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Author Topic: Astromart - my experience  (Read 22765 times)

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Offline dciobota

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Astromart - my experience
« on: 09:33:22, 01 October, 2007 »
 And not a positive one. 

 First off, this is just my experience, and the opinions are entirely my own and not necessarily reflect those of UKAI admins or other mods.  Not to say they don't agree, but this is just to get them off the hook legally.  :)

 I have been a member there for a number of years with all positive feedback.  The site touts itself as a free site although that no longer holds true (and I did pay, even though I had signed in when it was still free), and sprays numerous requests for "support" daily from its members... note that this "support" is supposedly voluntary.

 Anyways, I had made a response to an ad on there and had a copy sent to my email account, when I noticed a delivery notice that had the name of a forwarding service, a recipient who is a suspected name list provider for spam mail, and the contents of my astromart response compete with my name and emai addy.  So, wondering what's going on, I sent a very polite inquiry to their support staff.  Well, the short of it is that after a series of sarcastic and insulting emails from one Herb York, not only my privacy concern was ignored (unless I paid to be a "voluntary" supporter, that is), but also my account summarily terminated.  Yep, that's what I got.  So, all those of you with astromart accounts (or contemplating getting one), beware that you privacy may be compromised, and also that unless you pay for "support", all you get for your inquiriers is sarcasm, insults and possible termination.

 For those of you willing to endure, here's the complete diatribe with emails and my comments on them.  Form your own opinions, and please do let me know.  Did I step out of line?  Is this how a business should handle its customers (or forum admin its members)?  I welcome all criticism here, I'm not afraid to admit I am wrong and learn from my mistakes.

 Here's the long version:

--------

  The following text and observations represent my experience with Astromart and my opinions on their service, especially regards to a guy on there named Herb York.  The emails I provide have not been altered in any way except to present them in chronological order.  Feel free to read and form your own opinion as to the quality of this site and the people who run it.  Here's the story:

  Interesting exchange I've had with someone named Herb York, allegedly the owner of Astromart, a supposedly free service to the astronomy community mostly for buying and selling astronomy equipment.  First off, the place is not free, you now have to pay a signup fee.  Second, he provides what he calls "support", where users pay additional money, I guess for the privilege to have their ads advertised in colors and whatnot.  I have paid my fee and have maintained a spotless buy and sell record at that site for a number of years I might add. 

 So, on the evening of 9/30/07, I responded to an add on the site and checked the box to include a copy of my response to be sent to my email address.  Imagine my shock when I got not only a copy of my response, but a delivery reply to a copy of my email (including my email address and the sendee too!) sent by a forwarding service!  Upon checking the email headers, it was aparent to me that the copy was sent prior to getting to my mailbox, which prompted me to think maybe the astromart servers somehow forwarded email to third party services as well.  As this is in direct violation of their stated privacy policy, I found it disturbing.  But, before jumping to any conclusions, I decided to forward suspicious email to their support contact, and asked them courteously if they could look into the matter and let me know the outcome of their investigation.  Here is the email I sent:


