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Redditors (and Popehat) Versus a Bus Company 153

Posted by timothy
from the some-people-are-nuts-in-public dept.
Techdirt explains the strange story of a lawsuit-happy bus company in Illinois which managed to tick off a cadre of determined redditors by calling them uncomplimentary names in the reddit forums. This all started when a bus passenger, Jeremy Leval, reported unsavory behavior by a company employee (telling an exchange student "If you don't understand English, you don't belong at the University of Illinois or any 'American' University.") and said so online. Besides the name calling on reddit, the bus company threatened the forum moderator with libel charges, and over insults posted by the bus company employees which the moderator had deleted. Further, company owner "[Dennis] Toeppen threatened to sue Leval, saying, 'The attorneys for Suburban Express are reviewing this incident with a view towards filing the appropriate legal action against this meddlesome MBA student.'" Attorney Ken White of Popehat got involved, though, and asked with good effect whether the company had fully considered the Streisand Effect. The strangest part? Toeppen's former involvement as a domain squatter.
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Redditors (and Popehat) Versus a Bus Company

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  • Sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Saturday May 04, 2013 @06:20PM (#43631813)

    Letâ(TM)s hope the Redittors are more accurate with this "issue" than they were with the Boston Bombers. People seem so willing to take whatever is posted on some web site by people that (right or wrong) have some vested thing in some opinion or view. Sometimes a critical mass builds in the Forums when the actual facts end up being completely different from reality. I wasn't there, Iâ(TM)m not jumping on the Band Wagon until the whole thing shakes out.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      So, did anything that matters happen today?

      If I wanted shitty soap operas I'd watch daytime TV.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The New York Post has already reported that Suburban Express is owned and operated by a couple of brown-ish high school kids. Oopsie.
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      What did they get wrong with the Boston Bombers? I don't follow blogs as a source of news.
      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        What did they get wrong with the Boston Bombers? I don't follow blogs as a source of news.

        Just about everything, they labeled at least one innocent bystander as a terrorist.

        If the Redditors actually left their basements it would have been a full on lynch mob.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because clearly those that speculated on a website should be held responsible for the news and police taking their speculation as fact. Why did the rest of the internet bite so hard on the media's bait and switch with this story? It's like witnessing brainwashing firsthand...

    • by flyneye (84093)

      Squabbles in forums should stay in forums. Anybody willing to spend money to feed shysters over some name calling and trash talk, gives a bad name to forums.
      Best off to just escalate the trash talk till the morons go away.
      Damn, we're almost civilized here on /. with our mod system we can say anything we don't mind being modded down for. We can blow off steam and say all kinds of abusive shit and people know it's just shit and steam.

      I know I've been pissing you guys off with my "outta left field opinions", o

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @06:27PM (#43631843)
    That an intellectual forum of internet posters could degrade to ad hominem attacks instead of reasoned debate.... Is this the /. farm system where we draft our new players from?
    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      It depends on the players you are looking for. Are you looking for those skilled at degrading ad hominem attacks or reasonable intellectual debate? If the first, I am available. If the second, please look elsewhere.

    • by Seumas (6865)

      Calling reddit an "intellectual forum" suggests you've never had the misfortune of dealing with it. Whenever Slashdot feels like a decayed and festering cesspool, just go have a look at the idiotic drivel over there and you'll realize just how good we still have it here -- even despite the influx of idiotic political bullshit normally found in Disqus comments at the bottom of CBS news articles linked to from Drudge and the addition of all the slashvertisements of the last few years.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      That an intellectual forum of internet posters could degrade to ad hominem attacks instead of reasoned debate.... Is this the /. farm system where we draft our new players from?

      I know the post is facitious, but the summary was poor. It wasn't reddit posters that resorted to ad homs, it was the owner of the bus company who made several troll accounts (including ones trying to impersonate his "foes") and posted various hilarious troll attempts.

      Essentially the owner of the bus company has a very short fuse, a persecution complex, and no self control. So while he was filing lawsuits he was also trolling the lawsuit targets with troll reddit accounts.

      It's Ocean Strategery [sic] and Pen

  • by hsmith (818216) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @06:30PM (#43631855)
    Reddit drama on Slashdot? Is that how hard up for "news" this site has gotten?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fermion (181285)
      It matters because it shows that alleged free market companies cannot really survive in a free market. This bus company took this guys money and then apparently treated him differently than other people and then apparently tried to shut down free debate on what they did. It is important because we must educate people that at least in America they have the right, at least until rand Paul shoots them with a drone because they walk out of a liquor store suspiciously, to equal service for pay and to express t
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        right, because rand paul is planning on killing americans with drones. oh wait no, thats what the president has already done....
        • by fermion (181285) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @08:25PM (#43632317) Homepage Journal
          except he does [foreignpolicy.com].

