US Chess Discussion

Welcome! This blog has no connection with the USCF. It's a blog where I provide chess fans with general information about US Chess as well as the USCF. It's also a site where everyone can productively discuss or ask questions about various USCF issues! Your contributions and comments are welcome! PLEASE KEEP IT CIVIL & RESPECT OTHERS! Enjoy! All posts that do not meet this guideline will be deleted -- WIN WITH GRACE, LOSE WITH DIGNITY!(TM) --- 2006 Susan PolgarĀ©

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mr. Russell's last response

Here is the final response by Mr. Hanon Russell:


I appreciate your taking the time to reply. First, let me note that although a number of people have reacted to my initial message (and certainly more may in the following days and weeks), I have neither the time nor inclination (with one exception) to respond to each email and I will not do so. No one should mistake my choosing not to respond to any point that may have been raised as an admission, acceptance, waiver or anything else on my part. I shall deal with the one exception later in this message.

You raise an apparently valid point about the arrangement with the House of Staunton, to wit, it appears that we were offered the same "arrangement" and turned it down. Well, this is not exactly what happened, and the differences are critical and the reason why I have turned the matter over to our attorney.

I had been approached several years ago by Bill Hall to include some USCF Sales material in the mailings that the USCF made to new members. It was recognized then, as now, that the new member group did indeed purchase equipment, books and the like at a significantly higher rate than would normally be expected. I was offered the opportunity to have the back side of the introductory letter/card feature some products in return for splitting the cost of the printing. My recollection is that the cost to USCF Sales was a little less than $4,000 at the time. We elected to try it. It was not successful.

When the initial printing had been used up, Bill Hall contacted me and asked if I was ready to do it again. I declined, citing the minimal return for the dollars spent. He understood and that is the last I heard of it until Lev Alburt contacted me. He wanted to promote his books and asked what my position was. I told him I had no objection so long as USCF Sales was able to make the sales. Lev agreed and the flyer that was reviewed by the USCF and me and included in the new-member mailing specifically referenced USCF Sales - its address, toll-free 800 number, catalog numbers. Everything.

Apparently still seeking sponsors for the new-member mailing, the House of Staunton was contacted. I say "apparently" because I did not find out about the arrangement between the USCF and the House of Staunton until the beginning of April 2008. It is not insignificant that in stark contrast to the Alburt flyer, neither the USCF nor the House of Staunton ever informed me about what was going on. Not once, in spite of multiple contacts with both concerns. My understanding is that I did not find out about this arrangement for almost a year.

When I did discover what was taking place, I immediately confronted Bill Hall. His response was (1) USCF Sales had declined to be involved in this project and so the USCF was free to bring another firm into the arrangement; and (2) there really was no difference between what was going on with the House of Staunton and advertising by other companies in Chess Life. As far as the first point is concerned, had it been done properly, like the Alburt flyer, I would not only have had no objection, I would have welcomed it. However, it is difficult based on how this arrangement was carried out by both sides for me to believe that in fact everyone understood what was being done and what should and should not be disclosed.

In fact, USCF Sales has always offered chess sets from the House of Staunton. We would have been pleased to have the House of Staunton promote its products in the same manner as Alburt was promoting his books - by including a flyer promoting the sets and directing them to USCF Sales for purchase. Instead, the HOS material included (a full color flyer and a second "coupon" offering 10% off) had no mention of USCF Sales and encouraged the recipient to contact HOS directly. Sales by USCF Sales of HOS sets that may have been made as a result of this mailing were lost; we made none.

To take the position that a select, targeted mailing to a group known to spend a lot more easily in the first few months of a new membership is no different than advertising in Chess Life reflects either a complete unfamiliarity with marketing and sales or disingenuous spin. Or both. For God's sake, a new member is receiving the first contact from the U.S. Chess Federation and in it are flyers encouraging the member to buy fine chess sets, (the "official" USCF sets I believe is a term used more than once in the paperwork) directly from a vendor other than USCF Sales. Remember USCF Sales? We send you 12% off the top of every purchase. Even when we sell a HOS chess set. 12%. I am sorry if you cannot differentiate this from a paid ad in Chess Life. I see the difference very clearly. So do our attorneys.

Now for the "exception" to which I referred. A member of the Executive Board, Mr. Bauer, chose to respond to my initial message. You along with everyone else on the list received his message. I had put forth what I had thought was a legitimate concern, constructively questioning decisions I saw as bad for the USCF and bad for USCF Sales. Instead of replying in similar fashion, he chose to create untruths out of whole cloth, fashioning a personal attack against me and my son. One wonders what color the sky is in his world. Mr. Bauer's reputation for conducting himself in this disgraceful manner should not have come as a surprise to me, and I already know from private messages that it was not a surprise to others who saw what he wrote. However, that does not change the fact that these comments are beneath contempt.

Bill, I respect your different views on these matters but must also assert that I strongly disagree. As the HOS matter is currently being handled by our attorneys, and the Chess Life matter may soon be, I regret that I will not be responding any further to your or anyone else's remarks. Not even when Mr. Bauer again launches personal attacks...


Hanon W. Russell
Toll-free (orders only please) 1-800-388-5464 (KING)
General Offices: 203-783-9866
Fax: 203-783-9673
234 Depot Road
P.O. Box 5460
Milford, CT 06460 USA
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