IMA Disbanding? – Discourse in the Ranks – Transparency Issues – What?


It has been reported in AuctionBytes today that the Internet Merchants Association is considering disbanding.

Ina’s Steiner’s article reveals information coming from within the IMA, this information details an internal rift between board members regarding “Back Room Deals”, “Transparency” and Ethics.  Since I have no contacts within the IMA and I have had no accurate information to report regarding the workings of it’s board, I will refrain from commenting about the specific facts or the problems reported in Ina Steiner’s article. Auction Bytes has done a good job of reporting the news.

Here at the Trading Assistant Journal, we provide relevant commentary on the ecommerce and Internet trade business as a whole. As such a publication, I am inspired to ask one simple question regarding the public dispute within the board at the Internet Merchants Association.

What About The Members?

Has anyone on the board at the IMA considered how the “Internal Strife” and bickering on the board effects the rank & file member merchants who pay good money for a membership.  As a member of a trade organization purportedly offering value in the form of benefits, information, networking and education, is bickering and back room deal discussion considered as a benefit or education?

Do the board members at the IMA really think the membership is concerned with internal issues concerning “Back Room Deals” and “Transparency”? 

No! the members of any trade organization are simply worried about getting value for the membership dues they pay.

The primary concern of members is in receiving information and benefits from a trade organization, (not available to non-members of that trade organization) which in turn benefits their businesses.  Members of trade organizations are business people, business people realize that sometimes to get a deal done one must enter a “back room”.  It is all part of business.

The fighting and arguing at IMA, as it appears from the outside, boils down to nothing more than a teenage prepubescent firestorm over he-said she-said and a power struggle to gain control.  Do the board members have nothing better to do with their time and the membership’s resources?

This all sounds brutally familiar…

…in fact when recently at eBay Live 2008, I asked Joe Cortese of PeSA about the strange and obsessive mud slinging some board members of IMA have been tossing at PeSA/ECMTA?  Joe responded clearly and without rancor that this type of behavior was nothing new to him, in fact when the same people were part of the PeSA board he had to deal with this behavior on a daily basis.

(Some of the senior board members of Internet Merchants Association left PeSA in 2006 complaining about many of the same perceived issues reportedly occurring in IMA today. One wonders if these issues were real then or if they simply left PeSA with these same (now IMA) board members in 2006?)

Joe Cortese seemed to be honestly relieved that certain former members had decided to start their own organization.  “This allows the board at PeSA to concentrate on matters more important to our members, we do not have the time to worry about what other trade organizations do or say”. 

Joe was honest about his dismay that the rank & file at both organizations had to deal with petty bickering and he was more than happy to not be dealing with it at PeSa any longer.  In our conversation, (which was an impromptu interview on the floor at the PeSA pavilion at eBay Live 2008 ) Joe then moved on to positive aspects of his organization without spending any time to address any issues from the past, only looking forward to the future.

I felt Joe Cortese of PeSA answered my query with confidence, he was genuine about not wishing to devote any further resources to matters pertaining to anything certain board members of another organization may or may not say.

PeSA Board – Stock Photo

PeSA Board

I am a member of PeSA and ECMTA – I am not a member of IMA.

This was not a researched choice, it was a matter of PeSA actively asking me to join and being interested in my business and my publication. I have found value in my membership and I have enjoyed meeting both board members and the rank & file at Professional eBay Sellers Alliance & the eCommerce Merchants Trade Association.

IMA has never contacted me, other than to send unfounded spam emails from unconfirmed sources to me with accusations about “another” Trade Organization. I am assuming these emails were sent in hopes of getting these unconfirmed accusations published in my blog. At no time has anyone at IMA asked me to join the IMA to experience first hand the real differences between the two organizations or to offer any kind or real world reason as to why I should select one over the other.

I really do not think it should be a one side against the other kind of deal.

All of the members of both organizations are seeking the same information, the same truths, the same values.  Members of PeSA/ECMTA and of the IMA are all looking for ways to improve the eCommerce business as a whole and specifically their own business. I see no earthly reason for pitting the members of one trade group against the members of another.  I don’t think the board or members at PeSa see any benefit of doing so, but from the emails I have received from the other side, it seems certain people at IMA see it differently.

What is the purpose of bashing competition anyway? Only unimaginative marketers resort to slamming a similar product to promote their own. Sticking to positive messages about your own product is much more effective.

Why Waste Time & Resources on Mud-Slinging?

Why would any board member in either organization waste valuable time, resources or public perception to start a mud slinging nasty fight (either internally or externally) in the public eye?  How does this benefit any member?

I want to thank Ina Steiner for presenting a fair article about the troubles at IMA and for detailing the similarities between the current situation at IMA and the previous disruption apparently involving the same and former members of PeSA.

I hope the internal IMA board troubles do not effect the rank & file members of the Internet Merchants Association in any significant way.

Hopefully the board at the IMA will get together and end this negative talk & energy and get on with the business of helping its members.  Finding opportunities for merchants is the name of the game. Please, for your members sake, end the fighting and get on with business. If the merchants had wanted to participate in bickering and childish behavior they could do that on the eBay discussion boards for free.