          I've never argued against any technology being used when you have an imminent threat, an active crime going on," Paul said. "If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and fifty dollars in cash. I don't care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him."

          • He's not arguing that people coming of liquor stores should be killed; he's saying that there's bugger all difference between being killed by a policeman and being killed by a drone. What, it's supposed to make the dead guy happier that the bullet was fire as a result of a trigger being pulled instead of a button being pressed?

            • by Anonymous Coward

              After the policeman accidentally kills me, my family has some legal grounds to stand on and go after the officer and/or the department. With a drone, there's no way to know with 100% certainty who was controlling it. Cops already delete dash cam video and other video evidence. You know they'll mess with drone recordings too. The department won't release the name of the person controlling it, they'll say it was a glitch, or the wind moved the bullet/drone right when it fired, the camera was miscalculated

              • by Kreigaffe (765218)

                That is dumb and makes no sense. If the cops could pull the shit you say they would, they WOULD BE pulling the shit you say they would, right now -- and the situation we'd be in now would be no different than the one you're hypothesizing about. That things don't work that way now would indicate that the cops aren't capable of that level of bullshittery.

                • > ... they WOULD BE pulling the shit you say they would, right now -- ....

                  I think [barrycam.com] that you [wordpress.com] may not have been paying attention. [theagitator.com]

                  The public can video the drone taking some action, but cannot link from that to the operator. If multiple drones are in operation at any one time, with multiple operators, reasonable doubt could be easily established simply by "losing" the drone captured imagery.

                  The police don't have to prove whatever drone problems they claim, they just have to create reasonable doubt.

            • ...What, it's supposed to make the dead guy happier that the bullet was fire as a result of a trigger being pulled instead of a button being pressed?

              Apparently that is our dividing line in Syria. If folks get killed by poison gas, then we'll interfere and send over troops without having any rational end game in mind. But as long as the folks are only getting killed by assault rifles, tanks, guided missiles and bombs, well everything is hunky-dory.

      • at least in America they have the right, at least until rand Paul shoots them with a drone because they walk out of a liquor store suspiciously

        Honestly though, that would be kinda cool. Can we do that now, because, they'll only get the chance once, and I want to be alive to see the shitstorm.

        • by Seumas (6865) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @05:59AM (#43633643)

          You hold the public in too high esteem. The majority of Americans would say "he musta been guilty or they wouldn'ta droned 'em".

          People don't want due process anymore. They don't believe in innocence until guilt is proven. They have absolutely no sense of the civil liberty they are rightfully owed other than when it comes to wanting weed to be legalized because "textiles, dude".

      • by chrismcb (983081)

        It matters because it shows that alleged free market companies cannot really survive in a free market.

        How does it show this? Are you saying a company that gives bad service should thrive in a free market?

        • by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @12:35AM (#43633027)
          No, we are saying that they do, because the free information is being supressed. The suppression of information is the antithesis of a free market.
          • The suppression of information is the antithesis of a free market.

            That's _exactly_ how Monsanto is evil. Genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) aren't necessarily more evil than generationally modified organisms (normally bred). They're probably going to grow more food for cheaper with the same problems as growing other foods.
            Monsanto's evil lies in trying to lie about it. Monsanto wants to prevent people from knowing they are eating GMO foods or buying milk with growth hormones added. Monsanto says it's because people won't buy the new stuff.
            Bullshit.
            If Monsanto passes

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Everyone knows if you can't speak Chinese you don't belong in an American university.
  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @07:09PM (#43632067)
    So there's an awfully beneficial to the bus company only contract of adhesion [wikipedia.org] which applies when you purchase a bus ticket from these (IMHO) idiots at Suburban Express. The students seem to be unaware of it when they purchase the tickets, and the "contract" allows suburban express to charge them loads of extra money, or "fines" (ohmigod, they call them fines!) for wierd little things. Then, the company takes the students to court for these fines, and probaby schedules the court dates such that the student could not possibly attend the court action, thereby having the student lose by default.
    .
    There's a very interesting write-up at the Daily Illini about this company and their practices by someone who initially did not believe how bad and wierd (and imho probably illegal) the actions of this bus company were and are:
    Suburban Express Causes its Own Problems [dailyillini.com] is the title of the April 25th article by Matt Pasquini, an "Opinions" columnist.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 04, 2013 @07:55PM (#43632237)

      If it's the same company that was in a Chicago Tribune article recently, their terms of service make some cell phone services look outright peachy in comparison. Almost like loan sharks on wheels. The company could have two busses going to the same place at the same time, but if you hop on the wrong one the company will go after you for theft. Also no refund for that ticket that's only good for a specific time on that specific bus. So if they screw up you're screwed anyways. I'd also guess the upkeep and maintenance on the vehicles is nothing to talk about either, old rattletrap vehicles with questionable maintenance and comparable to a roach motel on wheels.

