(This is a collaborative announcement written by multiple members of the Hookah Pro Staff along with some outside assistance.)
Dear Members of Hookah Pro,
Before we get on with the task at hand, we want to thank all of our members for being so patient and understanding with us in regards to the situation with ********** and his status here at Hookah Pro. We want to say that without your support this place would not be what it is today. So thank you.
This is going to be a long eye opening thread, but we hope you stick it out for the entire read and understand why we have come to our decision and the reasoning behind it.
We as a collective have decided that ********** will no longer be a vendor or a member here at hookahpro.com
. This comes with heavy hearts as John has been a great vendor to his customers. He has a major following here and we hate to see him go. We are severing the relationship, and are moving on from this unfortunate decision to bigger and better things.
We were very shocked to hear that John was sending his customer base disheartening newsletters/emails about the Hookah Pro community and its staff. John is speaking ill of our community for self serving reasons. He is attempting to run the Hookah Pro name through the mud, which is very disappointing since he created a competing forum back in December 2009. We hope that whomever reads or hears his tirades will take them at face value.
We can no longer support a vendor/member who has broken our rules on a semi constant basis over the course of his membership here. We have looked the other way multiple times because we have seen throughout the years that he has been great to YOU GUYS, the customer. How can a vendor that has such a great following show such blatant disregard for this community, its rules, and its members? We have issued many warnings, phone calls, pardons, and bans in order to help him stay in compliance with our rules and keep him as a member! ********** was personally told by Sambooka that he was on his last leg here, but he decided to usurp the moderation staff and continue down this path. ********** stated in his recent emails to his customers that “quite frankly there is no justifiable reason to ban [him]”. This is inaccurate and untrue. Here is a list of his infractions, many of which were pardoned.
- March 2008: John posted a review for Tangiers tobacco in our review section. This is a violation of our vendor policy. A warning was issued.
- May 2008: John contacted a member via PM to push his wares after hearing said member was in the market for shisha. A warning was issued for peddling without being approached by a prospective client.
- June 2008: Promoting products/deals in the general discussion section ("this is exactly why the af 50g promotion is so good.") This is a violation of our vendor policy. A final warning was issued personally by Sambooka via the phone.
- June 2008: Promoting a product he sells under the guise of trying it out. A pardon was issued and the post was left up.
- August 2008: Comparing his products to others’ and pushing his wares in the general discussion section. A 4 day ban was issued. It should be noted that we lifted his ban as a favor to him as a vendor so he could “Save face” to the public, if he agreed to stay offline during the remaining duration of the ban. He was caught logging back in within 24 hours, and this violation of his private ban was verbally reinforced.
- February 2009: Reviewing a product he sells and linking the video to Hookah Pro. A warning was issued. The thread was pardoned and left up.
- May 2009: Moderation staff was messaged from a member, reporting that ********** was advising people not to purchase from a competing vendor.
- June 2009: A warning was issued for reviewing products that he sells, and for posting in the review section. The post was removed.
- June 2009: John promoted another product he sells in the general review section, under the guise of trying it out. The post was pardoned and left up.
- August 2009: John posted a non-review in the review section. A warning was issued and the post was deleted.
- December 2009: John posted negative comments on a thread regarding a competitor’s product. A warning was issued.
- January 2010: John posted a non-review in the review section. The post was deleted.
- February 2010: Attacking other vendors/manufacturers and their products.
- February 2010: Attacking another vendor’s products, and a manufacturer, to promote the sale of John's own products. Phone calls were placed and John was warned YET again. This was one of the last phone calls Sambooka had with John, and it consisted of Sambooka advising him to stop bashing his competition with the sole intent to profit, and/or call attention to his products and his products only. John was warned that we would not support these despicable business practices. John was also advised that these very actions could result in him getting sued for defamation, because he could easily cause grave monetary loss to the companies (Coco-Nara, Social Smoke) that his statements have addressed. John became enraged and insisted that he did nothing wrong, and stated that Sambooka was completely out of line. John did not like being issued a warning, and continued to behave insolently. This is when we decided to put John's vendorship/membership up for debate and informed him of the process. He told us he was embarrassed by the situation, admitted that his actions were in poor taste, and did not want this to become public.
