As often happens on our Peep Stuff sub-forum, some of our forum members were planning a get together in March, and a cat trip was suggested, specifically the FatCat, which we've organized for Peep Meets and get togethers for years now. This is all well documented on our forum.
When I noticed the thread announcing the excursion, I was a little curious about what was going on because I hadn't been given any heads-up or even notified that what I had initially seen posted on the 10 Days in March thread had been taken to the sign-up level. I asked the member that was in charge of the sign-up when they needed us to arrange the booking so we could plan the execution of the event, and I was informed that Tony and Cheri of Luna Blue were taking care of that.
What follows are my exact PMs sent to Tony and Cheri, I have only omitted / paraphrased anything that I did not personally write (all replies by Luna Blue's Tony and Cheri, and the timeline of events sent to me by the member that was organizing the excursion, or 'Peep Coordinator' if you will). This is because we do not feel it is proper to publish something received in a private message or email, not intended for a mass audience. We have no problems releasing our own messages, and retain this right. We have also published the email sent out to hundreds of people by Luna Blue's Tony and Cheri, as this was obviously meant for mass distribution, apparently to harm us in some fashion.
We are often tasked with reminding our site visitors of our policies. Even though they are clearly listed on every subforum's Please read! announcement, and even though every member must agree to them during the sign-up process, many people just skip over them.
What's up with the cruise? No one asked us about it, which seems strange to us, especially since we've been told you guys are handling it and after the last Burger Bash, you said you didn't want to get involved anymore. I'm confused.
We survive off of our commissions from trips, including when the peeps that we've brought together go out on excursions that they organize on our site.
Monica's reply was that she didn't think we booked that, but, of course, anyone with a pulse and a telephone can book anything, as anyone in Playa knows, and anyway, if we don't book something, it's certainly nice (and a term of use on our announcement) to ask us first because maybe we don't book it for a reason and maybe we don't want it booked on our site to dilute our other products (not saying that is the case, but it is certainly plausibly deniable), or maybe some other reason.
Anyway, we ARE glad to have you guys participating again. Please do get us in the loop on this excursion.
So I'll give you the gist of the reply, since we don't believe in publishing someones private messages, despite all of this.
Basically they don't see any confusion, don't see any connection to Playa.Info, and consider it a Luna Blue matter, that they also sell tours, that they would never attempt to take a Playa.Info customer or divert them to another product, and that we should be more clear about being able to offer products/services not directly promoted on our site.
Seems reasonable to me that they would have known that the people that asked them about this tour, that they know through our site, that were the organizers of past events for us, and that they've likely seen the thread on our forum where the trip idea was first discussed, as linked above, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
I'm concerned, however, by their attitude. They've told us so many times how big of a help Playa.Info has been with their customer base, and I'm forced to show proof of how this was something that started out on our site, and that we should have been asked about it. They've reminded me that they sell tours (most hotels do... hell, most ANYONE in Playa does, and the likely reason the organizers consulted with them was for having read their post on our forum about their trip on that catamaran) and with the prevailing attitude, I'm wondering what they are doing on our site, after saying they wouldn't be back, after writing off our freindship and diminishing the importance of our business to them (they posted this on the first drama thread, on our forum). Fair enough. But... looks like we have a potential conflict of interest here. We'll have to read on.
Please read our reply carefully, taking note of any demands we make of them.
[I quote their statement that they didn't have any knowledge of this trip having been planned on Playa.Info]
I don't doubt that, however, I am letting you know that it IS a tour being promoted on our site, comprised of people getting together via Playa.Info, so it IS a Playa.Info event.
They don't agree. It's their tour, initiated by their guests. If we want to prohibit people from discussing things that didn't originate on our site, that's up to us, but that wouldn't change this being theirs. They compare this to someone just talking about a tour on a site, and that if someone talks about something arranged elsewhere, it doesn't become ours (Playa.Info's). That this would be like them doing all the work, then someone mentioning it on another site, then them having to turn it all over to that site, and of course they hope that I can understand that is out of the question. They recommend that if we have a policy that something that isn't booked on our site cannot be discussed on our site, then we should make that clear.
