Jim, I think the specific point of this for some is not about you, it's about Phil, who's listed in big letters as "Gear and Reviews Editor," and in smaller ones as "staff." Nowhere is Start Haus mentioned, nor are terms like "retailer" used. So for newer posters, there's no reason to know that when he reviews a product, or advocates it, that he also may sell it. And when he makes it clear in a post that he sells it, that's a rather odd juxtaposition with his apparently neutral position as an editor, no?
As for saying that since a "majority" here know who you are, and this is a tech issue, it's not your problem, Jim, well, IMO the problem is the long term health of the forum. There are a sizable minority newer or infrequent posters who in fact may not know who you are, or who Phil is, or why I'm so long-winded, or what "Bootfitter" means relative to selling boots, or what "Start Haus" or "Supporter" or "Staff" or "Ambassador" means relative to a particular brand or resort that's being discussed. How many new posters even know what a rep is?
tball, the potential conflict of interest isn't between the owners of the site and Start Haus, it's between retailers - I should emphasize, not just from Start Haus - and their advocacy of products they also sell. On the one hand, senior members here are expected to provide civil, objective advice and evaluation; it's supposedly what separates us from TGR. (Well, and that we care about technique.) On the other, senior members may profit from the products they are posting on. That doesn't necessarily mean the biases are conscious and intentional, doubt anyone here is a D.C. sleazeball, but conflicts of interest will influence what's said, when it's said, and how it's said. No matter how well-meaning anyone is, or even how good the advice is. Good ideas can still be biased. Not a slam, just psych 1.
Laser, it's not about whether a retailer will give out bad advice. It's about whether decent advice is nevertheless subtly slanted, word choices are affected, pros come to outweigh or completely erase cons, timing of decent advice is influenced by retail needs. So buyer decisions are nudged in directions that benefit a store, without necessarily hurting the buyer overtly, just reducing the actual choices and ideas to process. It's about whether Epic should become more cheerfully commodified.
More generally, it seems like a lot of folks here have noticed a change in the use of the gear and review threads, and either would like it modified, or are shrugging it off as inevitable. Don't see it as inevitable because it wasn't prevalent a few years ago. And there are some silly simple fixes that preserve our god-given right to make deals. One is to make a person's connection to a product, any possible conflicts of interests, really transparent. Use words that everyone gets, make them easy to spot, and use them for every poster who has a connection to a product, whether rep, retail, etc. We always seem to valorize transparency in all the other arenas of our lives, why not here? A second simple corrective is for moderators to simply move offers, deals, prices, directions to store sites etc. to the appropriate forum. Which already exists. Or delete the problematic post and suggest a PM to the interested parties. Many of us have long done the PM thing. There's no need to choke off flow of $$, we can still keep Epic's character as a place where reviews are more nuanced than "This ski f*****g rocks!" and advice didn't conclude with the poster offering to sell his new, or lightly used, gear to the OP, what a deal.
Edited by beyond - 11/7/13 at 9:07pm