Mar 5, 2007 at 4:56 pm #1222215
@mitchellkeilLocale: Deep in the OC
I know this is going to be hard to believe, but Backpacker Magazine just awarded Big Sky Tents an Editor's Choice Award for their tent line. A gushing review and a shameless plug for the quality and service of the company.
Those of you who have had problems with Big Sky may want to drop a line to Backpacker Magazine about your experiences with Big Sky. You may also want to reconsider your subscription to the magazine. I know I did.Mar 5, 2007 at 5:09 pm #1381177
They had some comment in the Gear Guide (or what ever it is called) that Big Sky had fixed their problems with delivery, or something like that.Mar 5, 2007 at 5:27 pm #1381179
Ken HelwigBPL Member
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
I saw that too. Oh boy. Ummmm gotta say that Backpacker is ad driven and they pretty much don't have the "ear" to the ground. I gave up on that magazine a long time ago. As soon as my subscription runs out…..Bye!Mar 5, 2007 at 7:11 pm #1381193
todd harperBPL Member
@funnymoLocale: Sunshine State
I'm with you, Ken!Mar 5, 2007 at 7:56 pm #1381203
Hello Big Sky,
This is Backpacker Magazine. We are looking to test a few of your tents for our 2007 awards issue. Do you have anything that could be sent to us for the testing?
Why sure we do. We'll get it shipped to you in the next week.
Why that's great. Wow, I guess you're guy's turn around time must not be "that bad"?
Well sure, I've got this one from Taylor that got canceled, and the one for Hideaki and Tom that just got done. But that doesn't matter. You'll get yours in a week and and we'll make sure they get there's with-in the next 30 days.
You guys are great!Mar 5, 2007 at 8:00 pm #1381205
On a serious note,
When I got the 2005 awards issue, I must have spent a total of 10 hours looking through it.
Last year was a good year becuase they included tons of UL gear throughout the pages.
This year I looked through it once for about 30 minutes and haven't picked it back up yet.Mar 5, 2007 at 8:55 pm #1381209
Concessions – That is what you make in life generally, as no one thing in life fits all needs.
I need to look at cool photography of places that would be intense to spend time in. I like to do it on a regular basis. I like it to be in a format that does not require logging on to anything. I like Backpacker magazine for those reasons. Is it everything I need regarding content related to backpacking? No. Would I like to hear a lot less from Jonathon Dorn (editor et al) whoever that is…YES!
I did not think much of the gear put forth by Backpacker this year. I am not sure that is there fault or manufacturers in general…or a lack of engaged consumers that drive demand in the first place. That said, I don't think that the Big Sky review seemed overly "gushing" except for the fact that the product was light weight and that you could pick custom options. Those two things are rather unique in the world of outdoor equipment. Most of the BIG names do not offer anything like that. I applaud Backpacker for holding a little manufacturer up…even if they might still be a few years away from a smooth operation. Some complain that the mag. in question is too commercial (implying too many North Face and Mountain Hardware ads) and then complain that these cottage manuf. are a pain in the ass to deal with!
I would suppose that Backpacker is giving the guy (insert name of struggling business man who burned a few people on this board here) the benefit of the doubt. He really is the one with EVERYTHING on the line at this point.
But it does seem kind of silly to bash away at a magazine that is only doing what it has for longer than a lot of people on this board were big enough to put on a backpack…that is, creating something for amusement. This is not a forum on cancer research…it's recreation.Mar 5, 2007 at 9:31 pm #1381216
@stephenn6289Locale: Sunshine State
Scott, well said. I enjoy the photography too, even though I also really like the nick name adpacker. I think many times we all just get tunnel vision and forget other perspectives on things. Just like Dr. J's article on innovation that bashed camel baks because they were'nt the light weight or highly functional for ultralighters. Though they may not be the lightest option for ultralight backpackers and though they may be considered the "gold standard" of traditional backpackers, for mountain bikers, they fit the bill perfectly. A hands free hydration system. Sometimes we just get self absorbed and miss what others see.Mar 5, 2007 at 10:11 pm #1381221
Thank's for setting me straight.
Things said like this, (not on a serious side) should only be taken with what grain of salt you throw at it, and hey, I did mention that I did buy the last 3 years of the awards series, and will buy next years. It happens to also be the most informative single issue of any backpacking magazine out there.
I am not trying to "bash" anybody. It may be a little on the ruthless cenacle side, but I am sure there is also some truth in the matter.
