Sorry, You Can't Buy Our Products

from the we-reserve-the-right-to-refuse-service-to-anyone dept

It seems like there must be more to this story, but a Network World columnist recites the story of his attempt to buy and test an email security appliance from vendor CipherTrust, where they refused to let him buy. Obviously, the company has the right to refuse to sell to anyone, but the story does seem fairly strange. The company first made him jump through a variety of hoops including asking him to first sign up for their partner program. So he just went to a reseller to buy the $5,000 box that way... and the reseller came back to tell him that CipherTrust refused to sell him a box, with no explanation at all. That seems like an odd way to treat a buyer who is clearly willing to pay for the product at the official price.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    _, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 4:28am

    Not letting him review their product will likely come back to get them in the end.

    I know I would never buy a product w/o reading an objective review and I suspect many echo my sentiment.

    By not allowing him to review the product and replacing his review w/ PR speak isn't a good way to win business. People are so use to being able to gather information that they won't consider a product they can't really evaluate

     

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  2.  
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    Mike, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 4:55am

    Echo.... Echo...

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Zenn, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 5:15am

    Many companys do business through 3rd party partnerships. Selling a product at or below cost (the advertised price) and attaching other products or services to the product in order for you the customer to actualy buy it at that price.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    apdlmike, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 5:32am

    Re:

    Yes, one of the most notable of which is Cisco. The problem is, he attempted to buy it through a reseller and was turned down yet again.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    dani, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 5:56am

    If you read the link within Mike's link, he has already reviewed the product and gave a decent review.

    He said he was "locked out" by their tech team though?

    He planned to purchase this to test for another consumer, one of his clients. I don't understand why a company would refuse a sell unless there were major problems the previous time...maybe whatever caused the "lock-out"?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    AnarChaos, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 6:47am

    Re: Locked Out

    Was there a specific reason he was locked out?? Ever heard of reverse engineering?? Maybe the guy was on to something?

    (__/)
    (0.o) This is Bunny. Copy and paste Bunny into your
    (")_(") signature to help him gain World Domination.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    EMG, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 7:09am

    Refused to let me buy...

    For the first time ever, this week a company refused to let me buy their product. The company is NSICom and they make a java client for WinCE. They said they only sell them in lots of 1000, so I asked them for a reseller, and they said no resellers. What a disappointment.

     

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  8.  
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    Wally, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 7:23am

    I encounter this often in the world of electronic components. Try buying an internet radio chip from Broadcom or a DVD player chipset. Unless your volumes are in the millions, these guys don't even give you the time of day. And, if they do consider you, then count on signing an NDA and getting zero design support.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Ajax 4Hire, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 8:08am

    Smells like vaporware

    All too common tactic called the Strawman:

    Marketing puts out to press release product with what looks like a real ready to buy item.

    Then guage the interest; if lots of hits, then go back to Engineering with a must build, already sold 500,5k,500k,5M units! gotta, gotta, gotta have!

    Wait a few months and then you will get a Rev1 part.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Yada yada, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 10:27am

    PHB?

    Sounds like some PHB in CipherTrust took a disliking to either Network World or this reviewer in particular. Then he's letting his personal dislike get in the way of his company's reputation.

    Either that or they are having a problem that they are afraid of having Network World find out about and publish. Either way, it looks like the smart move would be to avoid there products for the time being.

     

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  11.  
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    ThinkSolveDo, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 12:18pm

    Companies Work to Their Best interest...

    I was once reviewing CAD software. I requested a PRESS copy from about 10 different firms and found 1 company in a panic. They told me, "We do not wish to be reviewed. We are happy with our sales and know our product is a low end product so it will not review well."

    I found it strange but that was their choice.

     

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  12.  
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    Kaki, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 12:59pm

    Smells more like meow mix

    I know this guy. The dude was trying to buy the box for a competitor. That's his side biz. He must be doing well at it.. his cat is listed as an employee on his website.

    http://www.opus1.com/www/rj.html

    I'm siding with Ciphertrust on this one. Guess thier new revs something people are sneaking around after..meow.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    me, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 1:44pm

    sounds like a pissy reporter to me

    ciphertrust has thousands of customers. if they didnt sell the 'consultant' and his cat a box, im going to guess they knew what they were doing. the guy probably was working for a competitor. this happens a lot in the tech field. competitors use 'consultants' to buy each others stuff. what can you expect from a guy that lists his cat as an employee? i wonder if he claims the cat on his taxes?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Dapper Dan, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 1:52pm

    Total conflict of interest

    Why woud the company agree to do the test and then suddenly shut it down?

