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Airborne Water Bottle Debacle(19 posts)

Airborne Water Bottle DebacleChris Zeller
Aug 27, 2001 12:58 PM
I'm sick of hearing about Airborne bribing reviewes, I think this should be said:

The whole water bottle deal is outright endorsement and advertizing not for Airborne but for RBR. Remember RBR is a business too and the free content that everyone provides is what drives their advertizing machine. By getting more owners to post content to a website, it builds the quality of the website--it's a true benifit to the website not the product. Trusting that a promotion like this won't backfire on you requires selling good quality products. I think the owners of this site would do well to encourage other companies to adopt a similur approach.
re: Airborne Water Bottle DebacleLeroy L
Aug 27, 2001 1:15 PM
You may be right, but consider that the RBR site is far behind in bikes to review, for instance - try to review a Gios, or any number of other bikes discussed on this forum. The RBR is waaaay behind and could encourage ads by having categories for bikes that many of us own. IMHO Airborne's attempt to "stuff the ballot box" is lame, and discredits the company. They deserve the criticism they're getting. Whether their products are any good or not is another matter - their ethics suck!
One customer-one reviewChris Zeller
Aug 27, 2001 2:27 PM
I don't think that advertizing for RBR is "stuffing the ballot box" No One is suggesting (that I have heard) that anyone posted more than one review for their bike. You need a serial # to get the free bottles--preventing multiple posts for profit. I don't see an ethical problem unless people weren't posting the truth. This is more of an endorsement for RBR than Airborne.
If you let me review my bike I will give you a free water bottleLC
Aug 27, 2001 4:37 PM
What do I have to do to get my bike or my wheels on the list? Maybe there is something to this bribe thing that really works.

Free water bottle? How about a free foot massage for the web site manager?

If I only would have bought an Airborne, then life would have been so much easier.
re: Airborne Water Bottle DebacleRich Clark
Aug 27, 2001 5:49 PM
I agree heartily with the people upset that so many products are unlisted. It does call into question whether the process of getting listed has some hidden dimension. There have been too many reports of requests going unanswered for this to be an accident.

I disagree that Airborne did anything wrong. They were simply the first (that we know of) to use a time-honored promotional tool in this particular context. I doubt they'll be the last.

Keep in mind that MTBR itself offered incentives (free subscriptions to BIKE magazine) not that long ago to get people to post reviews. That was self-promotion for MTBR, just as Airborne's offer was self-promotion.

There's nothing stopping any other company from making similar offers to their owners. I have no doubt that many would have already done so, except that bike companies with a really active online marketing presence seem to be rare. Where's the company-sponsored Trek online forum, where company reps answer questions? Cannondale's? Bianchi's?

Trek, C'dale, Bianchi forum...TJeanloz
Aug 28, 2001 4:55 AM
When you have a question about most bikes, the person to talk to is your local dealer. This is why the company went to such great trouble to establish a dealer network- so they could answer your questions and help you. Consumers frequently complain about bike companies' service- but their service departments aren't set up to work with consumers, they need you to go through their dealer network. I sympathize with those of you who don't have local dealers, or good local dealers, but the bike company's job is to make bikes and market them on the national level. It's the dealer's job to answer your stupid questions.

Airborne has no dealers, hence they are "consumer direct" and set up to deal with consumers. It's one of their costs for not establishing dealers.
I don't view it this wayMel Erickson
Aug 28, 2001 5:36 AM
Bicycle manufacturers are in the market to make and sell bicycles. Service is a part of the sale. Most manufacturers have chosen to develop a dealer network to sell their product. This has good and bad points, as you said. Some people don't have dealers near them and others don't have very good ones. We are in a different cosumer market now, as compared to when most bike manufacturers developed their marketing scheme. Consumers expect more from the company because the WWW allows more direct contact. Consumers also expect the manufacturer to know more about the products they manufacture than a dealer, especially newer products. Airbourne was developed under a newer sales scheme, which also has it's drawbacks. We are slowly seeing a convergence. All major bike manufacturers have web sites which provide some information (primarily marketing) and, yes, Airbourne has dealers. I think both recognize that there are positives on both sides. I hope major manufacturers start to provide more useful information on their sites and Airbourne expands their dealer network. When this happens everyone will win, consumer, dealer and manufacturer alike. Only those companies that ignore the realities of the new marketplace and consumer will fail.
Stoopid Questiongrzy mnky
Aug 28, 2001 8:13 AM
So, if the "dealer" can't answer my stoopid question(s) does this mean that they are stoopid?

