TYR Tactical

U.S. Elite – PC-Run-Wild in Silicon Valley – You Call That a Knife?!?

PC Run Wild

Steve Keefer, CEO of U.S. Elite, recently wrote a blog post detailing how several Silicon Valley companies, including Google and PayPal, have negatively impacted U.S. Elite’s web presence by denying advertising and payment services due to their sale of knives. The opening paragraph can be read below:

This is one man’s perspective on what I’ll call ‘PC-run-wild’ in Silicon Valley. My company has had to stop selling knives, which were an important part of our business. This did not happen because we’re bad at selling knives, or violated any laws, or acted in any way less than the high standards to which we hold ourselves. Simply put, it seems the powers that be in Silicon Valley have decided that small businesses should not be selling knives online. As a mini-David against Goliaths like Google, Facebook, Twitter and PayPal, I don’t have a lot of rational options other than to just vent and share my story with you.

You can read the rest of the post at blog.us-elitegear.com/blog/2015/10/1/forced-out-of-the-knife-business-pc-run-wild-in-silicon-valley.


36 Responses to “U.S. Elite – PC-Run-Wild in Silicon Valley – You Call That a Knife?!?”

  1. Sounds familiar we had Google and FB do the same thing to our advertising as well several years ago. But we kept our Knives.

  2. Dellis says:

    Uhm…just move your base of operations to a more “friendly” business atmosphere.

    Screw these PC “I’m offended at all things American” dickslots. I’m offended that they breath the air around me and fart with their mouths drivel that’s killing America.

  3. Jon, OPT says:

    Wells Fargo will not provide credit card processing services to us because we sell knives. The assclownery is very real.

    Jon, OPT

    • 11B says:

      Are you friggin serious? A couple months ago I used a knife to stop from getting mugged (the guy had a pistol, but the mag was out…idiot). I’d say a knife is a pretty good tool to have. Oh, and it opens boxes too- think of all the innocent little boxes that I’ve murdered in cold blood…

      • Jon, OPT says:

        Of 1200+ products I sell less than 10 blades, and very few sales at that, it’s their loss. PayPal restricts our use of it for specific sales, that we can live with, though not at all fan of the policy.

        • Steve says:

          Jon, after a week of being shut down with PayPal (and having to scramble to make payroll!), I finally had a conversation with a real live, apparently reasonable and rational PayPal person. After 5 minutes we came to a solution, that we would just say in big bold red letters that we’re unable to accept PayPal for certain knives. And we honor that. End of story.

  4. Mike Nomad says:

    This is… wow. How… Um. Right.

    A bunch of datamining adsleaze, any thing that can be fucked up by relying on a computer can be un-fucked by relying on a computer.

  5. Jim says:

    Google Operation ChokePoint and start reading. Prepare yourself to be pissed off. The federal government has been pressuring payment processors, i.e. banks, credit card processors, paypal, etc… to stop providing and deny new accounts and services to business entities that the government decides are undesirable. Pawn shops, Check Cashing businesses, title pawn, gun stores, knife stores, etc… are all legal businesses but the federal government hates them and wants to shut them down.

    How this has been allowed to continue is beyond my understanding. As far as I know no one has attempted suing the financial institutions or the federal government over this. Welcome to Post-Rule of Law America. Land of the Free as long as you go along with the Powers That Be.

    • Mick says:

      Well, if Google is part of the problem, maybe they should use a different search engine to read about Operation Chokepoint…

      Those services must exist out there somewhere… there’s plenty of other “undesirable” businesses that do banking and move money, etc. How do porn studios and marijuana dispensaries do it?

      • Mike Nomad says:

        Exactly the point. The easy part is going around Google: They are not the only search engine, they just act like it.

        If there are enough pissed on/off businesses that would band together, they can simple carve out their own market space. I think Word-Of-Mouth, combined with a little print space would get things going. Past that point, Tor/Onion routing is your friend. Someone doesn’t want to process your ETF, fine. That’s what BitCoin, Cashier’s Checks and Money Orders are for. Yes, learning curve for the former, and Not High Speed for the latter.

  6. Don says:

    talk about BS,, I bet REI doesn’t have that problem…

    • NP says:

      They do. But they don’t bitch and moan about it.

      • Larry says:

        “bitch and moan”

        Really? Are you commenting from your home in China where you have no rights and this is normal?

        Google sucks your data down every day and sells it to the highest bidder. Now they are telling use what legal items we can or can not sell legally?

        • NP says:

          You must not have read the blog post or have no understanding of what U.S. Elite is complaining about…. Also, your statements are contradictory.

          U.S. Elite was attempting to be the ‘highest bidder’ but was denied. If they WERE the ‘highest bidder’ and were allowed to advertise, they would be advertising to YOU, someone interested in their product (which was made possible by using your information).

          If you don’t like having your data help companies like U.S. Elite, don’t use Google.

  7. BAP45 says:

    Ok so it sounds dumb but a lot of times you can bypass these things by changing wording around. They usually have a program that just triggers on words, so if your categories or wording for knives is “tools” or “cutting implements” that can let you slip through their net.

    But yeah, this is total B.S. Good luck

    • Steve says:

      Thanks BAP45! Yessir they use crawlers that pick up *contraband* or *dangerous* language ;).

  8. Chuck says:

    It’s pretty clear at this point that Google is totally devoted to the government business welfare model. I personally need to get off their services but it’s tough when their services are more or less a part of our society now. At the beginning of the year when the FCC more or less rules in their favor on “net neutrality” you could see the end coming. Big steps toward censorship here. Soon enough we will all pay our internet bill to the DNC.

