Sunday, April 17, 2011

Careless Words: An Internet Reminder

In yet another lesson in being-careful-about-what-you-say-on-the-Internet, UCLA Law School Prof. Stephen Bainbridge’s blog complaint about service he didn’t get from FedEx produced the following from the Daily Bruin last Friday:

UCLA law students are reacting with frustration to the law school dean’s response to a professor’s xenophobic blog posts, according to a student law organization. The post, made by Stephen Bainbridge, professor of corporate law, began with complaints about FedEx Express Office online services. Bainbridge described the customer service representative he spoke with as a “moron with an impenetrable accent,” and asked, “What third world shithole do they have him penned up in?” …

School of Law Dean Rachel Moran sent a letter to concerned student organizations in response. In the letter, Moran said the comments do not reflect the views of UCLA School of Law. She also said UCLA Law cannot censure his views because they were posted on his personal blog. Moran was not available for comment…

Bainbridge has since posted another blog entry, stating that he deleted the “offending passages” and offered his apologies. “Some folks thought the excised comments were racially insensitive. I don’t see it myself but … I don’t want to offend readers unnecessarily,” Bainbridge wrote in the post. “I think a fair assessment of the many thousands of my blog posts over the years would demonstrate that the post in question was an ill-considered aberration,” he added in an email statement to the Daily Bruin…

Full article at

Prof. Bainbridge’s original post on his blog seemed more aimed at poor service and at outsourcing of call centers than any particular group – unlike the recent YouTube video by a UCLA student that got major attention and a video response from the chancellor. (See prior posts on this blog.) In the YouTube case, moreover, the video was reported to have been made, with some collaboration of a parent, as part of a planned business venture of some type. In fact, the posted comments on the Bruin article as of today – which appear to come from law students – express annoyance with the controversy and are supportive of Prof. Bainbridge.

The original entry was dated 3/27/11 and – now redacted and with an apology – reads (excerpted):

FedEx Office Print Online SUCKS

I've got a 400 page document that I wanted printed on 3-hole pre-punched paper. Since I'm working at home, I thought it would be easy to print it using FedEx Office online printing and pick it up at my local FedEx office instead of schlepping all the way down to my office at UCLA. WRONG. Instead of printing at my local FedEx/Kinkos store, their automated system decided to print it at a store in Poway California. Approximately 100 miles--and a 3 to 4 hour drive in traffic--from my house.

Then I call Federal Express customer service and get some moron [excised] who, as near as I can tell, kept asking for the tracking number on my package! Where did they hire this guy? [Excised] When my repeated efforts at basic communication failed, I gave it up as a bad job. I'll just print the damned thing at work on Monday. One thing's for damned sure. I'm never using Federal Express Office online printing again.

…Update: Score one for social networking. Although neither a phone call nor 2 emails elicited any help, blasting this post all over Twitter did. So thanks to FedEx for stepping up to the plate and making it right.

…Update: Apparently, some folks thought the excised comments were racially insensitive. I don't see it myself, but since I don't want to offend readers unnecessarily, I've struck the offending passages and offer my apologies.

Full entry at

= = =

So, again, this episode seems to serve as a reminder about the ability of the Internet to spread communications that may, in retrospect, be regretted. Prior posts on this blog have noted that emails sent through the UCLA system may be subject to outside Public Documents requests (as occurred at the U of Wisconsin – see earlier posts). Even seemingly-private communications are not private.


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