Not that I disagree that the dealer is a good place to start, but we have to face the fact that most dealers only know a little bit about the products they sell. If you've got a real technical question they simply reply, "Ah good question, we'll get back to you." But they never do. Some of them probably cringe when they see Grz Mnky darken their threshold, but that's another story...

Ultimately you either fire up the net or get on the horn and call the manufacturer - personally I'd rather cut to the chase and skip the circle jerk with the dealer.
here's what wrong:alex the engineer
Aug 28, 2001 8:00 AM
This promotion is simply loading the reviews with a whole bunch of people who have owned their bikes for "less than 1 month". Of those, the people who did NOT like the model have returned it. People get a bike, ride it twice, write a glowing review, and send away for the bottle (I'm sure it matches the bike just perfectly). Most of these people probably NEVER would've been at RbR in the first place, and most never come back!
What really galls me is that people who haven't used something long enough to even get used to it, much less cause any wear, get just as much credence as those who have actually USED a product. Perhaps there should be multiple averages: one for the "just got it today and boy am I happy" type reviews, and another for people who have actually USED the damn thing. Just take a look at the tire reviews! How can you rate a tire that you just got??
The people at Airborne are pretty much using RbR as an annex of their PR department. This destroys the objectivity (what little there actually is) in the reviews here. Sure, you have to expect that probably 50% of all reviews are written by morons. Flood a review with a whole bunch of people that just got an admittedly popular product skews things even farther. For those who only look at the aggregate rating, a quick glance might make you believe tha Airborne is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Very slick, Mr. Mudd. You have succeeded.
Just read those reviews: most of them read like advertising copy! They certainly aren't helpful to me, or anybody else.
here's what wrong:SteveS
Aug 28, 2001 10:54 AM
Hey, Alex, Derek, or whoever you are..."Engineer", you still looking for those investment cast titanium bottom brackets? Whats your professional expertise? Only an engineer who is a moron would demand such a thing, or one really ignorant. Yet, you were asking/demanding about them. For courtesy's sake, we'll just consider you ignorant and incompetent.

Guess, what dude, this effort too, will fail. Keep it, it's good reading.

Hey, I noticed you refused to answer that question about the 20 year old lugged Reynolds 531 frame, size 63, that was so light. Whats the matter, can't remember the brand and model you had? Come on, engineer, what was it?

Gosh, this is fun. And Airborne keeps making the sales. Derek Mattice, one of lifes "ne'er do wells" fails again.
True, but more of a failing of RBRairborne pilot
Aug 28, 2001 3:37 PM
True, but your points are more directed at the failings of an open review fourm like RBR. All review fourums have this shortcomming--you can either trust professional reviewers in a magazine review and run the risk of an individual opinion, possibly advertizing induced, or sort through personlalized reviews like RBR, where many people might not have much experience with this or competative products.

by the way, both the professional magazine reviews and the public forum reviews were pretty positive of Airborne.

I think the important thing is to read through all the reviews and determine the reviewers knowledge of the product, and their reasons for liking a product before making a consideration. I agree there are some pretty stoopid comments posted here, and I agree that posting after you have had the product for a while makes for a better review. But this isn't specific to Airborne--most people review their bikes just after they buy them. I, myself am waiting until I put about 300 miles (another month) on my bike before I write my review.
Solution?grzy mnky
Aug 28, 2001 4:33 PM
So given that RBR has "failed" us what are we to do?

There isn't some magic number of miles that are required to review a product. People with enough experience can tell somethings right away. A clueless person with no experience other than this being their first bike and 5,000 miles isn't much help.

I think the bottom line should be that ultimately all the reviews posted here and elsewhere are worth at least what you paid for them.