    Why would they then refuse to sell him a product a year later? Sounds like the company was on to something

    The author "recommends" products as a consultant to customers. I would be fascinated to know if he has a relationship with vendors that compete with CipherTrust. I would bet my W2 that if he came clean we would find out that he does and I bet CipherTrust is aware of this.

    Come clean Mr. Snyder -- do you or any of your affiliates have a business relationship with anyone that competes with CipherTrust? I would include family members as affiliates. Have you ever made money from one of their competitors?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Dapper Dan, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 1:53pm

    Total conflict of interest

    Why woud the company agree to do the test and then suddenly shut it down?

    Why would they then refuse to sell him a product a year later? Sounds like the company was on to something

    The author "recommends" products as a consultant to customers. I would be fascinated to know if he has a relationship with vendors that compete with CipherTrust. I would bet my W2 that if he came clean we would find out that he does and I bet CipherTrust is aware of this.

    Come clean Mr. Snyder -- do you or any of your affiliates have a business relationship with anyone that competes with CipherTrust? I would include family members as affiliates. Have you ever made money from one of their competitors?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Dapper Dan, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 1:54pm

    Total conflict of interest

    Why woud the company agree to do the test and then suddenly shut it down?

    Why would they then refuse to sell him a product a year later? Sounds like the company was on to something

    The author "recommends" products as a consultant to customers. I would be fascinated to know if he has a relationship with vendors that compete with CipherTrust. I would bet my W2 that if he came clean we would find out that he does and I bet CipherTrust is aware of this.

    Come clean Mr. Snyder -- do you or any of your affiliates have a business relationship with anyone that competes with CipherTrust? I would include family members as affiliates. Have you ever made money from one of their competitors?

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    NoNameHere, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 1:56pm

    Re: PHB?

    No does that really make sense that Ciphertrust would want to avoide Network World. Here is a review that Network World did at the end of Feb where their product won the award:

    http://www.networkworld.com/best/2006/022706messaging.html

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    NoNameHere, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 1:59pm

    Re: Re: PHB?

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Laughing, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 2:02pm

    Nice work Dapper, have a twitch>

     

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  20.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 11th, 2006 @ 3:18pm

    Re: sounds like a pissy reporter to me

    ciphertrust has thousands of customers. if they didnt sell the 'consultant' and his cat a box, im going to guess they knew what they were doing. the guy probably was working for a competitor. this happens a lot in the tech field. competitors use 'consultants' to buy each others stuff. what can you expect from a guy that lists his cat as an employee? i wonder if he claims the cat on his taxes?

    I should note that the above comment comes from someone *at* CipherTrust.

    I said at the beginning of the post it sounds like there was more to this story than what was being told, meaning it would be great if someone at CipherTrust came and told their side of the story. However, hiding behind an anonymous post disparaging the author wasn't quite what I expected.

     

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  21.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 11th, 2006 @ 3:19pm

    Re: Total conflict of interest

    Why woud the company agree to do the test and then suddenly shut it down?

    Why would they then refuse to sell him a product a year later? Sounds like the company was on to something

    The author "recommends" products as a consultant to customers. I would be fascinated to know if he has a relationship with vendors that compete with CipherTrust. I would bet my W2 that if he came clean we would find out that he does and I bet CipherTrust is aware of this.

    Come clean Mr. Snyder -- do you or any of your affiliates have a business relationship with anyone that competes with CipherTrust? I would include family members as affiliates. Have you ever made money from one of their competitors?


    Again, the above comment comes from someone *at* CipherTrust, though they don't admit it.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 5:41pm

    Re: Smells like vaporware

    you are right on the money!

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Slevin, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 6:07pm

    history repeats

    A company I use to work for had issues with Mr. Snyder trying to gain access to our product when we believed that he was consulting with our competitor. We did not cooperate with his requests. If true, it is quite difficult for a reviewer to cover a product objectively if he is also engaged in a business relationship with competing product. Perhaps I am being naive but it would seem that the relationship should at least be out in the open.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Chris Maresca, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 6:17pm

    CipherTrust is suspicious

    We do a lot of strategy work for a lot of well known companies & their investors and some of it is competitive in nature, so I would think that I'm in a good position to comment on this.

    From what I can see, CipherTrust fears anyone knowing anything substantial about their boxes, competitor or not. If you think your competitor *cannot* get a hold of your box, you are fooling yourself. And you look foolish following your current line of PR.

