Perhaps you’ve heard the story by now. I heard about yesterday after making a presentation in North Carolina. Clark Howard, the talk show guy who helps everyone save money, had a segment on his show about Michael Shinnick who got arrested by San Francisco police at the behest of Bank of America after trying to cash a check. Shinnick had just confirmed at the BofA branch that the check had funds in it–was proceeds from a bike sale. The police arrested him for trying to pass a bad check and Shinnick had to spend $14,000 of his own money to clear his name, which he did. Bank of America apologized for its stupidity but then added stupidity onto stupidity onto stupidity. They refused his request to cover the costs he incurred to clear his name–citing their liability protection.
The bloggers took it from there and are running wild with it now. (See dvorak.com) It’s all over Digg, etc. But what kicked this anti-BoA backlash into high gear was Clark Howard exposing the mistakes to his nationwide audience. And he suggested that BoA customers withdraw their money from the bank. Well Clark’s head must be swelling because as of 9:30 am CDT on 27th, that count is now up to over $14 million and growing rapidly. There is even a meter on Clark Howard’s website that shows how much has been reportedly withdrawn on a realtime basis.
Howard offered to pay half the man’s legal fees if BoA ponied up the rest, and they refuse. Matter of principle I suppose.
So, crisis managers, how do you handle this one? If this isn’t evidence of the growing power of the blogworld connected to MSM (mainstream media) I don’t know what is. It is a 1 plus 1 equals three equation. Clark alone couldn’t do this. His website helps, but really helps (or hurts depending on your point of view) is the connection with the blogworld that is feeding the flames. Not sure who lit the first spark, but no doubt Howard dumped a gas can on it, but now it is the bloggers and websites feeding the flames. And the meter keeps rising.
Out of curiousity, I just checked the BoA website. Of course, no reference to the Shinnick-Howard situation. Would be crazy I’m sure most people would think. But where is BoA to present their side? Certainly they have a different perspective on this. I suspect they are concerned about the precedent set by not hiding behind their liability protection. And $14 million is just a blink to them. But how big does this have to get before they start talking? And then where do they join in the conversation? Howard is having representatives on his show. Good, but Howard doesn’t like them much right now and is riding a huge wave of power and prestige in bringing them down. So where can they join in the conversation in a more neutral environment?
Anyone have thoughts about this?