CigarCraig’s Semiannual IPCPR Diatribe and Announcement and a CAO Flathead

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 DSC00550admittance, 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.


CAO_Flathead_PistonThat’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,





Filed under Editorial, IPCPR

13 Responses to CigarCraig’s Semiannual IPCPR Diatribe and Announcement and a CAO Flathead

  1. Craig, I don’t blame you at all. I think you have hit it right on the head. IPCPR sounds like a “good ole-boys club” to me! And, unfortunately, I have heard a prominent cigar radio show host [who is a board member of IPCPR] often express what could be termed anti-consumer sentiments (and dare I mention continually bashing those who buy cigars by mail order) which fall right along those lines.

    • Dave Garofalo is bashing mail order customers? That seems really odd.

      • “Bashing” might have been a poor choice of words on my part. Defining it as the tendency of a [non-specified] host, or their Ed McMahon sidekick(s) “generally bad-mouthing” mail order cigars as to their inferior quality or origin vs. those bought from a Brick & Mortar” might be more precise, and yes, it does have an element of irony in it. Others can weigh in who know about the practice I speak of, It is a fairly regular occurrence.

  2. Dan Colley

    Craig, you hold in your hand the most powerful weapon known to mankind: a pen. I know that we all use computers with word processors nowadays, but I think the analogy to be appropriate. I believe that your effort to be treated equitably at the IPCPR convention should be escalated. Letters to the editors of the “shiny magazines” would seem appropriate. The work of the IPCPR is an effective means of getting “the word” into the marketplace about new products. In addition, and significantly, the IPCPR has apparently taken the lead in the effort to provide information about proposed legislative issues that would have a draconian impact those of us who enjoy a good hand-rolled cigar. It seems that the IPCPR is trying to sustain itself by drinking from another’s cup. The real benefit of these shows is realized by the manufacturers, not the media. It seems only logical that the manufacturers shoulder the burden of advertising and not have those expensive requirements put on the shoulders of those who are actually there to assist the manufacturers. After all, you and your associates (and competition) are in the business of getting the word out about new products (free advertisement) and about issues which adversely affect their business and our enjoyment. They rely on YOU, not vice versa. $395 seems to be a pretty steep price to pay for the privilege of walking around a trade show for two days providing free advertising for cigar manufacturers. All they have to do is make a good product. It just seems like the tail is wagging the dog.

  3. Commish

    What can I add that the 1st two replies didn’t. Thanks for keeping us informed.

  4. Hey Craig,

    We had the debate a while ago about paying for the show. In the end, unless you live in Vegas, the $395 members, particularly if you have more than one person attending the show, is not that large of an expense when you begin to add all of the show expenses up. (If you then subtract the things we are then given, it becomes a lot easier to swallow.)

    I think we should go for free, not forced to be members of the show, but it is their show and they are free to do as they please. In addition, I would rather pay the $395 membership fee than let consumers in as a way of revenue source.

    I just want to comment on a few things.

    1. We were given lunch two years ago because we (Barry Stein, one of the Patricks from Stogie Guys, and Brian Hewitt) told the members that was one of the things we wanted.

    From what I understand, the IPCPR does not actually pay for those lunches. They are sponsored, usually by J.C. Newman, who picks up the tab for the retailers.

    The point? I don’t think the IPCPR is actually paying for one member’s lunch over the other. Rather, the person donating those lunches thinks they are best for retail members.

    2. I have been told by numerous board members the reason why the Tobacconist University sponsorship is not extended is because Tobacconist University does not want to extend it.

    Both of these things are perks of being a retail member, but not included benefits. I’d love to have both, but I’m not sure the IPCPR is at fault in either situation.

    3. While I have been on the show floor early at each IPCPR I’ve been at, I was never supposed to be there. It’s an important time for us, as we get a lot of work done just meeting with people when they aren’t swamped, but it’s not like it’s a designated media time.

    What happened at last year’s trade show was a long time coming. Take your “second class citizen” argument from the other angle. Why should the media members be allowed on the show floor a day before the retail members?

    From what I was told the issue was not the normal cat and mouse game that takes place between the IPCPR and media members walking the show floor, rather, the comments on social media about it.

    Whatever the case, miss seeing you in Vegas. Can’t wait for the new wonderfully inclusive Cigar Media Association, Inc. to take on these issues for us. lol.

    • I actually echo all of Charlie’s thoughts, but the last paragraph (of course). Like Charlie, I think we should go to free, but his point on how the fee is used and who pays for the lunches is right on the money.

