Mini-Interview with Rod from CigarPass.com

When I first started smoking cigars I went online and searched for forums and other resources to find out more info about them. The first place I ever landed was CigarPass. I was impressed as to how long it had been around and liked the simple look as well as the community attitude. Rod is very open and friendly to questions and queries (although often busy since he’s the site main coder and all-around geek).

The serious questions

1. Has the growth the forum gone as expected or did it exceed your expectations?

To be honest, the growth of the forum is not quite what I expected 10 years ago. CigarPass was intended to be just that, a site where cigar lovers could come to trade and pass cigars. I quickly realized that you cannot host a trading site without the community atmosphere; that’s where the full fledged forum quickly came in. I started out with just a couple of forum categories, and slowly expanded to include The Lobby, Cuban Cigar Talk, BST, Beer/Wine/Liquor, etc. I’ve always been very cautious when adding new categories, as I don’t want CP to become just another online forum. So, back to your question… I did not expect CP to someday become the most trafficked cigar community; however I am very proud that this happened. CP has truly exceeded my expectations in many ways, most particularly the friends I have made here, and the many friendships that I have seen created throughout the world. Truly an amazing feeling to see something so small flourish into what it is today.

2. Has anything gone not so quite as expected?

Where to begin… I never imagined that running aweb site would be so demanding. CigarPass was initially launched to be a trading platform, however I quickly realized there are scammers everywhere, and in order for the site to be successful, a true sense of community had to be developed.The community developed better than I expected, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been part of online “communities” since the early 90’s, and never have I seen a true sense of community/family like CP. Of course there are trying times… Occasionally there are member disagreements – these are usually the toughest to handle when it involves older/more tenured members. It’s never easy having to step in to resolve a situation, as sometimes it means friendships will be hindered.

3. What do you think the future of online cigar forums will be? Will we see a future with more consolidation, commercialization or more home-grown, grass roots growth?

Good question. Back in the late 90’s, when I first joined the online cigar world, there were only about three forums, all of which were quite popular in their own way. CP launched in 2000, and then around 2003-2005 I began seeing many home-grown cigar communities popping up all over the place. As you know, there was quite a consolidation/buy-out last year which I refused to be part of. My personal feeling is that the forums that were recently purchased and bundled together will soon be sold. I personally believe that cigar smokers are a rare and unique breed. They truly want the family/community atmosphere, rather than the typical internet user group feel.

There are two types of online cigar forums: 1.) the commercial forum which is flooded with ads and the only purpose is to make money, and 2.) the community driven forum where it’s a true hobby. Sites will always be sold and purchased, however my plans are to keep CP privately run with the community in focus at all times. To answer your question, I think we’ll continue to see both commercialized cigar forums and also true cigar communities.

4. Is there any intent to start membership fees?

Starting a membership fee would take away from the community-sense of the site, and turn it into a commercial site. It would also make some people feel they’re entitled to act as they choose, simply because they purchased a membership; this would create some real issues. I have no plans of instating membership fees. I will continue to help offset operating costs by selling banner ads to reputable cigar company’s.

5. Do you think that the SCHIP tax and/or the recent moving of tobacco to the FDA will reduce cigar smoking in general? What will it mean for a forum like this?

While I disagree with SCHIP and how the money is being spent, I doubt it will have any major effects on the general cigar community. It looks like most manufactures have reduced their prices in order to offset the negative effects SCHIP would have created. While it’s not a major tax (at least when purchasing boxes of premium cigars), it is a tax and it will continue to increase. This of course will hinder the cigar business as a whole down the road. I will say that SCHIP will certainly hurt B&M’s;some people will mostly begin purchasing their cigars from over-seas. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to get political otherwise it may get ugly.

Not so serious/more fun questions (can be answered tongue-in-cheek):

1. Favourite smokes?

Panacea Red Label, Partagas Shorts, RASS, San Cristobal, Cohiba Magicos, any and all Padrons!

2. Not so favourite smokes?

When I first started smoking cigars (about 10 years ago) I purchased a box of cheap cigars called Middletons. I’ll never forget these cigars… I almost puked, they tasted like what I would imagine manure to taste like. Never have I smoked something so acrid and awful. I learned my lesson, don’t smoke cheap gas station cigars.

3. What was the best cigar bomb you did (if you’ll admit to it ) (note: not about size but impact or result)

This may sound corny, but each and every bomb I have received over the years has been the best… It’s amazing people you hardly know, or don’t know at all will send you cigars out of the blue. If I had to choose, I’d say one of thebest bombs I can receive is when someone sends me something home made; cigar related or non-cigar related.

4. Favourite celebrity cigar smoker(s)?

Cosmo Kramer, aka Michael Richards. By far one of my favorite actors. George Burns is another one of my favorites. The man smoked something like 10 cigars aday and lived to be 100!

5. How many cigars in a day/week/month? Is thereever a time when it’s been too much or too little?

Typically I smoke most in the summer. With a busy schedule, I’m lucky if I can get one cigar in per day. On the weekends I indulge a bit more.

6. Best movie to watch while having a cigar.

I don’t thinkI’ve ever really smoked a cigar while watching a movie. Living in Southern California, my favorite time to smoke is amongst other CPers. If I’m alone, then in the backyard with music playing and my favorite beverage…Vodka Soda’s!

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