> > >>>> On Sep 30, 2007, at 5:02 PM, Ciobotas wrote:
> > >>>>
> > >>>>  Hi,
> > >>>>
> > >>>>  I have responded to one of the astromart ads and chose to have a
> > >>>> copy
> > >>>> sent to my address.  I did receive the copy, however I also
> > >>>> received a
> > >>>> delivery notification from something called
> > >>>> eforward1.name-services.com.  Upon examining the mail headers, I
> > >>>> think
> > >>>> that this is the forwarding service used to respond to ads and send
> > >>>> copies to senders.  What is really disturbing is that this service
> > >>>> was
> > >>>> also attempting to send my email address (well, a copy of the
> > >>>> contents
> > >>>> containing both my address and the ad owner) to a placed called
> > >>>> selectdigitals.com, which obviously violates the privacy
> > >>>> disclaimer.
> > >>>> Can you guys check up on this and find out why our emails are
> > >>>> copied
> > >>>> to these other places?  Please let me know the results of your
> > >>>> investigation.
> > >>>>
> > >>>>  I have enclosed the full contents of the email below.
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Best regards,
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Daniel
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> > >>>> From: postmaster@eforward1.name-services.com
> > >>>> <postmaster@eforward1.name-services.com>
> > >>>> Date: Sep 30, 2007 6:45 PM
> > >>>> Subject: Delivery Status Notification (Failure)
> > >>>> To: ciobota@gmail.com
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>> This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Delivery to the following recipients failed.
> > >>>>
> > >>>>       service@selectdigitals.com
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Final-Recipient: rfc822;service@selectdigitals.com
> > >>>> Action: failed
> > >>>> Status: 5.5.0
> > >>>> Diagnostic-Code: smtp;550 sorry, no mailbox here by that name
> > >>>> (#5.1.1)
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> > >>>> From: <ciobota@gmail.com>
> > >>>> To: <ebiz@tivel.biz>
> > >>>> Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2007 16:45:09 -0700
> > >>>> Subject: ASTROMART - Response to ad #523638
> > >>>> The following message has been sent to you in response to your
> > >>>> Astromart classified ad #523638 - 'Canon EOS10D -- Complete!'.
> > >>>> This email was sent by  registered Astromart user Daniel Ciobota -
> > >>>> ciobota@gmail.com (Blair, NE) via Astromart's email ad response
> > >>>> system.  Should you choose to reply to this email message, your
> > >>>> response will be sent directly to the recipient and will not pass
> > >>>> through or be associated with Astromart in any way.  Astromart does
> > >>>> not condone or tolerate spam (i.e., unsolicited commercial email)
> > >>>> and
> > >>>> is taking steps to protect members from this abuse.
> > >>>> ---------------------------------------------------------
> > >>>>
> > >>>>  Hi Royce,
> > >>>>
> > >>>>  I responded to your ad yesterday offering to buy the kit, but I
> > >>>> haven't received a response.  Can you let me know if it's sold, or
> > >>>> still available?  I still want to buy it, but I'd like to know if
> > >>>> it's
> > >>>> no longer available.
> > >>>>
> > >>>>  Thanks,
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Daniel
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Note: Do not send replies to website@astromart.com as they will
> > >>>> not be
> > >>>> received, if your email program tries to reply to
> > >>>> website@astromart.com please replace that address with the
> > >>>> address of
> > >>>> the inquiring user ciobota@gmail.com
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Sincerely,
> > >>>> The Astromart Staff
> > >>>> http://www.astromart.com
> > >>>> Astromart is a service provided by Anacortes Telescope & Wild Bird
> > >>>> http://www.buytelescopes.com
> > >>>>
> > >>>> *** DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS EMAIL - This message was sent from an
> > >>>> unattended address.  If you have any questions please contact
> > >>>> support@astromart.com.
> > >>>>
> > >>>>


Not very long aftwerwards, I get this very criptic email from a Herb York:


> > >>> On 9/30/07, Herb York <herb@buytelescopes.com> wrote:
> > >>>> https://www.astromart.com/aboutus/supportoptions.asp
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>> Herb York
> > >>>> www.AstroMart.com
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>>
> > >>>


 Upon checking the link, I found out it pointed to their astromart support page (the one where they ask you for additional money to become a "supporter").  Puzzled, I reply, asking for clarification:


> > >>> On Sep 30, 2007, at 5:42 PM, Ciobotas wrote:
> > >>>
> > >>> Hi Herb,
> > >>>
> > >>>  I'm not sure I understand what the support page has to do with this
> > >>> issue.  I was reporting a possible policy violation, since it
> > >>> clearly
> > >>> states on your page that our addresses and information will not be
> > >>> made available to anyone outside Astromart.
> > >>>
> > >>>  Can you please explain?
> > >>>
> > >>> Thanks,
> > >>>
> > >>> Daniel
> > >>>
> > >>>
> > >>>
> > >>>


 So, now I actually get more than a link... in fact I get much more than I expected, a lot of sarcasm and disrespect.  This guy supposedly runs or owns astromart, and this is the first answer I get out of him.  Frankly, I didn't expect the owner, manager or even the staff of such an establishment to answer in this manner.  Would you? 