However there is much more truth in yours.Mar 6, 2007 at 5:53 am #1381245
Scott, I have to respectfully disagree with you on this point. Yes, this is about recreation, and Big Sky hasn't been providing any when it defrauds its consumers for over a year or more. I find it to be absolutely irresponsible for Backpacker to brush aside his production and even what I would call ethical issues with a single sentence, then promote his product in a way which will likely lure many more victims into the same scenario that members here and on other forums have experienced.
If he can't meet the demand of the cottage industry consumers that he has failed to serve for the past two years, how can he possibly hope to meet the orders of mainstream buyers who will now likely purchase his product, only to be come disgusted with the "cottage industry" in general.
It takes a leap of faith to order a product online when there is no chance to touch or try it in real time. When these new customers get burned, the real losers will be companies like Shires, Six Moon Designs, and ULA, because the mainsteam buyer will likely declare "Never again" to buying from the "little guy" off the internet.
It stuns me that great gear manufacturers are barely or not even mentioned and a phantom Evolution from an unethical supplier receives an Editor's Choice Award. If you doubt my choice of words, take a look at the thread here or the warning on the main page at Backpacking.net. This has gone on for over two years, and the year+ wait (during which time the buyer's credit card has already been charged) has NOT diminished yet.Mar 6, 2007 at 7:18 am #1381252
Bob BankheadBPL Member
@wandering_bobLocale: Oregon, USA
IMO, "BackPacker" is not targeting folks like us with their marketing thrusts and articles. They are aiming for the uninitiated masses, sweating in their cubicles while staring at screen-savers of Denali, lustfully picturing themselves doing the Actic 1000 while their credit card heats up in their pocket.
These are the folks who either don't have, or won't invest, the time needed to research gear, destinations, and techniques. God forbid they should train by doing more than walking from the sofa to the dinner table. Rather, they'll walk into their local outfitter with a credit card and a list of gear recommended by BP, toss it all in the car – "why should I try it out before I go? BP gave it an Editor's Choice award; it's golden." – and spend their vacation in something approaching misery and disallusion because "this isn't what I was led to expect".
Most readers here have the scar tissue of experience, and are willing to invest the research time before heading into the Great Out There. We've learned never to act on the basis of a single (+ or -) recommendation where our comfort and safety are dependent upon qality and functionality once our ride drives off, leaving us 30 miles from town.
I dumped my subscription to BP years ago and never looked back. I rarely go into REI anymore unless I feel the need to upgrade my image on the slopes or in the field with the latest in Yuppy fashion statements. I've outgrown them and most of the colorful, trendy gear they carry.
Long live the cottage industry gang. May they never get large enough to even consider mass marketing. Quality is the first thing to go when that happens.
End rant.Mar 6, 2007 at 7:24 am #1381255
I understand and I am well aware of some of the dubious customer service that is linked with Big Sky. When last year my buddy wanted to purchase one, I had to stress in two or three conversations that no matter how good something looked….if you cannot get it, it is worthless! He ended up buying a Black Diamond product. I did not mean to brush that aspect aside, but can see where I might have inadvertently in an attempt to make another point.
I still think the guy who runs Big Sky is probably an ADD type individual who is trying to do everything himself…and has had too many balls in the air for too long. When you are trying to balance the massive problems with the problems of one individual customer you can probably guess which gets the majority of the attention. So I am only guessing here…I just can't imagine that the guy would put that much effort into something that clearly is a work of passion in order to sh*t on people.
I personally would never take orders for something I did not have in hand, unless people were explicitly warned that wait times are going to be long.
Your point about Big Sky damaging other companies reputations is overstated. I think you may oversimplify the purchase process for gear and over estimate the volume we are talking about. Bottom line, most consumers that are involved with sports that require a little more than passive interest/effort like backpacking, kayaking, backcountry skiing are more thoughtful than you assert. The "editors choice" may get something into a consumers realm of consideration…but it still has to pass other hurdles the consumer will have. And just as we troll for what is now endless info. and reviews…so does a newer entrant into the category. All this considered, I doubt a Big Sky 2007 failure will in any way effect Six Moon Designs if the endless personal review websites keep proliferating and everyone keeps touting the brand. It could make Backpacker look foolish though, to someones earlier point.Mar 6, 2007 at 8:53 am #1381265
Given BS's tattered reputation, I am disappointed that Backpacker gave it the award and the added exposure. IMO, no matter how good the products, the magazine should skip over unethical/out of control companies. They can always be re-considered in the future, when and if they get their acts together.
