Suburban Express Goes Double Or Nothing On Their Aggressive Behavior
from the losing-bet dept
Hopefully you recall the story of Suburban Express and its owner, admitted domain squatter Dennis Toeppen, but let me catch you up and let you know what’s been going on since that post ran. Suburban Express is a bus company that caters to Midwest students traveling to and from Chicago. And by “caters” I apparently mean they make them sign contracts designed to extract unreasonable fines from their wallets and threaten lawsuits against them if they have anything less than glowing things to say about their experience online. While this has gone on for some time, a new spotlight was shown when one rider, Jeremy Leval, related on Reddit a tale of one of the company’s drivers berating a customer for speaking less-than-perfect English. That customer happened to be an exchange student. Toeppen went nuclear on Reddit, threatened litigation via their corporate counsel, and also threatened the Reddit moderator. Once the story began to spread, the company was introduced to Ken “Popehat” White, at which point the tone of all their communications took an almost cartoonish turn towards congeniality. Suburban Express promised to drop their 100-plus lawsuits against customers, which they’ve done, and doesn’t appear to have filed against the Reddit moderator. They were a bit too late, as the internet backlash led to someone defacing their website, but at least they learned a lesson in how to treat their customers, right?
Well, perhaps not entirely. See, Toeppen has chosen to show off his aptitude for pettiness online, and has actually decided to use the Suburban Express website to continue to publically go after Leval, with whom this all began.
Toeppen relaunched his online attacks against Leval, posting a page to Suburban Express’ website that recounted the March 31 incident from Toeppen’s point of view and calling Leval “nothing but a bullying, self-important brat.” The page reiterated Toeppen’s claim that Leval was trying to smear Suburban Express to help his own since-aborted plans for a student ride-sharing site, saying, “A blogger suggested that Leval may have been motivated to harass Suburban Express as a means of furthering his business interests.”
Toeppen’s post didn’t end there. He also recounted a conversation that Leval and his girlfriend allegedly had with a driver from another transportation service. “On May 12, 2013, Jeremy Leval and his girlfriend interacted with an EAC driver at Armory around 2:50pm. Jeremy approached the driver and asked if he had heard of Suburban Express. Jeremy went on to boast that he is the guy who is causing Suburban Express lots of trouble. This makes [me] question Jeremy Leval’s motivations. Is he a selfless individual fighting for the rights of the oppressed, or is he a self-promoting, troublemaking, attention-seeker?”
There’s a couple of problems with this kind of response. First, note that none of this has anything to do with refuting the company’s generally anti-customer behavior. Yes, Toeppen pushes back slightly on Leval’s story, indicating that some kind of apology was made to the exchange student, by someone, somewhere, and at some time. Gee, wonderful. Nothing about suing their customers, however. Nothing about $100 fines for simply giving the driver the wrong ticket, calling such mistakes “ticket fraud.”
Second, what difference does it make if Leval is proud of publically slapping around a company doing these kinds of things? Hell, I’d be proud of myself, too. There’s no prohibition on enjoying doing good works. And the fact that Leval might (might!) be thinking of starting his own competing company is a complete non-issue relating to the facts. Again, what happened is what happened, regardless of Leval’s future business endeavors.
And, finally, did Toeppen learn nothing from round one of this mess? Going after a former customer right on the company website is exactly the kind of behavior that got them into this mess to begin with. Business takes thick skin, even for those that aren’t engaging in questionable behavior. I don’t know what kind of profit Toeppen sees in using his company website in this manner, but I fear he’s in for yet another lesson.