    For a security company to basically promote and follow a policy of security by obscurity and then make anonymous accusations about someone's professional integrity is morally reprehensible at the very least.

    Companies that follow these strategies, are scared of close examinations of their products, and refuse be accountable, are usually either scams (see Gizmondo and the Phantom console) or have poor products sold aggressively. Both types are best avoided and CipherTrust seems to nicely fit the mold nicely.

    Oh, and apparently you've never heard of the Streisand effect.

    Chris.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Joel Snyder, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 7:54pm

    Re: Smells more like meow mix

    I don't know this guy, and his assertion is libelous (in addition to being incorrect)

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Joel Snyder, Apr 11th, 2006 @ 8:00pm

    Re: history repeats

    "A company I use to work for had issues with Mr. Snyder trying to gain access to our product when we believed that he was consulting with our competitor. We did not cooperate with his requests."

    I seriously doubt this to be true. Of course, if this secretive and anonymous poster from an anonymous former company has secret information that he's suddenly sharing (but not giving any details), I can't directly refute it. But the odds are much higher that this is someone offering up a malicious lie. Of course, if there were some details, maybe one could judge the post.

    Interesting, to me, is the strategy I observe on this forum of Ciphertrust supporters using mudslinging and smear campaigns to support their point. I'd ask anyone reading this to consider whether this behavior by "Ciphertrust fanboys" is in concert with what I reported in my column---and what this might imply.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    SatisfiedCustomer, Apr 12th, 2006 @ 9:35am

    Not fair

    I think two things here are not fair - 1) Accusing CipherTrust of having bad customer service based on this and 2 ) Accusing Joel of having a conflict of interest. However I must point out that if Joel wants to keep his consulting customer and any trade relationships secret, then he is not in a position to deride other anonymous comments.

    In either case as I have pointed out at the other post on this site about this issue, I am a satisfied Ironmail customer and have been for about two years, both with the product and the service. Before we bought the product we also talked to a few folks who were using it, as is the norm, and they were very satisfied with it too.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Chris H, Apr 12th, 2006 @ 10:14am

    Maybe

    Maybe we can have IP addresses posted alongside the date and time.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Atri Chatterjee, SVP Marketing, CipherTrust, Inc., Apr 12th, 2006 @ 10:36am

    CipherTrust Position

    Please consider this CipherTrust's official position regarding the opinion piece from Joel Snyder and the postings on the subject. After Mr. Snyder originally contacted us to purchase our product, we learned that it was for the benefit of a third party. When asked for the name of the end user, Mr. Snyder refused to give us that information. Because of this, CipherTrust was reluctant to sell Mr. Snyder our appliance. Our well defined business best practice is to identify each customer of a CipherTrust product because the initial sale is only the beginning of a long-term relationship with that customer. This process has served us well over the past six years - as evidenced by the 2000+ global organizations that make up our customer base. Our relationship with these customers includes set-up support, ongoing technical support, product updates, and upgrades to ensure that we provide them the most up-to-date security solutions. Furthermore, as a mature leader in this market, we have well defined financial processes that ensure we correctly attribute every product sale to the respective customer. The procedure we followed with Mr. Snyder is standard business practice that we believe any company should follow. We have explained our business practices to Mr. Snyder and have informed him of our willingness to support him on future projects.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    bob, Apr 12th, 2006 @ 10:59am

    what I find funny is the people getting defensive behind false names, I mean surely if you have nothing to hide you use your own true name and link yourself to your company, instead it seems like you're guilty of something which makes you look dodgy I mean now even after the explanation I wouldn't buy it just because some foolish members of your company have hidden their identity and so it looks like you are guilty, maybe in future you would be wise to keep your employees under check and release an official statement rather.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Just a guy laughing, Apr 12th, 2006 @ 12:44pm

    Re: sounds like a pissy reporter to me

    haha...this is killing me, CT looks like like a bunch of idiots...

     

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  32.  
    icon
    chris h (profile), Apr 12th, 2006 @ 1:17pm

    Re: CipherTrust Position

    Seems anyone interested in a CipherTrust product has a choice: consider ONLY CipherTrust, or consider ONLY their competition.

    Since it seems CipherTrust products may not be reviewed a great deal in the future, they have unwittingly placed their competitors at a great advantage.

    Way to go, Team!!

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Bill Wilson, Apr 12th, 2006 @ 2:51pm

    Re: history repeats

    I tired posting this once, and it didn't look like it went through, so I apologize if it did.

