What are we doing when we like a Facebook page, sign up to a newsletter for discounts or engage with them on Twitter? A seemingly throw-away gesture as it takes so little time, energy or thought, it turns out we could be selling our souls to the Devil himself. Well, at least the big corporation we’ve just retweeted.
The New York Times reported yesterday that the brand behind Cheerios, General Mills, amended its Terms and Conditions. We’ve all read carefully through those for every company we interact with, amiright?! If not, you may want to start. Essentially what NYT found when they dug a little deeper was that anyone who had downloaded a coupon, joined one of its online communities (read Facebook) or a variety of other interactions was basically giving up its right to sue General Mills in the future.
Now, we’re not sure what you would sue a cereal company about, not in great detail anyway, but this goes a little too far for our liking. It sounds like the kind of conversation a five year old might have in school. “We were friends this morning, then she tried to get me in trouble for stealing her gel pen when I only borrowed it. Now I’ve drawn all over her face to teach her a lesson.” School was hard, okay.
In laymen’s terms the new policy basically means that if you receive what could be construed as a benefit from the company you agree to settle any and all future disagreements using informal negotiations rather than formal court proceedings – personal email as opposed to lawyer’s letters. All well and good you might think, companies spend millions every year on petty court squabbles. But as the NYT article quite rightly points out food is a dangerous area. Nut allergy sufferers with a case can’t and shouldn’t be asked to negotiate via email if there is a clear finger of blame to point.
Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves what exactly our engagement costs us. If more companies follow suit we can envisage a time when browser history and hard drives are used for a lot more in court than just child pornography cases. Nearly choked on a piece of glass at a restaurant? Tough Sir, you were using a money-off coupon to pay for the meal thanks to your participation on the restaurants Facebook page. Email us and we’ll try to help you. Probably with another coupon so you visit us again…
Can that really be where we’re heading?
Angharad is a former radio journalist balancing a career in PR with an insatiable writing habit that spans more topics than she can count on her smaller-than-average hands. She's passionate about the media, women's rights and politics with a love of travel, culture, entertainment and all things lifestyle on the side. Interests include prolific online shopping (bit of a reputation in the office), musicals, dinosaurs (be honest, they're awesome) and tweeting anything and everything from @Welsh_PR