February – March 2010: John relented on his plea for silence and decided to tell his customers half truths and “fabricated facts” about his status at Hookah Pro.
March 2010: John released an e-mail, in which he bashed Hookah Pro. John promoted his new forum and finally admitted that he was the creator of the forum, after denying having anything to do with it in December of 2009.
So, after countless phone calls, e-mails, personal messages, deleted posts, pardons, warnings, and bans to correct the issues, he still believes he’s above reproach and a ban is not warranted?
To further debunk his recent claims:
In John’s recent emails he has stated that we have “taken down his profile”. If that was the case then how did so many of you notice that he was no longer a sponsoring vendor? His profile is still there. His sponsoring vendorship ended at the end of February when his “subscription” ran out. We chose not to renew his vendorship at that time. He has the same privileges as every other non-sponsoring vendor. He’s still able to be online, and has logged in since then.
He also goes on to state that we will delete his pages and he will be a memory. As with all banned vendors in the past, he will not be able to be mentioned. By smearing us, spreading false truths, and not taking the high road, he has chosen this path. We know John has a loyal following here at Hookah Pro and he is greatly blessed in that regard. We are by no means trying to tell you what you guys can and can not do with your own money. By all means, feel free to continue supporting him and purchasing his products. Maybe one day he will be able to return to HookahPro.
“How many of you did I advise to become elites at HP so that you would get a better discount with me, meaning less money in my pocket and more money into his?”
To this I have to say, he has given us elite discount codes. We are thankful for that and for helping bring new members to hookahpro.com
. We did receive a few new members from him but Hookah Pro has also brought him tons of new customers in return. It was reciprocal. I would like to point out though, that his elite code expired in December, well before his “sponsoring vendorship” was in question.
He is accusing Sambooka of pocketing the money that the elites provide through donations. We have monthly server costs that Sambooka pays out of his own pocket each and every month to bring us this wonderful home. Member donations help defray that cost. The monthly server costs, programs, coding, updates, server upgrades are expensive! Add in all of the personal man hours he’s logged in to code and update this place, and you begin to understand why hookahpro.com
relies on the help of its members and sponsors to help him out! (Take for example www.Mazdaspeedforums.org
. They ask their members to donate almost $600.00 each and every month!) We pale in comparison to donations and Sambooka picks up the rest of the tab, out of his own pocket each month. Sambooka has even stated "http://www.hookahpro.com/forum/showp...04&postcount=7
”I’m tired of seeing your posts supporting me and my products and have the Admin who has a personal vendetta slam your views by bashing me and saying “it’s just my opinion”.”
He states that the admin [mods] have a personal vendetta against him and this is not the case. These accusations are false. We each are entitled to our own opinions on products. Sambooka likes Coco-Nara’s and KM’s. KornKitten likes AF and MYA. Why don’t we get to have opinions, but an admitted biased vendor does? Here is an example of his current forum’s signature:
“**********...openly biased and eagerly awaiting the next great shisha.....”
and from his email
" it’s obvious I have a bias, I’m in the business. Is that a surprise to any of you?"
How is that right?
To get back to the vendetta issue, Sambooka posted a video review on March 24, 2010 for a product ********** had previously sent him. This review was made while we were still coming to our decision on what needed to be done. Sambooka still acknowledges that he got the shisha from ******* HOOKAH and that it was a good product. This video was posted approximately 2-4 days before the “vendetta” accusation was made. For reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZmSfyR4euI
. (We were notified of this email and posting on the 28th and were told that the email was sent out on the 26th/ 27th). We don’t have an issue with his business or his products. We are not out to “get” John, no matter what he may claim. We wish him nothing but the best in everything that he does. What we have an issue with, is his inability to follow our rules and terms of service which he agreed to when he became a member, and then a vendor/sponsoring vendor of this site. Why should he get away with breaking our rules when you, our members, our “forum blood” if you will, can not do the same? Is that fair to you guys?
Hookah John has attacked Sambooka’s integrity, and accused Sambooka of doing commercials instead of reviews. Yes, it’s no secret that Sambooka gets products to review. He does them honestly regardless of how he obtains them. Sambooka is the admin of a high traffic hookah site. He has a Partnered YouTube channel dedicated to hookah that gets hundreds of thousands of views. Why wouldn’t people send him their products to review and critique?