They just aren't interested in reality, I guess.
Their tone to me is rather condescending. It's amazing that they would suggest we prohibit anything being discussed that isn't sold by us. Simply amazing! Our point is that it is just another in a long line of cat trips that have been organized on our site. That we request that people ask before using our thread for marketing of anything whatsoever.
It is prohibited to use the forums as a marketing tool for condos, villas, or other goods or services. If you have any doubts whatsoever about this rule and how it applies to your intentions to announce, market or share ANYTHING on this forum, send me a PM first and ask so that later you don't have to say "well, I just assumed..." This forum is free to use and supported by our premium members, pay-per-click advertising, and sales of goods and services offered on this site.
That's the relevent bit of our announcement. We aren't prohibiting discussion of anything, and it's belittling, really, to be sent that. They don't seem rational, and they really seem incapable of appreciating our side at all.
Here's the timeline.
You can check all this out on the forum, where this tour was conceptualized and initiated, as the latest chapter in our 5 years of forum organized peep catamaran trips.
They don't see how the timeline changes anything. They aren't responsable for what people post and they don't spend all their time monitoring how things come about on Playa.Info. We (Playa.Info) should have stepped in and informed the members that they were required to book it through us, that it's not their job to moderate the forum to figure out what tours we have exclusivity to, and they go on and one.
we never expected them to be forum moderators or even turn down someone that asked them to book something. However, it certainly isn't cool that we let them know that it did initiate on our site, as an offshot of our Peep functions and they didn't find that to be very important. We're supposed to be cops and force people to book through us or not talk about it, and if we don't do that, it's perfectly acceptable for them to remove from their consideration how something initiated.
Did you notice any demands yet? Any at all?
At this point Anna and I realized that they just weren't very considerate. We feel like they have taken advantage of us and spoken down to us. If we were to initiate a policy like they suggested, we wouldn't have the quality forum that got us to our current level of popularity, people would complain about us, call us greedy, etc. Yes, when it's something we can handle, and it's a group of people getting together via our site, we want to be the ones making the reservation. I don't see how anyone can fault us for that. We don't put our fingers into everything, either. At each of the Peep Meets their have been tours and events completely independent of our organizing. Dive trips, cenote trips, parties and other events we have little to do with, and we could make a case that they dilute the offerings provided by this very site, but we don't because that wouldn't be very cool, now, would it?
Yes, if our site is used to market something, we want to be asked about it first. This includes raising money for charity, helping out someone that is ill, or promoting a business, trip or tour. Everyone can find plenty of examples of this. That Tony and Cheri of Luna Blue Hotel would consider it our lack of control versus just being cool and saying, "Oh, we didn't know it was a Peep event, how do you want to handle it?" is amazing to us. What is even more amazing is the email they sent out, which you can read below.
wow. we are really amazed and shocked. and saddened.
They too are saddened and shocked and here mention of us acting like they tried to rip us off and that we demanded that they turn it over to us.
at this point I realize they are not capable of understanding anything, and that they are a conflict of interest on our site. I put their user account into a group without signature permissions (where they linking to their blog, which bugged us after proclaiming they would no longer have anything to do with our site after the first Luna Blue Tony and Cheri drama in February.)
I removed their hotel's free contact form and info page. Why should we help them if they are so inconsiderate?
I placed their recent self-promotional video launch into a holding forum. It bugged us for them to use us for promotion, then treat us like this. Also posted on our sign-up agreement and announcement is that we reserve the right to moderate anything for any reason on our site.
I cannot see where we demanded anything of them.
They then sent the following email to many people, yesterday, December 6th.
