Wal-Mart Can't Decide If The Web Is A Lawsuit Target Or A Marketing Opportunity

from the thanksgiving-tradition dept

This is becoming something of an annual ritual. Every year, websites obtain leaked copies of retail stores' day-after-thanksgiving sales circulators and post the prices. Every year, retail stores sue those websites claiming they're guilty of copyright infringement. And every year, Techdirt points out that prices are facts, and facts can't be copyrighted. The New York Times had a good write-up of the controversy. The offenders this year are Wal-Mart and Macy's both of whom have sent threatening letters to a site called BFAds warning them not to post information from their ads. The Times story has a couple of interesting tidbits. When confronted by the reporter, Wal-Mart couldn't provide a specific explanation of what was illegal about posting prices. We also learn that at the same time Wal-Mart is sending BFAds threatening letters, it's perfectly willing to send them money as part of its "affiliates program." You would think that the operators of BFAds would take a stand and refuse to do business with them until they retract their lawsuit threat. Meanwhile, a story in USA Today suggests that Wal-Mart might be realizing that the web is an important part of its marketing strategy and not just a place to send cease-and-desist letters. They've started offering special online sale prices for Black Friday, and they offer free shipping to customers who choose to have the purchases sent to their local Wal-Mart store. Maybe next year Wal-Mart should spend less time looking for people to sue and more time looking for ways to attract customers online.

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Companies: wal-mart

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Comments on “Wal-Mart Can't Decide If The Web Is A Lawsuit Target Or A Marketing Opportunity”

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Craig (profile) says:

Why refuse to do business?

I understand your point about BFAds being simultaneously spanked and stroked by Wal-Mart, but why should they refuse to do business with them because of this? Without the controversy, I would have never heard about BFAds! This kind of thing is a publicists’ wet dream! Free advertising for both, and probably a marked increase in traffic to BFAds as a result!

Hmm…maybe Wal-Mart and BFAds actually staged this whole thing…

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe Walmart does have it figured out

By threatening a lawsuit, Walmart is getting even more publicity and sending more people to the BVAds web site. This type of thing is often pointed out suggesting that by taking legal action companies raise more awareness of something they want to hide. Well, Walmart wants as many people spending money in their stores as possible, so I think this lawsuit may be the equivalent of an intentional leak of a news story. It is simply a new way of advertising. BVAds may even be in on it since they do business together.

Kevin says:


One of the other Black Friday sites (blackfriday.info) actually pulled down their Best Buy listings – too bad they didn’t fight it, because I’ve got a big fat Best Buy gift card that I was ready to use Friday, and now I won’t, because I’m not fighting the crowds unless I have a specific purchase in mind.

It’s a gift card, so Best Buy already has the money. They don’t care if you come on Friday or not. In fact, they probably would prefer that you didn’t, because if you don’t come on Friday then you’re probably getting less for your money than you could be, which means that they’re making higher margins than they would if you used that gift card on a Black Friday “doorbuster”.

Mooch says:

Please be careful dismounting from your high horse

Exactly how does one story have anything to do with the other story? Based on what I read, WalMart isn’t suing “The Web”. They are sending cease and desists to BFads (which, btw isnt really the same as suing…but I’m sure your knew that). Looking through the BFads site I find that the links for the pictures of the product appear to be scanned in, possibly from the walmart circular. If that is the case then there is a possible copyright infringement. So whats the point, Tim?

Hey something else I just noticed. What the heck do either of these stories have to do with Tech?

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

Funny thing

BFAds has links on certain items from Wal*Mart that take you directly to the Wal*Mart buy it now for the Black Friday price. The link even has the tag that it was from BFAds. I call this an advertising scam brought to you by Wal*Mart and BFAds.com. All the while the other stores don’t get the direct links and Wal*Mart’s buddies at BFAds get their name thrown out there.

Max Powers (user link) says:

Publicity Stunt

Wal-Mart releases this lawsuit information to the press release sites which I monitor everyday. Some of these press releases by company’s are ridiculous and are obviously attempts to bring free publicity to their company.

Of course another press release stated today that some gay rights group wants people to not shop at Wal-Mart because they do not offer health benefits to those that have “partners” instead of spouses.

What’s next? Press releases to notify the public that the CEO of a company picked his nose but everything is O.K.?

mb says:

I just say celebrate Festivus in July. I mean, less black eyes on Fridays. Copyrights, funny things. Whether circulars are scanned or not they are provided via a ‘free’ medium and publicly distributed. If someone knows how to scale them out, good for them. The root of the problem is the insider trafficking of this info. I’d wonder publicity aside, if this isn’t more of the ‘insider information’ argument. All it does is stimulate more public interest and steers consumers to the raucus. I wonder if societies outside the western money centric mentality struggle with similar pathetic problems? I’m grasping for the ‘tech’ centric spin of the initial article/rant myself.

TX CHL Instructor (profile) says:

Too bad that BFAds...

Too bad I couldn’t reach any of the links on BFAds. Seems the crapware list in my hosts file blocks all of them.

“Black Friday” (much like Christmas) is basically a pain in the ass, anyway. I had been ignoring it in the past, but I got a notice from Fry’s about some things I thought I might like to buy at pretty good prices, so I actually went out there at 5:00 this morning. I was expecting maybe a couple of hundred die-hard shoppers to be waiting at the door, and I was planning to just park in the far part of the lot and wait in my truck for the line to get in.


I was off by about two orders of magnitude. Not a parking spot within a quarter-mile (not even any illegal ones left).

I’m somewhat embarrassed that I factored myself in with the epsilon-minuses, even just this once. But, lesson learned; never again will I lose any sleep worrying about getting to the store on time to get a Black Friday special.

Fry’s is now on my list of places to avoid until at least the end of January. Sorry, but there isn’t a hard drive or LCD display priced low enough to make me stand out in the cold for over an hour while the Fire Marshall makes sure that the building capacity is not exceeded. I don’t care if the damned things are FREE!

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