AuctionBytes Blog
Covering auctions, collectibles and marketplace selling.

AuctionBytes Blog The AuctionBytes Blog has been giving a voice to online merchants since its launch in 2005. Named one of the world's top 30 blogs in 2008 by "Blogging Heroes." Weigh in with your thoughts on the joys and pitfalls of selling online.
Mon July 7 2008 17:21:55

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

By: Ina Steiner

Sponsored Link

Tensions at the Internet Merchants Association (IMA) organization reported last week escalated over the weekend. IMA Board member Ben Mandell had confirmed last Wednesday that there had been an issue involving ethics and that the Board overruled an Ethics Committee's decision, but did not reveal details citing member privacy.

The real fireworks erupted on the Fourth of July, and no end is in sight.

Several IMA members have been blogging about it. Suzanne Hallam of first wrote about the incident on her blog.

Debbie Levitt of As Was has been writing a number of detailed posts on her blog and claims the initial incident was over a dispute between her and IMA President and Board member Steve Grossberg on the As Was area of the IMA forums (a benefit of being a Gold member is getting a devoted area on the IMA forums).

Tom King weighed in on the matter on his blog on Friday.

What began as a dispute between two members, and then a conflict between the Board and the Ethics committee, is now being called by some IMA members a power play by certain Board members. Allegations and threats of legal action abound.

In an email to me this morning, IMA Board member Kim Wren wrote, "The current, acting, board of directors, is removing members - who have not requested they be removed - and issuing partial refunds - again not requested." She said her company, Wren Industrial Storage Equipment, LLC, will be taking legal action against the IMA as well as the current acting board members if her company is not reinstated as a member. "We feel we have too much company time, and resourse dollars by attending various activities as a volunteer, invested to not remain a member for our full year - which ends Sept 13, 2008."

Wren said that in a July 2nd phone meeting with acting Board members Ben Mandell, Cathy Aggelopoulos and Cyn Lizana, she resigned, stating she felt like "being on the BOD's was a losing battle with me in a 3 against 1 situation." But, she said she rescinded her resignation a few hours later and said she was treated as a member of the Board of Directors for nearly 48 hours until Steve Grossberg returned from his "leave of absence" on July 4th and "removed me from the BOD's forum. He stated that I had indeed resigned."

Lanae Paaverud, a former Board member, wrote in an email today, "This morning I awake to discover my membership has been canceled. I did not ask for this. I had stepped down from all of my volunteer positions with them, but never asked to be removed completely. I never spoke out in any of the external blogs either. This is so wrong!"

I have also received emails alleging that the IMA membership had called for a special meeting to vote on removal of the Board of Directors, and alleging that the Board changed the IMA's bylaws to prevent such a meeting from taking place.

In a follow-up email, Kim Wren wrote, "We now believe that it is in the best interest of the membership of the IMA to begin filing complaints with the Economic Crimes Division of the Florida Attorney General's Office."

I sent an email inquiry to IMA Steve Grossberg President today, his email response follows.

AuctionBytes: Who is currently on the Board of Directors of the IMA? The website lists the following, have any of them resigned or been expelled?

Steve Grossberg - (President)

Ben Mandell - (Vice-President)

Lanae Paaverud - (Secretary)

Steve Grossberg - (Treasurer)

Larry Phillips

Cathy Aggelopoulos

Kim Wren

Cyn Lizana

SG: The website lists the following:

Steve Grossberg - (President)

Ben Mandell - (Vice-President)

Cathy Aggelopoulos (Secretary)

4 board members did resign, they were not expelled from the board.

AuctionBytes: Has the IMA Board been expelling members? There have been reports by several people they received pro-rated refund for membership cancellation but had not cancelled their membership - how would you respond to these allegations?

SG: Yes we have as consistent with our by-laws


Section 1: Eligibility: The IMA is open to all companies who are selling or have an interest in selling products or services via the internet, and professionals who provide a service to internet sellers. The IMA board of directors reserves rights to deny membership to anyone without cause, and also cancel membership of any member or company with or without cause. Any current member whose membership is cancelled by the association, the only requirement that has to be met by the association is the refund of member’s dues on a pro-rated basis.

AuctionBytes: Has the IMA Board been making changes to the by laws?

SG: The by-laws are a continuing evolutionary document, and by-law updates and clarifications are to be expected on an ongoing basis.

AuctionBytes: Did the IMA board change the by laws to prevent a special meeting from taking place to vote on removing the board of directors?

SG: No we did not, we made a change to clarifying all meeting must take place in person and on paper ballots to ensure all votes are cast by the person actually on the ballot and we have a means of verification in pace and ensure the yare legitimate voting members,

AuctionBytes: what is the cause of all these blog posts and email allegations, and what is the board doing about it?