> > >> On 9/30/07, Herb York <herb@buytelescopes.com> wrote:
> > >>> Oh - I thought we were discussing what we found disturbing - you
> > >>> with
> > >>> your question and me with looking at your account and seeing the
> > >>> amount you use AstroMart and have never SUPPORTED
> > >>> I will think about sending you question to the programmers and
> > >>> spending a couple hundred bucks getting an answer for you.
> > >>> You have a nice day now.
> > >>> Herb York
> > >>> www.AstroMart.com
> > >>>
> > >>>
> > >>>

So, I admit my next email was a bit more abrupt, but still fairly courteous compared to his insulting manner.  This is a pretty serious matter, a breach of privacy is not something to be shrugged off lightly.  If it didn't come frome their services, then say so, but to point me to a pay site and then insinuate I would get no response (other than sarcasm of course) pretty much amounts to blackmail or extortion in my book.  And so, I wrote this, trying to impress upon him the terms of the agreement and the seriousness of the matter:

> > >> On Sep 30, 2007, at 6:54 PM, Ciobotas wrote:
> > >>
> > >>   I don't know what the problem is here and why you exhibit this
> > >> sarcastic attitude
> > >>
> > >>  Let me make this clear:
> > >>
> > >>  First, you have a policy disclaimer on your site which states quite
> > >> clearly that my email address will not be sent to third parties.
> > >> This
> > >> implies a trust of confidentiality on your part and violating those
> > >> conditions amounts to violating privacy... a legal matter, not the
> > >> least of which is misrepresentation through that disclaimer.
> > >>
> > >>  Second, nowhere on your site do I see a requirement to be a
> > >> supporter... that is a VOLUNTARY option.  In no way do I see your
> > >> addressing a matter of legal importance (this is not support, this
> > >> was
> > >> merely a COURTESY email to your staff informing of a possible ethical
> > >> and legal breach) as conditional to signing up to some "donation"
> > >> activity of yours.  Besides the ethical issues with all this arm
> > >> twisting tactic of yours, I see a lot of problems with promoting your
> > >> site as a free site while at the same time ensuring your own terms of
> > >> use and privacy only for those who pay you.  I have already paid you
> > >> for the use of your account btw, which makes me a paying customer at
> > >> the very least, support "donation" or not.
> > >>
> > >>  Please be prompt in addressing this issue.  I was courteous
> > >> enough to
> > >> alert you to this legal matter, and all I got back is sarcasm and
> > >> disrespect.  I have made a copy of the disclaimer on your site,
> > >> and if
> > >> this issue is not corrected, I shall be forced to alert others to
> > >> this
> > >> breach (I am moderator on two forums, and participate in many others)
> > >> and will also seek legal advice in this matter due to the suspected
> > >> breach of privacy.
> > >>
> > >>  You also have a nice day.
> > >>
> > >> Daniel
> > >>
> > >>
> > >>
> > >>


 So, I get this very enlightening response:


> > > On 9/30/07, Herb York <herb@buytelescopes.com> wrote:
> > >> 1) we have our own servers - we do not use a service
> > >> 2) I have seen enough of your type of email to know where this was
> > >> going
> > >> 3) you will never have a problem with AstroMart again
> > >> Have a nice day
> > >>
> > >>
> > >>
> > >>
> > >


 At this point, Mr York promptly terminated my account.  Yep, I had violated no policy, was courteous enough to inform them of a serious matter, and I get kicked off the site.  Tbh, at this point it was really for the best, but that action alone speaks volumes about the character of the man and the result of disagreeing with him in any way.  Also notice that at this point he categorically states "we do not use a service".  His own words, and that will become clear later on why this is important.  Also interesting was his comment "I have seen enough of your type"... I would suppose someone who was nice and ethical was not his type.  Fair enough, I don't think I could live with being his type.

