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A different view of the Coupon Connection

A different view of the Coupon Connection

 
Old Aug 5, 09, 11:21 am
  #1  
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A different view of the Coupon Connection

I appreciate that Randy has given us this time-out. However, as I read the discussion elsewhere as well as the messages he quotes in his post, I have the uneasy feeling that this does not compute. If we misdiagnose a problem, we can spend a lot of energy and yet not solve it. Therefore, having given myself about 1 day to settle on how the situation appears to me and how it could be addressed, I am offering my perspective.

If you read the complaints, it would seem that the problem is a new commercial attitude and lack of civility. The spirit of giving things away has evaporated, possibly due to the introduction of gift cards.

A. What is wrong with this analysis

I have a few questions for the complainers:

(1) What is preventing you from offering valuable objects for free to the community?

(2) During the past year, just which valuable objects have you offered for free in CC?

(3) If your focus is on not on giving things away but on receiving freebies, then how are you any better than someone who is at least offering a GC in exchange?

(4) If GC's are banned, what makes you think that miles etc can't be purchased for the same purpose? Are we going to ban frequent flyer miles next?

The answers are pretty obvious: Anybody who actually wants to give something of value to the community has always been and still is free to do so. OTOH those who are disappointed that not enough freebies are being offered them, well you win that point and I am left speechless. Nobody has to either offer or accept GC if they don't want to. If we ban GC's, miles etc can be bought just as easily. And, no, I don't think we are likely to ban frequent flyer miles from FT.

B. How I see the problem

I scan CC almost everyday. I have never seen a "seller" and a "buyer"---yes, I know Randy and many others don't like those words, more on this later---get into a bad argument or be uncivil to each other.

In almost every case, the responsibility with uncivil and pointless arguments rests with 3rd parties, who are neither offering a coupon nor seem to want what's offered, but post negative comments and get into argument amongst themselves.

Ironically, this behavior is facilitated by the CC rule that prevents OP from posting for a few days, but leaves the field open to these 3rd party debaters to call names and rehash the same arguments in every thread they visit.

C. Proposed Solution

(1) Now that a time-out is in effect, leave it in place for a while.

(2) Let's not fight English language; few have won that battle and FT probably won't. Words like "buyer" and "seller" come naturally to people in this situation.

(3) Let's not fight human nature; few win that battle, and we would be delusional to even try. Many people will want to get a lot and give only a little. We can only set a good example ourselves; that will influence the atmosphere.

(4) Split the CC board into two: CC Exchange and CC Discussion (inspired by the success of the MR Deals and Discussion split).

(5) CC Exchange Board should be limited to people who offer something or are interested in getting it. Third party comments should either be prohibited altogether or limited to 1 per person per thread.

IOW, people not directly seeking to exchange can express their opinion of the object or the deal ONCE. The CC Discussion board, if offered, will be the place for all subsequent discussion and debate (I would not be heart-broken if no such platform is offered).

(6) The above will eliminate the problem of uncivil arguments in the Exchange Forum. Elsewhere, they can be addressed as they are now all across FT: by deleting offending posts and suspending repeat offenders.

(7) Let's not waste energy on banning GC etc - as I said, people can just start buying miles or other instruments then.

My perspective may differ from yours but please take these thoughts in the spirit in which they are offered, with the desire to make FT an even better and more vibrant community for all.

Last edited by aktchi; Aug 5, 09 at 2:01 pm Reason: Trying to increase clarity
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Old Aug 5, 09, 11:46 am
  #2  
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Let me start from the bottom comments. I sincerely doubt that your perspective differs much from mine. If anything, we agree on the points being made, with perhaps my focus just being the difference of how much emphasis I put on the civil point of any discussion. In the larger scope of life, I would hope you think that is still an admirable goal, even after 11 years of FlyerTalk.

Actually I only put out a few quotes and there are many, many more. I think it does compute. For instance, because of the marketplace mentality that many do sense, those who would offer up something for nothing have a legitimate concern that those items will be quickly turned back around for someone's profit. Not the spirit of what these many members want to worry about. As for the penalties. I'm thinking that is a bit much to continue to ask our volunteers that they have to monitor civil behavior on FlyerTalk? If that is their chief role, then we've really got the wrong model going. They have worked very hard toward the goals we'd like to see in the forum and perhaps my interference is aimed at accelerating the word that it is considered cool to be civil. As for your solutions for uncivil behavior. I've got to stand up and say that i do not want any forum to be one where these types of actions are a norm rather than an exception. If we had to mask or ban someone from CC, I'm thinking that might be a total of 1-2 times a year, not the same per week. As for the GC issue. It seems that most cast the blame on that issue and I personally have no thoughts on that. As for buying miles, sure, they could do that but given that there is often a fee to the airlines for such, the "value" equation might turn pretty ugly real quick. And that, of course may be part of what this is all about.

