Audio Forums, On-line Store Fronts, and the Art-of-Deception

I have absolutely no problem with dealers on Forums in general; in fact, I think they perform a very important role in providing information to buyers about their product and insights about the competition. The key is to maintain full disclosure and an environment that encourages open discourse.

However, I am curious as to whether other members of our hobby have observed "supposed" Audio Forums that in reality are nothing more than a store-front for the Forum owner's equipment dealership which, in turn, uses business practices established to cloak the owner's profit objectives to appear as unbiased forum commentary. Do others feel this way or am I seeing things wrong?

I see the approach going something like this:

1) Start an Audio Forum with a few colleagues to help with the scheme;
2) Have the owner run large amounts of audio gear through their room for very short auditions to create the "appearance" of a knowledge-base to be used, in turn, to create the "appearance" of credibility regarding the advice offered by the Owner on the forum;
3) Have the Owner's colleagues play the role of shills, cheering the Owner's advice and the unsuspecting member's purchases from the store-front, as the Owner goes about denigrating the product he doesn't sell and lauding the product he does; 
4) Run the Forum in a manner that immediately quashes anyone who challenges the absurdity of the Owner's comments by shutting down threads and banning all challengers to the absurdity under the guise of keeping the forum a friendly place to exchange objective views.

I obviously consider this business model to be.....(well I won't use the words I am thinking). I would like to say, however, I do find humor in the ignorance of the approach strictly as a commercial enterprise.  

Sadly, I believe these types of business practices are often used on less sophisticated customers in today's retail world, but high priced audio gear is typically purchased by fairly astute individuals. As such, the model I describe above is the opposite of what an intelligent business person would develop to serve a sophisticated customer base. Yet we see this kind of nonsense employed in an attempt to sell sophisticated products to sophisticated people.

Maybe it just shows brains, business acumen, and ethics go hand-in-hand.

In the mean-time, a word of caution to all those fellow hobbyists looking for an objective advice on line; it is more important than ever to remember the time-tested cliches:

--caveat emptor
--follow the money
--things are not always as they appear

and so on.

Pick your poison. Audio Forums are started for various reasons and not just to share views. Some are manufacturer spin-offs, some objective, some subjective, some for whales, some for sharks and others are for minnows.
Hew, Ya but I am not aware of one that is exclusively committed to the hobbyist.

Like I said above, the problem is not when a dealer is forthright and willing to engage in reasonable discussion; it is the few that employee subterfuge and shills to manipulate audiophiles trying to just make a sound decision. It ruins a part of the entire hobby and it doesn't have to be this way.
@wattsperchannel , I understand that it's not all about money for you or me.
That doesn't mean that no one cares about money.
Anywhere that you have people willing to throw money around, you will find people scrambling, even through unscrupulous methods, to collect said money.

In other words: You may believe in Utopia, but you cannot change human nature.

I agree with your mission, just as I agree with Peace on Earth.
However, I am also a realist, not a dreamer.
Post removed 

You raise the heart of the issue: the profit motive and human nature. I am a big fan of the profit motive generally driving the best outcomes for society, but I do prefer a modicum of ethical behavior.

I don’t consider my pursuit of a "Shill Free Zone" to be that of a naive Utopia which assumes a change in human nature per se; I see it more as a simple rules based program that would keep the slime away from those who prefer an environment (from time-to-time) that doesn’t have to deal with constantly being fed a line of BS.

Legitimate dealers, manufacturers and reviewers (i.e., those with a profit motive) would be welcome to scheduled events at the Shill Free Zone; if they behave themselves they would be invited back.

Would this program be perfect, of course not; but relative to the killing fields I see today where unsuspecting hobbyist get bamboozled by nefarious players, I believe it would be a huge step forward.