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 user 2008-09-05 at 3:49:43 pm Views: 98
  • #20593
    How to Handle ‘’
    Some Firms Buy Up Negative Domain Names To Avert ‘Gripe Sites’
    In recent years, disgruntled consumers have launched hundreds of Web sites to air their grievances — from and to and companies fighting back? A new study finds that some have been much more aggressive than others. Xerox, for example, has bought or registered about 20 unflattering domain names, including, and But other companies, such as Dell, have taken a more hands-off approach., and are for sale, but the computer maker says it has no interest in buying them. (Those sites currently host no content.)The Internet has become a mecca for disgruntled consumers, creating new challenges for companies accustomed to controlling their message tightly. While companies can’t pull down a negative YouTube video or erase a critical Twitter post, they have more power when it comes to domain names.That doesn’t mean, however, that they should snap up every domain with a vaguely negative-sounding name and then let them gather dust, according to Internet-strategy consultants.Rather, companies should register or buy just the sites that get the most traffic, says Josh Bourne, managing partner of FairWinds Partners, the Internet strategy consulting firm that conducted the study.

    Xerox says it is selective in deciding which pejorative domain names to buy. Those it now owns make up less than half a percent of the company’s domain portfolio. But the company has a watch list of domains it would like to buy: While it owns and, someone else owns If that domain became available, Xerox likely would buy it, says Rebecca Berkich, who manages domains for Xerox.

    Once they are in control of these domains, companies should maintain those sites, and use them as a vehicle to solicit feedback from customers, Internet consultants say. Otherwise, angry customers will visit the sites and, when they find them blank, simply will find another site on which to complain about the company.In its study, FairWinds looked at a subset of the so-called gripe sites: those that end in the phrase “” There are some 20,000 domains on the Internet that fit that description, according to FairWinds. (Only 2,000 domains end in the phrase “”)Of the companies surveyed, 35% own the domain name for their brand followed by the word “sucks.” They include Wal-Mart Stores, Coca-Cola, Toys”R”Us, Target and Whole Foods Market, according to FairWinds. Some 45% of these domains have yet to be registered by anyone. (FairWinds based its analysis on 1,058 domain names for companies on the Global 500 and Fortune 500 lists.)

    The study found that the majority of companies that do own these domain names publish no content on them. Only a few marketers have started to use the domains to try to tackle customer grievances. For instance, a Web surfer visiting the Web site (a reference to the AMC Theatres chain) sees a guest-satisfaction survey. Visitors to are directed to the customer-service page on Southwest Airlines’ site, where they can submit official complaints.

    Starbucks says that for all the gripe sites that exist, it has just as many fan sites. “We appreciate that our customers and partners [employees] take the time to share their thoughts about Starbucks. This feedback — good and bad — ultimately makes us a better company,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.While some of the gripe sites that remain in the hands of critics have fizzled, others have grown bigger. Take, which was started by former Bank of America customer Jonathan Speigner nearly five years ago after a dispute with the bank over a car loan. It now is home to thousands of postings, and it calls itself the “Official Bank of America consumer opinion site.”

    Consumers continue to post complaints on the site. One recent post from a user named “Ripped_off” says: “BOA does not care about customers….BOA is a disgrace to banking. I can pretty much relate to every complaint I’ve seen on this site and others.” The site is mentioned in numerous blogs and newspaper articles, and appears among the top 15 results on a Google search for “Bank of America.”

    Even though Mr. Speigner’s dispute with the bank over the loan is long settled, the information-technology director at an Atlanta technology company says he keeps up the Web site because it continues to draw traffic.Bank of America says it sometimes visits the site to solicit feedback and address consumer concerns. “We are always listening to our customers,” says Jim Pierpoint, a vice president of corporate communications at Bank of America. Bank of America notes it also devotes an area of its own site to customer service.