Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

In The Wide Open Web Everyone’s Watching

As I wrote in my contribution to The Project 100, “we all have a role to play in the community.” It’s true we do. While it’s easy to jump all over a company’s mistake on the web, we also need to realize that un-constructive criticism and carrying pitch forks are not productive roles. But, too often like sharks that smell blood in the water, we hunt down the victim du jour and tear them apart. I’ve seen it happen so many times, with my favorite example being the Motrin Moms fiasco.

Well this weekend I got to watch another insane situation play out.  Rather than try and describe it, I’ll let you read the actual exchange between a Best Buy Customer and Barry Judge the CMO of Best Buy.

So let’s break this down and try to keep a level head:

  1. Barry is pretty well invested in the social space.  He has his own blog and openly tweets and interacts with colleagues, customers, etc.  For the most part he’s a shining example of why more C-level executives need to be engaging on platforms like twitter.
  2. Doug is more than a customer; he’s a pretty savvy guy who knows the power of social media.  That’s why he contacted Barry directly.
  3. Doug’s initial tweet could have been tempered to something like “Had an interesting recent situation with Best Buy. Online prices aren’t the same as in store.  Is that by design?”
  4. Barry clearly was irritated, but could have defused the situation by saying something to the effect of “140 characters is too short to discuss business rationale for this approach. will acknowledge in an upcoming blog post.”  Ideally, Barry would have gotten on the phone with Doug, but I’ have a better chance of hitting lotto than that happening.
  5. Barry goes on the defensive and reads into “tone.”  That’s a cardinal sin on the web.  Tone is the one thing you try to avoid getting wrapped up in because it’s nearly impossible to read it correctly.  My general rule of thumb is to assume positive intent.  Barry clearly wasn’t doing that.
  6. Where the situation gets funny and sad is after Barry realizes Doug not only knows retail, but knows Best Buy’s category inside and out.  So rather than engage with a worthy “adversary” Barry decides to get off one last zinger and then abandon the conversation.  I wonder if this is what happens in real meetings at Best Buy.

Regardless of who you think was right, the real take away here is that everything on the internet is viewable and shareable.  Assume that everyone is watching your every move.

I’m sure others will go all hyperbole and look at this as a lightening rod  for how bad Best Buy’s customer service (I mean obviously even the CMO doesn’t get it) and how Barry doesn’t get social media.  Others will go way off the deep end and demand a formal apology from Barry; guess what?  That’s not going to happen either.

As for me, I see this as a blip on the radar and nothing more.  Maybe Barry was having a bad day.  We’ve all had them.  Was he in the wrong on this one?  You bet.  Has he been wrong before?  Yes, absolutely.  Have I had first hand experience of him being less than “social” with me?  Definitely.  But, I have to say, his continued contributions in this space far outweigh (for now) his mistakes.  The web is a fickle place.  One minute you’re a hero and the next a villain.  While Barry Judge generally gets to play the role of hero, he was no doubt the villain in this situation.

As a side note….I think Doug is 100% in the right regarding pricing.  If you’re a click and mortar operation like Best Buy, the price should be the same online and in store for every product.  Even if you argue that e-commerce and traditional retail are different business models, the fact you can order online and pick up in store at the reduced price proves (in my mind) that Best Buy was most definitely in the wrong with their approach.