First, I will close this topic. Why?
Because it is a no-win for pcom or for local businesses.
We have developed rules regarding all this and those rules seek to balance the issues presented.
Let me address the points where there is obviously some misunderstanding.
I thought that bashing commerce members was not allowed. To my knowledge they are a member on here. A friend of mine was reprimanded for bashing a certain food store that is a member of Paulding.com.
We protect the advertising posts of business members. If a business member come in and offers, say, a lunch special for $4.99, their topic making that offer is protected. In other words, another member will be reprimanded for coming in and saying, yeah, bought that special last week and it made me sick. I think they use rancid leftovers ... and they put in as a reply to that topic, they are going to get 'dinged.' Why? Because the business member effectively paid for that advertisement and space first. Second, we are not a court of law and just because the member says that they got sick and made those allegations of using rancid food is not proof the biz member did. We have no idea whether the poster is telling the truth or why, even, they made the statement. Could it be they are a competitor? Could it be they are a competitor whose business is hurt every time they make the offering? No one has sworn an oath to tell the truth and, believe it or not, some people make a habit of lying about stuff when they can assume an advantage.
We also know that, in the case of a restaurant, if there are people reporting to the health department they are getting sick, etc. the health department has procedures to rectify and even close a restaurant. So why did the consumer poster come on pcom and slam the business???? Note, we would also report that a restaurant was closed due to people getting food poisoning if the report came from the health department and it wouldn't make any difference if the business were a member here or not.
To simplify the rule, if a business member starts a topic advertising their good or service and someone comes and rains on their parade, we will ding them, double ding them and if necessary suspend them if they insist of trying to rain on the parade of a business member in a topic they start.
This same member could avoid the dings, however, by starting their own topic criticizing the business. We get a ton of these disgruntled customer complaints and frankly, we are not able to determine the truth or falsity of them. However, we try to move these topics from the Cafe to the covert condescension forum as quickly as possible WHETHER OR NOT the business is a business member here or not. We are not a court and we don't have the resources to go out and investigate the allegations and we certainly don't ascribe truth (or falsity) to the report. I have been encouraged to put that forum behind a paywall but have resisted doing so.
The reason that makes sense is because consumer making complaints in some of these cases go overboard and allege the businesses are a ripoff which comes close to alleging fraud. And of course there is only their testimony. In those cases, more for the protection of the poster than the business, we set those topics invisible because allegations of illegal activities, particularly if they are not true (we have no way of knowing) the original poster could be subject to a libel. While we would likely be named in such litigation, the plain fact is that the consumer has a real option in this if they are alleging fraud.
Basically, what they need to do is go file a small claim in magistrate court and detail their cost/injury and then, with an active court case, we will let the allegation stand in a public (as opposed to restricted) forum. Essentially, you go to court you can talk about your court case. Now your attorney, assuming you have one, will tell you not to but if you go to court, you can.
My experience though is that few will - very few - go to the trouble of bringing a law suit. They'd rather come her and complain and not realize that their unfounded, unsubstantiated, complaints made out of motives that range from competitive advantage to meanness and vindictiveness to personal greed and stupidity risks the entire venture. But what do they care; they didn't invest in pcom and more often than not, they aren't even paying members. They felt wronged and if it breaks pubby because businesses are afraid to advertise there, what do their care. And then they complain because we don't put their complaint front and center.
If that's a case, Pubby could just be shaking down local business owners to buy membership to avoid bad press on his site.
I understand how, with a distorted view of what our rules are, you might think that but you'd be dead wrong. First, as stated above, we routinely (when we see them) move topics critical of businesses - we're a little less strict when it comes to restaurant reviews that concentrate on service or stories that relate to a creep lurking in the parking lot at wallyworld - to the covert condescension forum.
Our active protection is limited to topics started by biz members promoting their business. Again, don't rain on their parade.
Other rules are that you don't put non-biz member business names in titles, and you don't provide phone numbers, street directions, maps, emails or active website links to non-business members. If you work in a non-biz member company and you know of a job opening, you can state the name of the business and the job and job description but not the salary or contact phone or street address ... and don't put the business name in the title of the topic. Also, just have the members interested contact you for the essential information.
This contrasts with what Biz members can do. They can post their business name in the topic title, host a recruitment video, publish their telephone number in a big font and put live links to their application (or web site) in the topic.
Recommendations of businesses again are common on pcom for both biz member and non-biz members. Again, you can name, say an attorney that your recommend that doesn't advertise here but while you can say he's from Douglasville or Marietta, you can't put out his number (advertising) or his street address (advertising) or an active link to the website of the firm.
Again if someone complains about any business, we move the topic to covert condescension regardless of whether the business is a member or not. Since non-business members can't start topics, it is by definition impossible for someone to be dinged for raining on their parade on pcom because them making a topic advertising their business is not allowed.
The point is the only pro-active moderation done for business members that isn't done for all members is dinging people for raining on their parade. We actually protect non-members from criticism by disallowing the use of business names for non-members in our titles. (ex. wallyworld, mickeydees, k-Roger, etc.)
We don't extort businesses in the community.
Nor should they be allowed to be commerce members due to their poor ethics.
And just how are we supposed to know about how ethical or unethical a business is? We're not the government and we don't wiretap. We do however, report news about business members when they are arrested for activities from trademark infringement to arrests made for running a grow farm for dope. We also allow those members who file a law suit alleging fraud or slick business dealings to talk about official court actions in public forums.
What you really want to say, diehardky, is that we don't take your word over the word of a business member when you don't even have the courage of your convictions to file a suit (or maybe, really, when it is all said and done, you didn't have a case at all.)
Yeah that whole thing is crazy... Some commerce members on here do really crappy jobs but no one says anything except through PM's. And some people get stuck with that crappy work (like me) because I see there name all the time and give them a shot. It was a lesson learned for me....
I am very hesitant to use any now and that sadly is what a lot of people think.... If my business was being criticized I would defend it, I wouldn't want to hide behind that kind of protection.
And some members, in an effort to kill pcom, have adopted a rather odd strategy of slandering all business members on the site believing they can successfully destroy the site they oppose for political reasons by doing so.
If you're curious about a business member, start a topic on what you want done and ask for opinions. There is a good likelihood if something negative comes up, it will end up in covert condescension. While not part of our internal search, you can review topics in that forum if you choose to look.
And again, I've been encouraged to make that forum available only to paying members but have resisted that.
This was a long post but subtlety cannot be expressed too succinctly or else it looses its subtlety. This was a teaching moment.
This topic is now closed and this post is also promoted to a blog post.