Around this time of year, it’s common to see “lists” — typically “the best of”. But here is my list of people who bugged me in 2014:
1. Tony LaRussa (he will be on this annual list till I die, as a matter of principal)
2. Yadier Molina (see above)
3. Matt Holliday (ditto)
4. Anyone wearing St. Louis Cardinals apparel (this includes players and fans)
5. Former Vice President Dick Cheney
6. Oliver Stone
7 – 9. The writer, performer and producer of “It’s All About That Bass”
10. The companies mentioned in this techdirt.com article
Since my reasons for picks 1 – 9 are obvious, let’s discuss item 10. The companies listed in the article all contain provisions in their terms and conditions that purport to obligate customers to refrain “from taking any action that negatively impacts [the company’s] reputation.” In some cases, the terms say that the customer who violates the provision will be liable to “attorney fees and court costs.”
Think about the quoted words above. The two that are key are “any action.” So, let’s say you buy something from one of these companies. And let’s say that they screw up your order. And let’s say there is absolutely no doubt about that fact. And let’s say you complain about it to the local Better Business Bureau, or you post a review on Yelp detailing the undisputed facts. Guess what you’ve done? If you answered “breach the contract” you are correct. And therein lies the problem.
The terms and conditions contractually bind customers to silence in the face of legitimate complaints. Victims of false reviews have a remedy – a libel suit. But the key word there is “false.” These terms and conditions allow the companies to blow by that little inconvenience. So by definition the terms don’t address false reviews (since there’s already a remedy for those) instead, they seek to stifle the truth. And that is disgraceful.
Let’s hope courts that review any lawsuit seeking to enforce these onerous terms refuse to do so on public policy grounds. That is the only proper response.