Aside

The Real Victims Of The Click Frenzy Fail: The Australian Consumer

I never intended to write a follow-up to my original Click Frenzy post from over a month ago as it was entirely predictable that no matter if it was a success or failure, thousands of pundits and social media/cyber “experts” would pour out of the woodwork to give their analysis (but really to cash in on the sudden spike of news).

This has indeed happened with dozens of them appearing in newspapers, on radio and on TV espousing their “expert” opinions despite having said absolutely zero on the subject in the month leading up to what turned out to be an epic failure.

Failure For Who?

This is where it gets all rather sad. The parent company of Click Frenzy, Power Retail, is not surprisingly calling it a giant success and the fact their website couldn’t stay up just meant it was “overwhelmingly popular”

To be fair it was a giant success for Power Retail. They made thousands, if not millions from the retailers who jumped on board, gathered a huge database of consumer information which by itself has significant value and showed that it was all too easy to successfully hype your event with the help of tame Fairfax and News Ltd reporters who gleefully spoon up their news in can to their readership/viewers with zero investigative journalism occurring.

Retailers didn’t really feel the sting because frankly none of the retailers involved have really ever liked the world of online sales, treating it as an annoying afterthought that they begrudgingly entered into, complaining the whole way. A few managed to sell old stock and get rid of stuff they would have only had to warehouse anyway. The fact that many of their websites didn’t hold up really doesn’t bother them.

Well We Tried…

This just leaves one group who came out worst from this. Us. The Australian consumers. Despite all my cynicism in my earlier post, part of me did hope against hope that maybe, just maybe this time Australian retailers might get it together. Maybe they will surprise us and be dragged kicking and screaming into the new century. I am rather saddened to find it went pretty much the way I expected it to.

The big retailers in Australia loathe online shopping because it drastically shifts the balance of power they have so enjoyed for many, many decades. Online shopping means they don’t get to dictate the shopping hours, that people expect a decent range of actually available items and finally if that can be done at decent price, even better.

As a result most of the implementation of online shopping by the big retailers in Australia has been half assed, poorly conceived and treated as annoying side project rather than an exciting opportunity to reach out to meet consumers changing demands.

It’s About The Service Stupid

This was all reflected in last night’s epic Click Frenzy failure. Australian retailers continue to labour under the very, very stupid notion that the only reason Australian shop online is price. This is why a sales event was pimped to them by Power Retail – everyone loves a sale right? People will only flock to you if you have the cheapest price around! SIGN UP NOW!

This stupid and incredibly arrogant viewpoint of Australian consumers was shining through in this snippet from Click Frenzy facebook page when asked why their servers weren’t handling the load:

Just like the Boxing Day sales, crowds are to be expected. For those experiencing difficulty, we recommend you check back in later when the storm has calmed enough for you to break through on your end

See consumers? You should just be glad these retailers put on sale for you and just deal with the down servers, crappy offers and general annoyance of the entire event. You should just expect sites to have problems. This is your problem not theirs. After all you’re getting great prices right?

I only have one response to that. Bullshit. What a colossal cart load of bullshit. This is very old world retail thinking and reflects the opinion that consumers will put up with poor service in order to grab a bargain

Price is only one factor in why people shop online. They also want a decent range and most importantly good service. This means servers that stay up, shopping carts with easy usability, payment systems that don’t make you want to take your eyeballs out with a spoon and support staff that actually understand the needs of online shoppers.

Instead what most Australian retailers give us online are half-baked systems that still try to funnel you to the brick and mortar store in some fashion because heaven forbid they stop walking in the actual door.

Sadly all this Click Frenzy failure will do is galvanise the Australian retailers belief that online sales “aren’t worth the effort”. They’ll knuckle down and cry about how it’s unfair overseas importers don’t pay GST (not entirely true) or spin complete rubbish about how Australian should implement a special tax system to protect their antiquated ways.

Not one will call a board meeting and discuss maybe their online strategy is broken. Just maybe they might have to acknowledge the balance of power in the retailer/consumer relationship has undergone a major shift. And finally maybe they made a colossal mistake being sucked into to the hype cycle that Click Frenzy so eloquently generated. I’m willing to bet almost none of the retailers involved will see a return on their investment in this charade.