 Well, all gloves were off at this point, so I decided a little bit of asperity might do him some good.  So, I point out to him what his legal obligations are still, and what my options are for redress.  I saw no reason at that point to keep our conversation and my experience private.


> > > On Sep 30, 2007, at 7:27 PM, Ciobotas wrote:
> > >
> > >   First off, I request a full refund of the money I paid for your
> > > "free" service, since I have obviously not violated any terms of the
> > > astromart agreement and you have cancelled my account.  Please be
> > > prompt in this.
> > >
> > >  Second, since you have no aparent concern for the privacy of your
> > > users, I do not feel compelled to consider our conversation private
> > > nor confidential.  I will publish it as reference and make others
> > > aware of the way you treat people who put their trust in your
> > > services, such as they are.
> > >
> > >  Feel free to comment and try to refute the facts.
> > >
> > >  Btw, consider this as official notice as to the request for a refund.
> > >  Failure to comply with my request will result in my contesting the
> > > charges with my credit company and further legal action.
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >

An interesting email followed, stating again categorically that they use their own servers and never give out client info.  He also makes a veiled threat in his own sarcastic way, but that's not surprising at this point.

> > On 9/30/07, Herb York <herb@buytelescopes.com> wrote:
> > > Oh, as to 2 - be REAL careful there
> > > AS I stated we have our OWN servers and we NEVER give out clients
> > > information.
> > > I wouldn't want to see get into any trouble.
> > > Thank you
> > > Herb
> > >
> > >

As I said, I strongly suspect the email forwarding occured before the email got to me (as aparent in the header) and it was equally aparent that Mr York did no checking on whether his servers had an issue or whether a third party service was indeed involved.  I wanted to make sure he understood that.  Also, I reminded him that the first email sent to me in response showed no indication he was concerned with my privacy (unless I would become a supporter, of course). 

> > On Sep 30, 2007, at 7:57 PM, Ciobotas wrote:
> >
> >   As to 2), you aparently never bothered to check if your servers are
> > infected or if someone is tapping into your network... the message
> > headers clearly indicate that the third party forward occured before
> > them email was even sent to me.  Have ACTUAL software experts look
> > into it, I do this for a living and I do know what I'm talking about.
> >
> >  Besides that, you showed a total lack of concern or care as to my
> > privacy issue unless I paid up.  that at the very least is negligent,
> > and would definitely qualify as extortion or blackmail.
> >
> >  I wouldn't want to see you get in trouble either.
> >
> >

 Ahh, at last another enlightening response.  Notice he categorically sais he uses his own servers?  Well, now, where did that "outside third party services" mention come from?  One can only wonder. 

> On 9/30/07, Herb York <herb@buytelescopes.com> wrote:
> > I sent your email to my web guy the MINUTE I got it - I have the
> > stamps to PROVE that.
> > We have certified web sites and servers and pay thousands of dollars
> > a year to have those outside third party services. We are NOT
> > infected and our services are operating at 100%. I never told you
> > that if you didn't pay you were not going to get service - read the
> > email/s slow so you can see what I actually DID say.
> > You are one of those people that think I am your slave - I assure you
> > I am not. I didn't care for your tone so I gave you some back - you
> > didn't like it either.
> > Anyway - you are safe from any intrusions in your life by AstroMart.
> > Thank you
> > Herb
> >
> >
> >
> >

 Notice he also denies telling me to pay for support to get service.  He's right, he never actually told me that word for word, he just tersely pointed me to the pay site link, then he said he will THINK about looking into the matter for someone who never paid for his "support".  Way to go Mr York, as my dad used to say, that denial's got more holes in it than swiss cheese.  And wonder of wonders, he tells me my tone was deficient.  Well, I'll let my emails speak for themselves on that one and you can judge whose tone was deficient.

 At this point I terminated my correspondence with this "gentleman" and decided to post this on my site as a word of caution in becoming a member or doing business with astromart or its related sites.  In my opinion, your privacy may suffer and God help you if you ask for support unless you've paid the danegeld.  Sorry, not my kind of place to do business with.

