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The power of social media – good or bad?

June 29, 2010

Courtesy of our digital strategist Chandler, who provides most of my blog fodder these days, an interesting story about the power and phenomena of social media recently caught my eye.

Earlier this year in January, college student Justin Kurtz parked his car in front of his apartment complex in Kalamazoo, MI. Shortly thereafter, local towing firm, T&J Towing came cruising along the road and removed Kurtz’ car, claiming that he didn’t have a valid parking permit.

Kurtz, who claims the tow crew scraped a valid permit off his windshield to justify their actions, had to pay $118 for the return of his car. He then contacted T&J Towing and asked for a refund. Not surprisingly, the tow firm told Kutz that he was bang out of luck.

Kurtz responded by creating a Facebook page – “Kalamazoo Residents Against T&J Towing.” In the five months since, some 11,000 residents and students have joined the group, many of whom have posted similar complaints.

The result of this mass online protestation is that T&J Towing has lost half of its commercial towing accounts, including Kurtz’ apartment complex, and the two parties are now involved in he said-she said litigation.

A victory for David versus Goliath? For good versus evil? For the common man versus corporate America?

Maybe. But what if Kurtz isn’t telling the truth? What if a snotty little college kid did, on that day in fact, forget to place the permit on his windscreen and then simply decide he didn’t want to pay up?

If that’s the case, a bona fide company operating within its rights and doing what it has been paid to do has lost a huge chunk of its business. Just a thought.

The power of social media works both ways.

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