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?
@EasyLoganavoid 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.