This story broke yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. That’s a for-pay site, so I can’t send you there, but here’s a free although shorter and skimpier version of this tale of dumbassness in action.
In brief: Wal-mart hires small company named Flagler Productions to videotape in-house functions: sales meetings, annual meetings, gatherings of company honchos, etc. These are “unscripted” moments: male Wal-Mart execs dressed as women, singing and dancing on-stage to rally the company troops. Wal-Mart execs joking about unsafe gas cans sold at the stores. A Wal-Mart exec introducing Hillary Clinton as “one of us.” (No doubt many of these tapes are already up and running at someplace like YouTube.) There are lots of such meetings and Wal-Mart becomes Flagler’s main source of revenue. But in 2006, Wal-Mart dumps Flagler.
No surprise, the production company, having lost its main customer, nearly goes under. Until the owners realize something: Wal-Mart and Flagler never signed a contract stating the terms of their relationship. So Flagler owns the tapes. They can do whatever they want with them. Like sell copies to lawyers representing a family that is suing Wal-Mart for selling a particular kind of unsafe gas can. The same can that company execs made jokes about because it was, ya know, so unsafe.
All I gotta say is: This is truly THE dumbass move of the day, week, month. Hell, of the millenium. Ooooooooohhhhhhhhh, man. I mean, I’m not a lawyer. Not even in the ballpark. But even I would know enough to (a) sign a contract if I entered into a business relationship; and (b) create a contract guaranteeing from now to eternity Wal-Mart’s ownership of said tapes. It’ll be awhile before I find a dumbass move to top this one. Well, okay. Maybe not. After all, there’s a presidential campaign going on and George Bush is still in the White House…….
Meantime, Wal-Mart, I hereby offer my services as a contract reader. My fee? A mere one-tenth of what you paid the company honcho that hired Flagler. And I guarantee my work. You know where to find me.