Australia needs the big retailers to grow up, pay attention to online shopping as the way forward and deal with the fact that his means change. Yes change is scary and often painful. Deal with it, or to use one of my favourite expressions: Evolve or Die.

Postscript – Here Come The Vultures

For the last month News Ltd and Fairfax have done nothing but faithfully regurgitate the syndicated media releases handed to them by Power Retail. Not one bit of investigation was done on it. No attempt to see if maybe this was a bit of over credited hype. They published more or less as is thankful for the space filler. Good old news in a can, always a tasty treat!

Oh how the worm has turned. Now that the event has been universally panned both major news entities (who also fail pretty hard at the whole online thing) are suddenly experts on online shopping and a providing in depth analysis, something they entirely failed to do before the event. Nothing like a bit of disaster porn to fire up the old clickbait articles hey?

Take this “serious news piece” by Fairfax Technology Editor Asher Moses. Asher only ever comes out of the woodwork when there’s a topic he can cash in on. Prior to yesterday Asher has written not a single word on Click Frenzy, not one analysis if it might work  before the event. Just allowed his minions to spew forth the PR they were provided.

Yet in the many hundreds of words in the articles there is zero mention of the part played by the media in over hyping the event, the way they gorged themselves on the news in can provided to them by Power Retail. No looking at how Power Retail skilfully played them all like a pair of bongo drums. It’s rather pathetic.

News Ltd is no better with this piece that makes it sound as if they knew there was going to be problems and once again ignores the part they played in this whole mess. However they really hit a new low when they decided to also cash in on the failure and release this article giving direct links to the deals and pretending they are the saviour of consumers for doing so. Never mind that sites like Lifehacker had done all that legwork yesterday and were well ahead of them.

I’d love to see ABC Mediawatch do a special on this. The media played a heavy part in this craptacular event but are choosing to ignore that fact for their benefit. What utter, utter scum.

Aside

No Link for You! – Olympic Inane Terms & Conditions

I’ve written twice before about inane terms and conditions on Australian websites that attempt to restrict or block linking to those sites. Sometimes these terms and conditions clash directly with the websites own social media attempts. In all cases they are laughably stupid and utterly unenforceable.

[notice]Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of law. I do however inhabit the real world and from my personal perspective these terms & conditions are utterly inane. And yes I am breaking their terms & conditions by linking their terms & conditions pages here. The irony does not escape me[/notice]

Olympic Fever

So it should come as no real surprise that the story running around the web today that the official website for the London 2012 Olympic games has an inane entry in their terms and conditions forbidding linking unless you say something nice according to their Terms of use page:

 “5. Linking policy

a. Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner. The use of our logo or any other Olympic or London 2012 Mark(s) as a link to the Site is not permitted. View our guidelines on Use of the Games’ Marks.”

The restriction on logo use makes sense, that’s a valid copyright issue but preventing people from linking if they might not say something nice about you? Have fun trying to enforce that one guys.

Branding, Branding, Branding

This is where most of the outrage stops and people just sit there fuming. I thought it might be fun to check out the terms and conditions of the brands partnered with the Olympics as outlined on their partners page.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the brands had sensible terms and conditions that really only covered them legally in regards to outbound links from their sites and didn’t really interfere with incoming ones. As always there were some stuck in the legal stone age of the web, and here they are.

 Omega

Known for their very fine (and very expensive) timepieces you’d think they would be more than happy for people to link to them. Apparently not so much according to their legal page:

“…Reproducing (in whole or in part), transmitting (by electronic means or otherwise), modifying, linking into or using for any public or commercial purpose the OMEGAWATCHES.COM Website without prior written permission of OMEGA S.A. is strictly prohibited.”

Once again attempting to prohibit “linking into” – this appears to be boilerplate legal advice that most websites have dropped over the last decade or so.

adidas

The worldwide shoe company that has run more than a few social media campaigns apparently really, really doesn’t want people linking to their site unless they give you express consent according to their Terms and conditions page:

“…or the creation of links, hypertext, links or deeplinks between the Site and any other internet site, is prohibited without the express written consent of adidas.”

Got that? Before you tweet that link to your new favourite shoes make sure you’ve got an official written notice. Or else.