The net isn't exactly high on anyone's list for integrity now is it?
I Call BSgrzy mnky
Aug 28, 2001 8:36 AM
You are way mistaken and sound like a recent graduate from the Airbonre School of Mind Control (ASMC). You got the first part right "Airborne bribing reviews."

It isn't an outright endorsement for RBR, but Airborne. Who pays for the bottles? Follow the money and you'll see who has the vested interest. If RBR is going to advertise what is so magical and coveted about a new Airborne owner? Are they more gulible or easy to influence with a trinket? Maybe. A keen and inate sense of quality and value? Nah.

Your next sentence about RBR and reviews driving their advertising machine is one twisted piece of faulty logic. Sure the free content, if it's worth something, might attract more potential customers, but you have it backwards - Airborne is getting free advertising by stuffing RBR with bogus glowing content. A new owner with a free water bottle isn't exactly the best qualifications for an objective review. The benifit to the product is getting a whole bunch of glowing reviews and then posting it out in cyberspace like it *wasn't* a "paid testimonial" on an "unbiased" website.

You sort of get it right when you state "Trusting that a promotion like this won't backfire on you requires selling good
quality products." What you got right is that it is a promotin by Airborne. However selling a good product alone doesn't make you immune from the "cheese factor." If every company starts giving away trinkets to wet behind the ears owners like yourself then pretty soon the reviews become meaningless since everything will be "above average".

The whole thing is a charade and stinks. Airborne deserves to get bashed and dragged through the virtual mud with you clinging desperately to your beloved bargain ti frame. Question one has to ask is would there still be a bunch of glowing/steaming reviews if there were no free water bottles? I think we'd all rather be reading those reviews. I'll give you two free water bottles if you slam a Trek and can prove that you're not an owner. Got a problem with that?

Given that you bought the bike you're now going to function in accordance with the theory of cognitive disonance - you need to continuously convince yourself that you made a good choice. After all you made it. Fact is your choice isn't really any better or any worse than many other choices that you could have made.

You need to stop, take some time away, and think objectively about what the real issues are. Of course you could actually be an Airborne employee and this could be part of your job....
I Call BSSteveS
Aug 28, 2001 10:43 AM

Where I might agree that the idea of giving water bottles to owners who write reviews here at RBR was not a good idea, and I emailed Airborne my opinion as such, it appears that the offer came out in their August newsletter. Therefore, the reviews from that time on could be considered under that offer, however before that time there were something like 50+ reviews, including mine, for which we didn't get bottles. And whether you like it or not, we like our bikes. So, in answering to your question, if you want to check dates, Yes, there very definitely would be a large number of glowing reviews from owners, and one or two fake reviews from non-owner posers.

And, it should be noted, that Airborne has gotten overall very favorable comment when reviewed, internationally not just US, where water bottles are not as aspect of consideration.

Yeah, Airborne made a mistake, but it is childish to call a water bottle a "money trail." No water bottle or collection of them would make me write a positive review of certain aluminum frames I have ridden or latex tubes. Ridiculous.

Now, if you want to challenge me as being an Airborne employee, I will be thrilled to give you the same public monetary bet I had posted at MTBR on several occasions in the past. All the guys over there who shot their mouths off didn't have the courage or the money to step up to the plate, but if you want to give it a try. Jump in and I will take all your money.

You need to stop, take some time away, and think objectively about what the real issues are and see that the water bottle is nothing. Of course you could have an involvement in a local shop and this could be part of your job...
Hey....grzy mnky
Aug 28, 2001 11:06 AM
Even Aztecs sell at the right price.

I don't consider a water bottle a huge financial investment. The money trail was to simply point out various parties interests and motivations. I counter that the water bottle deal truly benifits RBR, other than stiring the pot in this forum. Given all the issues it seems that a prospective buyer may actually reconsider a potential purchase decision.

Can I wager an Airborne water bottle on your employment status? ;-) I don't really think you work for them, but I'd need someone to give a legit bike serial # so I could write a glowing review, collect my "free" bottle and pay off my debt.

