout the year. As an independent, part time blogger, I really don’t have a need for credit card processing and healthcare, so those benefits don’t mean anything to me, but free access to the Tobacconist University is something I would take advantage of if I had the chance. The Tobacconist University access was not available to the Internet Media, nor was lunch. Once again, myself, and many of my blogger brethren (and sistren?) do this out of our own pockets, any money we make isn’t enough to fly us to Vegas (or wherever) to attend the show, and the only benefit we get is content for our sites and some sample cigars (as long as we don’t ask for them, that’s another rule, no asking for samples!). I went alone and got some crappy videos, but met a lot of great people.
2012 come along and we are informed that our membership dues had increased to $295, with all the same rules and limits imposed. I won’t rehash the whole thing, but I wrote a post (here) about it which caused then IPCPR head Bill Spann to open a dialog where we were able to at least get second pass to the show (important to some of the sites who have multiple contributors) and lunch. We got to the show to register and there were no lunch tickets (it’s the principle, you understand). The show was in Orlando, Florida which sounds good, and the convention center is incredible, but it was a lot more costly to attend with parking and driving and everything. We had a great show though and it looked like the Internet Media membership category might be gaining acceptance.
The 2013 show was back in Las Vegas, and the IPCPR had raised the membership fees across the board, up to $395. They did this to raise much needed money for the legislative battles and fighting FDA regulation. They tried to institute a “consumer day”, that was flatly rejected by the industry, to raise additional funds. One thing they did manage to do was open the show floor a half hour later than normal and let retailers who paid into the political action committee in an hour early. Now, take into account that in prior years the media have been allowed onto the show floor an hour before the doors open every day. This gives us the chance to take some pictures and even get in some interviews and not get in the way of business. This was now off the table, no early admittance, unless, of course, you made a PAC donation! This little detail was not communicated to us, even though it was brought up to senior IPCPR management well in advance of the show. On the last day of the show I was told by an IPCPR board member that there were manufacturers alleging that media members were getting in the way of business and stealing! Now, I don’t believe any of the members I know would do either of those things, and a I know a bunch. There were, however, quite a few there that I didn’t know, never heard of even. I was told that there were now over 30 Internet Media members! We also used to be allowed on the floor the day before the show opened, and a couple guys we know were escorted off the floor and told that they couldn’t be there. Also, upon registration they still did not give us lunch vouchers, and they tried to give us “exhibitor” badge sleeves (I had brought Media sleeves from last year). Nobody at registration seemed to even know there was a Media category. Exhibitor badge sleeves would have gotten us in early, it’s true, but when it’s made clear that media members have separate rules and you can be kicked out for breaking them, they should also follow the rules and identify us properly. Somebody somewhere is looking for any excuse to get us out, and we don’t need the IPCPR giving them any extra ammunition!
So here’s how I feel: I feel like a second class citizen in the IPCPR. We pay our dues and our own way to the show and are treated like we don’t belong there. We cover the show because we love the cigar business. For me it’s my vacation, and my wife, as much as she supports me in this and helps me at the show, isn’t as enamored with it as I am. I am tired of taking “working” vacations. That’s why I decided to not renew my membership this year. I’ll find some other events to go to and have a good time with my friends in the business and try to write some good stories about them for you. I need to change things up a little anyway, I’m sure watching my interviews with all the industry people isn’t to much different than watching Stogie Review‘s, Cigar-Coop‘s, or any of the others. I do have some advice for the IPCPR again though, not that anyone asked:
Offer the “media” free admittance to the show. Choose those who you want to be there covering the show, ask the board, ask the retail members, ask the manufacturers. It can be a simple survey, but tell the membership that if they don’t vote, they can’t bitch! Do you (the IPCPR) engage the membership and ask them about issues? I’ve never seen it and I was a member, right? Put the same restrictions on the media if you want, and limit the number of attendees, offering a modest fee for extra people, but those extra people better be contributors with their names on posts over a period of time. If one of the media members breaks the rules, kick them out, and let everyone know who, where, what and why. Rules have to be in place and can’t be arbitrarily changed on the fly like it appeared last year. In my mind, it would take an IPCPR staffer maybe a day to take a list of applicants and check them out and make a determination who belongs there and who doesn’t. Stop treating your paying members like interlopers. Like I said, we don’t need to spend our time and money to go where we don’t feel wanted.
That’s this year’s rant on the subject. I smoked a few cigar this week, most notably, the CAO Flathead Piston . This cigar is a stark contrast to the Flathead V770 Big Block. The Piston is a 6½x42 which seems much slimmer than 42 ring gauge since it’s square pressed. It’s got an awesome Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper which is nice and oily. The cigar has powerful flavor, however I think the larger ring gauges are more for me. I have no complaints about the burn, it was perfect, but the draw was a little snug. I’ve smoked the 5×54 Camshaft, and I have the enormous Big Block in the humidor (I’m missing the 6×60 Carb), given the square press, again, the 70 ring doesn’t seem that huge. Strange how that works! So far, I dig this line, the packaging is cool, and the cigars are solid. Another great job by Rick Rodriguez, Ed McKenna and the gang at CAO.
It’s a beautiful Sunday and I’ve got cigars that need to be smoked! Until the next time,