BP

Given BP’s history no one should be really all that surprised that their London 2012 partner site demands you get written permission before linking as spelled out in their Legal Notice page:

“You may not frame this site nor link to a page other than the home page without our express permission.”

We should point out that every single page on the website encourages you to share it via multiple means but doesn’t provide “express permission’ for you to do so.

British Airways

They have decided that not only can’t you link to their website but that they can also remove links from other websites if they don’t say nice things Website terms and conditions page:

“You may only link to this website with Our express written permission. We expressly reserve the right to withdraw Our consent at any time to a link which in Our sole opinion is inappropriate or controversial.”

I have not yet had a single company explain exactly how they ever intend to enforce the ‘remove that not very nice link” reserved right.

EDF

Frankly I had never even heard of this corporation before now and after the Olympics probably never will again but they seem like your normal pretty reasonable energy company, nothing to be overly concerned about. When it comes to linking to their website however they are very serious business indeed as their Legal notices page makes quite clear:

“Under no circumstances may a user set up a hypertext link to the www.edf.com portal without the prior written consent of EDF. Any requests to do so must be addressed to the Publishing Director of the www.edf.com portal.”

Got it? Under no circumstances. Not even if you think they are awesome and doing a great job. NO CIRCUMSTANCES ALLOW THIS. Ahem.

Adecco

Another company I have never heard of but apparently in the job recruitment game. They have a kind of odd policy. It’s ok to link but only if you say nice things and even then only the front page. Nothing else according to their Terms and conditions page:

“You may link to our home page, provided you do so in a way that is fair and legal and does not damage our reputation or take advantage of it, but you must not establish a link in such a way as to suggest any form of association, approval or endorsement on our part where none exists.

You must not establish a link from any website that is not owned by you.

Our site(s) must not be framed on any other site, nor may you create a link to any part of our site(s) other than the home page. We reserve the right to withdraw linking permission without notice.”

 Again that second paragraph indicates that anyone that wished to link to them from say Twitter or Facebook would be in deep trouble.

ArcelorMittal

Writing this article I’m learning way more about British companies than I expected and I’m sure these guys are very important but they have a very strange approach to linking policies as laid out in their Terms of use page:

“Links to this Web Site are allowed, provided that ArcelorMittal is informed prior to the publication of the link: contact@arcelormittal.com. ArcelorMittal reserves the right to withdraw this permission in the future. By receiving information about such links, ArcelorMittal makes no judgment or warranty with respect to the Web Sites providing such links and ArcelorMittal takes no responsibility for these Web Sites.”

So links are allowed but only if you tell them about the links before hand and even then they might still take them away from you. So basically not really allowed.

Summary

The good news is a bulk of the official Olympic partners and supporters do not share the same “no link for you unless we say so” attitude  as the London Games website itself. The bad news is there is clearly more than a few corporations and lawyers out there that seem to think they can enforce these utterly inane terms and conditions.

Surprise Extras!

Because I primarily like to focus on Australian content I’ll be added some other inane terms and conditions on the sites belonging to partners of the Australian Olympic Committee as shown in their sponsors page.

Qantas

Ok this one isn’t actually that surprising since they haven’t changed their Terms of Use page since we wrote about it 10 months ago. To give you a refresher however:

“In order to be able to link to information on this site you will need to agree to the linking conditions and obtain approval from Qantas Online Sales. To obtain a copy of the agreement send a request through our feedback page by selecting ‘Website’ then ‘Site Content’. Ensure your e-mail contains the following information:

  • Company Name
  • Contact Name
  • E-mail Address
  • URL of internet site that will link to qantas.com
  • Nature of your company’s web site”

See nice and easy right? Just follow the many, many step program and you may or may not be allowed to link to them. Eventually. Some day.

Australia Post

So this is where things got a little deja vu on my and I had to check I was looking at the right page. Their Website terms and conditions entry on linking looks awfully familiar:

“If you wish to establish a link to this website, you must first seek approval from Australia Post. To seek approval, please contact your account manager. If you don’t have one or are unsure, please email Australia Post’s brand team.

The following information will be required to assess your request:

  • the URL of the website that you seek to establish a link from
  • a brief description of your website
  • the reason that you wish to establish a link.

