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Saturday, July 18, 2009

BA Bullies.org

I thought my exposure to bullies was over after the 6th grade, boy was I wrong. Currently I am being ganged up on, and it´s the 6th grade all over again for me. I should explain...


A couple of days ago a woman posted a critical review of a couple of my products on a public forum called BAexpats. On this forum, some other virtual personalities (some of them could be represented by one or two people--that is a couple of people having multiple accounts; that´s an impression anyway). I was able to respond to that young woman and I found myself trying to stand up to some dubious complaints from some of those other virtual personalities on that site.


So far, no biggie. I can hold my own when talking about my company or my products. Hell, everyone is entitled to their own opinion on just about anything. I don´t expect absolutely everybody to fall in love with my cookies, but I also find comments like the one below a little dubious.


In regards to the cookies my friends and I have found them bad on all occasions
dry and lacking flavour. They are also overpriced and geared to the expat
market.--harryp

How many occasions? Overpriced and geared to the expat market? My biggest client base, and the target market of mine, are locals. I don't know who harryp is, but if you look up all his posts you will find that 100% of them are just nasty hate filled messages. Where are the moderators expressing how disturbing his messages come across? (I just checked and some of those posts have started to disappear. How convenient. Right now he is at 10 posts and he used to have 14)


I found myself responding to those types of accusations and generalizations about my company on this public forum. My responses were always tempered and respectful. Since I could not be rattled into losing my patience someone decided to delete my last response, then put me on moderated status and would not let my follow up responses through.


Now they are saying:


"Bianca the truth is that we do not close down threads and allow all topics to
be freely discussed. The last thread on Sugar and Spice was closed down due to
inproper languaage used by a member . The only remarks that we censor are the
replies to the deleted comments as they are no longer appropriate due the
comment not being visible."--adminstrationba

However, I received a private e-mail from them saying the following:

Dear SugarandSpice,
You have received a new private message at Baexpats -
Community of Expatriates in Buenos Aires, Argentina from chris, entitled "Rules
of our Site".
To read the original version, respond to, or delete this
message, you must log in here:
http://baexpats.org/private.php
This
is the message that was sent:***************
Our site is not a advertising
portal for businesses as explained by our terms and conditions. We have clear
rules for every member and we do allow that topics that do not relate to Buenos
Aires be rehashed more than one time.
There have been three threads on
this topic since last week and many members have found this disturbing as
has our Board of four members.
Please feel free post but only on
relevant topics.

Furthermore, another quote on another thread makes reference to the advertising angle again. By the way, tell me this does not remind you of Fox News:

Baexpats is the fairest site in South America with freedom of expression on all topics. Saying that that does not give someone the right to attack other members publicly as well as use every post to advertise his business.
This is stated clearly in our terms and conditions.--pericles-E

If you were to look up all of my posts on that forum (which you can, there is the ability to look up posts by persons) you will find that I have 9 posts. One was me responding to a thread from someone from Chicago (my home town) and the rest are of me defending myself. (there was the original post that was deleted that would have made it 10 total).

Now this false argument of theirs regarding their stance on not allowing advertising really falls through after this next bit of news. See, when you first sign up, the very first section is called
"Newcomers Forum, if you are new here please introduce yourself!"
Which is exactly what I did. I was welcomed with open arms. How could I tell you may ask?

from Baexpats.com Webteam
to frank dot sugarandspice at gmail dot com
date Thu, Aug 17, 2006 at 2:12PM
subject from baexpats.com

Dear Frank,

Could you visit

http://www.indextar.com/ba website

and rate some of the companies you have had a chance to deal with? Or may be you can even write a review?

He hope you have enjoyed baexpats.com site. With indextar.com/ba we are trying to build another valuable resource everybody will be able to benefit from.

Thank you in advance.
Baexpats.com webteam.

By the way, our dinner is tomorrow!

From Sugar & Spice
sender-time
Sent at 4:02 PM (GMT-03:00). Current time there: 1:39 AM
reply-to frank dot sugarandspice at gmail dot com
to Baexpats.com Webteam
date Thu, Aug 17, 2006 at 4:02PM
subject Re: from baexpats.com
mailed-by gmail.com
Hello Baexpats,
I actually listed my own company on there and plan on using your site to add some more. It's just going to take me some time so please be patient with me. For now, anyone who looks up the food section will have Sugar & Spice to rate if they want to.

I hope your dinner comes off great. I have a very hard time to get away during those hourse since I am a proud father of two little girls (one is 21 months old and the other is 4 years old) who I don't get to see too often during the day.

