It appears that the Totally Wicked / UK Vapers battle has concluded. UK Vapers placed an announcement on its front page today informing visitors that the site is to be no more. The lengthy piece explains the reasoning behind the closure, where the lion’s share of the blame goes not to TW, but to the forum owner’s (heartbreaking) personal issues.
Regarding the letter I received yesterday via email from the solicitor of Totally Wicked (a copy of which I’ve published here), I do not find the requests it contains to be unreasonable. Indeed, should ukvapers.com have opened again, I would have met them without problem. It is only the added strains that I’m currently under that prevent me from re-opening, as I do not wish to be in the position of having the possibility of legal action being taken against me again (whether by Totally Wicked or any other company or person). Were I planning to open ukvapers.com again, I would address these points individually. However I hope that the permanent closure (which was solely my decision), also serves to fully address all complaints within the letter and that this brings to a close any dispute between myself and Totally Wicked.
I can certainly appreciate this incident being the straw that broke the camel’s back as opposed to the reason behind the closure. In addition, I think that petty name calling should be moderated. While the internet is full of personal attacks aimed and specific people, I find them reprehensible.
However, I firmly disagree that being critical, or even disparaging of a company or product does not fall under that umbrella. I understand how a company owner can feel a personal connection to their products and company. However, saying a product sucks, even without firsthand experience with the product is not a personal attack, it is an opinion. It might be an uninformed or callous opinion, but it is an opinion about an inanimate object, not a person.
Finally, a word about CEOs behaving badly. This isn’t necessarily aimed at Totally Wicked. I’ve seen several business owners do things like this and I generally don’t mention it. It happens.
It shouldn’t happen.
Maybe its a small business thing, I don’t know. A lot of these companies were started by one person in their basement and within a few years are multi-million dollar interests. The owners think they can be the same person they were before. The truth is, they can’t be that same person.
Like it or not, the rules have changed. You now speak for your entire company and every employee. What you say online, even under a personal account is your company’s public appearance. You no longer have an individual identity.
Sometimes that works and you get a sort of quirky and entertaining personality. Other times, not so much.
I know it’s no fun to see your work dismissed with useful criticism like “fail” or “this sucks” but reacting in a negative way does not help. It’s very possible that your customers or future customers may see only part of the conversation, or hear about it second-hand.
Next thing you know, all you have is a reputation for being a hot head, and your customers are questioning if they would like to do business with you.
It does not matter how right you were in the first place. And once you say something regrettable, you cannot take it back, the internet remembers. Forever.
If you attempt to quash negative comments, you will only amplify them. It’s called the Streisand Effect.
That is very damaging to a company’s reputation. And since you spent so much time building that in the first place, you know just how hard it is to get that back.
There are some great business articles out there on how to react to these sort of people. Positive interaction will make you and your company look so much better.
It might even be a good idea to bring in a PR or social media specialist and let them do the talking so you can focus on running the business instead of slinging mud on the internet.