Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is the Web today's court for business disputes?

Outing a bad supplier or a deadbeat debtor online is rapidly becoming the people's court for many b2b firms.

Take the online B2B dispute between organic marketing company CleanAirGardening and its former PR company Christie Communications.

Lars Hundley, Clean Air's owner, was so frustrated with Christie's work and execs' refusal to negotiate a refund or apologize that he went public, airing his grievances on
Since then, any search for Christie's on Google has brought up this result.

That's gotta make any PR company squirm with embarrassment.

Until recently, most commentators thought complaining online was exclusive to annoyed consumers. Not anymore.

Take a new site,, which is exposing customers and consumers who won't pay their bills, reports The Wall Street Journal. shames nonpaying customers and businesses by making them and their customers and friends aware of their lapsed accounts. You can see some of these alleged deadbeats here.

"Many of these businesses have already gone through the proper channels to collect their bills, even lawsuits, but are still unable to get paid, the Web site claims," reports WSJ's Raymund Flandez in "Web Site Lets Businesses Expose Deadbeat Customers."

One of the comments to the WSJ reveals how many execs are thinking.

Mary Bowling wrote: "A small restaurant in my town thumbtacks bad checks up on a bulletin board next to the cash register. The only way to get them to take it down is to redeem your bad check for cash. It’s a very effective tactic. I wonder if you could scan bad checks and post them on your website?"

Whether it is a company seeking to recover money, or a annoyed buyer trying to get a refund, the Web is becoming the first court of appeal for many companies. It is fast and cheap compared with the long and costly experience of taking another company to court.

In the case of CleanAirGardening, it didn't have to come to this. Managing difficult disputes is bread and butter work for PR companies like Christie's, isn't it?

Today Lars updated his sucks site, suggesting five ways that Christie's could settle the dispute.

The first is simple: Say sorry.

Lars writes:

"1. I will drop my claim for a refund and take down the web site if Gillian Christie will send me a signed, personal apology letter for the poor quality work that her firm provided to Clean Air Gardening.

2. I will drop my claim for a refund and take down the web site if Gillian Christie or Christie Communications makes a donation no later than November 30, 2008, totaling $10,000 to either one or both of these two charities. Project Healthy Children. Trees for the Future."

Here is the original post about the dispute, Wild Wild Web: Shoot Out at the Online Corral.

Posted by Internet Marketing Report Online editor Julie Power October 23.


1 comment:

Curtis said...

Amazing! As a developer of Live Chat Software I am fully aware that one bad press can have lasting implications.

Luckily, so far, our slate is clean.