SG: I have not read any blogs or emails and therefore cannot answer as to what the cause is and what will be done. I can say the board of IMA has always acted with integrity and with the best interests of the organization in mind, and consistent with our by-laws and state law and will continue to act this way now and in the future

AuctionBytes: How many IMA members are there today, and how many were there one week ago?

SG: I cannot give you the exact number right now but we have over 230 and we actually have more now then 1 week ago.

AuctionBytes: Debbie Levitt of As Was said she received a partial refund for membership cancellation but had not cancelled her membership, can you explain?

SG: We cannot comment on any specific members for the privacy of current and former members and the IMA


Comments (27) | Permalink

Readers Comments

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: Suzanne Hallam

Mon Jul 7 17:53:36 2008

Once this is all said and done 3 people will go down  as having hijacked a group, lied to members, broken laws to change structure of an organization, and basically acted in "bad faith" on behalf of the organization. At this point it has affected too many good people to make sense.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: AnonymousIMAMember

Mon Jul 7 21:05:22 2008

I cannot believe the audacity and insincerity of Steve's answers to your questions. The board of directors CLEARLY altered the by-laws surrounding the requirements for a member meeting AFTER the members had called for a meeting seeking their removal. Clearly they will simply alter whatever bylaws they want every time a challenge to them is issued. What is most sad is that the IMA was a promising organization but is now ruined. Who would possibly join this group at this point? It is insane what is going on there.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: AnonymousIMAMember

Mon Jul 7 21:17:08 2008

I also want to point out that it is a flat lie that the IMA has more members now than it did a week ago. Forget the fact that more than a half-dozen members have been involuntarily kicked out of the group in recent days, the simple fact is that NO NEW MEMBERS HAVE JOINED.

When a new member joins the IMA, they are announced to the group, where they are welcomed and asked to introduce themselves. There has no been a new member introduction since about 3 members joined roughly 6-8 weeks ago. Any and all claims that IMA membership is increasing is a bold-faced LIE.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: David White

Mon Jul 7 21:34:55 2008

When I spoke with Steve Grossberg on July 2nd he stated that the membership could overturn the by-laws and make all actions against members public. I wrote about this in my blog.

Seems as he has changed his mind,,,again.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: Insane

Mon Jul 7 21:37:24 2008

How outrageous to have over 1/2 of the BOD resign, then start revising by-laws to protect ones self from being removed from a position on the BOD by the membership.  Is that not the most blatant act of non-ethical behavior by 3 guilty people?!?!

I'm disgusted and appalled.  This does appear to be headed for the court system, as it SHOULD.

There are many online organizations that hold meetings and votes via the internet.  To so suddenly change the by-laws to in person, hand ballots only (I believe the acceptable meeting place is Steve's residence) and present it as anything other than the stonewalling it is ...  I'm refraining from 4 letter words.  I can't say anything further that is acceptable for public reading.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: Debbie Levitt

Mon Jul 7 21:41:24 2008

Actually, I seem to be the ONLY forced-out member who got a FULL refund. At first, I only saw one email from PayPal, and assumed it was partial. But then there was a second email, and I did indeed get ALL of my money back.

But no apology for any the libel Steve put out the IMA about me and my company. So I'm still pursuing that.

If the IMA updated its website to exclude the people who have left or been thrown out, membership will be DOWN from last week. Last week was 225. It says 230 now, but I and others are still in there, and some companies are in there twice. Just look at the membership page and you'll see duplicates.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: Larry Phillips

Mon Jul 7 22:31:06 2008

Unhappy IMA Members - When Steve says something is illegal, as he normally does whenever he is challenged, please ask him to provide the specific stature, regulation, section or paragraph.  His comments are disingenuous, strictly meant to stop you from speaking.  So challenge him to be specific.

After a two hour phone conversation on Saturday, we had agreed that all four remaining Board members were to resign.  When I was called to a conference call three hours later, the situation had changed.

Don't worry.  All replacement Board members will be hand picked by the gang of 3.  All changes to the bylaws will be decided by the gang of 3.  All power will be retained by the gang of 3.  Ultimate authority will rest with the gang of 3.

Good luck, my friends. I miss being with you.  I hope it all works out in the end.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous

Tue Jul 8 02:55:49 2008

This really undermines IMA. The same thing happened with PESA. We used to be members of PESA up until a month after most of those members split from there to go to IMA.

I met some nice people through PESA but then bickering started over stupid stuff....bylaws, how it was legally organized, etc. The average PESA member could have cared less about that stuff. We originally joined to get Ebay connections, etc. but the forum soon turned to fighting.