      Pretty much it's a shady and exploitative company. You'd be better off asking for rides on a campus bulletin board, Craigslist, or hiking with a backpack near a major highway and thumbing it.

    • by seebs (15766)

      Except it's not the sneaky terms, it's the blatant fraud. I am not super convinced by the student newspaper report...

    • by jo_ham (604554) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .999mahoj.> on Sunday May 05, 2013 @11:42AM (#43635115)

      They file the lawsuits in a neighbouring county so that the students are ineligible for legal aid support from the university and thus can't afford to defend themselves - the "fines" are cheaper than the cost of defending yourself.

  • by meta-monkey (321000) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @07:25PM (#43632135) Journal

    Suburban Express' marketing department should probably update the public relations checklist:

    MEMO
    TO: All employees, and particularly boss-type in-charge people
    SUBJ: Keeping your feet away from your mouths

    Before posting on an online forum, sending an email, or communicating with the press, reread your message. Do any of your statements:

    • 1) Maybe sounds kinda racisty? (i.e., supports employees who address foreign customers in a derogatory manner) Y/N
    • 2) Makes you sound like a cartoon villain (i.e., includes phrases like "this meddlesome MBA student" or "and I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for you meddlesome _blanks_ and your _blank_!")? Y/N
    • 3) Your response is likely to draw more negative attention to the company than the original complaint did? Y/N

    If you circled "Y" on any of these items, please turn off your computer and do not send the message.

    Thank you!

    ~R.P. Choadington, V.P., P.R, H.R., VHS, QVC. esquire

    • American checklist (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      MEMO
      TO: All persons who claim to be Americans
      SUBJECT: Actually being an American, rather than a useful idiot

      Before denouncing somebody as a "racist", "sexist", "homophobe" etc, please review your statement and the circumstances:

      1. Did you actually hear the offensive speech or are you just jumping on the bandwagon and taking somebody else's word that the offensive speech was spoken? Remember: some people make claims like this as a way to invalidate somebody they have other disagreements with.

      2. Are you sure

  • we desperately need something new to bash... SCO is dead (or an artificially stimulated fighting zombie at most), microsoft keeps fucking up so much i almost feel sorry for them (almost), google is increasing the linux marketshare too much to call them "really evil" even apple bashing is getting stale since samsung is apparently flooding the market with cheaper-than-i-things (we all knew they would).

    we neeeeed something to bash.... a bus company full of lawyers may not be threatening linux, but hey it's sti

  • Slimy Company (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gauauu (649169) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @07:33PM (#43632175)

    So I went to school at Illinois, and still live in C/U. We've all known for years just how bad Suburban Express is, but unfortunately there's enough people that don't know, and enough new people each year, that keep them in business. While it's weird that this made Slashdot, it's nice to see them get the publicity that they deserve.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Reddit stands up to a lot of slimy companies. [reddit.com]http://www.reddit.com/r/frugal [reddit.com] frequently talks about companies which scam you and stay away. It seems like there's a lot of hate for Bank of America who charges hidden fees all day long. The common suggestion to this is to use a credit union.
  • by sylvandb (308927) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @08:22PM (#43632305) Homepage Journal

    I am completely sick of threatened and nuisance lawsuits with no purpose other than to intimidate or force others to make some arbitrary change in their socially acceptable behavior.

    Filing a law suit should at an absolute minimum require the plaintiff to pay some costs to the defendant (perhaps the smaller of the legal costs incurred by either side) should the plaintiff lose. This will help to minimize the number of frivolous lawsuits and so minimize the quelling impact of such lawsuits on society.

    Threatening a law suit in a public forum instead of contacting the defendant privately or simply filing said suit is nothing more than creating a spectacle trying to achieve the same quelling without even paying the cost to file. As such it should be punishable via a simple civil action with a default judgment (e.g. similar to junk fax) with the fine to be split equally between the wronged party and whomever pursues action to completion.

    While we are at it, anyone who threatens or actually does file a suit against an inanimate object should face the same penalty as does one threatening a suit. The penalty should be faced both by the individual and additionally the organization (if any) who sponsors their lawsuit activity and by all their superiors within that organization.

    • Filing a law suit should at an absolute minimum require the plaintiff to pay some costs to the defendant (perhaps the smaller of the legal costs incurred by either side) should the plaintiff lose

      I was about to say how that would never work for the little guy trying to sue a big company with an army of lawyers. Then I noticed your bit about paying the smaller of the legal costs from either side. That's actually quite a clever way to work around the issue. I approve.