You must know that i totally appreciate your perspective and it would seem we both do have the very same goal when we're here: "desire to make FT an even better and more vibrant community for all." Thanks for sharing that goal with me and thanks for your past and future support of FlyerTalk.

Randy

Originally Posted by aktchi View Post
I appreciate that Randy has given us this time-out. However, as I read the discussion elsewhere as well as the messages he quotes in his post, I have the uneasy feeling that this does not compute. If we misdiagnose a problem, we can spend a lot of energy and yet not solve it. Therefore, having given myself about 1 day to settle on how the situation appears to me and how it could be addressed, I am offering my perspective.

...

My perspective may differ from yours but please take these thoughts in the spirit in which they are offered, with the desire to make FT an even better and more vibrant community for all.
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Old Aug 5, 09, 12:19 pm
  #3  
 
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Randy,

I also appreciate the time out. In the past few weeks, something in CC has felt very wrong.

That having been said, I just want to express my sentiments on potential fixes.

CC has changed in the 40 months I've been a member. Recently, there has been an influx of the "screw" mentality, obvious from the requests made in threads. That is unfortunate.

But as aktchi said above, GCs aren't the root of the problem.

There seems to be significant transacting by members who have not been enveloped by the FT spirit, well, at its root, your spirit, of generosity for the greater good.

There are a couple of ways of dealing with this, and I'll return to that in a minute.

In the mean time, I just want to reiterate my largest point. Don't punish the many for the actions of the few...GCs have, as I mentioned in my email, allowed me to maximize my EQM and RDM earning, and turn otherwise useless (to me) gifts into items of value for others in their travel and EQM/RDM earning, and, in exchange, give me opportunities to receive the types of certs/points that are most useful to me.

I do not think it is possible for FT to revert to the type of community it was when it had a few hundred members. That may be unfortunate, but it's a reality. That having been said, CC can return to the place it was even a few months ago - with enormous travel related benefits for those who dedicate their time and knowledge to the community.

On that line of thinking, I have a few proposals. For starters, I like the idea of a split forum. I'm not sure the split suggested above is the best idea, but, generally, a split may work well to further your goals.

I also would be in favor of increased posting requirements. FT is the primary community, and the posting requirements may have initially reflected that, but are no longer sufficiently stringent to promote that goal. I would be in favor of (to whatever extent it is technically possible) institutitng an increased post count, increased membership time, and, most importantly instituting a non-CC:CC post ratio. This would ensure continuing contribution by members, and likely eliminate the number of "CC pros."

Randy, I have full faith in your discretion here - but I beseech you: don't eliminate GCs - there is no justification for doing so (trading GCs is no more a violation of the program terms than bartering miles/points per se already is), there is insufficient evidence that they are the cause of the problems, there are so many other potential avenues of recourse, and, most importantly, eliminating GCs will have a terribly detrimental effect on the ability of some members to maximize their earning, burning, and, fundamentally, experiencing potential. I know that if it weren't for some AA GCs I got for my birthday from a family member, I'd not be able to send my parents in CX F to Asia next month - and it would really, for lack of a more eloquent way of putting it, suck if we were arbitrarily estopped from this type of benefit when there are alternative, less restrictive recourses.
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Old Aug 5, 09, 1:21 pm
  #4  
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Originally Posted by Randy Petersen View Post
You must know that i totally appreciate your perspective and it would seem we both do have the very same goal when we're here: "desire to make FT an even better and more vibrant community for all." Thanks for sharing that goal with me and thanks for your past and future support of FlyerTalk.
Randy, I greatly appreciate your response and the kind generous words. I'll offer a few clarifications and then leave it to you and FT community.

First, most of the uncivil component of CC comes from 3rd parties who are not interested in actually participating in the exchange being discussed. It is not the sellers/buyers who argue and call names, it is the spectators.

If the CC forum, or a newly created CC Exchange forum, is limited to its primary purpose of facilitating exchanges rather than debates and arguments, that would solve most of the uncivility problem.

