Complacent acceptance must ebb from the same rote stupor as so many rituals lingering in our common minds. Get up, get ready, warm up the car, get in the car, drive to work.  We accept many things as they are, especially those we’ve done so long they blend into the surroundings. Such is the case with the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce.

Really think about this: what exactly does the Chamber of Commerce do that is necessary and effective?

They have lofty goals that sound important. To “advance the economic vitality of Klamath County by recruiting new businesses and retaining and supporting existing businesses.” Really? Huh. Then why was it necessary more than 25 years ago to establish and maintain KCEDA for that purpose? Can anyone name a business that moved to the county the Chamber can claim sole credit for?

The Chamber also says it “Advances the livability of Klamath County by improving the amenities and aesthetics of the county and promoting a positive community self image.” Kind of sounds like the function of so many of the other civic organizations in Klamath with community goals. And “promotion” is something another group known as Klamath Tourism was formed to take over.

Either the Chamber is riding the coattails of other groups with overlapping goals, or everyone just doesn’t give enough of a shit to point out that the Chamber’s diatribe is toothless and inept. But people should care, because any activity that wastes time or detracts from actual productivity is costly and detrimental to the Klamath economy. Sometimes it is easier to form a new group to address contemporary challenges rather than convince an old dog to take on new tricks. This writer suggests that Klamath would be far better off ending the Chamber of Commerce. Let’s look into what the Chamber really does and doesn’t do.

Many of us have been Chamber members, some exclusively because they think it builds goodwill for their enterprise, others because they want to be actively involved in using the Chamber to leverage positive changes. Those who embark on the latter path tend to discover nothing comes of their efforts.

Meetings

Lots of meetings. No argument; they have lots of meetings about all the things they say they do. Among those meetings are many meetings about politics, as in the need for better politicians. Among the most feckless time-wasting activities in the Chamber is the notion that it is, or can ever be, remotely effective at influencing any major election. It has not, is not, and will never be.

Events

They have greeters who volunteer to wear funny jackets at community events. They have their own monthly events and an annual banquet. The meetings and events are chock full of real estate agents, insurance agents, lawyers, mortgage companies, and bankers, all gladhanding each other…a line of sycophants desperately slobbering and drueling for any sort of lead to exploit. This may have been the way of commerce at one time, like back in the early 1900s, but it’s quite antiquated now. The best idea they seem to come up with at these events is to use their collective dues to place all their names in rosters and publications with little substantial content beyond their own ads.

Promotion

More than anything, promotion means bothering other members. They have a membership directory. Oh joy, pay to sign up for unsolicited marketing from other chamber members. Feel the power of this exclusive club! So powerful, that no business would likely survive if this was the only marketing resource. Even more backward, they go out of their way to create channels that exclude non-member businesses. The irony seems forever lost on the Chamber: how can you effectively improve the business climate and promote business in general if you exclude businesses in general?

Example

For over 17 years, a huge and obvious opportunity to walk the talk has been staring the Chamber in it’s gaping maw. This issue remains unresolved by the Chamber or any other organization in Klamath. Since it is business-related and untouched, it represents a stellar option to establish relevance.

What is it you ask? Have to tell you, we have a policy of not aiding and abetting the stupid by giving them solutions that boost their survival. Going against that edict defeats the purpose of contributing to their demise. Oh, what the hell. It is more important to make this point than worry it will rescue an arcane group showing no sign of winding down. Please don’t forget where it came from. If the Chamber adopts this, count it as further proof they are not worthy of your support. This observation didn’t come to you through local media or anyone you would recognize as a leader; it came from a diminutive blog written by a jaded Klamath burnout (that brought this same idea to Chamber management decades ago). Remember, after basking in ignorance this long, nobody should be supporting such an organization. Here we go…

AN ORGANIZATION DEDICATED TO PROMOTING BUSINESSES SHOULD HAVE RESOLVED THE DIRECTORY PROBLEM!

What is the directory problem? Long ago, there used to be one phone directory, the one published by US West. In it was a section called the Yellow Pages, exclusively for businesses. This was always the best way to reach customers, even long after Internet took hold. In the late 90s, the phone directory monopoly divested. by the early to mid- 2000’s there were as many as four different freaking phone directories with yellow page listings being distributed to Klamath households and businesses. Each one sold ads to businesses. As a business, what were you supposed to do then? Buy a small ad for $1,800 in each of those directories to ensure coverage? Some did, most didn’t. Instead, they tried to choose the directory they though would be the most popular. Anyone looking for a business service certainly was not inclined to review each of the directories to be sure they were finding the most vendors. From that point on, yellow pages waned in usefulness and to this day there isn’t a single directory source for all Klamath businesses and just ALL Klamath Businesses.

Instead, we now have a large number of online directories that share the same problems of the printed yellow page multiverse. They are all inconsistent, unnecessary, redundant, and detrimental. They take eyeballs away from each other and collectively confuse the consumers. (Google isn’t a directory–by the way–it is a metadata mind-reading device determined to link businesses far away from Klamath). Yes, the Chamber has a directory of its own, but since it only lists businesses that are members of the Chamber, it is more dysfunctional than the fly-by-night phone directories constantly hounding businesses for additional ads (at least they try to include all area businesses).

Klamath would benefit greatly from any entity that addressed the central directory issue head on, by:

  1. Pushing for standardization by selecting ONE preferred vendor and doing everything they can to ensure THAT is the directory everyone uses.
  2. Advise all businesses to only advertise in the preferred directory. The lack of advertising to support competing interests should make them go away.
  3. If you can’t publish your own comprehensive directory including ALL businesses, stop publishing your own directory and line up behind the service that does the best job at the lowest rate for ALL businesses.
  4. Work to establish a neutral platform that supports the universal online AND printed directory.

Chamber…if you pick up on this, which you probably will because there’s nothing else to do that is meaningful, be sure to drop ALL the other nonsensical, time-wasting activities in that tightly-woven chrysalis you hide behind. Stop trying to justify your existence by over-reaching. Fix the directory problem and do only that. Then and only then will you be worthy to continue. Otherwise…go AWAY!