Since this is part two of my saga with the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC); and some may not have read part one, I will summarize to bring you up to speed. I photograph everything. I use the photos to promote people and places. We joined the TACC last December. I photographed many TACC events, gave free publicity to local businesses that are Chamber members, promoted non-profits and shot an event at the request of the TACC President and CEO, Donna Duperron. On August 9, Donna told me camera was no longer allowed at Chamber events, even though other cameras were. On August 21, Donna said she wanted me to come to her office to meet with her and the TACC Chairman of the Board, Aaron Aalcides. If you want to read it all, please go to http://www.gotbaddog.com/tacc-no-free-advertising-wanted/.
I brought Tanya with me to my meeting with Donna and Aaron because the company that is the Chamber of Commerce member is hers. When we were seated in Donna’s office I could not help but notice that it seemed Aaron had compiled a dossier on us. At the top of the stack of papers was a print out of the Synergy-DTI home page. His first question was why do I take so many photos? I started to explain how we use them to do Internet marketing, SEO and branding but I could tell he was not getting it. I also mentioned how I am a CNN iReporter and a restaurant reviewer for Examiner.com and the photos were used there as well. It did not matter.
Aaron then said that they were getting complaints about my taking photos of everything. I told him I was aware of the person that was complaining and he immediately stated that it was not just one person; people of the Board of Directors had been talking about it. I asked if I was to believe that there were board members that were afraid of being in a photo that showed them at a Chamber event. He said that wasn’t it, but others were talking to board members. That was causing problems.
Now, I should probably mention that in July I had to DMCA the Torrance Tribune (a Chamber member) for a copyright violation. They had used some of my photos without giving proper credit as instructed. They said they could not do anything about it, so I had the content removed. I also made it known to anyone I volunteer to shoot for that they are not authorized to provide photos to the Torrance Tribune. If the Tribune wants to use my content, they will have to go through me. I find it interesting that the page they said they could not edit is in fact now edited. I would not be surprised if they are the ones that teamed up with the one person I know was complaining. But I digress, back to our meeting.
Even though Aaron had a print out of the Synergy-DTI home page, which specifically states that there are two photo blogs and describes GotBaddog.com as: “Another photo/video blog, this site is loaded with thousands of photos and dozens of videos. This site includes reviews of restaurants, wineries and other locations of interest” he did not seem to get it. I stated, “If you had just looked at one blog entry you would know that I am giving free exposure to the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce, all Chambers of Commerce in general and local businesses owned by Chamber members.” His response caught me off guard; “We never asked for the free exposure.” At that point I had to ask if he had asked Staybridge Suites if they wanted the exposure or not; had they asked any business owners if they wanted the free exposure or not?
About this point Tanya decided to get involved in the conversation. She pointed out that the Chamber was for networking and that people were supposed to learn how to network. Every Networking at Noon or educational TACC event includes the attendees getting up and saying a little about them and their business. While I relish the opportunity (surprised?), this is not Tanya’s forte, she finds it stressful, but she does it. She brought this up, but was told that no one is forcing her to speak if she does not want to. When she pointed out that photography and event photography is part of our business, we were told that they had “legal concerns” after talking to counsel. If you are wondering, no, they never said what these concerns might be, so I will discuss this in part three when I give my opinions; for now, I will stick with the facts.
Since I knew who had started the complaining I did some research to find out what her position with TACC might be. It turns out she is a multi level marketer (MLM) with a P.O Box. She essentially has nothing to be gained from my photos and apparently refuses to see how her fellow chamber members might benefit from them. I pointed this out and once again I was told that it was more than one person. I attempted to get a number from Aaron and Donna; was it a couple? A few? Every time I came up with a number, they would be vague and say it was more than one, more than a couple, more than a few. Every response seemed to hint that the number of complaints was rising as we spoke. Eventually I came out and asked, was it more than half (.5) a percent of the membership? Tanya and I chuckled on the way home as she reminisced how you could see Aaron trying to do the math in his head; what is .5% of the 850+ members? When he figured out the answer he said that no, it was not that many.
I asked if it really made sense that I should not be able to promote our business because a fraction of one percent of the members did not like it and he fell back on his “legal concerns” response. When I told Aaron that if he was going to penalize us because of the complaints of a few, there would definitely be a suitable response from me. He seemed to take it as a threat and asked what I meant by that. I told him that I would probably be writing about TACC in a less than favorable light and I did not see us renewing our membership. At this point he asked when our membership ended and offered to prorate us for the balance of our membership so we could just leave. Since there was a Redondo Beach Regional Mixer in a couple of hours and we want to spend time researching the other Chambers in the area, we declined his offer.
To his credit, Aaron said we did not have to quit the TACC; we were welcome, just my camera was not. I asked why they bothered wasting my time by having us come into the TACC offices and was told that they wanted to be sure I knew my camera was not welcomed at TACC events. When I asked if business owners had any say in whether or not I photographed events at their location I was told that if I was “hired” I could photograph the event. When pressed, they said I was allowed to do it for free if the business wanted me there.
When we left the TACC office we headed over to photograph the opening of the Del Amo Blvd. extension and, well you will have to wait for part three to hear about that and what has happened since then as well as my opinion of the entire fiasco. Would I recommend someone join TACC? Stay tuned.