    • Chuck says:

      I said more or less too many times, but you get the idea.

    • Washington says:

      “At the beginning of the year when the FCC more or less rules in their favor on ‘net neutrality’ you could see the end coming”


      anyone who isn’t comfortable with something anyone else does = politically correct

      the word means literally nothing at this point because you idiots use it for any one expressing a viewpoint you don’t agree with.

    • bluenoser says:

      You do not understand net neutrality.

  9. mark says:

    This is essentially an economic / digital blockade against small businesses with divergent ideologies.

    The best way to fight back would be a newspaper OP-ED on the subject with multiple case studies. Shady behavior is best fought in the light of day, and even major businesses are responsive to newspaper coverage.

  10. Historia says:

    Could a solution to go back to mail order catalog? I know the internet is better but I would buy next knife from you on principle.

  11. NP says:

    There is a complete lack of understanding going on here.

    Just because a company can’t advertise knives, doesn’t prohibit them from advertising other items. Also, there are multiple channels of online advertising that allow knives (most are better due to targeted demographics). The bottom line is this: Instead of complaining about rules and victimizing your company, re-evaluate your online sales/marketing strategy. Be more clever with how items are presented, marketed, and upsold. These rules aren’t new and many companies have successfully conducted business for years under them.

    • Larry says:

      Do you work in the advertising business?

      • NP says:

        Yep. I’ve worked with multiple companies in the tactical/shooting/outdoor industries.

        • Steve says:

          NP, love to hear your advice on how to solve this! Just to clarify, Google restricted ALL ads, if there are ANY knives on our site – even if we are not advertising said knives – because the mere fact we have knives on our site is a violation of Google’s ‘Dangerous Products or Services policy’. (btw I put caps not to scream, but to emphasize the point;)) I’d love to hear from you, I’m all about positive solutions instead of bitching and moaning 🙂

          • NP says:

            It shouldn’t have been because there were ANY knives: “if your site is LARGELY dedicated to dangerous knives or similar content, you won’t be able to advertise with us.” (emphasis added). Google employees don’t look too deep when reviewing sites – If knives were a prominent feature of your home page, they might have suspended your AdWords account. Honestly, I think you might have gotten flagged from knives featured on landing pages. Check to see how your CMS (looks like Magento) handles the ecommerce upsells or features.

            Here are some thoughts and potential solutions:

            1. Tactfully position knives on your site:
            Look at current analytics and sales data. What percentage of your site traffic is spent on knife related pages? How much incoming traffic is generated though knife related pages? How much revenue is generated through knife sales? What is the standard visitor flow? What is the visitor flow for conversions? From there…

            Run split tests (A/B testing). How does the prominence of knives affect knife sales? Does it affect sales of other products? Where do the best upsells occur? And then…

            Find the right balance and repeat. (The right balance will have to take into consideration Google’s policies – don’t oversaturate certain pages with knifes and you should be good)

            2. Use the right language in the right location.
            Content for Twitter is different than that of Instagram, which is different than blogs, which is different from forums, which is different from print ads. Yet they’re all intertwined. Selecting the right content to advertise through the right channel is a tricky task, but can yield great results if done properly. Knives might be better marketed on Instagram (#EDC is a popular hashtag).

            3. Double check site content
            I noticed a few remarketing tags on the site – this is great (I’m a HUGE proponent of re-targeting). However, make sure they aren’t including anything knife related. Also, if you’re using a Magento plugin for AdWords or remarketing, look into how it is integrated with a site as a whole.

            4. Sell knives through affiliate channels
            Amazon is allowed to sell and promote knives through Google. Piggyback on Amazon’s privilege by selling on Amazon (or Wayfair, Overstock, etc.).

            Hope this helped a bit – if you want to discuss more, shoot me your email.

            • Steve says:

              Thanks a lot NP! I’ll noodle it and pow-wow with our Marketing Manager. Really appreciate your taking the time to share that :).

              • NP says:

                No problem. I hope you guys get everything worked out.
                Let me know if I can help in any way.

  12. 11B says:

    WAIT wait wait…. what about Amazon?! I’ve purchased nearly all my knives, even a lo-pro gasblock, from them and they continue to sell such ‘nefarious’ goods. In addition, I get Google AdSense ads for Amazon knives all the time when I have adblock off, maybe even on Facebook. Amazon is the epitome of Silicon Valley- what’s going on here?

    • Steve says:

      From one Grunt to another 11B: that’s my point. Somehow Amazon is able to do stuff with Google that we’re explicitly banned from. I have no proof of this but I suspect it might be all about the Benjamins – there’s just a lot more $ available from Amazon than from U.S. Elite and the other small like-minded businesses out there.

  13. T says:

    All I get are ads from companies that sell knives, among other products. All size companies too, from local stores to Amazon. Either he pissed someone off or isn’t going about it correctly.

    • Steve says:

      T, are you saying you’re getting Google Ads with knives? Or are you referring to emails or other forms of marketing?

      • T says:

        Google ads are a big part of it. IIRC, I think I have gotten ads directly relating to knives, but that was a while ago, so don’t rely on that. NP and others have it down. Best of luck.

        • T says:

          To clarify, recently I have not gotten any with say a knife in the ad, however, I know for a fact most of not all of these companies sell more than a few knives, and I’m getting their ads.