Kinda like when you get caught making out with that co-worker at the office Christmas party, there is little you can to do recover other than hope everyone gets distracted and forgets it ever happened. While Backcountry.com CEO Jonathan Nielsen did offer an apology to the community at large, it fell short in several areas. Largely because the outdoor internet community is not a slow moving mass of complete morons, and they saw through what was potentially taking place.
First, The Apology
In a letter to “everyone”, Nielsen said “we fumbled”, and the internet was quick to point out that there is a distinct difference between “we fumbled” and “oh shit, we got caught”.
While the apology did say “we’re sorry”, and it actually sounded very sincere on the surface, hell it even included that they are dropping all of the lawsuits against the 50+ outdoor brands they were suing over use of the term ‘Backcountry’ in their products. Hooray!–screech–not so damn fast. Dropping lawsuits yes, great job BCDC, great, great job. Great job at attempting to obfuscate. You see, while they have rescinded the lawsuit, the did not rescind the petitions for trademark infringement with the USPTO. In short, we won’t sue your face off, but you still can’t use the name, so, like, stop it and stuff. Oh, and we still own the name ‘backcountry’, nanny nanny boo boo bitches!
It Isn’t Me, It’s You
So that Nielsen CEO Executive Stuffed Suit guy is the worst, amirite? Or is he? No doubt he could have jumped into this whole thing and said to TSG Partners, the owner of Backcountry.com, “whoa whoa whoa, this is a terrible idea”. But, just like your friends in college that knew you couldn’t jump from the lower patio railing to the upper balcony of your local bar but let the attempt happen anyway, so did Nielsen. But is it all him? We don’t think so. You see, TSG Consumer Partners owns, like, a lot of companies. And while BCDC is a big one, TSG sure as hell doesn’t want their other brands to be taking the heat for this faux pas (we had to look that word up) and damage the entire portfolio of brands. So what do you do? You let the CEO take the heat, I mean, the guy works for you, right? (Note: some people have taken to emailing the leadership at TSG announcing their boycott of all TSG brands. Also, that was our suggestion. 🙂 )
Pssst, This Isn’t The Only Lawsuit
Being the nerds we are, we did some digging. Guess what fam? This ain’t the first time TSG Owned brands have sued too-small-to-fight mom and pop shops over really stupid shit.
BrewDog, a craft brewer with a gin named Lone Wolf sued a local pub with the same name, then dropped the lawsuit after the internet got ahold of it and the craft beer community lost. It’s. Mind.
Planet Fitness has filed several trademark infringements against Planet Swim, a small health club; Planet Spirits, a training facility for cheerleaders; and Rog’s, a small gym over the use of the words “we lift things up and put them down”.
Guess what the above have in common? They’re all owned by TSG, and they’re all against small shops that likely don’t have the financial liquidity to fight the petition.
There are many more, but this shit is kinda boring, so let’s move on.
A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing
Okay, so they apologized, and dropped the lawsuits, but guess what friend? There is also a massive campaign running in the background to stop efforts like the Boycott Backcountrydotcom group on facebook, a group that has grown to an impressive 21,000+ members in just 11 days. (oh, and almost all of them are peeling off their backcountry stickers).
First, we ourselves have received an anonymous email about our first blog post (which means you made it popular, thanks fam) warning us to “be careful”.
There are a handful of users in the above mentioned facebook group seemingly coming to the defense of backcountry.com, which is kinda like walking into the lions den. So we decided to spot check 6 of them, because it was either that or go out in public and talk to other humans. What we found with 5 of the 6 we checked: The names used are not registered voters anywhere in the U.S.; The companies they claim the work for are not registered companies anywhere in the U.S., and their profile photos either don’t show up anywhere else on the web, or in two cases are photos from a stock photo site. Now correlation doesn’t equal causation, but if we were to get all political on you, this would be known as a ‘disinformation campaign’, and it isn’t uncommon for ‘reputation management’ companies to have a stable of fake facebook profiles sitting in the wings to use for this very endeavor.
Small Brands and Speciality Retail Rejoice
One thing is for sure, everyone in the outdoor consumer space has taken note of smaller local speciality retail as well as the thousands of cottage brands that you won’t find in the bigger (or any) shop. This renewed focus on brands and shops that made outdoor gear great has nothing but upside, and the BoycottBackcountrydotcom Group has launched a gofundme to help with legal battles by these small brands. It has already raised over $6,000.
We are currently compiling a list of specialty shops in all 50 states that you should patronize this holiday season.
“Welp, That Ain’t Good” -Buster Scruggs
Regardless of what happens here, we know that a facebook group of 20,000+ passionate outsiders are not happy with Backcountry.com, and we’re heading into the holiday gift buying season. While we won’t see real-world numbers because they’re privately held, it will be interesting to see how this fiasco they’ve created affects their bottom line.