 Caveat emptor,

Daniel
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Offline Ambermile

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #1 on: 09:38:35, 01 October, 2007 »
There's an echo in here...  here... here...

I got thrown out because I am Ambermile.  Not that I *ever* mentioned it on the site at all (mind you, it didn't help that someone here in the UK pointed out to Mr Parsley what  Ambermile was - but that's another story)  He just demanded I become a "sponsor" and I refused.  The man is a complete pillock.

Arthur

Offline dciobota

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #2 on: 09:52:18, 01 October, 2007 »
  Didn't know that Arthur.  Imo, if you weren't  trying to peddle your wares, you shouldn't be forced to pay anything.  It's a joke really, he always has his companies advertising on that site, he has his major vendors advertise on that site (possibly for free), he has other telescope small vendors advertise on that site (and they do pay quite a bit actually), then he forces the users first into a "processing" fee, then he arm twists whoever he can into paying for "support".  ;)

  But then, he does get to insult you for free!  :lol:

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Offline vincecom

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #3 on: 10:08:07, 01 October, 2007 »
Well there's a support group for you now Daniel  :) if you haven't already seen it...

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/astromart-uncensored/

Vincent :)

Offline tomhow

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #4 on: 10:21:55, 01 October, 2007 »
I think you are being a bit too kind Daniel.

Tell it like it is.

Looking at Selectdigitals It would appear to me that somebody involved with the astromart website (owners, operators, developers, who knows?) is selling the astromart member email addresses to the selectdigital site.

I suggest an email to Anacortes challanging them on this.

the whois record for astromart gives some contact details, although such things are often out of date.
Tak Sky 90, Atik 490, Homemade Mount, OAG, Lodestar

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Offline Toad of Toad Hall

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #5 on: 10:35:34, 01 October, 2007 »
Also terminated after several years of constructive forum help on the day I bought something for the first time as I used my hotmail account (to avoid spam) - seller then thought I was a time waster because you cant get the contact details afterwards.

Utterly unsympathetic don't give a sh*t attitude to his members. Avoid if possible.

That's why I am here ;)

Justin
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Offline egdavies

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #6 on: 11:02:39, 01 October, 2007 »
Quote
Caveat emptor,

Indeed.

I have always had reservations about that site.  I reckon that you were very patient to continue after the first rude response from him.

Eddie
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Offline Kellys_eye

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #7 on: 11:05:49, 01 October, 2007 »
seller then thought I was a time waster because you cant get the contact details afterwards.

Now that's a bit too convenient, isn't it? (my underlining of Toads quote)

Business accumen aside, the confrontational attitude of that 'Herb' leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.  I'm happy to see you being transparent about your deals with him so that others can see this setup for what it is.....

Daniel, might I suggest you edit your OP to **** your email details to avoid bot spamming?  I don't kow if that's possible (spamming that is) through this site but you can't be too careful!!!



Dave Gill

250/f4.5 newt, 150/f5 refractor, Mak 127, lots of bits'n'pieces mostly homebrewed.

Offline AndrewG

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #8 on: 13:36:14, 01 October, 2007 »
I'd post up to Cloudy Nights too... Might open a few eyes to how this guy runs the site...
AndrewG
10" Newt, 12" Darkbridge (DSC+BlueTooth+PalmTX) :evil: , Vixen ED103SWT, William Optics ZS66, ST102, QHY8, QHY5, EQ6 MK1 + SkyScan

Offline Ben Ritchie

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #9 on: 13:38:42, 01 October, 2007 »
It's no secret on CN.

I gave up on A'mart, CN works fine for me.
Astro-Physics 130EDT StarFire, Borg 77EDII, way modified 80ED, VLT
Astro-Physics 1200GTO, 'evolved' HEQ5/pro
Coronado SM60/BF10, 3-6 Nagler zoom, 8 & 13 Ethos
...and a box full of bits

Offline dciobota

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #10 on: 14:18:55, 01 October, 2007 »
  Thanks for the encouraging words guys.  I actually lost out on a very sweet deal because of this, my response to the guy's ad was what started the whole thing.