In my short (6 month) time at PeSA & ECMTA I have not seen any kind of discord from the members or the board remotely similar to what was reported in Ina Steiners article, either in person or via the boards.  We can only assume the IMA members have not been so lucky.

More information here from a disgruntled ex-member and ethics committee chair of IMA

If you have any information regarding the IMA or its board dispute which should be added to the discussion here at the Trading Assistant Journal, please do so in the comments box below or send a direct message through our contact page.

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0 Responses to IMA Disbanding? – Discourse in the Ranks – Transparency Issues – What?

  1. Unbelievable July 7, 2008 at 1:10 am #

    We now believe that it is in the best interest of the membership of the IMA to begin filing complaints with the Economic Crimes Division of the Florida Attorney General’s Office.

    We want them to receive multiple complaints tomorrow. You can fill out the complaint report by going here:

    The official address of the IMA is :

    Internet Merchant Association
    11792 Osprey Point Circle
    Wellington, FL 33449-8367
    phone: 561 615-1471

    The three remaining Board members are:

    Steve C. Grossberg

    Ben Mandell

    Cathy Aggelopoulos

    Under question or comment, you should state that The Internet Merchants Association is a Florida Corporation.

    The primary complaint is that a Special Meeting was called by the membership to be held online, since IMA members are located throughout the US, Canada and the United Kingdom. After the meeting was announced, the Board of Directors changed the bylaws regarding where the meeting could be conducted, in an attempt to stop the meeting. Please note in your complaint that 3 of the 6 remaining Board of Directors resigned from the organization in the last 4 days.

    If you prefer, you can call the Florida Attorney General’s Office at 850-414-3300.

    We need as many of you as possible to file this complaint. We believe the actions of the Board of Directors to be illegal, and need to make sure that we have multiple reports into the Florida Attorney General’s Office, so that it gets the appropriate attention.

    Board of Directors and Moderators – Please note that any removal or modifications to this post may be legally considered as grounds for obstruction of justice.

  2. EXIMAmembernotbychoice July 7, 2008 at 8:17 am #

    I received a refund of my IMA dues today. I have been kicked out so I cannot vote against the board. Sad…

  3. Kim - former IMA member July 7, 2008 at 11:06 am #

    It appears the by-laws have been re-written once again – so that the current acting board members can remove members, posts, and whatever else they feel they need to do to shut up the masses of people that do not agree with them.

    This isn’t going to stop anytime soon, and when it does stop all that will be left is a shell of an organization that had the original ability to be great.

  4. Embarrassed-Member July 7, 2008 at 10:29 pm #

    Ahhh… and tonight the expensive law firm of Blah, Blah and Blah, ordered by the self-absorbed Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler et al come into the equation. Holy smoke! He has some mighty deep pockets to throw around.

    He’s also asking members to report all blogs, websites, threads and any member who dares to put a word in text any of this off the IMA forums. Ouch, not exactly what I signed up for. It’s beyond embarrassing and it’s sad and funny at the same time.

    I know I’ll sleep well tonight but then again, I’m not a big bully playing with other people’s money.

  5. Scott Pooler July 7, 2008 at 10:33 pm #

    I guess, since I am not a member… I can’t report myself…

    What will the president of the IMA do with this information?

    I think we have been found out already, no one need report the Trading Assistant Journal.

  6. get real July 8, 2008 at 5:38 pm #

    You know what I find truly sad and almost unforgivable–many of you members watched the head of IMA and other IMA members insult and rip apart posters on the powerseller board repeatedly in the past year or so. Each time there was a thread started on the powerseller board regarding IMA, other powersellers would ask direct questions or make comments, and instead of being treated with respect and in a professional manner, they were degraded, insulted, belittled and ravaged by the head of IMA and other members. No one came to their defense. Now you are all screaming at how rude the head of IMA is??? After it was clear how horrible he was to innocent posters asking simple questions about IMA? Sorry, but all of this sudden awakening is long overdue and doesn’t say much about the membership to begin with. And I will never trust or respect the people who sat around and just watched innocent posters get ripped apart for no reason at all.

    So, I have a question for all of you innocent victims of this IMA mess. Who is more guilty???? the head of IMA and other members who were rude and nasty, or the members of this group/cult who just sat around and watched others be ripped apart on their on private board and on the powerseller board over the past year?

    If you sat around and just watched, you closed your eyes and sold your soul just to belong to this group/cult!

  7. Little known fact? July 8, 2008 at 9:14 pm #

    Going about this the wrong way. To be a non profit trade organization that said organization must not show special treatment to any member. If there is any evidence that this is happening, and since the IMA is a non profit organization, that might be a better way of pursuing this.

    The constant comments and bashing (true or not) about Steve and Ben (personal in nature and potentially damaging to their reputation) is a distraction. If you want change focus on the organization of the IMA and go from there.

  8. Susie July 8, 2008 at 11:10 pm #

    I could not agree more. This must get out of the realm of the personal and into the realm of good business practice, standard non profit management, adherence to ethics, possible conflicts of interest, etc. etc. etc focused solely on IMA. Checking out both FL law and US law and seeing what is required in non profit management and what may or may not have been done in this instance is the professional way to go and the way to succeed. Look at what is legally required and then look at what was done in the organization…dispassionately rather than personally. When you get personal and stay personal, then you can’t win what you wish to win here.


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