During the 2019 Seed Bank of the Year and Seed Bank Professionals Awards we knew we would catch some criticism. We spent the prior year planning and researching the best possible ways to run an online contest for the seed bank industry specifically. If you are not currently involved in this industry, you may be asking why we’d need to do anything different than any other online contest or ballot. If you are part of this industry, you know exactly why any sort of seed bank election would need to be planed with the utmost scrutiny.
The most substantial dilemma in the planning process was choosing a voting system that would satisfy the needs of the people. We knew that processing the votes in-house would only provide the seed banks and seed bank professionals an option to question the legitimacy of the whole election. We decided to hire an outside agency to handle all of the votes to ensure the legitimacy of the whole event. We knew that we’d need to announce the election well in advance. We contacted all of the seed banks we knew of and explained to them the rules and timeframe of the election so that they’d have time to prepare for the vote in advance.
After notifying the seed banks and seed bank professionals in advance we received a lot of positive response. Many of the seed banks were impressed with the system we were using and were happy to participate. There were only two seed banks that did not respond in a timely manner. One of these two seed banks ended up responding to us right before the voting started while the other seed bank did not get back with us until during the middle of the voting time frame. The seed bank who got in touch with us right before the voting started said they had recently been really busy and that they’d be sure to participate next year. The other seed bank told us that they thought our voting system was not a good idea and then recommended we shut it down because it would likely end with unfavorable results.
The elections ended up being even more successful than we originally planned for and there were more than eight times the votes we had expected for the Seed Bank of the Year Awards. We received and distributed thousands of seeds during this election in addition to having a really enjoyable experience. Because the votes were not in our hands, the seed banks and seed bank professionals had no animosity against us. We set up the election to consist of a number of different categories so that even though only one seed bank would win it all. the other seed banks that won in their respective categories would receive notable exposure for the things they did best. We cannot say we weren’t worried though. Our biggest concern was that one seed bank would dominate the election and end up winning most of the categories, making us look like we were favoring someone (even though the votes were handled externally). We knew that even though we hired a 3rd party to handle and process all votes, that someone would still look for ways to act negatively or just be a sore loser. We were surprised when we only had a few concerns from people who didn’t read the rules or had issues understand the voting system. After they were updated on the election, they were extremely supportive. Even the seed banks. The rest of the problems you can read about further down.
Every seed bank and every seed bank professional knew the deal and understood that the whole election depended on their supporters and customers. We had one seed bank that flat-out ignored all of the information, rules and data we presented to them and insisted that they were the best seed bank (and that our voting system was flawed). We cannot say for sure, but we believe that they wanted us to count their own website reviews as votes instead of using our system. We all know that website reviews are somewhat controlled by the websites themselves. Even the big review platforms have ways to hide, remove or alter crap reviews. It is a proven fact that more consumers trust external reviews of ecommerce businesses than anything else. And good amount of consumers know which platforms you can pay to use and how they can be manipulated by the business owners. Just run a quick search through Bing or Google for stats and comparisons done.
On top of it all, we realized that each seed bank really believed that they were the best in the biz. Any other conclusion that the votes came to would be false in their eyes and even possibly cause them to attack us for thinking we were favoring someone else (even though we weren’t running the elections). There were two seed banks who initially reacted negatively to the results but it was only because they had forgotten we were using an external service. One of those two seed banks continued to deny the results were true and just kept repeating to us that they were the best and that there was no way that they didn’t win.
Even with all of the precautions we took, we were now plagued with an even more obtuse accusation. One that we never saw coming. After one of the seed banks found out their employee didn’t win one of the Seed Bank Industry Professionals Awards, they accused us of being owned by one of their former employees that just happened to win two Seed Bank Industry Professionals Awards. Their belief was that this one person owned Seed Bank Magazine and chose himself to win two awards. We later verified (through paystubs) that the person in question currently worked for four different seed banks, three other ecommerce web sites (not in the seed bank industry) and was also an independent contractor for another major online company. Why did we need to verify this person’s work history? Because someone from the same seed bank that was making accusations told us this person in question didn’t really work for one of the companies he said he worked for. It was quite easy to figure out once we knew which department to contact and even easier to verify with his W2 and pay stubs. Some of the seed banks he worked for didn’t even participate. The seed banks he worked for that did participate won in only one of the categories in the Seed Bank of the Year Awards and wasn’t even in the running for overall Seed Bank of the Year.
Seed Bank Magazine is 75% owned by a much larger farming news source. The other 25% of SBM is owned by a worldwide non-profit organization (a “Club”). Most importantly, SBM is the only stake in the cannabis, hemp and seed bank industries that the owners hold. Roll that up into a joint and smoke it!
And that wasn’t all. Earlier in the voting timeline we were also accused of being owned by one of the other seed banks that participated in this years elections and didn’t even win in any categories.
Another accusation we had was with one of the nominees in one of the categories for the Seed Bank Industry Professionals Awards. We were accused of being owned by the seed bank the nominee worked for. This same seed bank accused of owning us later accused us of doing the same thing with someone else. We requested proof of employment from one individual and found out they didn’t even work for the seed bank in question. We did the same for the other person involved, but they declined to provide us with any details. We made these requests to try and prove to each accuser that this was not some crazy conspiracy. It just made them both look stupid, because we are not owned by a seed bank or anyone who works for any seed bank. You see what we have to put up with?
The last accusation was that the 3rd-party voting service we used was being partial to one of the seed banks (for some reason), This voting system agency we hired had never previously worked in any of the cannabis or seed bank industries. The accusation was made by another seed bank who has since then “lightened up”.
It All Came Down To…
The final results came down to happy customers and supporters. Happy customers and supporters of seed banks and seed bank professionals who actually let their fans know that there was a vote. If you didnt make your candidacy known, how would you expect to have a fair chance? Next year, make sure you announce your candidacy for the Seed Bank of the Year and Seed Bank Industry Professionals.
What We Learned
We learned a lot about the seed bank owners and how they operate. We got a better understanding of some of their positive and negative attitudes and we found out which seed banks thought they could buy us off or threaten us into helping them. We found out that there are a couple of seed banks who will try and bully or threaten us into getting their way. They found out that they couldn’t. We also found out that some seed banks will threaten you with legal actions if you allow people to leave reviews on your website that they don’t like.
All in all, 95% of the participants were understanding.
It has been a fun way to start 2020..
We also has a seed bank owner tell us that Seed Bank Magazine was stupid because it covered a “bullsh*t niche” (ie: seed banks)… Which is pretty ironic 😉
We have been hit with many DDOS attacks and even more attempts to hack into our website since the awards ended this year. Guess we are doing something right.