This isn't the magazine's first "poor research / poor judgment" goof up. Remember the splash it gave to "Light is Right"? Yeah, that owner told the magazine that the products were "coming right out" and the magazine took his word at face value too! Sucker.Mar 6, 2007 at 9:19 am #1381270
@pjLocale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
I'm with you Ben. However, if there's anyway that this can really turn Big Sky around, and our friends here can get their orders filled, then i'm all for it. If that eventuality ever occurred, I would hope that Mr. Molen would reward those, in some fashion, who placed orders with him early on – even those who were forced to cancel due to the many mos. lead time.Mar 6, 2007 at 10:27 am #1381278
Respectfully Mr. Peterson, I don’t follow the logic of how a strong recommendation from a national magazine like BP would not play to some significant influence on decision making to purchase Big Sky products. The quality of the product isn’t the question; it’s the record of Big Sky’s business practices that can’t be thoughtfully researched in a final decision to purchase. Readers of BP will assume that Big Sky can deliver on their orders.
I do agree with your representations that BP has been around a long time and deserves respect for what it has done for the outdoor industry, all very good points. I disagree with what appears to be your representations that Big Sky has just burned a few people on this board and put forward that this is the rule and not the exception. I also suggest that Big Sky has much more of a cash flow problem than a business personality problem. Be that as it may, I don’t have a dog in this fight.Mar 6, 2007 at 10:40 am #1381283
I don't consider this a fight, just assuming role of devil's advocate.
There are folks on this board that got their tents from BS without too much hassle. Given that, then it is not a rule. Also, many of the folks on this board read Backpacker. They also would have access to the service considerations.
There are understandably sour grapes involved with this company and people's view of them. You are exactly right. There may be a couple of hundred people who move forward on a Big Sky tent based on Backpackers reveiw. Whether it works out for the parties involved really has little to do with the past. Is Backpacker shamelessly misleading consumers on purpose…probably not, but only time will tell.Mar 6, 2007 at 10:41 am #1381284
@trackerLocale: New England
Backpacker Magazine is ripe for being 'spoofed', on the cover in big letters could be 'Big Lie, the best tent on the market', then have a phto of a campsite without a tent! Ah, the good ole' days of Mad magazine *GRIN*Mar 6, 2007 at 11:24 am #1381294
I don't believe that BM consciously aimed to "shamelessly mislead" anyone. But that's not the point at all.
As a popular magazine with some authority on the subject, BM knows at all times that the conferring of an award or even the mere printing of a few positive sentences would automatically place that product in the limelight and provide it with some degree of credibility!
I'm sure readers would agree that with this sort of power and influence comes responsibility. For example, BM fell short on fulfilling this editorial responsibility when it made a splash on "Light is Right" — despite the near total absence of any actual products! And in the case of BS, given its consistently rotten record, the special mention of its tents in BM could well lure unsuspecting readers to BS' website — where they are then led to believe that by paying upfront, they can expect delivery by "late Spring"!
You wrote about sour grapes. I may be wrong, but to me, it reads like you are simply minimizing / discounting people's negative experiences with BS. Reading the posts, more than a few buyers were deceived by BS — where a promise of 4-6 weeks delivery time morphed into a year or more! Warning off people is hardly a case of 'sour grapes'!?!
Sour grapes aside, you also wrote that: "Whether it works out for the parties involved really has little to do with the past." A company's past service record is often the best indicator of future performance — better anyway than any marketing slogans or promises. Unless you actually KNOW of major restructuring or sourcing changes that are now in place, I think you can pretty much expect things to stay the same…Mar 6, 2007 at 1:48 pm #1381307
1. I don't think a "large" group of people buys anything like the item in question based on a single paragraph review. There is not an Oprah book club by Backpacker that just sends you a piece of gear and bills your credit card as soon as it is designated Editor's Choice. I look at market research on a regular basis and the general feeling on this thread is that most people are naive and are not savy consumers…and I am telling you, you should reconsider that view. People really are not dumb.
2. Big Sky could turn it around…no one knows and everything else is speculation.
3. People did post in this forum about getting their tents from this dude relatively pain free.
4. I am sorry some people waited a year. I would have taken this guy to task way before that. Waiting that long says something about the consumer…and I think some of that anger may be self-directed. You want something so bad…you hold out hope regardless of reality. Credit card companies can get your money back a whole lot faster than 12 months, you just have to take the initiative.
