When was the last time you went into an Backpacking Store and walked around listening to the customers and the questions they ask the sales people? I think you overestimate the knowledge level that many of these customers bring into the store or to backpacking as an experience. Shawn's point that many small cottage manufacturers will be hurt by an unwitting experience with BS is well taken IMHO. Many of these shoppers go to a Store precisely because they are so inexperienced. They are desperate for advice and are so grateful for any they recieve. I have also overheard many people on the line to return gear berate the store for recommending a piece of gear that did not turn out as promised. I have heard all manner of complaints that the salesperson "should" have known that this piece of gear was inappropriate, poorly made, etc. How do you think they will respond when they take an Editor's Choice award review and attempt to buy a product sight unseen and make the sad discoveries that so many of us have made about BS? Do you really think that they will be inclined to try a purchase from a Shires, or a Moak? I think the answer is clearly -- NO! They will flee to the mainstream makers that can be seen and touched at an outfitter's store.
No, I still feel BP did a real diservice to our community with this award to BS. I wrote to their new gear editor about my feelings and her response was interesting:
"Your letter doesn't come as a big surprise, as we were well aware of Big Sky's delivery problems before we went to press. We trolled backpacklight.com as well as other forums, listened to all the feedback, and had many phone coversations with Bob Molen, boss man at Big Sky. As a new company, Big Sky was having a hard time getting their production solidified, and they were in the midst of changing factories, which is how they explained the lag times that you referred to. All that has been taken care of, however, and Molen assured us that he was quickly catching up with past orders. He also assured us that future orders wouldn't have the same problems. We were satisfied with his answers, and have heard no complaints since the transition took place. In the end, we cut this company some slack for experiencing growing pains, as many upstarts do, and were so thoroughly impressed with their product that we went forward with the award. But you can be sure that we will stay up on their customer service track record and keep our readers apprised, as well."
That last sentence struck me as interesting. I am just as sure that BP will not stay up on BS' track record. How would they be able to do that? It is clear to me that BP just punted when it could have looked elsewhere for great product and fell for the sales pitch that Molen seems to be able to weave at the drop of the hat.