Basically, the same thing is now happening with IMA it looks like. What do the by-laws, organization, etc. have to do with making money (which is the whole point of PESA/ help sellers make more money)?

It is unfortunate.....PESA and IMA both had a collection of the the very largest Ebay sellers, etc. However.....because they bicker and fight over stupid has undermined their credibility. Sorry, I don't think either of these organizations have ever been taken seriously by people. If they were being taken seriously, Ebay would not have made all the anti-seller changes they have the last 2 years. Most of the members of PESA and IMA should be ashamed of how little difference they have made the last few years when sellers have needed it most.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: Now Laughing

Tue Jul 8 06:39:07 2008

It's kinda funny to see the caliber of people that are in charge of these organizations.  Maybe that's why eBay is the way it is.  Both pesa and the ima are nothing but a waste of time.  They can not do a damn thing with eBay let alone take care of there own business.  Oh and I am gonna have to vote in person???  Are you kidding???  Like a bunch of spoiled 5 year olds!!!      

The only thing that might help make sellers feel like they won the battle is to get a good blood sucking, ambulance chaser group of attorneys and start a class action lawsuit against eBay.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: Dee

Tue Jul 8 08:39:29 2008

And this is news or even interesting because...?

Oh, I guess there ARE lots of people who like to watch train wrecks. But come on, this is an organization with less than 250 members and like any org I'm sure there are members who never participate.

So, who cares?

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: Observer

Tue Jul 8 09:22:15 2008

"It is unfortunate.....PESA and IMA both had a collection of the the very largest Ebay sellers, etc. However.....because they bicker and fight over stupid has undermined their credibility."

This happened in BOTH groups because the members most interested in focusing on organizational bylaws and structure instead of building businesses up left PESA and created IMA.  I find great value in PESA and am proud to be a member.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up


Tue Jul 8 09:32:38 2008

Ina girl! Aren't there enough pressing issues to write about in this industry?

Rather than focusing on the petty bickering within these second-rate seller organizations, sellers want to know about things that genuinely concern them! IMA and PESA and ECMTA COMBINED equal one big ZERO! None of these organizations has accomplished ANYTHING for the average seller. The only thing they do is puff up the egos of their founders and line the pockets of certain board members.

If you want to get a sense of the personalities involved in this latest bitchfest, go check out the eBay forums. These are self-promoting, sleazy people who do more harm than good to this industry! If I ever do business with ANY of these parties, please euthanize me.

You want a real story? Find out why eBay even give these lameasses the time of day?!? It shows how OUT OF TOUCH eBay execs are - if they read their own forums they'd see that the majority of eBay sellers wouldn't touch these slimy organizations with a ten-foot pole!

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: WhyThisIsImportant

Tue Jul 8 12:36:03 2008

I think those of you who are saying Ina shouldn't be wasting her time covering this are off-base. If her articles prevent even ONE seller from paying good money to join one of these groups, then it will have been worth her time to type it up. I hope Ina will continue her coverage as the IMA implodes in a mess of lawsuits. It should be a lesson anyone can watch and learn something important from.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: Beady Eye Guy

Tue Jul 8 14:20:52 2008

Further proof why nobody needs this nonsense.  Why pay somebody to "advocate" for you if they can't be held accountable?

I do close to 100K/mo between my site, Amazon and Ebay.  I would NEVER join IMA or the other advocate member sites.  I don't need them.  They did nothing for me as I built my business and they would most likely do NOTHING for me outside of take my dues (which could be used to promote my business) and pocket it.

Sorry for the cynicism but didn't Grossberg do this kind of thing awhile back?  Sorry but if I have to have bigger sellers on a board advocate for my needs, I am giving them too much power.

Just my 2 cents.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: Beady Eye Guy

Tue Jul 8 14:22:58 2008

Sorry but I disagree that this isn't a story.  It does prove to me that these organizations are only out to preserve the status of the bigger sellers at the expense of small and up and comers.

Good bye IMA.  

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: o.c.d.collectibles

Tue Jul 8 18:49:41 2008

hmmm..Ms're the one who sells your ebay marketing packages to the tune of $500-$2,000 per member (on ebay of course!) I saw your listings on ebay from your AS WAS company. I know you also are involved in the education programs on ebay as aren't you well heeled enough to not need a membership to this organization? ..anyway...not many people will be left on ebay to buy your services at the rate they are going with all the know, like the pro-stores going down all the time??

Here's some interesting info for you..regarding the tech problems that are going on inside of ebay..take a look at the MY EBAY BETA forums and you'll see! Looks like it's unusable and people are actually pulling their auctions off the auction block! That's not a very good sign, is it?

