Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne Spams Customers With Baloney

The meltdown of Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne seems to be accelerating.

The Retail Email blog reports that Byrne spammed customers yesterday with an email promoting the latest wack-a-doo, insult-filled rant on his personal blog. That was the one in which he blurted out that he was target of an SEC probe, contradicting previous statements.

Here's the email:

The blog, which follows email campaigns by Internet retailers, comments as follows:

In the past I’ve taken issue with CEO Patrick Byrne’s use of Overstock’s commercial email as a platform for his fight against Wall Street corruption (see Aug. 6, 2006 AM Inbox). I think it’s an unnecessary risk with limited upside, as it brings up issues that some customers may interpret negatively and that they would probably be ignorant of otherwise. In this email, it got a little more uncomfortable for me as a reader because Byrne incentivized subscribers to click through to the Overstock forum and read his rant against Wall Street by offering a 10% off discount at the end of his post. That just struck me as inappropriate.
That's for sure, and it makes me wonder if Byrne has violated Overstock's privacy policy by spamming his customers in this fashion. It says in pertinent part:

We may request your email address, or other information needed to contact you online. We use it to complete, support and analyze your purchases from Overstock.com and use of the Overstock.com web site, and to comply with any requirements of law. We use it to respond to any questions you might have and to provide you with information about specials occurring on the Overstock.com web site if you have chosen this service on the Account Login page. This information may be disclosed to our staff and to third parties involved in the completion of your transaction, the delivery of your order or the analysis and support of your use of the Overstock.com website.
"Contact you online" is not, and should not be, carte blanche to annoy customers with this type of crap. Nothing in the privacy policy says "we may use your email address to send you links to our CEO's latest nutty rant."

Byrne clearly is feeling the heat if he has to stoop to this kind of stunt. Let's hope the old saying is true in this instance: "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site, gary-weiss.com.

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