   I did the same kind of research Tom, that's why I strongly suspected it was some service astromart uses and mentioned it very kindly to him.  I might add that if I do pursue this with the authorities or his isp, he is very likely to get fined, get his business banned from the web and open himself to all sorts of privacy suits.  I'll do some more research and find out who this forward1 server is and who owns it. 

  Vince, I didn't know there was such a group, I feel right honored to sign up for it.  Will do it today at lunch.  :)

  Dave, you're right, I should probably edit out my email, but since I left Herb's on (and do feel free to email him with suggestions on how to improve his business ;) ) I feel I should leave everything unedited for now.  Gmail has an excellent spam filter, so no worries there, plus the dang spam lists probably have my email addy and details anyway by now.  :(

  I was thinking about posting this on CN as well, but since I haven't participated there much, I felt it would look too much like trolling.  I may still do it though.

  Actually, before I post to any other group, I will definitely ask the permission of the mods.  In the case of the WO group, I also asked Daniel (not me, the marketing poc at WO) for permission, since I do value his business and he's been a very accomodating and level headed fellow in my dealings with him.  I respect that... he's about the direct opposite of Mr York.

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Offline dciobota

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #11 on: 14:21:14, 01 October, 2007 »
 PS: at the suggestion of the admins, I'm also making this a sticky.  Great show of support guys!  :thumbup: :urock:
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Offline mcrossley

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #12 on: 15:16:56, 01 October, 2007 »
Yet another example of what a to$$er Mr Parsley is, unbelievable behaviour (well no, it isn't based on other peoples past experiences).
Mark
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Offline Canuck

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #13 on: 17:21:46, 01 October, 2007 »
This is a fascinating post...

I was dismissed without notice from Astromart last year after about 1.5 years and about 15-16 successful deals.  I had signed up when it was free, and the powers that be had decided that my ISP provider had become unacceptable, although if I paid the new (at the time) registration fee, I would be accepted as a new member.  I inquired politely via e-mail twice, querying whether it would be possible to return (paying the fee) to my old account, but received no response.  Seeing his e-mail, it's probably for the best.

I declined to pay and re-register, and have not returned.

I've heard numerous stories about Herbs' less than eloquent manner via e-mail, but have never seen it in the flesh.  I'm very glad I will never have to deal with him in person.  I'm actually from very near Anacortes, but would never consider visiting.  It's quite remarkable in todays internet world that such a belligerent and confrontation manner exists in a retail environment.  He must really feel he is untouchable?  It's quite sad.

More reading on this subject is available:
http://www.astroclassifieds.com/forums/anything-goes-well-almost-f41/index.html

Thank you for this well-written and thoughtful non-rant.

 :P



Offline dciobota

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Re: Astromart - my experience
« Reply #14 on: 17:40:06, 01 October, 2007 »
 Lol, thanks guys for the support.  Mr Paisley, I like that, although I'd lean towards Mr M, as he's in sore need of some happy smokes.  :D

 Great read there Canuck (and warm welcome to UKAI btw), I will definitely agree with the plantation mentality... I actually suspect he's an ex swabbie (no offense to any swabbies though, especially to the one of amphibian persuasion) who got kicked around a lot while in the service.  Now he wants to play ship captain in the hallowed tradition of men like Ahab and Bligh.  Let him, I say, and soon enough there will be a mutiny.

 I also agree with a lot of the mods on there being cowed into submission.  There's also a lot fewer of them now it seems.  I really feel for some of them, especially Ivan Gastaldo, who seems like a very nice guy.  I posted early on in my membership there, but got back zero response... yep, zilch.  One of the main reasons I'm very happy here at UKAI, even on the worst days someone bothers to respond eventually.

 Btw, everyone who would like to share their stories of how they got kicked out, please do.  I consider this thread (and not just my post mind you), very enlightening for those who do or consider doing business with that place.

PLEASE REMOVE ME

 

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