Krempasky, Walmart Apologist, Responds To Consumerist Outing

Blogosphere hall monitor for Walmart, Mike Krempasky, took the time to reply to our post disclosing emails we exchanged about a meeting we had several months ago. A meeting he would rather we not discuss, but we did anyway on behalf of the No Respect! podcast. After the jump, his remarks and our ripostes, wherein we ponder the ethics of lying to a PR flack… and whether that’s even technically possible.


Ben, thanks for the post. But lets be clear on a couple points.

I asked for, and you agreed to, a candid and private conversation about a number of different topics, one of which was Wal-Mart, another was Edelman. I didn’t declare that it was off the record, I asked you. Quite the difference.

Nope, you didn’t ask, you declared.

Despite your characterization of the conversation, the main substance as reflected in my notes was my very direct offer to help your readers resolve consumer problems with any of my clients. Bloggers and blog readers ought to matter to companies, and too many businesses wait for their customers to come complaining instead of proactively trying to fix problems. At the time you expressed that you’d be interested in that. But you never took advantage of that opportunity.

Why should it be our responsibility to drop the complaints in your lap? They’re right there on the blog. You already watch us with the Nielsen BuzzMetrics corporate grade blog-monitoring site. What prevented Edelman from stepping up on any number of the complaints we’ve posted about your clients, like Walmart and Starbucks? Where were you with the Boiled Walmart Baby? The withdrawn Starbucks coupon? The opportunity lost is yours, friend.

I made the trip to Brooklyn to meet you for a drink because, among other things, I’m a fan of the consumerist. It’s a well-written and entertaining blog. But it appears I misunderstood your interest in actually helping your readers (and, frankly, helping the businesses they frequent to do a better job) but instead just drive up the sitemeter hits.

You made a trip out to Brooklyn only after your employee, Chris Abraham, made a series of blunders in approaching us. We help out our readers by publishing their complaints and, when warranted, following up leads. Our duty is to the story, not to do your job for you.

And as far as this post – well, I’ll leave it to others to judge its veracity, considering you’re entirely comfortable with having made a committment and then ignored it.

Again, cheers and good luck.

The morality of reneging on a committment to a PR rep… sounds like the basis for a good piece of sketch comedy.

Comments

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  1. The Bans says:

    Zing!

  2. Brianron says:

    You can’t bullsh*t a bullsh*tter.

    Oh, wait, I guess you can.

  3. ChazB says:

    I think if this progresses, you’re going to make him and his company your bitch in front of all of teh internets. Good work! I’m automatically suspicious of any corporate PR ass-puppet that starts a conversation with “This is off the record…”.

  4. Paul D says:

    What a toile.

  5. MattyMatt says:

    Ooh, what other morally ambiguous acts are justified now, as long as you’re doing them to a PR rep?

  6. bitplayer says:

    I don’t exactly understand what was promised to this guy. Going off the record is something both the reporter and the subject must agree to. I’d suggest you guys make that crystal clear to subjects in the future. I was a reporter and I made it a point not to waste my time unless someone had real scoop for me. If I go off the record with someone I want it to be good. Sounds like this guy just wanted to butter you up.

  7. bitplayer says:

    Okay I’m up to speed now.. (Sorry I couldn’t figure out how to edit my previous post) First off I’m not a Walmart apologist and I think they should be humane and give back some of their profits to their underpaid and often overworked employees but I agree with the PR gentleman here. If something is supposed to be off the record, it is off the record. I think the mistake was not spelling out what was and was not off the record. One of my old editors always said that going off the record is a decision both the subject and the reporter must make together. It’s like a marriage, it’s a joint decision. Because if you tell me you kill kittens I might not want to keep that a secret.

  8. OnoSideboard says:

    I hate Wal-Mart, and I hate PR reps, but I am going to have to agree with the evil Wal-Mart PR rep here. The Consumerist’s responsibility IS to its readers, but agreeing to speak off the record and then revealing the details of the conversation is a little underhanded. I think blogs and New Media and the internet is all fantastic, but in order for it to be taken seriously by Corporate America, it has to retain some standards of integrity.

  9. Tulletilsynet says:

    Consumerist is right. Consumerist’s only friend should be its readers, not some Edelman whore who crosses the East River to bond on behalf of Walmart. (And I like Walmart.)

    A flack specializing in companies deeply in crisis introduced himself to me this week in an e-mail beginning “I am writing to you today in an off-the-record and background manner,” and ending (after more or less demanding my phone log, but in a nice way), “Thank you in advance for your prompt reply.”

    I’m not this guy’s mama. Nobody pays me to give him remedial lessons in manners or warn him about the consequences of his presumption.

    I feel fine about letting him rattle on, stupidly relying on his unilateral right to declare himself off the record. If he should ever ask me whether he is off the record, I’d tell him nope and I’d do so clearly and scornfully. But he won’t ask, I betcha.

  10. Kat says:

    Both of you go to your rooms for an hour. Then come out and hug.

  11. eb98jdb says:

    I can’t but think that if someone says the conversation is off the record then it is off the record. If you don’t want it to be off the record then simply say ‘I’m not comfortable with this being off the record’. Simple.

  12. mactbone says:

    Re Bitplayer:
    Masturbation is nothing to be ashamed of.


    I’m ruining the joke, but I think I was too subtle. “Every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten” Great picture and caption.