    • by chrismcb (983081)

      Filing a law suit should at an absolute minimum require the plaintiff to pay some costs to the defendant (perhaps the smaller of the legal costs incurred by either side) should the plaintiff lose.

      So you are saying only rich people should be allowed to file lawsuits? Sometimes even the people who are in the right still manage to lose.

      • by femtobyte (710429)

        So you are saying only rich people should be allowed to file lawsuits?

        That would be different from the current system... how?

      • by sylvandb (308927)

        I've given some thought to mitigating that issue as you can see by my proposal which while imposing costs on the losing plaintiff, would provide a firm limit to that cost under the control of the plaintiff. If you have a better solution to the problem of nuisance lawsuits, or to improve my idea, I'm probably not the only one who'd like to hear your idea.

    • Filing a law suit should at an absolute minimum require the plaintiff to pay some costs to the defendant (perhaps the smaller of the legal costs incurred by either side) should the plaintiff lose. This will help to minimize the number of frivolous lawsuits and so minimize the quelling impact of such lawsuits on society.

      Aside from reclaiming legal costs, how about the plaintiff stands to lose the amount of compensatory and punitive damages they seek? That'll bring frivolous lawsuits to a halt with a quickness, and will probably keep amounts sought reasonable in legitimate suits. (Keep the appeals process in place, of course.)

  • I know the guy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by seebs (15766) on Sunday May 05, 2013 @01:52AM (#43633199) Homepage

    I've done some consulting work for him in the past.

    Honestly... He's sort of a jerk sometimes, and he makes some really poor decisions sometimes. But he's honest, and he's not a total moron. He isn't suing people to create some kind of crazy profit center, he's trying to deal with people using forged or incorrect tickets to get on buses. People like to point to his (admittedly a little wacky) terms and conditions and imply that he's suing over stupid shit. He's not, so far as I know. He's suing over people who do stuff like print three copies of the same ticket and get on three different buses that are running the same schedule. This isn't about "socially acceptable behavior", for the most part. (Some of the later stuff, like the defamation claims, was pretty dumb IMO, though.)

    And everyone jumps in with some "oh, hey, I know how you could easily solve this!" solution. It's like the thing where, if you spend ten years working with doctors to try to treat insomnia, anyone who hears about this will suggest you cut down on caffeine after dinner. Because, obviously, neither you nor the doctors have ever thought of that!

    Yes, there really are reasons that checking passengers against a manifest is at the very least a substantially higher cost than the (fairly small, compared to the user base) amount of fraud. Yes, there are reasons it probably wouldn't be a good tactic at all. It's not that he's too much of an idiot to think of this, it's that he has more information about what is actually happening than those of us who are reading couple-paragraph summaries over the Internet.

    • by DamonHD (794830)

      Oh dear, letting facts and shades-of-grey realities get in the way of a corporations-iz-evills story!

      You must be new round here... %-P

      Rgds

      Damon

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're completely neglecting the part where he is using his lawyers to intimidate and threaten the authors of reddit posts, Facebook posts, and yelp reviews.

      He's also not only suing people who forge tickets. He's suing students who used the To/From tickets on a round trip backwards. Or whose parents issued a chargeback becuase the bus never showed up.

      In my opinion, his ticketing practices are crap - but that's not the real issue, at all.

  • English (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alex Belits (437) * on Sunday May 05, 2013 @03:46AM (#43633391) Homepage

    To be fair, the quoted statement is perfrctly valid in itself, and universities, indeed, require an English test for students whose native language is not English, for this very purpose.

    I remember that when I arrived in US in September 1993, for a few weeks I could not talk to locals because I did not understand spoken English. I avoided talking to them because I expected it to be too much of a trouble for them to have a conversation with me. Once I adjusted to the spoken US dialect of English, I reached the point when communication with me was worth the trouble, so I could talk to people without expecting them to run away in frustration. That was common courtesy on my part.

    On the other hand, if now some ignorant racist fuck will pretend that he doesn't understand me because he can kinda recohnize some Russian accent in my speech, I would tell him to go fuck himself with the Washington Monument.

    • No. That would be discrimination. Require an English test for all students period. I wonder how many native Americans would be rejected this way.
  • OK, I did RTFA, and several linked articles, posts, and blogs as well. And I still don’t get it. I mean, yeah, I get that this is about dick moves by a completely hostile-to-the-customer small business run by idiots, sure, what else is new? But... This is a bus company, right? Typically you wait at a bus stop, and when the bus comes you pay the driver, take a seat, and eventually exit the bus when you reach your stop. Terms and Conditions??? Seriously?? Where and when do these so-called terms and cond

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