What could be worse than bankruptcy for a formerly powerful company?
When said company attempts to squeeze every dime it can out of its assets on its way out the door by selling customer information to the highest bidder, the resulting outrage and customer alienation put any hope of a smooth transition in serious jeopardy.
Electronics retailer RadioShack, which has begun the process of shutting down about 2,000 stores, made headlines this week for reportedly attempting to sell the private data of its 117 million customers (including 65 million names and addresses and 13 million emails) as part of its bankruptcy auction.
In light of the fact that the retailer had outright promised not to sell customer information, the news of the attempted sale inspired customer outrage and even legal action. In Texas, for example, where it’s illegal for a company to act against its own policies regarding use of consumer data, a lawsuit asserts that some RadioShack stores had, in the past, displayed signs that read: “We pride ourselves on not selling our private mailing list.”
It’s basically the business equivalent of promising loyal friends you’ll keep their secrets, and then, when you find out you’re dying, writing a tell-all book about them and selling it to the highest bidder. Not a classy move.
And it’s not just customers and lawyers up in arms about this; AT&T has a dog in the fight, as well. Many of AT&T’s wireless customers are also RadioShack shoppers, and their information would be included in the sell-off. Since one bidder plans to reopen a few RadioShack locations — with Sprint departments inside — AT&T wants to prevent its customers’ information from landing directly in the hands of its competitor.
Despite its pending demise, RadioShack remains very active on Twitter and responds quickly to customers’ queries with GIFs:
— RadioShack (@RadioShack) March 25, 2015
But the company has yet to respond to journalists’ queries on the data controversy…with good reason.
We would say RadioShack needs crisis assistance, but they obviously can’t afford it.