Internet Merchants Association Members – You Decide

We have given the IMA story a bit of a breather for the last several days.  This respite is not due to a lack of information but has been more of a calculated break from the coverage, to allow tempers a chance to cool.

IMA

At this time, I would like to ask the readers...

Are you "over" the IMA story?

Or, on the other hand, (especially former members) would you appreciate reading more information about the IMA?

I ask these questions because we have been presented with multiple streams of data since our last article about the IMA (and  am also convinced even more information is available) concerning the internal problems at the Internet Merchants Association. Some people are certainly interested "behind the scenes" or we would not be getting this constant stream of data.

Yet, I have asked myself and my colleagues... "is there a valid point in continuing to publicize this open wound at the IMA"?

It appears, from the outside looking in, that the members of the IMA who were most severely affected by the recent board room implosion (and long standing combative atmosphere at the IMA and by it's president) are done. These members have already decided to leave the association on their own, or they have been expelled by the current president. The members who remain apparently see no problems with the present leadership.

So... in your honest opinion, has this IMA incident/situation equalized? And is this issue dead in your minds?

The problem with walking away is...

Recently, some independently commissioned preliminary accounting investigations, concerning the Internet Merchants Association finances and tax status have come to light. The results are far from conclusive, but it seems as though there could be some irregularities involving the IMA's status as a 501C(6) Non-Profit trade organization. These investigations have been revealed to us from a source who wishes to remain anonymous. I am respecting this request. I am also not an accountant, so I appreciate the professional guidance and opinion.

From the preliminary non-forensic data, it appears some of the accounting practices necessary for the maintenance of 501C(6) status, may not have been followed as strictly as is necessary under the very specific laws of the State of Florida.  I must say that we have not seen any hard evidence of illegal actions by the current or former board members of the IMA and it is not our position or place to make those determinations but questions could certainly result from any independently commissioned or government sponsored accounting investigation. These are questions which might be difficult for certain IMA board members to answer.

Certainly maintaining association bank and/or PayPal accounts, registered in a single members name, is cause for concern (if this is in fact the case).  Some members or former members have voiced concerns about the irregular nature of having all of the assets of the association, including the web sites and offices, also being held by a single member, instead of by the Florida corporation the association formed as a basis for collecting dues and non-profit tax status. Appearances get even murkier when it is revealed that the member who owns these assets also happens to be the president of the association.

I just am not really sure if any of this matters to the remaining members of the IMA.

The current members apparently are OK with the present leadership and are quite happy to move ahead without a thought or worry about the many members left behind or expelled for asking questions or voicing concerns. Current IMA members continue to fund this leadership and the organization with hard earned dues and fees, which in the end seem to only provide the membership with a private forum chat room and a once a year convention.  Who are we to say that the membership should be looking for more?

Sometimes simply "belonging" to a club is all the reward some people need.

The former members of the IMA may have rightfully and wisely simply moved on, taking care of their businesses, their families and proceeding forward with life.

If this is the case, if no one is interested or concerned with the details of the possible IRS violations and tax exempt status issues, or the implications of association assets being controlled by the one member who is also in control of all voting, the editing of the original bylaws and the appointment of new board members (replacements for the board members recently dismissed or resigned)... I will just leave this story behind and look for new issues.

What I am asking here is... what do my readers want in this case?

Please chime in on the comments and let us know if you want more coverage of the IMA or if you have had enough and would prefer the Trading Assistant Journal and other publications simply would return to our normal eCommerce, eBay and Internet marketing subjects.

You decide...

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0 Responses to Internet Merchants Association Members – You Decide

  1. Steve Kennedy July 18, 2008 at 8:20 am #

    Scott…I appreciate your coverage and look forward to more. Thanks for taking the time to keep us up to date.

  2. Richard Beck July 18, 2008 at 11:35 am #

    I also thank you for your excellent coverage to date. Perhaps it is time to move on and leave the ‘issues’ to those it involves. I would prefer you direct your outstanding talent elsewhere.

  3. Henrietta July 18, 2008 at 1:16 pm #

    Thats a hard question. Right now it is pretty much informed speculation leading to areas of concern or interest. Gossip. Further investigation is required. I would call the appropriate state department for clarification and confirmation. Then, either way, it becomes a story.

    How hard is it to have a corporate PP account? Mine is. In my state you have to have 3 different officers in position of Pres/Sec/Treas. $100k is a LOT.

    There are more pretty little flies that could be caught in that spiderweb.

