Dell admits 'we blew it' for bullying blog

Egg on Dell’s face after Consumerist row

A Dell manager on Saturday said his company "blew it" by threatening a blog for posting bargain-hunting tips.

Last Thursday, The Consumerist ran a blog entry titled "22 Confessions of a Former Dell Sales Manager" that spelled out Dell computer buying tips, including, "There is nothing in a low end desktop (non XPS) that is worth the price of the warranty should you have to replace it."

Later that day, Dell attorney Tracy Holland e-mailed the editor of Consumerist with a demand that he remove the piece. "Ostensibly an ex-employee posted Dell's confidential information in violation of his or her employment agreement and confidentiality obligations," wrote Holland. "Please remove the posting."

In a reply, Consumerist.com's own lawyer refused to remove the post and chastised Holland for thinking that a threat would serve Dell's interest. "Removing this story would be far, far more damaging to Dell, I assure you, than responding to it on the Dell blog or elsewhere," wrote the lawyer. "In telling our readers that Dell shut down our reporting, we would unleash a chaos of fury and acres of criticism in the press."

Dell must have heard that message, because on Saturday, Lionel Menchaca, Dell's manager for digital media who writes the company's Direct2Dell blog, admitted that the legal wrangling had been a mistake.

"Now's not the time to mince words, so let me just say it... we blew it," said Menchaca. "Instead of trying to control information that was made public, we should have simply corrected anything that was inaccurate. We didn't do that, and now we're paying for it."

One pain point cropped up almost immediately on Dell's own IdeaStorm site, the online suggestion box that has led to changes such as preinstalling Linux on Dell systems. On Friday someone added, "Make your legal team restrain themselves when they're trying to silence bloggers who are trying to help people buy from Dell," to the list.

"No matter where we are at any point in time, there's always room for improvement," Menchaca concluded.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
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