In the 90’s, I used to love reading Stuart Alsop’s letters to high-tech CEOs, including one to Bill Gates, complaining about products as if he were our self-appointed consumer advocate. Because he was an influential journalist,and descendant of Boston Brahmins, CEOs listened and often responded in writing as well as with actions responsive to Alsop’s requests.
In his latest open letter to Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, Alsop complains about a poor marketing launch of the latest model car. He loves the car, but felt the launch event fell short of its promise to start in a timely fashion and introduce the new model. The event also took place during dinnertime, and apparently the food offerings were subpar.
I think Musk is shooting himself in the foot by refusing to let Alsop buy one of these cars because he wrote this open letter of complaint. Had Musk just ignored it, I doubt it would have received the attention it did. Also, I’m sure Alsop could circumvent the ban by purchasing someone else’s Tesla, because there is no way Musk could stop this transaction.
This whole contretemps reminds me of my former boss, an Israeli, who asked me to buy a company car for my use and the company’s use because I didn’t own a car way back then (and still don’t). He said I could buy anything under a certain amount — $15K — as long as it wasn’t a German or a Japanese-built vehicle. The restrictions were based on his WWII biases against our former enemies…after all, this was the mid-80s, so only 40 years had passed.
So I had to buy a crappy Ford van, which got recalled for defects twice and almost toppled over when one of our oversized, South African programmers started swaying in it from side to side as we were returning from an Apple developers conference in San Jose.
This former boss later took a big investment for another company from Deutsche Bank, so I assume he finally got over his WWII German-Japan ally boycott. Or maybe he considered it reparations.
My mother — a German Holocaust survivor — who resettled in Germany with my U.S. military dad and we kids in Bremerhaven during the mid-fifties, had no such qualms when it came to buying a car. We were one of the first Americans to own a Mercedes Benz, even though the company had supported Hitler’s regime.
Here’s the point: You buy stuff and you use stuff because you like it, not because you like the CEO or the way the company is run or the marketing launch event that left you literally and figuratively starving.
So, Stuart, I hope you get your car as well as your U.S. Constitutional right to free speech.