What price would you pay to avoid infamy? A Utah man has one answer: $132, the cost on a job he forgot to complete for a customer whose gripe spread to scores of online forums. Meet the Internet's justice servers.
Shawn Shreve runs Unknown Coatings, a powder coating business in Utah. Earlier this year, he agreed to do work for an Wisconsin man painting a Mazda 6 valve cover. After texting him to say the job was done and payment due, Shreve didn't ship the cover and didn't respond to repeated text messages. The Wisconsin customer took the messages to the 6crew.com forum. Then things got real.
Other members soon dug up a series of posts in other forums where customers had complained of poor behavior on Shreve's part. One poster dug into Shreve's business and legal history. And others demanded Shreve show he had shipped the part and refunded the cost of the job plus pay for speedy shipping.
Shreve jumped in to defend himself, saying the order had been misplaced when he moved his business to a new location, and he had forgotten about it. He also defended his reputation, saying: "I have won awards for my work, I have 3 patents pending right now for creations in the powder world," some of which can be seen here.
But at the time, Shreve had not confirmed he was actually returning the cover. So the posters stepped up the campaign by reposting the thread in every forum they could access, from dozens of automotive forums to powder-coating enthusiasts in the belt buckle, fishing tackle and shaving accessory industries.
Under relentless pressure from the posters, Shreve ended up sending the customer a $70 refund and paying $42 for express shipping, posting an image of the receipt on the thread. The package should arrive later this week, after some 25,000 views of the original thread and counting.
Shreve says the dustup hasn't hurt him:
I legitimately made a mistake in shipping a dudes cover to him. But that being said, these guys on a mazda forum are spreading the "crap" on forums all over the net. They are thinking its going to ruin me, but it seems like alot of people are seeing past their BS and calling me about coating quotes.
We'd see things a little differently. It's not at all clear that absent the attention from the forum the dispute would have been resolved so speedily. Going public with a dispute doesn't always work, but it did here. (Thanks to everyone who sent it our way!)