  4. IMA for now July 18, 2008 at 7:35 pm #

    I think it is important to put this in context – what lessons can be learned from those joining a group like this.

    Here is one big one I took away: There are two types of people in these groups – those who join for the benefits and those who join because they want to build the group. The two rarely mix well as their objectives generally overlap when it comes down to it they have very different motivations. If you join any group like this decide which group you want to be in ahead of time and save yourself some heartache.

    Here is the bottom line on IMA: 7 members were expelled and 23 more quit in protest and requested a refund. Those 30 members represent much more than the 20% of the raw membership – they were the most active posters. There are some board posters left, including more than a few multi-million-dollar businesses, so there is some value in IMA.

    RIght now, the IMA is offering a special $49/year subscription to current members as a sort of “loyalty promotion”. I think they are trying hard to stem the bleeding. Personally, I am not sure if I will re-up or not. The group has some value, but the value it had is greatly diminished. I guess for $49 ($4/month) it’s an easy deicision, but I won’t be displaying the logo on my website or anything. I can’t have my business associated with this type of fiasco/bad press again. The other real question is whether the corporate members, who pay a much higher membership fee, will also re-up.

    I would like you to continue to cover this issue, but also put it into a larger context as there is much to be learned here.

  5. Scott Pooler July 18, 2008 at 7:53 pm #

    @IMA for now…

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments and perspective. Your information seems to be very objective.

    The $49 per year “loyalty” promotion raises even more questions however. According to experts on 501C(6) non profit classifications for IRS and State of Florida laws, all members must contribute the same amount in dues and fees to the association to maintain status as a non profit.

    So, unless all members are given the $49 rate across the board, existing and future, from now forward, the IMA appears to be in violation of even more rules governing non profits.

    This is why, from what I understand, PeSA was advised to avoid this classification as a non-profit. PeSA could have never offered their $1 – 90 day trial offer to new members at eBay Live, if they had followed the advise of certain former members and become a 501C(6). Not and stay within the rules of law.

    I wonder how the Internet Merchants Association and its legal council has determined the association can simply bypass these very explicit rules?

  6. Just Curious July 18, 2008 at 10:18 pm #

    I’ve been following this ‘event’ in this blog and a few other places and would like to see the association covered, but only when there’s something to report. In other words, the implosion has pretty much run it’s course. There are other stories that have developed from this singular event, but that’s true with many stories of this type.

    So please do continue to keep an eye on the IMA — if for no other reason than that someone needs to.

  7. John July 19, 2008 at 6:31 am #

    This issue needs to be covered. Several Merchants Associations have popped up lately. Most have their roots in this fiasco. Others are influenced by many of the people involved. People need to know who they are dealing with in these ‘groups’ and I suggest it is your job to let us know .

  8. Larry Phillips July 19, 2008 at 10:53 am #

    Personally, I’m moving on. I invested way too much in this, and the personal costs have been far greater than the benefits.

    I’m glad it’s behind me. The good far outweighed the bad when I was an active member, but finally, the excessive manipulation by the people at the top made me feel soiled, and I chose to fight. Now, I choose to go back to my family, my business, and my friends and associates.

  9. Scott Pooler July 19, 2008 at 3:56 pm #

    @John

    Re: “This issue needs to be covered. Several Merchants Associations have popped up lately.”

    Maybe we should start a list of associations and groups with details about their benefits and fees here on the TA Journal.

    I would be open to starting such a list, if you have any information about new associations dedicated to Internet Commerce or eBay, you may submit them with any details or at a minimum a URL to our Contact Page.

  10. ditto IMA for Now July 19, 2008 at 4:47 pm #

    Ditto what Ima for Now said. the issues go deeper than what’s come out so far and I’d like to see more coverage, particularly re the financial issues

  11. Susie July 20, 2008 at 2:02 pm #

    Scott…I encourage you to cover the accounting and legal ramifications here. Individuals who are considering joining these organizations have a right to know whether the orgs are operating in the daylight and in compliance with fed and state law as well as good business practices in accounting. Seems like there is an enormous conflict of interest here…if it is a legit non profit then its bank accounts, paypal accounts, business address, etc. etc. should reflect ownership by the corporation according to law.

  12. Kim - former IMA Board Member July 21, 2008 at 1:37 pm #

    I also would like to continue to see coverage – where there is a need – not to beat the dead horse per say.

    On a personal level I still don’t ‘get it’. I still feel betrayed, used, and lied to.

    On a business level it’s over and done. I have moved on to other venues that offer a value to my business. The IMA is not worth my valuable time.

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