      In terms of the Cigar Media Association (which is open to all media), while there are opportunities for open discussion with IPCPR, there is still a lot of cigar media who does not attend the trade show. The mission goes far and beyond the trade show. In my personal opinion, much of the cigar industry is reluctant to invest in online media beyond “free” or “cheap”. Given most other industries see the value in investing in online media (and I’m not talking about getting samples and press releases) and why most of the cigar industry hasn’t, I see the Cigar Media Association as more focused on those issues as they have more long term impacts to online media’s survival. Ultimately issues of being on the floor early and lunch may be put on the table for Cigar Media Association, but I seriously hope this isn’t where the association is channeling most of their effort.

      • I fully (now) understand the lunch,and early entry stuff, had that all been made clear two years ago when I was arguing for more equitable treatment I would have backed off. Of course, this is part of the problem, lack of communication. Hopefully through your efforts and that of others, we can be respected and valued by the industry we love.

  5. JScott

    Well said my friend. Maybe all of the media should boycott the event. Bloggers like yourself are my first source of info about the industry. Without you guys, the media, where would they be?

  6. Craig

    Great information about the show. Agree with everyone else in that it is tragic that such great members of the cigar community are in a sense “banished” at the IPCPR. Keep up the great work, the blog is amazing and I look forward to reading every week. In the cigar note, I picked up one of the CAO Flatheads at Old Oaks this week and look forward to enjoying it. Take a nice vacation with the Mrs and enjoy yourself!

  7. Mike Perry

    The times I’ve been to IPCPR it was to work at a booth of a friend who is a manufacturer*. I’ve encountered the good and bad of the media. Craig, you’re one of the good – you love the cigars, you are spreading the word about the product, about the lifestyle, sharing knowledge. For every guy like you though, I’ve met 2 or 3 “media” members that their time trying to impress me with how much they knew, how connected they were, were trying to get as many free samples as they could, and expected the heads of the company to drop everything they were doing to speak to them for hours. I’ve seen “media” that expected reps and executives to walk away from the process of making sales and doing business, so they could ask questions about which priming of the plant the ligero binder came from, and was it from the 89 crop seed or the 93 crop seed.

    I think IPCPR is wrong to charge the Internet Media such a high fee JUST for membership, without providing VALUE for that fee. I do see their point, to a certain extent, because the organization is called the International Premium Cigar and Pipe RETAILERS…and before that it was the Retail Tobacco DEALERS Association…the bottom line is that the show exists to foster business relationships between the retail tobacconist and the manufacturers.

    Having been at a few shows, I know that there is surely a way to accommodate internet media in a better fashion than what the IPCPR has done. The first 2 days of the show are usually the busiest; the last full day and the final half-day of the show are generally pretty slow, so maybe the organization should consider opening the floor to internet media then. If they’re going to charge you a fee to be a member, they should also provide you with access to manufacturers – maybe press conferences, panels, or media-only blocks of time to conduct interviews, get pictures, receive pre-packaged samples. It might also be beneficial for the organization to encourage media members spending time with tobacconists, so that you can promote the many stores and lounges out there that do so much to provide a place for all of us to enjoy a great cigar. I know YOU do that kind of thing already, which is why you’re one of the good guys. Guys like you play an important role in getting word out to the consumer about great cigars. I wonder if more folks were like you, where they also got the word out about great shops where you can enjoy a cigar with others that also enjoy a great stogie, whether that might influence some decision makers at IPCPR. I wonder if there might be a sense from people in charge that “Internet Media” are going to promote the “Internet vendors” or encourage consumers to buy online at the expense of brick-and-mortars. I know you in particular have been excellent at promoting shops that you frequents, while also sharing links to online retailers where you spend your money. But not every “media” member is like that.

    Bottom line, if they’re going to make you pay to belong, you should get some value for your money. I think the IPCPR just needs to be more creative in how they handle that relationship.

    *My opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs, or feelings of any manufacturer, distributor, or vendor with whom I may have or have had a personal or professional relationshop…

  8. Craig, I am neither an IPCPR member, nor am I a vendor, or Manuf. But from your take on the topic I feel you are correct… I don’t want to offer to much on this topic since I don’t have a lot of information but if you feel it fight it brother.

  9. Can’t really weigh in on the IPCPR debate since I live too far away and would have no means of ever going.

    But on the other subject, I love the CAO Flathead. The Big Block is one of my picks for a $12 stick when I have that much to spend. It burns so nice and slow it’s like getting two sticks worth in one.