The fact that the canned responses aren't fixing the problem with the members who are stuck permanently in an unusable and faulty BETA format as a TEST SUBJECT without the option to opt out, will make it impossible to buy anything reliably and utilize MANY services, including the ones you sell, for many, many folks.

It would be a good idea to have folks like you to figure out why interfaces like this are not working, so why can't you give those poor BETA programmers a hand...they really need the help!If you have time to spare, after you leave the IMA, that is.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: o.c.d.collectibles

Tue Jul 8 19:26:25 2008

I think the purpose for the IMA was for high income sellers who market packages for other sellers to use, to make their stores and auctions look "professional" and are part of why ebay IS eliminating members and sellers who don't purchase these elaborate services.

Only the highest income sellers would be able to afford using these packages to market their goods, and THOSE are the choice sellers that ebay wants.

Ebay's grand plan was to have all the buyers and bidders eliminate all the mom and pops, (you know, the ones who sell used flea market stuff from their homes), the ones who couldn't afford to buy Ms Levitt's fabulous packages for their little businesses...they are trying to keep costs down rather than increase them, of course!

Which, I am sure, Ms Levitt enjoys the privilege of establishing connections in her volunteer work in order to make her products more visible to the CEO's of ebay.
That's what CEO's DO!(you would think they would spend a little time servicing members, but nahhhhh) In fact, the ebay CEO's do the same thing..networking with other companies to market their product.

This is really a typical scenario for corporate greed..these people should have gotten themselves professional degrees to back up their upcoming business losses. At least as licensed professionals they would have a job when they lose their standing in their corporate culture and community of other greedy CEO's.

IMA members who are being thrown out will have a taste of what it is like for the little peon ebay seller who gets thrown to the bottom of the auction listings, whose problems go unaddresed, and whose income becomes impaired due to some 3 or 4 people who make "all the decisions".

Sorry IMA guys, but I feel no pity for you! Go struggle like the rest of us earthlings.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: Observer

Tue Jul 8 21:27:12 2008

Who passed o.c.d.collectibles the pipe?

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: HUH

Tue Jul 8 23:59:31 2008

OCD I think you need a break dude!

Some of us run businesses that happen to include ebay into the selling mix. Maybe we use the services offered by AsWas, maybe we don't. But really that has NOTHING to do with what was posted in this blog.

IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up   IMA Board Dwindles as Things Heat Up

by: Former IMA Member

Wed Jul 9 00:25:10 2008

The IMA President has a history of defaming others.  On Sun 20 Apr, 2008 02:57,in the IMA General Forum, Mr. Grossberg made the comment, "no Adam (Hersch) moved from NY to Orlando, then Orlando to LA. a con man on the run".  When Debbie of AsWas confronted him on his choice of words and pointed out that this "con man" was hardly "on the run" and could be easily found at eBay-related events, in interviews, and elsewhere.  She also asked that the attacks stop since this was a semi-private forum and Mr. Hersch was not there to defend himself.

A moderator finally entered the thread to remind everyone to avoid personal attacks, but none of the posts leading to the "con man" comment by Kirk (Cosmic-King) nor Mr. Grossman were removed.

Additionally, Mr. Grossman wrote the following AFTER the moderator post:

"My opinion is and always has been adam hersh is a horrible seller and is a
bad for the ebay platform. To date he has had numerous sellers ID's and I
can dig up more if need be. All of his ID's have horrible feedback and past
performance dictates future behavior.
Of course he has a new ID as his past ID’s would not qualify for a discount
and burry him in best match.
You do not get hundreds of people signing petitions to remove people from
ebay who did not screw tons of buyers. Plus the fact he is #1 or #2 in
mutual feedback withdrawal because of feedback extortion and was given
ultimatums by ebay and suspended for a time
I am not personally attacking anyone, just stating facts
I am quite surprised you are actually trying to make a case this fellow is a
good seller. That would be a tough case to convince most folks of in my
opinion. Yes a con man on the run may be a little harsh. But my perception
of him is he is a con man and in no way can I see anyone calling him a
"good seller" or someone good for the ebay platform.
I have this perception because he sells these get rich quick schemes about
selling on ebay and he is a self proclaimed expert"

This is just ONE occurrence of many witnessed on this semi-private forum.  Mr. Grossman has a history of this and is one of the reasons there is so much discord in IMA.

Click to view more comments
1 2  [Next Page]

Login is required to post comments.
To sign in to leave a comment using your AB Verify User Name, fill in the form below. If you have not yet signed up for AB Verify, or if you'd like more information, go to the Registration Page

Login for AB Verify
Be sure and use your email address and password to log in.

 Forgot Your Password?
 Even though you are signed in with the AuctionBytes Blog, you will have to sign in to the EcommerceBytes blog. But you can sign in with your existing AB Verify info.