  13. ElizabethD says:

    As a former magazine journalist, I agree with Bitplayer that making *absolutely clear* what is on, and what is off, the record at the outset of the interview is essential. Maybe you did that, Ben, and I just missed it in reading these accounts. No matter how weasely or two-faced you think your interviewee is, or how loathesome his client(s), it’s only fair to state the rules and then play by ‘em. If I’ve misunderstood what happened, “never mind.” Love, Emily Litella

  14. CollateralDamage says:

    “The morality of reneging on a committment to a PR rep… sounds like the basis for a good piece of sketch comedy.”

    Hmmm, what if you substitute the words “human being” for PR rep? If you did indeed make a commitment to him then aren’t you obligated to keep it? Isn’t that one of the reasons Consumerist exists: To record when companies do not keep their commitments to their consumers?

    As a journalist I know there are times when we are required to renege on a commitment for a greater good but so far this sounds like bitchiness for bitchiness’ sake. That’s not a bad thing but let’s be honest about what the motives are.

  15. Brianron says:

    Oh, Emily. How I’ve missed you all these years. My favorite was your editorial on “Sax and Violins” on TV.

  16. Maybe I’m a dick, but I’m having a bit of a hard time mustering up any sort of sympathy for this Krempasky. If there were a give and take involved in the interaction between the two parties, I might feel differently. Such as it is, though, it’s basically Krempasky meeting up with Ben and saying “Hey, check out my big shvanz. You want to hold it for a little while? No, I don’t really want to hold yours.”

    If I were at all impressed with the motivation for the secrecy, again, I might feel differently. But this guy just wants Ben to help him, free of charge, to have an easier job. Cooperation is earned, not commanded — especially where PR mercenaries are involved.

  17. What I don’t get is that if he was only asking if it was off the record, why didn’t he wait for Ben to agree/confirm? Why ask a question and assume the answer is yes instead of waiting for a reply?

    Is Mike claiming that Ben explicitly agreed not to tell anyone about the conversation?

  18. Plasmafire says:

    You know, PR people are mostly focusing on killing negative comments or discrediting them, why don’t they for once actually try to improve the places they are hired to work for, you know, to promote something like a positive friendly shopping enviroment, instead of ice cold Soviet era “Russian” supermarkets or shopping centers. Heaven forbid they should actually improve the places they work for.

  19. Scott Kidder says:

    Blah blah blah, PR people suck, blah blah blah.

    Maybe, but “off the record” means just that — off the record. Much as I love Consumerist, this mistake diminishes the site’s intregrity.

    s

  20. Plasmafire says:

    I was just at a Walmart in Waukesha two hours ago, and boy did it suck, the checkout I mean, there were 3 registers open, with several lines that just kept growin longer. Apparently the people who normally run the registers are gone, and I mean gone, they are sucking employees that know very little about registers on the registers, they are “looking to hire” more cashiers, but not very hard obviously. And the other employee’s in the store seem to be doing their best to pretend to be busy to avoid helping people… But to be honest this is what I have come to expect in Walmart stores.

  21. Consumer007 says:

    Hi Folks – Scott, host of the No Respect podcast here.

    I really have to say it never fails to amaze me the lack of correct focus on the bigger picture and strong urge to delve into denial some people engage in when presented with information on a big problem / issue / controversy.

    Ben and I are investigative journalists. If you don’t know what that means, we EXPOSE FRAUDS, CHEATS, LIARS and corporations trying to rip you off or harm you. You don’t just walk up to such a person / entity and say “I’d like to expose you on my show / website is that okay?” You play their “game”, get the insight and the proof and educate the public.

    To then look at a smaller part of that process that is necessary for us to get to the real truth for you and say “but that’s LYING” is not only taking the whole thing completely out of context, but it is to ignore the mega-mo-bigger harm, in an indiotic and inane fashion. I mean, would you report an under-cover cop for being an under-cover cop and scream “entrapment” no matter what they do / catch?

    Basically when you make that argument, you support all the bigger harms and undermine journalists and other proactive consumers trying to make YOUR world a better place. If you like people like Mike lying to you professionally to manipulate your world and make you feel good about paying companies like Wal-Mart to molest you more and more, that’s your “deal”, I guess, but don’t expect activists like Ben and I to support or engage your “denial factor”. You objection isn’t honoring “honesty”, it’s comforting your own dangerous sense of denial and promoting the “dishonest” corporate assault on you and everyone else.

    Right along with that, I really hate it when I see bold consumers who correctly stand up and oppose abuse attacked by other weak feeble-minded consumers saying “be quiet, play nice, don’t make waves, hurry up I’m in line behind you”. Ignoring the welfare of the bigger world, including your own, because of short term focus or the denial factor. It really is pretty much cowardice.

    As far as PR Hack versus person, you need to understand, PR person=spin doctor. They are PAID not to have ethics, not to play fair with consumers, to overcome consumers and critical thinking so they do as they are told without asking questions. They don’t play fair, they just put out the CORPORATE MESSAGE. In that role, they don’t deserve respect, they don’t have any for you, and they ignore the fact they are consumers as well in their own lives, and therefore are hypocritacally refusing to admit the fact they wouldn’t like it if other spin doctors manipulated them for THEIR money, time and consent. They are the ultimate essence of “greedy bastard”. Defending them just makes you look stupid.

    Scott
    Podcast at http://no-respect.blogspot.com (the no respect refers to how consumers are not respected by corporations).

  22. thejbs says:

    cheers and good luck, motherf#cker.