I'm just a casual observer pointing out the intuitively obvious. All the LBS's give me water bottles to go away.
beg (Dog, get it?) to differDog
Aug 28, 2001 1:23 PM
I think this whole water bottle thing is blown way out of proporation. I think the offer is merely to motivate buyers to do a review, and while they'd hope the review is a good one, there certainly is no tying the offer to only a good review. Plus, the value of the bottle is so minimal, I probably wouldn't even bother going after it.

I also think this "cognitive dissonance" theory is over blown. It almost assumes that people can't be objective, nor report negative opinions about their products. I would think it is just as likely that people are more likely to complain about a bad product than a good one. They get hacked off if they feel they've been let down or ripped off. I see a number of reviews like that. Cognitive dissonance is really about whether something meets expectations, not just whether one can justify a purchase. Now, if Airborne were offering something actually valuable for a favorable review, then that would change everything. You'd have a perfectly valid point.

This whole issue seems to have tied up with it some negative opinions about Airborne, their products, they way they do business (otherwise), their country of origin, or simply the fact that they are a relative bargain. Those feelings seem to pervade the arguments (e.g., "your beloved barain ti frame").

OTOH, the Airborne owners can be fairly defensive. The bikes have a "second class" sort of image, I think largely just because they cost less, but also because they are made in China, not Tennessee or Italy. I, myself, thought about that when I bought an Airborne mountain bike a couple years ago. Nonetheless, that 20.5 pound mountain bike really kicked butt, and looked just as nice as any Ti mouintain bike I'd ever seen. The second class image quickly wore off in my mind, knowing that I was getting to the tops of hills much more quickly than before, and for a thousand dollars or so less than some "popular" Ti bikes.

Getting back to cognitive dissonance. If the theory holds up, wouldn't it apply equally to all brands, or potentially even more to those costing more? Wouldn't buyers of expensive brands desire even more strongly to justify their purchases? If so, buyers of cheaper brands would tend to be more objective, right?

I have analyzed my own choices for bike goods the past few years, and I note there are plenty I've bashed, despite their having been costly and "desireable": Campy Profit pedals (can't clip in), Speedplay X/1 pedals (hurt my legs), Campy Nucleon wheels (hard to change tires), Easton Carbon bars (don't like the bends, and no cable grooves), Tufo tubulars (very poor grip). While I've not done reviews on all these, I think I have expressed opinions about them here.

Anyway, in sum, I think this is just overblown, of no consequence, and amounts to an excuse for some Airborne opponents to bash Airborne a little more. Respectfully, and IMHO...

Aug 28, 2001 8:47 PM
I have had my Airborne for about 2 years and I still love the bike. I test rode 6-7 different bikes and I was set on a Trek OCLV with Ultegra. Then I saw an Airborne add, at that time they sold full Dura Ace for $2199. I built a bike with full Dura Ace and I hand picked every part on the bike all the way down to the tubes. I ended up paying $2500 for a bike that had the best parts, in my opinion that I could buy. The OCLV with Ultegra would have cost the same except I would have had All Icon junk and Rolf wheels. Not to mention the Airborne ride quality is waaaay better than the Trek. After a ride on an Airborne you would be crazy to buy a Trek. I giggle every time I see someone ride by with a new Trek with all cookie cutter parts and USPS lycra to match.
I also have not placed a review or received any free Airborne water bottle, I have too many sitting around from all the bike rides I have been to, you know the free give aways.
I also have had eight friends buy Airbornes since I purchased mine. If that does'nt say something about the bike I don't know what does.
I just did the Death Ride last month and I saw a lot of very nice bikes. I only saw a few that I would rather have than mine and they were all in the $5-$6000 range. Given that, I think I made a great choice. I also don't need to continuously convince convince myself of that, it happens every time I ride my Zeppelin.
Thanks, LWL

P.S. Sorry about the Topic heading I just wanted to get your attention.
Aug 29, 2001 6:34 AM
But you have a stupid looking slope tube bike!
Aug 28, 2001 10:36 PM
I do not own an Airborne, nor do I ever plan to purchase one but I know I would lie, steal or kill for an Airborne water bottle. phony