    You know.. at the very core of this whole thing, it boils down to the fact that if Ciphertrust had contacted My Snyder OR this forum with a very simple statement, none of this would have been an issue. I would certainly not hold it against a company to state, "We feel that Mr So&so is currently doing business with a competitor, and that it is not currently in our best interest to release a product into his posession at this time. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and will certainly look into the issue if the request is indeed valid and the client is willing to sign non-disclosure and non-comete agreements."

    Of course, such agreements do not offer complete protection, but the explaination and show of mature willingness to re-review the issue based on WHATEVER your criteria are go some distance with myself, and I believe most users.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Rob Mayfield, Apr 12th, 2006 @ 3:46pm

    Re: CipherTrust Position

    Whenever you receive the official word from someone whose title is "SVP Marketing" you know you are in for a real treat, and this is no exception. Luckily we were spared a more longwinded version of the marketing spin equivalent of "we're not confident enough with our product to sell it to our (potential) foes", with this masterpiece of marketing dribble only coming in at ~215 words (~1354 characters).

    Come on, wouldn’t the "standard business practice" "that any company should follow" be to have a robust product that you are confident enough to throw at anyone, friend or foe, without fear of it breaking; then go to market and sell as many as you can?

    One wonders which approach will generate the most "good press", the pussy-hating employee's comments or the "company position" so eloquently deployed by the SVP of 'Bovine Faeceology'.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Trog, Apr 12th, 2006 @ 5:34pm

    CipherTrust Support

    CipherTrust is an interesting company. I've purchased a unit from them and I can tell you this:
    1. They didn't want anyone other than their techs (at $1500/day plus travel) installing and configuring it.
    2. I tried in VAIN to get a system restore CD from them and could not (even though it's referenced in the product documentation) to meet our 4 hour DR window
    3. Disaster Recovery on this unit is abysmal

    That's apart from the general day-to-day headaches of configuration changes.

    All that being said, the product works. Don't touch it, hope to hell it doesn't get messed up and pray you NEVER need support on it, and it works just dandy thank you!

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    lc, Apr 13th, 2006 @ 12:10pm

    CipherTrust

    Thanks to Bruce Schneier's blog I stumbled upon this gem.

    CipherTrust obviously needs to be hit multiple times with a cluebat.

    For the company to have so little confidence in their product that they'll
    only sell to select customer is just ridiculous.
    And then to call that 'business best practice' is simply laughable.

    I'll actively avoid any product from or with this company from now on.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Former Air2Web Employee, Apr 13th, 2006 @ 1:47pm

    This story brings back some memories!

    LOL...

    Where do I start?

    We 'Alpha'd' (I wouldn't even say "Beta" based on the outcome) the CipherTrust box at Air2Web on our production email server... Not by choice (We knew it was probably going to end in tears, and we pushed back...), it was forced on us by upper management. CipherTrust was a sister company (Same investor/s) to A2W. Needless to say the 'black box' that CipherTrust brought in to install wound up crashing our production email server and left us scrambling around for a day and a half trying to unscrew it.

    Prior to the test, we tried to get information on how the box worked (Interfaces, ports, etc...) in regards to Exchange and they wouldn't tell us; which I felt was odd since we are owned and managed by the same ppl...

    Based on that experience, I was pretty sure that company was another dot-bomb, but I was pleasantly surprised to read about their later successes. In fact, based upon what I've read, they seem to be more successfull than Air2Web.

    Ahhhh the Good Ole' Days! :)

    I can laugh about it now, but I was very upset with them CipherTrust boys when they wadded up my exchange server!

    ;^)

    Don't get me wrong, I wish them and A2W the best, but it seems like in some cases, they don't understand that there is a way of doing things properly. I agree with some of the prior comments that a degree of transparency is expected by all parties, and if any *company* thinks that their cloak and daggar antics are somehow preventing their competition from understanding or obtaining their product, they are very wrong. The competition is probably laughing at you while you trample current and future customer relationships with ultimately futile behavior.

    By all accounts the product works well, and I'm glad to hear that they ultimately got it right (The product itself). I saw where it had won some awards. I am also an end user of the product at my current employer, and from my current 'end user' perspective, it seems to be working very well and is easy to use.

    My $.02

    :)

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Christine, Jul 23rd, 2006 @ 3:02am

    Re: Refused to let me buy...

    Hi,
    There must have been a misunderstanding regarding this, NSIcom sells their JVM in blocks of 40 units, and not in blocks of 1000 units as you said.
    We will be happy to sell you our leading Java Virtual Machine !

    Regards,
    Christine

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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