This Woman was not even Our Customer
If you are reading this, you have just come from reading a slanderous post about our company. We can assure you this is the only negative comment we have received in almost ½ century of business. This person was not even our customer.
The first decade of the 21st Century has given rise to a phenomenon previously unexperienced by the American public - the rating systems.
On the surface it seems like these systems might be a good thing. Some systems strive to make sure the person actually bought the product or service. But, other systems are just looking for numbers.
These rating systems have, unfortunately, given voice to a segment of the population – this segment being the angry and the disturbed, who previously had no venue. These people were regulated to simply being a benign nuisance, shouting at street corners ‘the world is ending’.
Tom Duffy, the founder of The Solar Biz, started his decades-long journey in the solar business before there was a solar industry – 1969, the same year as Woodstock. And to our knowledge, since then we have never had a single unresolved issue with any of the many thousands of customers we have guided to energy independence.
We are a factory-direct manufacturer’s distributor for most of the solar equipment in the renewable energy market today. We service both the do-it-yourself market and we have over 900 dealers in our dealer database. We strive to give excellent technical support and engineering advice to both markets, while providing extremely competitive pricing.
Enter the Nightmare
The following is as much of the story as we have been able to piece together. One of our many independent dealer-installers was hired by his customer to do a solar installation in Palm Desert, California. This dealer purchased, at least some of the product for this installation from The Solar Biz.
This was a second home for his clients. During the installation, the couple apparently got divorced. The impression we get - it was not a happy separation.
Apparently the husband had ordered the solar installation. Following the divorce, the wife got custody of the house. She immediately suspended the project, and told the installer that he was fired. She was not going to pay him for his service so far, and she demanded he take back all of the equipment and provide her with a full refund, including the shipping of the product to the site.
Now, a lot of solar installers are basically a one-man operation. This poor guy had laid out a considerable amount of time and money to this project. He wasn’t a new dealer to our company. He had purchased systems from us before.
Obviously, when she demanded all her money back, he didn’t have it. Plus, he knew that no company was going to refund an expensive freight bill on properly shipped equipment. We don’t know if we were the only supplier involved in this project. We were supplying several of the basic components.
Apparently, when he told her he couldn’t refund her money and that she was not going to get a full refund and nobody returns shipping, she told him she was going to sue him. He said “go ahead. I don’t have anything.” She convinced him to disclose the names of his suppliers.
The Phone Call that Started it All
Year 2009. A woman calls The Solar Biz and says she wants to return product that was ordered from The Solar Biz by her installer. She wants to cancel the rest of the order for any unshipped equipment.
We have a standard return policy based on our relationship with our manufacturers. Our customers can return equipment within 30 days of receipt. For the most part, this return incurs a 20% re-stocking fee. We do not return shipping costs.
There are exceptions to this policy. Some manufacturers, particularly those who custom-make product, do not accept returns at all. Some manufacturers have a re-stocking fee as high as 50%.
Basically, we explained to her, “You’re over the 30 day period, but we’ll waive that. As long as the product is in good saleable condition, we see no reason why we cannot take the product back.” We gave her the shipping address of where to return it to. We further informed her that when the product was received in good condition, we would issue a refund to her installer less 20% restocking fee; however, we do not refund the original shipping and return shipping would be at her expense.
She then told us, “You are not going to refund anything to my installer. You are going to return all the money to me, including the full shipping and I will not pay any restocking fee. I want all my money back.”
We told her our terms and conditions are clearly printed on all our sales invoices and that was the extent of the contract between us and our customer [her installer]. I reminded her that she, however, was not our customer.
She then got hold of the invoice from the installer. She whited-out the terms and conditions. I checked with our business software supplier. They assured us it was not possible for her to receive the only invoice from our company without terms and conditions printed on it.
The very next day we received an email from her attorney in California demanding we return all said monies to her directly, that our customer [her installer] was no longer involved. Also, she would not be paying any fees for the return of this product. Clearly, they stated, either you are going to do this, or, we are going to haul you into court.
At that point, we had been in business 40 years. We had zero customer complaints. We had never had an occasion to hire an attorney. We didn’t even know one.
We did consult an attorney who counseled us to “send a refund check, less the 20% restocking fee and shipping” but her attorney said they would not accept anything but full payment. Our attorney, however, assured us that because we were a New Mexico company, and the product was purchased from us in New Mexico, California had no jurisdiction and that this person could not sue us in California.
During this initial time, this woman constructed what is called a Google Bomb, by slandering us on as many websites that she possibly could. This was an intentionally constructed bomb. The carefully crafted words in the heading were designed to hurt and destroy her target. These words said “Fraudulent, Law Suit Necessary. Rip Off. Blackmail.”
Her postings went out to several different websites. Some of the postings she attempted to publish multiple times under different names and emails, but all with the same wording.
The Better Business Bureau caught her in the act. They noticed that all of these multiple slanderous complaints were coming from the same IP address. They removed her posts from their website immediately and refused to allow her further access. She then Google Bombed them.
But other websites were not careful like the Better Business Bureau. Yelp actually permitted 3 postings. 3 postings multiplied her negative rating. If you are reading this, you have, no doubt, come across one of these slanderous postings.
So, here we are today. Unfortunately for us, her hand-picked review sites have a lot of strength on search engines. Even though this was in 2009, over six years ago, these slanderous reviews still appear on the first page of a search when searching our company name.
We are living in a different world today. It is certainly not the one I grew up in. It seems as though what is fair and honest, straight forward and right, has been cast to one side, and we have adopted a set of laws that support the so-called rights of angry and disturbed people committing all forms of foolish slander.
The point we want to make is this. This woman and her postings actually went beyond her attempted extortion. She wanted to inflict permanent and devastating damage and did this In a truly evil way. She knew exactly how to do it and what she was doing. She knew what websites to pick. One of these websites, she knew her words would stay there forever. She knew that no court could force her to take it off with threats of slander.
It is clear that her intent was to inflict permanent and overwhelming harm. To hurt, really hurt. She threatened us saying, “Either you do what I say or I am going to destroy you on the internet.” But, she had already had done the damage, and she very well knew it.
What kind of person uses extortion via the rating systems? What kind of person would slanderously inflict permanent harm to anyone? A company’s reputation means everything to them.
But, think about this. One negative post in 46 years clearly indicates there is truly something wrong with this posting.
So, there’s our story. In the light of this story, go back and read that post that she put up.
The Truth? There was never a lawsuit. There was no fraud. There was no blackmail. In the end, she accepted our refund check with no attorney necessary. But, she had already done her worst.
God forbid you ever have one of these people in your life. They are out there. Given the state of the world today, there is apparently nothing you can do about it if they get you in their sites. Remember; this woman was not even our customer.
Thank you for taking the time to read the WHOLE story and learning the truth.
Your Solar Biz Team