John says Sambooka is biased, and that’s inaccurate. Here are several examples of this:
Nakhla Guava: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVQIKYwi-Bc
AF Grape w/mint: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZmSfyR4euI
(Sambooka reviewed John’s products even though we were still discussing what to do with John. John sent Sambooka some stuff to review. Sambooka still advertised for him, plugged his name and his products because that is what it was intended for. Sambooka is a man of his word who does what he says he’s going to do!)
AF Watermelon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEMLFWDoRG0
The following video links are of shisha that were provided to Sambooka at no cost, with the vendor’s knowledge that all shisha reviews were going to be honest and unbiased.
Referencing Hookah Freak and Hookah Hookah:
For John to attack a man’s character is a low blow. Just remember folks, when you point your finger at someone, you have 3 pointing right back at you. So you better be damn sure to be squeaky clean of all faults before you start on such an attack. John is guilty of reviewing the products he sells, promoting them in the general section under the guise of “I just smoked this awesome flavor!" (Which is against forum rules), and has bashed other vendor’s products that are similar in nature to his own. He has done this to promote his products and boost his sales. Whenever HP Staff approached John regarding this advertising ploy, replies back were “I didn’t know I couldn’t do that.” or "OK" or "Sorry"
John has also asked Sambooka to compromise his integrity and provide biased reviews, because he had sent the products to him for free and he did not want it to affect that product’s sales
On Sat, Jan 23, 2010 at 1:29 PM, Hookah John <john@**********.com> wrote:
“It’s ok for you to have your honest opinions and you don’t have to make my coals your #1 choice but I feel as a paying sponsor it would be fair of you not to go the extra mile and say that my coals stink up when lighting. It makes them look bad and affects sales as you have a huge influence on the community”
And another in the same email.
On the following quote, John requests Sambooka alliance he prefers Sambooka display:
On the thread where a member is asking for advice on a KM or AF pipe and hj vs afo, most say KM and HJ while you say afo and the af hookah. I know Sam[AFO] very well and I know that his service is not close to mine and he will admit that in a heartbeat. His focus is not on retail sales it’s on wholesale. In addition, AFO has not done anything to support HP. Remember the AF hookah you have, I sent it to you free of charge, no?
The member was requesting specific vendor information about AFO (seeking approval to purchase from them), because they were the only vendor who carried a particular product that the member wanted to purchase, which was an AF Syrian Hookah. Sambooka merely offered up friendly advise expressing that he had ordered from AFO before and that AFO was a good vendor with friendly customer service.
So, after reading this, do you think that this is right? John tries to ask Sambooka to do something that clearly violates Sambooka’s code of ethics. Sambooka doesn’t violate his code of ethics. As a matter of fact, Sambooka requests that anyone who does business with Hookah Pro should behave in the same respectable manner, yet John accuses him of doing so anyway.
John has recently spammed members of several communities trying to promote another forum. One that he initially denied having ANY INVOLVEMENT in creating. John has “come clean” in recent e-mails and videos, and has admitted that he created that site because he sensed his membership was coming to an end at Hookah Pro. The existence of this new community came to light in December, before any of the recent “forum drama” came about.
The “plea for harmony” agreement still applies to this new forum. We will not allow discussion, links, or promotion for this site. You are all more than welcome to participate over there, if you want. And before it is insinuated, we want to make this clear; you will not be punished for being a member of another site. Just make sure while you are here, that you are mindful of our rules. That is all we ask.
In summation, I hope that the entire community understands that we did NOT want it to come to this. That is why it took so long to come to a decision. With these accusations and mud slinging tactics, we decided that an indefinite ban was warranted at this time. ********** may be able to salvage his membership in due time, but for now a ban is needed. Had ********** not pushed our hands, we are confident we could have come to a more amicable resolution. Thank you again for standing by us and for understanding this decision was not taken lightly. For that we're deeply sorry, but we must move on as a community. John’s ban is not up for debate, so please try and respect our decision, even though it may not be the most favored or pleasant outcome.
This thread will remain open for discussion but will be closed if it gets too heated.
Thank You .. The Hookah Pro Staff