Thanks,
--
Frank E. Almeida
Sugar & Spice
Soler 5547 (entre Humboldt & Fitz-Roy en Palermo Hollywood)
4777-5423
www.sugarandspice.com.ar
Tentate & Disfrutá

So back in August of 2006 they were perfectly okay with my very first post introducing myself just like they asked. They even invited me to dinner.

Pericles where was that slap on my hand for "advertising" right out of the gate?

Here is another great quote from them that adds to the argument that they are trying to mislead everyone:

There is a lot of misinformation about this topic but the truth is this is due to big business interests wanting control of the Ba expats forum.--adminstrationba

So now I am a big business interest that is using their site as advertising while scheming to take it over? People, please use a little bit of analytical thinking while reading their site.

Sugar & Spice is a family run business. I not only feel a responsibility to be successful because my own family relies on me, but I also feel a responsibility for the 20 or so families that are represented by my employees.

I also feel a responsibility to my community and frequently give and help local non-profits. I don´t do this for the sake of padding a resume. I do this out of a sense of responsibility.

This same sense of responsibility has led me to face up to these bullies because I am not the only one that they have done this to in the past, and even now as you read this they continue to gang up on other local business owners.

I am also a fairly public figure; I have been interviewed on TV, radio, and print; I have been asked to make presentations at universities to U.S. grad students; I have my picture posted on my blog. It doesn't take a sleuth to find me. I am a very open, and approachable figure.

I am not a superman. This stuff is painful to go through. Yes, Pericles and company, if it makes you feel any better your actions, your name calling and your aggressiveness hurts. It hurts to know that you are actively trying to drag my name through the mud, that you want to actually hurt me and my company and therefor hurt my family and my employees.

What do you think goes through a young girl's head who has just recently been hired when you call her and tell her that her boss and her company is going to be facing a lawsuit?

Are you so small that you have to spread your vile to my employees?

Not everyone has a stomach for a public showdown. I really don't go looking for confrontations.

I just got a second chance in life to stand up to a bully.

Wouldn't you take that opportunity?

And all of this happened because they deleted my posts, as I was just trying to stand up for my company and myself, and kept me from posting more replies.

No, they did not ban me yet. They have just, as you can see from their message above, kept me from responding and standing up for myself on their forum.

One last thing. I don't link to much to their site. They delete posts regularly. It has already started with these threads. I made copies of the posts that are out there and I noticed some are missing now.






19 comments:

Coog said...

Well, this happens a lot on the internet. I was frequently attacked on my last blog Coogling Argentina, which I closed eventually because of that. One of the bullies though also made it to my second blog, which I am keeping more private (less linking), and you wouldn't believe the words that person called me. Aggravating as it was, I went over to ignoring it, and that seemed to work. For you, ignoring is harder of course, since you are a public figure representing your business and also having a responsibility regarding your employees. Nevertheless, don't let it get to you so much. There is usually no good response for people like that, and they are not open to reasoning since their main goal seems to be putting others down. The more reaction they get, the harder they will attack. It's an internet feature. If you met them in the street they peobably wouldn't even dare to open their mouth, they prefer to do it in an anonymous environment. The way I see it, they are the ones who are disturbed, so just try to stick with those who support you, and there are far more.
Your cookies btw are fabulous and absolutely worth the money. Plus, you are a really nice guy, and everybody who met you would probably say the same, so don't worry too much about the bullies - they're just looking for a way to vent their anger.

Juan said...

We back you on this one, Frank!

If they happen to find the biscotti dry, maybe it is because they don't have italian roots and they don't know that if you dump them in Port wine you are about to be in heaven.. hahaha.. I pitty them.

Anyway, don't let these ppl discourage you. You seem to be a good man and a good father.

I ve tasted lots of Pepperidge Farm products, they cost twice your products and I like yours better. In fact, as soon as i get my tyre fixed I am gonna stop by the shop and buy some cookies for this afternoon.. Better stay home, packed with cookies and watch a movie since it will probably rain.

Bianca said...

Hi Frank! What a bizarre twist of events that led me here. :) All I was doing was posting an updated review on the baExpats forum because I thought the goodies I got from your shop the other day were just... perfection! :) While there on the forum, I noticed your name being dragged through the dirt on that forum. This isn't the first time a member has been publicly bashed there, the last time that I know of (I'm a relatively new member there) it was with a user named "blahblah". A forum leader actually started a thread titled something like "shall we keep blahblah" and then allowed (maybe encouraged?) the bashing to ensue. I found it disgraceful and disgusting.