In my OP I didn't mean to suggest that we should spend extra time deleting posts and suspending members. Quite the opposite: there will be no specific CC problem left, and whatever remained will be like the rest of FT and should be addressed the same way.

That said, if you do feel that the present set of volunteers is too overworked to do that job, all you have to do is ask for more. I have great faith in FT community that extra volunteers will step forward to meet the need.

You already know how I view the GC issue: they are not the problem, and banning them will not be a solution. (My example of people moving to buying miles was just an example. They can also buy a fully refundable ticket and then get a voucher in refund, in short time and with no significant financial loss; would we ban the airline vouchers?)

With that I leave it to your much vaster experience and better judgment.

Last edited by aktchi; Aug 5, 09 at 9:12 pm Reason: Typos, clarity
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Old Aug 5, 09, 1:42 pm
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Originally Posted by aktchi View Post
First, most of the uncivil component of CC comes from 3rd parties who are not interested in participating in the exchange being discussed. It is not the sellers/buyers who argue and call names, it is the spectators.
Having been witness to this (both first- and second-hand), I agree. FWIW, I support some form of split to separate offers from discussion, or at the very least modifying the CC guidelines such that discussion must be about the specific offer itself, only about the specific offer itself, and constructive (in the sense of providing actual value and facts, not simply an unjustified opinion of whether or not something is "worth it" [a wholly subjective determination] and/or statements of how uninterested someone is).

While I did post previously regarding eliminating GCs, and while I still think that wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea, I do appreciate stevenshev's points and I agree that the attitudes and behaviors of altruists, honest folk, jerks, and profiteers alike would probably not change whether or not GCs are allowed... I think that GCs do make it easier for profiteers to profit, and they perhaps encourage jerkiness and/or discourage altruism by increasing the visibility of "market value" and what may or may not be a "lowball offer," but I agree that banning them won't solve this problem, even if it may reduce it somewhat.
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Old Aug 5, 09, 3:00 pm
  #6  
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I looked at CC as a way to enhance my flying experience by trading for/getting things other people couldn't use, and to trade/give things I couldn't use to others... but I've given away upgrade coupons to friends and complete strangers before, and if the idea of having CC be a place to perform trades is just fundamentally destructive to the idea of FT's community ethos, I'm completely fine with changing it to being a karma-only, "swap shop" zone. (I tend to also think the difference between miles, eVIPS/SWUs and GCs is fairly trivial. It's the CONCEPT of trade that gets us into buyers/sellers, etc.)
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Old Aug 5, 09, 3:33 pm
  #7  
 
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Hi everyone, I'm a bit hesitant to throw in my 2 cents considering my low post count and because I don't want to try to speak for everyone. But, as someone who uses CC very often and quite honestly the most often of all the forums, I wanted to put forth my POV on things in case they may not have been considered in the past.
----------------
First of all, I agree that CC has some sort of problem, and I haven't quite put my finger on it. I do think that we should stop bidding somehow. That is quite honestly what I believe to be the biggest problem. I hate to see posts like:

H: 80K AA W: AA GC

Basically, in this case, the person wants to squeeze every last dime out of his trading partner. I understand some people have no idea what 80K is really worth, but if that's a concern of theirs perhaps they should take it to a "CC Discussion Forum" to ask what is fair. Otherwise, if they want to exchange 80K AA for $800 GC because an 80K award isn't available, isn't this win-win?
----------------
Another kind of post that I have found problematic are:

W: 80K AA H: $800 AA, Marriott, Hyatt, etc, GC

Although we have now stopped allowing people to post just anonymous GC amounts, we let people circumvent those rules by including every Gift Card under the sun.

I don't think that we should ban GC offers altogether, because it offers a bit of flexibility. For example, if I want AA miles for an award... and the poster wants something AA, since I am not an AA flier (all I have is WN and DL) there's no deal to be made there and a GC can help. I know some people think we have no business trading in that case, but I think helping people get award seats that are available and letting people utilize miles they may never otherwise use is overall a good thing for the community. What we should seek to prevent is people getting too greedy and the pros that flip for profit. As such, perhaps we can limit how often you trade GCs? I know it sounds absurd to set an arbitrary limit like once a month or something, and I'm even hesitant to suggest it, but maybe throwing this idea out there will give someone a better idea.

