Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Blogger Rights and Responsibilities

I think of myself as a C-list blogger.  Sometimes I wander into B-list territory, but I'm largely unseen by the masses.  If I make it into the double digits on a post, it's pretty exciting.  I have two posts that made it into triple digits here - largely, I think, because they've caused disagreement and outrage.  One's about why I'm not fond of Eckhart Tolle - some commenters insist I'm just jealous of his success.   And the other is on why I don't like Regulation 274 and the way it was just added to the Education Act without discussion.  There, commenters are on both sides which makes for a better dialogue.  The rest of my posts have a limited audience.  

So I was floored when a company called to ask me to take down a blog post that's critical of them because it's adversely affecting their business.  I took it down and won't name them here just so they stop calling me to complain about my complaining!

Back in March, I wrote a rant about the company that installed my solar panels.  I had/have some serious concerns with the company:  They didn't return time-sensitive e-mails for weeks if at all, gave poor advice, sent unqualified people to do work that requires specific qualifications, quoted the wrong size to fit the space, and were not at all upfront about some concerns with my rooftop.

The sales rep who called said it's the only criticism they've ever had, and it shows up second on a google search of their company.  Well, clearly it's because it's the only online feedback they've ever had at all.  Nobody's writing rave reviews either.

But his rebuttal to many of my concerns was curious.

The solar company and roofing company couldn't get their act together.  They had both done this kind of work before in tandem with other companies, but somehow this was a bad fit.  The sales rep claims it's not fair to criticize their company without giving equal space to criticizing the roofing company as well.  This is like if two brothers are arguing, and the one flips out and trashes the room, then insists to mom that the other brother should be punished equally.  That's not even a great analogy because the one brother flipped out because of the other brother's superior debating skills, but, in this case, the concerns I have with the solar company have nothing at all to do with the roofers.

The weeping cypress right beside the house, that has my mother's ashes beneath it, has to have the top quarter lopped off at the eaves, which they neglected to tell me ahead of time, even though I specifically asked about it.  The sales rep said it's just like trimming a bonzai tree.  Whaa...??  The arborist that looked at it said it will definitely destroy the look of the tree.   These are not quite the same thing.
17-year-old tree top to be hacked off.

Bonsai - trimmed from the word go.
He said I wasn't e-mailed back for ages because they're really busy.  I don't think that's an excuse anyone should give.  Pretty much ever.  It's really just saying that other things have greater priority than the obligations you have to me.  They kept demanding I be understanding of their administrative problems instead of maybe apologizing for the delays, then ensuring the problem will be rectified.  It's unnerving to give $10,000 to a company, then not hear back from them for a month.  That just shows a profound lack of respect for the customer.
People at the sales rep's company are complaining to him because of my post, therefore, he says, I should remove it.  This is the argument that I've been most dwelling on.  If someone does something wrong, negligent at best, is it reasonable to ask people affected by the wrong-doing to keep it to themselves?  Everything I said is absolutely true, so it's not defamation or libel or slander.

If a company has some questionable practices,  do we have an right, or an obligation even, to call them on it publicly?  But if we do, to what extent will it weigh unfairly on one employee over the rest.  And what if it's a business that you want to see flourish for environmental reasons even though their customer relations skills suck?  And there's nothing they can really do for me to make my situation better.  It's over with.  They could promise to improve for the next guy, but that doesn't seem to be happening.  Instead they'd rather people just don't know about their flaws when they make an informed decision about which company to choose.  Is that enough of a problem to make public?

But then again is it censorship for a company to badger me to take down a post because it paints their company in a negative light?

A friend of mine who had solar panels installed with a different company didn't have any of these problems.  At all.  So it's not the nature of the industry.  It's just poor management of one company.

My daughter thinks I should re-post the offending post, but it feels unsavoury to do so.  They didn't cost me any money or permanent damage or any kind - just a few months of headaches and anxiety.  Is that enough for my little blog to slam them into the ground?  I'm still wavering on it.

The upshot of it all is this:  If I re-post it, I'm knowingly causing harm to the company.  But if I keep it down, I'm causing harm to the people who might go with this company and be annoyed by the same things.  And I believe the harm caused to the company would be more severe and lasting than the harm caused to potential customers.  So I'll keep it under wraps.

The whole thing is another reminder, for better or worse, of the effectiveness of personal blogs.  It often feels like I'm talking to a void, and it's a pleasant surprise to find out my words have some weight.  But the corollary of that, of course, is that we have to choose our words carefully and aim vitriol wisely.


The Mound of Sound said...

It's hard to imagine how a factually-based critique of a company is any different than a complaint to the Better Business Bureau, except that the BBB probably offers you a better chance of redress.

Furthermore, your blog allows comments so it's open to them to state their position or defend their actions if they like.

They should also explain whether it's really your post that is causing them to lose business or the manner in which they dealt with you.

BTW, how is the solar installation working out for you? I'm on the verge of going that route but I have to figure out how I want to roof my house first.

Marie Snyder said...

Yes, they certainly could have but their defence in the comments, but I think they know that it doesn't hold water.

So far, under Ontario's Micro-FIT program I'm making between $5-15 per day depending on the sun and that's with that tree shading it - so in the summer I'll likely average about $300 a month which is what they forecast. The sales rep told me it'll all be better once the cheques start coming in. It's true. I'm not nearly as annoyed now that it's over, and it all works. It was just a stressful interim. I still recommend the panels for sure.

Lorne said...

For what it's worth, Marie, I'm with Mound on this one. Assuming you said nothing defamatory or libelous in your post, I would repost it and offer the offending company a 'guest-post' spot to address your concerns.

Marie Snyder said...

I've sort of lost the fire with this one. It's now more a curiosity around the question of what responsibility do people have to post publicly. Is every random complaint useful to share? Will anyone benefit from the post being up - particularly if the troubles were isolated to my experience?

cheap rs gold said...

For which it really is worth, Marie, I am just using Pile with this 1. If you stated practically nothing defamatory or libelous within your post, I'd repost that and provide the problem organization any 'guest-post' destination to address your current issues.

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