5. I don't care one way or the other whether Big Sky makes a go of it or not.
6. The single reason I entered my opinion here is to suggest that Backpacker has more to offer than gear reviews (which I freely admit is not a strength)…and to say that it is JUST A MAGAZINE. Sometimes publications are wrong. The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times are capable of getting it wrong. This vicoral hate of Big Sky and in some cases the over-posting of "hate" postings for these guys is a weird waste of energy. Get your message out, get your money back…and get over it. LIFE IS TOO SHORT.
I will surely be unpopular for my view, but I was expecting most of the folks in this forum to be more big picture.Mar 6, 2007 at 1:55 pm #1381308
Interestingly, this just got posted a few minutes ago:
Ordered approx. 12/27/05
2P 2D2V Marigold with clips and aluminum poles.
14-month turnaround time. Way to go, Bob Molen!Mar 6, 2007 at 2:15 pm #1381313
Just as a little added insight into BPM and how editors choice works…at least how it worked in '02.
When ULA received an EC Award in 2002, I was informed well in advance that the ULA P-2 was in "the running" for the award. At the time I was still sewing every pack that left my shop by myself and already had a 3 month backlog.
I was direct with them at the time and requested that they keep me posted and to give me as much heads up as possible in terms of whether ULA was awarded the EC…which they did…about 2 months in advance of the issue hitting the news stand. That gave me some time to do what I could to try to address the inevitable increase in order volume that was to come. One would think 'ol Bob would have the sense to do the same.
So…not sure how it works these days, but I've never advertised with BPM and still have not. While their bills are likely paid by glossy ads from big companies, I think it is a stretch to say that their editorial decisions are influence by ad revenue. I think it is likely a combo of "flavor of the month" (UL hiking for EX) and what happened to work for the majority of the editors at large.
My personal disappointment with BPM (and why I do not advertise with them, nor subscribe) stems primarily from their shift of focus from the "Magazine of Wilderness Travel" to the "Outdoors at your Doorstep." That is a fundemental philosophical shift in priorities and one that I do not care to support. Since that shift, the quality and breadth of writing has diminished significantly … just another mag with soundbite features and articles with little if any depth.
What BPM does that is good is allow an easy, non-threatening introduction into backpacking. Condemning them for doing that would be like ULA condemning Jardine for advocating UL Backpacking. People have to start somewhere and BPM is place for many newbies to do so.
Lastly, since when can you have a factory(s)in Asia and be considered 'cottage'? Maybe I am off base, but 'Cottage' in my mind has always represented small scale manufacturing utilizing local resources. Not trying to hijack the thread or be elitist, but I find it difficult to consider BS a verifiable 'cottage' industry. I would hope that most people who have had or may potentially have a poor experience with BS (or any other company) would be rational enough not to condemn any other company. I guess we'll see.
BrianMar 6, 2007 at 2:32 pm #1381320
@pjLocale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Hey Scott, don't sweat it (actually, i don't think you are, but just in case). I don't think most Forum participants are going to hold it against you. You voiced your opinion. It might not be my opinion, or others' opinion, but no matter. You're entitled to your opinion and to voice it. Generally, we all can learn something even from a Post we might not totally agree with. I've been "spanked" more than once for things i posted (sometimes b/c i wasn't clear in my writing; sometimes b/c i was just plain wrong; sometimes b/c somebody didn't like my opinion). Don't worry, it only stings for a while and it doesn't leave any marks.
Keep posting.Mar 6, 2007 at 4:14 pm #1381338
@mitchellkeilLocale: Deep in the OC
When was the last time you went into an Backpacking Store and walked around listening to the customers and the questions they ask the sales people? I think you overestimate the knowledge level that many of these customers bring into the store or to backpacking as an experience. Shawn's point that many small cottage manufacturers will be hurt by an unwitting experience with BS is well taken IMHO. Many of these shoppers go to a Store precisely because they are so inexperienced. They are desperate for advice and are so grateful for any they recieve. I have also overheard many people on the line to return gear berate the store for recommending a piece of gear that did not turn out as promised. I have heard all manner of complaints that the salesperson "should" have known that this piece of gear was inappropriate, poorly made, etc. How do you think they will respond when they take an Editor's Choice award review and attempt to buy a product sight unseen and make the sad discoveries that so many of us have made about BS? Do you really think that they will be inclined to try a purchase from a Shires, or a Moak? I think the answer is clearly — NO! They will flee to the mainstream makers that can be seen and touched at an outfitter's store.