However, I think we should be careful and realize that GCs are different than credits and vouchers and we should create different rules to govern that. GC can be bought from the airlines/hotels directly, but credits are a different game altogether. Without CC, I would have had tons of funds expire on Southwest, Delta, AA without being used and CC has allowed me to exchange funds which I can't use for a trip here and there. Even if we do wind up banning GCs, I think we should approach credits differently.
---------------
So, those are my suggestions how to approach the market mentality people have complained about. As far as being civil I agree with the posts above that disallow people to reply more than once to a thread and creating a separate discussion forum. I do feel however, that shaming a person who tries to lowball is appropriate if the person has a history of doing so. Obviously not everyone has the same value system, but we shouldn't allow people to prey on others just because they can.

In short, my suggestions are:
1) No open ended GC amounts which encourage bidding wars.
2) One GC limit. Maybe even one GC limit per month or something.
3) Create discussion forum. Limit 1 reply per thread in main CC forum.

PS - As far as eliminating the ability to trade altogether, I strongly disagree. I think the site should work to benefit all those who are on the site and who fly for work, pleasure, etc. A swap-zone would stop profiteers but it would also prevent some hard working FTers from being able to take a vacation altogether. If AA has no seats Chicago to Paris and a FTer +1 wants to exchange with another FTer of UA miles who can't use UA miles to go to South America, we are hurting both FTers by not allowing them to exchange. Similarly, if I have a DL credit I got from a canceled trip and I want to go to a place where they don't fly but AA does, this exchange helps both FTers. I feel like restricting that sort of activity for the sake of trying to (re)create a community of generosity would be somewhat useless.

How real is a community that only exists because of rules and not because of the will of the people to be kind to each other? Don't get me wrong, we should make some sort of rules to address the problem, but prohibition didn't solve alcoholism and I feel that disallowing trades is a somewhat draconian measure that in the end makes things worse and not better on the whole.

Last edited by Khabibul35; Aug 5, 09 at 4:00 pm
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Old Aug 5, 09, 3:39 pm
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I really don't see the problem at all and believe Randy's action to be an overreaction.

The issue of civility seems to be well under control by the moderators -- and no one would ever accuse Flyertalk moderators of being relucant to discipline.

The issue of becoming E-bay can be solved by banning all mention of cash, cash-equivalents, or any monetary valuations. Problem solved. What people do in the privacy of emails should be of no concern to anyone. I do understand that Randy has to maintain good relations with the airlines such that they do not perceive Randy as an enabler of program rule violations. My proposal here is quite sufficient I think to address that concern.

The issue of community and freebies need not be addressed in the Coupon Connection forum. Enjoy the community in the dozens and dozens of other boards. Surely the adults can have one measly forum for just a functional purpose.

Count me irked. Count me suspicious of only seeing positive postings in support of Randy's actions.

Coupon Connection is a benefit for loyal members. I have been on this board for nearly a decade and shared golden information of cheap business & first class deals that have enabled hundreds of people to enjoy once-in-a-lifetime trips (from my countless receipts of PMs of gratitude). I have shared my detailed experience on airports, connections, fare rules, cabin reviews, pricing rules, lounge access rules, and countless hidden bennies. I honestly believe this community is far better off because of my documented wisdom, but am now questioning whether this site respects my contributions.

I am rather irked at the unilateral action taken without notice by Randy. It is disrespectful to your loyal members, subscribers, and revenue enablers. In fact, the only thing more disrespectful would be for the next post to announce "Closed For Moderator Review".

Last edited by Colin; Aug 5, 09 at 8:43 pm Reason: sp
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Old Aug 5, 09, 4:00 pm
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Originally Posted by Colin View Post
I am rather irked at the unilateral action taken without notice by Randy. It is disrespect to your loyal members, subscribers, and revenue enablers.
CC is and always was open only at Randy's discretion. Considering that CC enables, and even encourages, people to violate the T&Cs of pretty much every airline/hotel/etc. program, Randy and FT/IB may have a substantial legal (civil, not criminal) liability exposure... the fact that Randy has allowed CC to expand and prosper (and, perhaps, devolve) for so long speaks volumes. I'm happy to give him any benefit of the doubt.
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Old Aug 5, 09, 4:44 pm
  #10  
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As far as eliminating the ability to trade altogether, I strongly disagree.
Well, since I didn't really elaborate on this, I would (personally) prefer an environment where trades and swaps would happen, as I have benefited from it, as have my trading partners, and I don't think having someplace where you can trade things to enhance the flying experience of being a frequent flyer is bad (as long as the goal is to do that and have all parties to the deal be happy and convinced it is a fair deal, not make a killing)... but I also think the distinction between gift cards, room nights, rental car certificates, upgrade instruments and miles/points is mostly splitting hairs. Trades are trades, gifts are gifts.