Earlier today, James removed the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden as a recommended hotel on playa.info and has removed many references to our hotel, stripped our signature of any reference to our hotel and our blog, and totally removed the thread about the video we recently made about the hotel, all without prior notice. There may be others that we don’t know about. He did this without warning because we refused to pay him a commission which we didn’t think he was owed. It saddens us that he has taken this step.
We feel we have no choice but to offer people an explanation. We think it is unfortunate, even unfair, that the Luna Blue Hotel suddenly becomes a “non entity” on the forum without anyone knowing why. We don’t want or expect people to take sides and aren’t expecting responses to this email. We just don’t want people who care about us and are interested in our lives and hotel to suddenly wonder why our hotel suddenly disappeared from playa.info. Therefore, we’re sending this email to explain our absence.
The situation is as follows: It appears that a number of Peeps are coming to Playa in March 2008. Some of them are repeat guests and will be staying once again at the Luna Blue. One of those guests asked us if we could book a Catamaya snorkeling tour for them. We of course said yes. We have been booking Catamaya for over a year, have a good relationship with them, and think it is an excellent tour. After we booked the tour, a thread by that guest was started on playa.info asking people if they wanted to go on the tour. We did nothing to promote it on that forum other than to say that we would be going ourselves. The Peeps were handling their own party as usual. We were just happy to be able to assist with the arrangements.
We told James that we thought that the solution to this problem was that he make a clear statement on the forum that members were required to book any and all tours and activities exclusively through his office if they wanted to talk about them on the forum or invite others to join them. We did not feel that had been made clear before; certainly we did not have that impression. Further, we suggested to James that he make it clear that he could and would book ALL tours anywhere in Playa del Carmen with any company. We were also unaware of that. Frankly, our understanding was that James had a relationship with FatCat. They were the recommended company on the forum. It never occurred to us that he might want to offer the services of a competing company. For these reasons, we told him that in the future we would abide by such requirements, but that in this case the reservation had properly been made by our guest through the Luna Blue and that he was not entitled to a commission. James’s response was one word: “goodbye.” Shortly thereafter, references to our hotel began to disappear from the forum.
Our TripAdvisor participation (where we are designated as “Local Experts”), our blog, and our membership on other forums have allowed us to reach a large number of travelers and vacationers to this area. We have consistently directed such people to playa.info and have offered our own informational services on playa.info whenever we could. We supported the playa.info community in all of its activities: the parties (like the Blender Burger Bashes during PeepFest and PeepStock—exclusively for playa.info peeps) and the charities (Mahahual, Bloody Chicas, DJ, Peanut Pet Shelter, etc.). It is perhaps for these reasons that we were nominated for Most Inspired, Most Respected and the Community Service Award in this year’s Playa.Info award nominations. Despite this, we are deemed no longer worthy of “recommendation” by playa.info.
It appears the bottom line is that playa.info is not a community but a business, and when the two collide, it’s a one way street. We don’t mind paying commissions to playa.info or any vendor. We have paid a lot of commissions to playa.info over the years. But we dislike being told after the fact that some vague rule applies which requires us to pay a fee when it never existed before, particularly in light of our history of contributions to that site. We dislike even more the arrogance that responds to this dispute by unilaterally stripping references to our business from the site we have supported for so long.
This saddens us tremendously in that we have made many, many friends in this little cyber community. Some we know only from the internet; some have been our guests; and some have become true members of our family. That’s why it is important for us to let everyone know that we did not quit playa.info, the door was shut in our face.
Remember: Playa del Carmen is NOT one website. This little piece of paradise will continue to prosper and grow, regardless of where people talk about it, and the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden will continue to be an integral part of it. And we will continue to blog and to contribute to other forums since we continue to be true locals.
We wish you all well, and we thank you for your friendship and support on the forum. We hope you’re keep in touch by email or through our blog. In the future, if you wish to stay with us, please contact us directly. And by the way, the Luna Blue bar will be open in the next few weeks. Stop by for a drink. We may not be “recommended,” but we can make a mean margarita.
Tony & Cheri Head, Owners