I have no ties to anyone here, I don't know the political/social/etc. issues that underlay the forums or "online personalities" that make up the BA expat online social scene. All I know is that two wrongs don't make a right... no matter what the circumstances are. How does one justify that kind of treatment to a member (no, wait... a PERSON)? I felt like it was the wrong way to handle the complaint about your post as well as the complaint about the other forum member. I said so. A moderator then created a new username to argue with me about my point. For some reason, he decided not to post under his typical username. Why would that be? There seems to be a lot of anger from that moderator because his reaction to my post was entirely unjustified. He took my post personal and put my account in moderation and actually WELCOMED ME TO LEAVE his forum. Keep in mind that I am relatively new there and have never caused any problems on that forum. But the one time I disagreed with the way something was handled by "the powers that be", I was put in time out and told to leave. And yes, they did post that exact statement about freedom of opinion being allowed on their forum. But apparently the forgot the little asterisk that leads to the small print that says "only if your opinions are in line with ours". Such hypocrisy! So they try to shut me up when my point was unbiased and fair, I was not taking sides, I was simply asking them to be OBJECTIVE. I did let them know that it's quite impossible to shut someone up when they operate in the realm of the INTERNET. Needless to say, I won't be visiting the baExpats forum anymore. So there is my vent, thanks for listening. And for what it's worth, Frank, your cookies and brownies are DARN GOOD!! :)

Cheers,
Bianca (my real name because I have nothing to hide)

Bianca said...

PS - My post that they wouldn't allow through:

"My Reply (for the 3rd time because apparently freedom of opinion only counts when your opinion is in line with whoever has control here):

I don't know who you are, all I see is that you only have three posts so obviously you created this username just for the purpose of replying here. Why don't you just post in your regular name? No one else is hiding behind a fake name. And honestly, it's BS for a moderator to hide behind a fake name. If you have taken the responsibility of managing this forum, then you have the responsibility of acting in the best interest of this forum. And if you are keeping the forum's best interest at hand, you shouldn't feel need to hide.

Thanks for welcoming me to leave just because we have a difference in opinion (something that you have deleted from your original post, but have never been accountable for saying so). You yourself posted that "This forum is a public forum that gives members the freedom to express their opinion and they will not be cooerced by others to write glowing reports of their business just because we are pressured ." Why is it that when someone disagrees with the way something is handled here that they get censored. I have said nothing wrong, I have never caused any problems here and I wasn't attacking anyone. Why is it that you won't give someone freedom of opinion when their opinion doesn't match your own? That's not really freedom, now is it? Regarding your response to the way BlahBlah was discussed here (which by now you have deleted that response), the point isn't whether or not he was banned. If he is disruptive and attacking members, if you feel the need to ban him, then do so. But what I felt was handled wrong was the public bashing that was encouraged on this forum by a forum leader. And then you tell me that I'm welcome to leave because I disagree with the way these two issues were dealt with here. You have no need to take my post personal, it wasn't meant to be. But don't go preaching freedom of speech and then censor people's posts that aren't inline with yours. That's the definition of a hypocrite. (Feel free to take that personally.)"

-Bianca

Anonymous said...

I already left that site, baexpats. Petty and I don't get along. I don't eat cookies because I prefer to get my excess caloric intake from wine, but I admire your struggle to make a business work here. I will just ditto what Bianca wrote. Good luck with your business, your family, and your life in this wonderful and complicated city.

Frank.Sugar&Spice said...

Coog, Juan, Bianca and Donigan,

Thank you so much for your kind words and for sticking up for yourselves. If in the end, as a result of all of this, more people start to question that site and steer clear of them then that is a great positive to take away from this. I mean, the less people that go there the lesser victims there will be right?

I know I am taking a big hit over there. However, I have been here for 10 years and I plan on being around for a while longer. The best I can do is get to meet more and more people and keep working for my company, my family, and my community.

That has got to show up clearer than the smut they are writing about me in the long run.

You guys are great!

Bianca said...

Frank:

One thing that some of those people over there need to learn is that most people aren't blind followers. They're not going to follow something that is against their morals or better judgement just for the sake of appeasing a forum "moderator" and whatever hidden agenda he has. Just from these two days of seeing how it really is there, I've come across quite a few people that have gotten fed up with their ill intentions. They are publishing their true selves for the world to see on that forum, and believe me Frank, that is all anyone needs to see to know what their real intentions are.

All:

Can you recommend another forum where the focus is actually on BA related things and not hidden agendas? I do enjoy the relevant discussions with fellow expats, but I have requested that my account be closed over at baExpats because of their shady practices.

Thanks,
Bianca

Joli said...

I can´t believe someone was complaining about a short shelf life on the brownies. How can anyone keep them around for less than 10 minutes after opening?
Besides, a shorter shelf life = no toxic preservatives.

yanqui mike said...

Way to go, Frank. Everyone cheers when a bully is taken down.

There's no accountin' for taste, cookies and brownies included. They were never the point.

