KlearGear, a sort of ThinkGeek for folks who don’t value good web design, is in trouble. The company recently rose to prominence when they charged a customer $3,500 for posting mean social media commentary. After unleashing the righteous anger of the Internet the company has protected its Twitter account and closed its Facebook page [which is now some sort of privately-created page] in response to repeated snark attacks.
How bad was the whole thing? Well, KlearGear really screwed up. The story begins when Jen Palmer of Salt Lake City whose husband ordered some junk for Christmas three years ago. The stuff never arrived and Paypal closed the order but Palmer wrote a scathing review on RipoffReport, a complaint site. Three years later the company contacted her husband and asked for $3,500, citing a disparagement clause that wasn’t actually in the terms of service three years ago. The terms, obviously, were egregious:
In an effort to ensure fair and honest public feedback, and to prevent the publishing of libelous content in any form, your acceptance of this sales contract prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts KlearGear.com, its reputation, products, services, management or employees.
Should you violate this clause, as determined by KlearGear.com in its sole discretion, you will be provided a seventy-two (72) hour opportunity to retract the content in question. If the content remains, in whole or in part, you will immediately be billed $3,500.00 USD for legal fees and court costs until such complete costs are determined in litigation. Should these charges remain unpaid for 30 calendar days from the billing date, your unpaid invoice will be forwarded to our third party collection firm and will be reported to consumer credit reporting agencies until paid.
That’s right – they’ll hold your credit history hostage if you say mean things on Twitter. As Popehat notes this is fraud.
This is pretty damning for a company that has a revenue of $47 million catering to an audience of cubicle dwellers and, presumably, Internet users. Like GoDaddy before them, social media behavior in the face of negative press can make or break a company. By retreating the company has essentially destroyed its own Internet reputation and, in honesty, I’m glad. These sorts of stories – company gets burned for being mean – are short-lived but important and each instance is a white paper in itself on how not to do business. In short, when you’re cornered apologize and make it right instead of committing business suicide.