John I think you need to check your filters.
I see lots of advice or more correctly, lots of questions to get the newb thinking.
After theyve narrowed down their requirements a little, even with more refinement needed, they are directed to a sponsor.
I agree that sponsor can be the one the respondent has dealt with, but that is natural and also not a third party endorsement (which would be more like what you are percieving).
I bought my equipment from Chris at Talk Coffee; at that time there were not any Sydney based sponsors.
Since then Ive come to know some of my local sponsors very well and have no problem encouraging people to check them out, but I still praise the service I received from Chris.
I think what your seeing is a result of the excellent service given by the CS sponsors.
Would you rather they were not a cut above other suppliers?
If they were average, Im fairly sure there would be more of the "sponsors are on the left" only response.
I dont go in to bat for Chris because he doesnt need any help.
To finish off my response to you I decided to check the most recently active thread about advice regarding a new machine.
Being an auditor I figured that would me my random sample.
Admittedly the OP had already narrowed down his choice already somewhat.
Have a read (link below) and youll see that Chris gave the first response (as himself not with his sponsor hat on).
He directed the OP to use the "contact all sponsors" email address.
That was the perfect opportunity for self promotion, as the poster was in Melbourne, but he didnt self promote, he promoted all sponsors.
Wanting to buy Isomac Tea or similar