But seeing the post here... well, I have to take it seriously, and I'd understand if a bazaar is not what is wanted. And that's before we get into the issue of program T&Cs.
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Old Aug 5, 09, 5:54 pm
  #11  
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To be clear, you can listen to other members who may portray the end of the world but I have not stated any intention of ending CC. As I have said, I am a little worried with the civilness of things and the changing attitude that so many of our other members have come forth with in acknowledging. And I think you acknowledged it as well. Just continue to enjoy FlyerTalk for its vast knowledge of miles and points and travel and there will likely be opportunities for you to continue to gain additional benefits by being an active participant.

So far members seem interested in adding additional requirements toward access to the forum and dividing the interest of the forum topics as well. And i appreciate the suggestions. And while one member seems to think nothing is wrong, it is still pretty apparent that many of our other members have a different perspective. But nothing we can't work together to resolve and reopen the forum. Hope this clears up any misconceptions you may have had. Cheers.
Originally Posted by Khabibul35 View Post
... I feel that disallowing trades is a somewhat draconian measure that in the end makes things worse and not better on the whole.
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Old Aug 5, 09, 8:59 pm
  #12  
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Bingo!

Originally Posted by aktchi View Post
First, most of the uncivil component of CC comes from 3rd parties who are not interested in participating in the exchange being discussed. It is not the sellers/buyers who argue and call names, it is the spectators.
Originally Posted by Randy Petersen View Post
As I have said, I am a little worried with the civilness of things and the changing attitude that so many of our other members have come forth with in acknowledging.
Figure out a way to solve this problem, and we'll be on our way to the friendlier forum of yesterday.

Maybe a sticky. Maybe an e mail to Flyertalkers.

No posting to a thread unless you plan on participating in a transaction with the original poster. Clarification questions would be allowed.

dh
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Old Aug 5, 09, 9:35 pm
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Originally Posted by dhammer53 View Post
Figure out a way to solve this problem, and we'll be on our way to the friendlier forum of yesterday.

Maybe a sticky. Maybe an e mail to Flyertalkers.

No posting to a thread unless you plan on participating in a transaction with the original poster. Clarification questions would be allowed.

dh
I have to echo this sentiment, and I'm the first to admit that I'm very guilty of participating in just this type of commentary. It has deteriorated and needs to stop.
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Old Aug 5, 09, 9:55 pm
  #14  
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Originally Posted by cepheid View Post
Considering that CC enables, and even encourages, people to violate the T&Cs of pretty much every airline/hotel/etc. program, Randy and FT/IB may have a substantial legal (civil, not criminal) liability exposure
This is a very valid point. Periodically questions arise on the AA forum along the lines of "if it's not OK to barter/trade things according to the airline T&Cs, how come we have CC?" The usual answer is something like "because we do."

I haven't read CC in a while, so I haven't seen the attitude change that others have reported, but I have no reason to doubt this. I've used CC in the past and, personally, have no qualms about the trade I've made, despite the fact that some might be seen to violate the T&Cs. These were honorable and fair transactions and, truth be told, I don't care all that much about T&Cs within reason.

FT, as a whole,may not have that latitude and luxury, though.

Cheers.
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Old Aug 5, 09, 10:05 pm
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Originally Posted by dhammer53 View Post
Figure out a way to solve this problem, and we'll be on our way to the friendlier forum of yesterday.

Maybe a sticky. Maybe an e mail to Flyertalkers.

No posting to a thread unless you plan on participating in a transaction with the original poster. Clarification questions would be allowed.

dh
BINGO +1.
I've had this happen on trades I've put forth for NW/DL miles. I've offered a GC in the amount of $250-$300 in exchange for a 25k award and had this poo-poo'd by posters who criticized my valuation. I certainly wasn't trying to take advantage of anyone, as I was transparent in what I was offering and what I was hoping for in return, but these self-appointed "good samaritans" took it upon themselves to post in the topic and negatively criticize the post. To some people, NW/DL miles have very little value. It's up to THEM, not 3rd parties, to decide what they would like to receive in exchange for those miles.
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