No, I still feel BP did a real diservice to our community with this award to BS. I wrote to their new gear editor about my feelings and her response was interesting:
"Your letter doesn't come as a big surprise, as we were well aware of Big Sky's delivery problems before we went to press. We trolled backpacklight.com as well as other forums, listened to all the feedback, and had many phone coversations with Bob Molen, boss man at Big Sky. As a new company, Big Sky was having a hard time getting their production solidified, and they were in the midst of changing factories, which is how they explained the lag times that you referred to. All that has been taken care of, however, and Molen assured us that he was quickly catching up with past orders. He also assured us that future orders wouldn't have the same problems. We were satisfied with his answers, and have heard no complaints since the transition took place. In the end, we cut this company some slack for experiencing growing pains, as many upstarts do, and were so thoroughly impressed with their product that we went forward with the award. But you can be sure that we will stay up on their customer service track record and keep our readers apprised, as well."
That last sentence struck me as interesting. I am just as sure that BP will not stay up on BS' track record. How would they be able to do that? It is clear to me that BP just punted when it could have looked elsewhere for great product and fell for the sales pitch that Molen seems to be able to weave at the drop of the hat.Mar 6, 2007 at 5:17 pm #1381347
Tom KirchnerBPL Member
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Wow, the more things change, the more they stay the same. How long has the BSP saga been going on now? 2-3 years? IMO. the only problem that Mr. Molen has is charging peoples' credit cards up front. Everything else could be considered "growing pains". Like one of the previous posters , I don't have a dog in this fight, having stopped payment on a check to BSP after a 2 month wait in late 2005.
I figure that one of these days, as the Karmic Wheel turns,
Mr Molen is going to stiff an attorney with an attitude and that'll be the end of the longest running soap opera in BPL
forum history. Stay tuned, all you faithful listeners.Mar 6, 2007 at 6:32 pm #1381350
Brian Frankle wrote "Lastly, since when can you have a factory(s)in Asia and be considered 'cottage'? Maybe I am off base, but 'Cottage' in my mind has always represented small scale manufacturing utilizing local resources. Not trying to hijack the thread or be elitist, but I find it difficult to consider BS a verifiable 'cottage' industry. I would hope that most people who have had or may potentially have a poor experience with BS (or any other company) would be rational enough not to condemn any other company. I guess we'll see."
Of course you're right on this point Brian. Big Sky is NOT a cottage company. It was not fair for me to lump them into the category of the many small companies that work so hard and provide such great service to their customers.
The reason why I referred to Big Sky as a "cottage" business is that they are still in the formational stage of business. It actually seems that the true cottage industry folks in the UL world are turning out many many more products than Big Sky has in the last year.
As for the community of backpackers that frequent this online magazine and forum, they are generally very much of the type that Scott mentions, those who do their homework and research what is available. However, after 6 years of working at REI, I can tell you with confidence that the average REI customer does NOT fall into this category. More than half walk into the store with relatively little idea of what they want. I am often asked very basic questions from folks who've never heard of layering clothing, or who have heard of it but ask many questions because they don't really understand the concept. Many come in with horribly old trains of thought about bombproof gear and they proudly state that they've learned this by studious reading of (you guessed it) Backpacker Magazine.
When I try to offer other options, particularly those that are lighter, I'm greeted with suspicion because this isn't what they've heard from BPM. For those who ARE interested in lightening up, they are understandably hesitant to buy a product that they can't lay their hands on. But if BPM gives it an Editor's Choice award, it must be a safe bet. Herein lies the concern I offered in my earlier post. To many of my customers, a "cottage" company becomes a company too small to sell their products any where except online (for the most part – yes I know Ron Moak sells his products in a handful of brick and mortar stores as do some other true cottage companies). After a year's wait, they will be extremely unlikely to ever order a major piece of gear from a small "internet" company.
Thus my worry is that Big Sky will be grouped with all the folks whose gear is primarily only available online. For the hiker whose bible is Backpacker Magazine, this could become the case. If you believe I'm way off base about the rank and file customer, work part time for a year at an outfitter.
So I apologize for incorrectly naming Big Sky as a cottage industry. I just wish I could get my customers to look at some of the great companies out there. The great majority won't consider them (or even know about them) without the blessing of BPM.
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