Between Stupidity And Gigantic Stupidity: A Fine Line

by , Dec 2, 2013, 7:08 AM
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Hahahahahaha!

Schadenfreude is not the most attractive human emotion, but it sure is fun. So too, klearly, is poetic justice.

By now you're aware that the online retailer KlearGear, angry at having its good name impugned, lashed out at a pair of dissatisfied customers who had flamed the company following a bad consumer experience. First KlearGear levied a $3500 “fine” against the Utah couple for supposed disparagement. Then, when Jen and John Palmer disputed the charge and declined to pay up, KlearGear evidently reported them to major credit agencies -- with the obvious consequences to the Palmers' creditworthiness.

Now, as reported in MediaPost and elsewhere, the company is under siege -- facing litigation itself and much, much worse.

This is a mystifying case. For starters, the disparagement clause, which for some period of time was buried in the fine print of KlearGear's terms of service, apparently was not buried there when the Palmers originally complained about crappy order fulfillment. There is also the larger question of just how responsible any of us should be for onerous penalties -- or any other clause -- embedded in TOS agreements -- which, of course, no human soul has ever read before clicking on in the history of the Internet.

But let's put the legalities of this aside, shall we? Let's instead focus on the single salient fact:

From this point forward, due to nothing but its own arrogance, vanity, pettiness and manifest corporate stupidity, KlearGear is synonymous with douchebaggery. Permit me to repeat a fragment of that thought as a stand-alone paragraph, to give search engines a better look at it.

“KlearGear is synonymous with douchebaggery.”

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Disparage that, KlearGear. How do you like your reputation-management program now? Related question: how do you like your Twitter traffic?

@figbuckindeal Kleargear sucks!

@Cajsa I think we should all disparage #KlearGear in solidarity.

@TimCGriffith Boycott #KlearGear.

@HankMiller Hey Klear Gear, are you the schmucks referred to in this article?

@EasyLogan avoid shopping at Kleargear.com

@CaptainHeck Boycott Kleargear.com pass it on MT

Now let's look at this situation from a perspective most charitable to KlearGear. Mind you, none of the facts reported to date support this interpretation of events, but let’s just imagine that the company -- for whatever reason -- believed the Utah couple to be a couple of malicious loudmouths who failed to go through regular customer-service channels before resorting to RipoffReport.com. 

No -- scratch that. Let's make it worse. Say KlearGear suspected that the Palmers were employees of a competing e-tailer. Oh, what the hell. Let's say KlearGear believed that Jen and John don't even exist, but are mere Chinese sockpuppets  working for the People's Liberation Army in a sinister conspiracy to undermine the U.S. economy by shaming vendors of zombie t-shirts and robotic scalp massagers. Here's what the company should have done:

Suck it up.

Yes -- it should try to give Jen and John customer satisfaction, and work on its CRM capabilities to minimize the number of future Jens and Johns. But even if they were demonstrably in the wrong, just chalk it up to isolated unfairness and move on.

Here's what KlearGear should not have done: try to bully them into submission. Because, duh -- there was zero to be gained and everything to lose.

In the social-media age, nobody -- not e-tailers, not governments, not Vaticans -- can suppress speech without backlash exponentially more damaging than the offending speech itself. In the long run, this will be the ruination of the regimes ruling North Korea, Iran and China. In the short run, it will be the ruination of KlearGear.

That, of course, is blindingly obvious to absolutely everyone who reads about this fiasco, including a pretty big chunk of the Twittersphere.

@DannyAntwi ? How did nobody think this would backfire?

It’s a great question. As for the answer, that is just bizarrely unKlear.

10 comments on "Between Stupidity And Gigantic Stupidity: A Fine Line".

  1. Jeremy Colton from bookwomanny
    commented on: December 2, 2013 at 8:39 a.m.
    So I went to their website to see who these fools are, and the message they choose to highlight is a brag about how they have so much business that they can't ship your order on time.
  2. Tibor Weiss from Consultant
    commented on: December 2, 2013 at 11:32 a.m.
    Right on. You nailed it But, from the "stupidity" point of view. Many contracts have similar--and, generally unenforceable--clauses, hidden in the fine print. Of course, they violate the basic tenet of free speech. Two big caveats: 1.The complaint must be accurate or it's subject to libel. 2. The offending corporation can still sue and tie up the complainant in a lot of hassle. Caveat emptor
  3. Ronald Stack from Zavee LLC
    commented on: December 2, 2013 at 12:44 p.m.
    A "teachable moment", I hope. I also hope that "KlearGear" doesn't become a verb to describe bullying consumers over negative reviews. It happens often enough, and KG doesn't deserve the bump in awareness.
  4. Chris Nunes from Nunya Biz
    commented on: December 2, 2013 at 1:38 p.m.
    So their "Customer Service Center" (Zendesk) is offline, as is their "Order Status" lookup. The only way listed to contact this company is via their 800 number at (866) 598-4296. I say everyone leave them a 4 minute comment on their voicemail. Please call from Nigeria or Tibet if possible. My personal TOS when it comes to this comment are that people may reply in the section below, but if KlearGear attempts to comment back, then they owe me $2000 in store credit on Amazon because 1) reading their reply will constitute billable hours, 2) filling out court forms over their reply will cost me more money, and 3) there's no way I'd ever order from their site, so Amazon is the reasonable alternative.
  5. Michael Vrh from enabledware
    commented on: December 2, 2013 at 3:09 p.m.
    Remarkable attitude for any company to take; attack your customers! Really? Go out of business KG. Good Riddance.
  6. Bill Burnett from Stretch Media
    commented on: December 2, 2013 at 4:07 p.m.
    RipoffReport is a horrible distortion of what the Internet is supposed to be about. It is a mean-spirited defamation central where anyone can write anything about you our your company and it will never be taken down. I agree with many of your points but wish you would not tout the value of RipoffReport. Consumer Reports it ain't.
  7. Andrew Boer from MovableMedia
    commented on: December 2, 2013 at 6:57 p.m.
    A fake TRUSTe logo on KlearGear btw. I hope they go after them.
  8. Jeremy Colton from bookwomanny
    commented on: December 2, 2013 at 11:38 p.m.
    Bill Burnett from Stretch Media: "RipoffReport is a horrible distortion of what the Internet is supposed to be about..." The Internet is supposed to be about something?
  9. Chintamani Rao from Independent Marketing and Media Consultant
    commented on: December 3, 2013 at 3:01 a.m.
    KlearGear are in good company. Remember how in 2010 the hallowed Procter & Gamble reacted to mothers who complained about Pampers Dry max diapers? In an interview with Bloomberg a P&G spokesman said the whole thing was as storm in a teacup, as the company had received “one rash complaint for every 5 million Dry Max diapers sold". “We’re insulted that someone would imply that our products are dangerous,” he went on to say!
  10. Bill Burnett from Stretch Media
    commented on: December 3, 2013 at 2 p.m.
    Yes, Jeremy Colton from bookwomanny, the Internet has the unique value of offering a voice to everyone. That didn't used to exist. Today, anyone can blog, anyone can upload a video, or express an opinion, or seek relief if they are cheated. But a site that allows charges to be leveled without corroboration and does not allow them to be retracted, even if the plaintiff wants them removed, is in opposition to the Internet's spirit of empowerment.

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