Reply All: #40 The Flower Child
September 24, 2015 6:34 AM - Subscribe

Ripoff Report is one of the original complaint websites. It's basically the work of one person, a man whom the internet describes as a kind of mythical villain, a Keyser Söze who wields power from behind his janky website. Reply All producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni visits his bunker.
posted by lunch (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What a strange, paranoid man. His entire being seems centered the sort of logical fallacy that a lot of people seem to carry around with them (if you're accused of something, there's probably a good reason), taken to the extreme.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:28 PM on September 24, 2015

I felt just so awful for Marissa. One complaint on one website and her site traffic is killed off.

And yeah...that guy is just...strange doesn't even begin to describe it. He's laser-focused on the idea that he's some kind of crusader for the underdog. I am surprised he let Sruthi interview him. Actually, if I were her, I would not have been comfortable being alone with him!
posted by radioamy at 4:58 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I kind of feel like Matt Lieber should take some of that sweet sweet start up money and buy Sruthi a switch-blade. Flying to Arizona to ride off in some paranoid internet-man's car (in the back-seat no less) to his internet bunker could have gone in a very different direction. (Actually maybe he should outfit the whole Reply All gang with switch-blades after PJ and Alex's adventures in abandoned buildings)

I'm sympathetic to both Taxidermy Marissa and Ripoff Report Guy. On the one hand the internet does lower the barrier to being a crusader for justice against the "big guys" and I think a lot of good has come from that evening of the power dynamic. However the kind of power than can make big corporations bow and scrape can also be completely devastating to small entrepreneurs.

I also feel like whether or not someone "deserves" this sort of punishment could really be dove into more. Marissa didn't do anything wrong, I will accept, and so didn't deserve this sort of career-ruining punishment. But also maybe those people who did do something wrong don't deserve to be shamed about it forever? It is predicated on this idea that both people always did something to deserve a complaint (which is patently not true) and that the punishment for that complaint should dog their business forever which also fails most tests of just punishment.
posted by selenized at 8:17 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I feel like if PJ and Alex were given switchblades, it'd cause more issues than it would solve.

The fact that this completely unsavvy computer guy managed to make the ultimate SEO website was also a fascinating tidbit - it's so inelegant and yet looking at the pieces, it's not surprising it would be effective. I mean, guy clearly knows how bend the rules in his favor and then bend reality to make it okay, but if most SEO analysts are offering precision tools to help, this guy is walking around with a sledgehammer.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:34 PM on September 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

I want PJ and Alex to have a switchblade now.
posted by maxsparber at 6:12 AM on September 25, 2015

It's strange that he has made what he thinks is an ethical decision -- no complaint ever gets removed -- and yet there's no ethics behind it. He simply will not admit that it is possible to lie about somebody on his site, even though he says he is lied about all the time online.

I think he thinks he has integrity. That he's giving voice to the little guy in their fight against abuse. But, my God, he's created the perfect troll machine.
posted by maxsparber at 10:46 AM on September 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Everyone is a hero in this best of all possible worlds. That's why life is so horrible!

In other news, I really need to get my bird's beak trimmed.
posted by selfnoise at 10:53 AM on September 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

This guy seems like a nutjob to me, but I also feel like deleting complaints would be a really tricky thing to do. You have to get into the business of sorting out the "he said/she said," and figuring out what should be deleted. I don't know a good way to handle that. In my view, never deleting a complaint is pretty defensible (maybe allow the business to post a public response, as Yelp does). I have far more trouble with his practice of apparently taking money to treat some complaints differently. That's where the ethical problem lies in my opinion.
posted by primethyme at 1:10 PM on September 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think the biggest problem is that the site is so one-sided. Yelp isn't perfect by any means, but at least they allow you to post both positive and negative reviews.
posted by radioamy at 2:49 PM on September 25, 2015

I think he thinks he has integrity. That he's giving voice to the little guy in their fight against abuse. But, my God, he's created the perfect troll machine.

Well, he's giving a voice to anyone against little businesses. Because big business can just pay to make the problem go away.

Anyway, I went to the site and there was a prominent "Update your report" link. So now it seems weird to me that the report that started this whole story couldn't be edited. Didn't they say that the person who had posted it wanted it gone as well?
posted by bjrn at 3:37 AM on September 27, 2015

Confirmed that Sruthiri went to his bunker alone. Brave woman.
posted by radioamy at 4:56 PM on September 27, 2015

I want PJ and Alex to have a switchblade now.

Like just one, that they have to share? That seems like it might cause problems that could be amusing if captured in audio form.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:27 PM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

What an infuriatingly naive mindset that man has.
posted by graventy at 7:17 AM on September 29, 2015

I would respect an attitude that says, 'I understand sometimes people get hurt, and I regret that, but it's a consequence of the framework of this worthwhile thing.' But I've never heard anyone whose work involves collateral damage acknowledge that.
posted by bq at 12:33 PM on October 14, 2015

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