If Australia Post agrees to your proposed link, you must comply with any terms and conditions imposed by Australia Post as a condition of such agreement. If the nature and/or content of your website changes in any significant way, you must contact Australia Post and provide a new description of your website.”

Someone been hiring the same lawyers that work for Qantas maybe?

KRAFT Australia

Provider of food in many weird and varied ways including that Australian icon Vegemite. They even have recipes you can share with your friends… just don’t link to them as clearly stated in their disclaimer page:

 “….You are also prohibited from linking the site to another web site in any way whatsoever.”

No link for you. NO LINK FOR YOU. Got that absolutely no link whatsoever for you.

Aside

Still No Link For You! – More Inane Website Terms & Conditions

Back in March I wrote an article on Inane Terms & Conditions on Australian websites, namely those that “prohibited” linking to those sites. Seems silly doesn’t it? These entities actually have laid out rules in their terms and conditions to somehow prevent people linking to them. Given the concept of the internet is to be able to provide interlinking data this seems all a bit silly. Now that it’s been a while I thought it might be time to revisit this subject and see if anything has changed.

The Good News

Firstly the good news. At least two of the entities I called out in the last article have changed their website terms and conditions to allow linking. Harvey Norman quietly removed the section that prevented linking altogether whilst Vodafone amended theirs to allow linking as long you agreed to remove it if they didn’t like it.

The Bad News

Only one entity in the last list actually reached out to me about it and that was Virgin Australia. Their social media team were very friendly and tried to blow it off as simply a “precautionary” measure which raises the question why is it there at all? Why not take the Vodafone, approach and allow links on the acceptance they can ask for it to be removed? More importantly how are they ever going to actually enforce this precautionary measure? I doubt very much these terms and conditions would go far in a court of law although I am not a lawyer and don’t pretend to understand the complexities of law.

The other two entities, Fairfax and JetStar, have not changed their terms & conditions in any way. By now millions of people must have violated the Fairfax terms and conditions hundreds of times over.

The New List

So with all that in mind it was time to go hunting for new sites that have the same inane prohibitions. Initially I was thrilled to find that it was getting harder to find them. This didn’t last long however. A quick shoutout asking for suggested sites to check quickly resulted in a deluge of sites that continue to deny linking. Before you ask yes I am technically breaking their terms & conditions by linking their terms & conditions pages here. The irony does not escape me

Qantas

What is it with airlines and prohibiting linking to their sites? Qantas doesn’t exactly have the best reputation at the moment after their little “lets ground all our planes to win a dispute” stunt so you’d think they’d be doing everything possible to help promote their brand. Seemingly not. If you want to link to the Qantas website then you need to follow this rather lengthy piece of instruction from their Terms of Use page:

“In order to be able to link to information on this site you will need to agree to the linking conditions and obtain approval from Qantas Online Sales. To obtain a copy of the agreement send a request through our feedback page by selecting ‘Website’ then ‘Site Content’. Ensure your e-mail contains the following information:

  • Company Name
  • Contact Name
  • E-mail Address
  • URL of internet site that will link to qantas.com
  • Nature of your company’s web site”

Got that? Give them all of your personal details, submit it to a faceless form and then maybe, if they like you, you might be able to link to their site.

Air Australia

Australia’s newest airline. So new in fact it hasn’t even started flying yet. Being new they are also hip to this social media thing with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Blogger integration! But if you want to link to them? Oh sorry the Terms of Use page has this to to say:

“You must not provide a link to, or frame, this website without our prior written consent.”

Going to be interesting promoting a brand new airline when you legally disallow linking to it.

Update: 17th of February 2012 – Air Australia went into voluntary administration leaving some four thousand passengers stranded. They also removed most of the website including these rather inane terms & conditions.

Myer

Yes that giant of shopping. That mecca of splurging and spending cash. They are well and truly into the Christmas sales pitch now (which is a rant for another day) and with it their website is festooned with gift ideas and products galore many of with Facebook “Like” buttons and “Share by  Tweet” functionality. Before you touch either however you should be aware that Website Terms page states:

“Myer Pty Ltd does not permit any linkages to this site without prior permission.”

This of course raises the interesting question – does the existence of the like and share buttons imply permission? If so is linking only allowed through those mechanisms? This sounds like the sort of things that keep lawyers well paid.