The bullies fanned the flames to draw attention to their site using their multiple identities to make it look like a movement.

When you decided to defend yourself, your access was suddenly restricted.

When you tried to defend yourself on level playing ground, they threatened you with legal action. (Mostly to hide what they do from all the innocent, well-meaning people that that they attract.)

Apparently, they can hide behind anonymous accounts and say what they wish ...but when a good man like you tries to defend himself and "signs his work" they bring out the serious, real-world threats. Getting sued would not be fun.

The day has passed for their juvenile crap.

Watching someone knock a bully down on his own playground is a time-honored lesson in growing up.

I hope people will now think twice before associating themselves with baexpats.org

Anonymous said...

Whoa... what a mess they've made. I'm glad to see you've got support, Frank. I don't know you personally, but I've been following your blog for a year or so which makes me feel like I know you.

So, in an attempt to turn the direction away from that expat group (I've heard of them but never checked them out) and let you know what I appreciate and why I read your blog...here we go. I like the topics you post. I like that you don't post too often which can be overwhelming. I like the integrity I somehow get from your postings about your experiences living here, starting a business here, and raising a family here. In the end, I learn something a lot of times, I just enjoy it other times, and I'm always inspired.

Frank.Sugar&Spice said...

Bianca, try looking at my sidelinks under "favorite web sites" you will find the very first link is another public forum that is actually moderated by adults.

Joli, I know, but in all fairness any number of things could have gone wrong to damage the product.

Yanqui Mike, thanks! Yeah, who would have known I would be face to face with bullies at this stage in my life. Thanks for backing me up!

Santelmoloft, you are making me well up. Thank you!

99 said...

Hi Frank, your cookies are so good that I heard the word "addictive" many times when people around me tasted them.
Your products are a reflection of the tremendous care you have for everything you do and of your respect for the community.
Don´t worry about those fake opinions they´re only desperate for attention, traffic or money for their own businesses.
Keep on making your great cookies!
Keep on offering the best of you to all of us that respect fair playing!
Keep on speaking up for all of us that have been banned when speaking freely!
We love you.

yanqui mike said...

Ah! ...and don't forget his "Copetín"!

Being a beer drinker, I call them "beer cookies". Positively dope. All the joy of a cookie ...but savory instead of sweet.

The first to disappear at any party.

Roger said...

Frank, what do we know:

1. Your cookies are immensely good
2. There are a lot of sad expats who havent integrated here in BA and who live their life through their blogs and forums.

Inore them and keep doing what you do best, making great cookies. And writing an interesing blog (as opposed to a vehicle for giving your life some purpose and bullying power).

Suerte.

Roger

Tina said...

Aaaah I hate cyber bullies. I've had to deal with them before regarding my dancing (! something so personal !) and it was all I could do not to just cry right there in front of my computer or e-mail them and tell them off. I just deleted and ignored. (ok, and I cried a bit too).

For the record Sugar & Spice cookies are the BEST! My housemates and I polished every crumb off within two days.

Really, who bullies a nice guy who makes and sells cookies! Making and selling cookies = spreading happiness. You just can't bully someone who does that.

Anonymous said...

Anyone that would bully a cookie maker, well, words escape me.

What's up wtih http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BANewcomers/message/42138 this person?. I thought she was your friend?

Frank.Sugar&Spice said...

Yanq, 99, Roger, Tina,

Thanks for the further comments of support. The amount of e-mails I am getting is fantastic. I am even getting support from people who didn't even know I existed.

Anon, you are right. I think she was an opportunistic ambusher. I think she thought I was down and she wanted to chance to just give one little kick. I mean what's one more kick out of many that were coming my way?

Early on I was taking a pummeling. Most of the comments that were coming in where all negative. Then people started coming out for me. Even the girl who at first all she wanted to do was post a review of her bad experience. In the end she even wrote directly to me.

Grazie, if you are reading this. Once again, thank you from the bottom of my heart. And, if you do come by the store, the offer still stands.

Besos,
Frank


p.s. if any of you do not have a Yahoo account and would like to read the post mentioned here please contact me directly and I will send it to you. No harm in passing along a public post.

WynnsWoods said...

To anonymous: I would like to know what they hell that post was about too. Like many, Deby has been terrorized by that that group for many years. To think she would now defect and go to the dark side is unfathomable!?!?!

What the hell is going on? Inquiring minds as well as pissed off ones want to know!?!?!

Marc said...

Please excuse this blatant promotion of my new alternative to baex....
Been down that river with them since 2006 as have many others.
We now have an alternative, which I have just created for like minded people.
www.argentinaexpats.com.ar
Thanks for reading and once again please excuse this intrusion.
Best
Marc