Suncorp

Unlike Qantas, Suncorp is actually surfing a very large wave of consumer approval after floods earlier in the year. Their excellent PR and handling of the situation has paid off extremely well for them and they are going out of their way to utilise as much of this good sentiment as possible. Apparently this does not extend to linking their website as their Legal Disclaimer page outlines:

“Linking to this Website is only permitted when authorised in writing by Suncorp. Please contact Suncorp if you would like to link to any part of the Suncorp Website.”

The idea that one needs a written permission slip to link to anything on the internet is laughable especially when it might be a site you actually want to link to.

Update – 2012-12-19

So this article has been up for over a year. Suddenly apparently it’s a problem for Suncorp who fail to understand irony as they sent me this request (in a vaguely demanding manner) to remove the link to their site:

This rather proves my point about the stupidity of it. However if they want to get silly about it I’ll remove the link. The link above now goes to a shortner that goes to the link. I am no longer directly linking the content. Enjoy!

Oh and the digital agency that Suncorp has farmed this out to? Yeah their website doesn’t seem to have a no linking terms and conditions requirement so I’m just going to link it right here.

Update 2013-01-31

Sigh. Despite the fact I did email AmensiaRazorfish as per the original email and I did remove the “offending” link the silly gits have just spammed me with the same email. Apparently they don’t have sufficient brain cells to figure out how to make it stop.

Oh and for the record Suncorp Bank is a different brand to Suncorp Insurance. The bank component got all upset about being singled out on twitter last time. Not that it really matters because the Suncorp Bank website links to exactly the same terms & conditions page.

Update 2013-02-05

So there’s been a slightly more happy development in this. Just got an email from the folks at AmensiaRazorfish who apologised for the second email (apparently I should have been removed from the list) and I should see no more of this sillyness for a while.

No mention of the stupidity of the actual linking policy but given it is Suncorp’s policy and not theirs this is entirely fair enough.

AAMI

This is not really surprising since AAMI is part of the Suncorp Group. Weirdly however they take the prohibition a step further by actually singling out social media linking as being not on. Here’s the excerpt from their AAMI Online Terms of Use & Privacy Statement:

“Unauthorised linking to any part of an Online Site (including any part of a Social Media Site or website operated by a related body corporate that is part of the Suncorp Group) is expressly prohibited. Please contact us if you would like to link to any part of our Online Site(s). Only written permission from us will constitute authorisation of a link.”

More demands for written permission slips. I don’t think they’ve grasped the idea of this internet thing.

RACQ and RACV

Both of these entities have an active presence on Facebook and Twitter Both encourage their followers to retweet/share links. Both technically prohibit their followers from actually doing this.

From the RACQ Site Legals page:

” You agree not to create a link from any Web site, including any site controlled by you, to our site.”

Update: 16th of November 2011 – In what must be a new world record in getting legal changes made to a website the RACQ team has completely pulled this term from their site within hours of this article going up. Nice work guys!

And from the RACV Conditions of use page:

“What you cannot do: … provide a link to this web site from another web site without RACV’s prior written consent.”

Update: 17th of November 2011 – Correction. Initially I thought this was an update – the above entry still exists and the below one may have always existed and I simply missed it yesterday.

“7. linking to this web site

7.1 If you wish to establish a link to this web site you must, in the first instance, use the Contact Us link at the top of the page and provide the following information:

a) the URL of the web site that you seek to establish a link from;

b) a brief description of your web site; and

c) the reason that you wish to establish a link.

7.2 If RACV agrees to your proposed link, you must comply with any terms and conditions imposed by RACV as a condition of such agreement. If the nature and/or content of your web site changes in any significant way, you must contact RACV and provide a new description of your web site”

Yep that should work out wonderfully for you.

Conclusion

Many entities still have this strange idea they can control things on the internet by simply stating it in their terms and conditions. Sorry but it just doesn’t work that way. I’m hoping more of them will follow the examples set by Harvey Norman and Vodafone (never thought I’d say that) and adjust their terms and conditions to be far more realistic.

Update: 7th December 2011 – Alas Harvey Norman has updated their Terms & Conditions have brought inane conditions back in. I can no longer give them props for being sane.