The Anti-Social Behavior of Social Commerce

Imagine if you walked into a Nordstrom department store in a mall and immediately were confronted by a lawyer who shoved a contract into your hands and demanded you sign it before going any further into the store. You wouldn’t know whether to laugh or scream, but you would undoubtedly throw the contract back into the lawyer’s face and storm out of the store.  Nordstrom would have lost a customer for life.

No department store, Nordstrom or others, would ever attempt to do such a thing, of course, because of the ill-will it would generate.  Or would they?

More "haughty" than "haute"

More “haughty” than “haute”

When you visit Nordstrom’s “Hautelook” social commerce website, that is exactly what happens: before you can proceed into the web site to look around, you must agree to create an account with them, supply your first and last name, email address, sex, zip code, and agree to a contract, the so called “Terms & Conditions”.  It’s a narrow, one-sided contract that grants them permission to spam you, disclose your information to 3rd parties, and sue you for unlimited damages under an Indemnification clause.  Just for looking around before you even think about buying anything.

But Nordstrom is not alone.  Of the top 10 social commerce sites1 identified by Business Insider, 9 of them (the top 9, for what it’s worth), all do the same thing — erect what I call a “TOS-wall” (TOS for “Terms of Service”).  Most immediately confront you with a sign-up (and sign on the dotted line) form; a couple wait until you click on something before demanding a contract.

Sign here, your spam awaits!

Sign here, your spam awaits!

Of the top 10, only Fab lived up to its name by not demanding a contract.

Make of this what you will.  I’m sure each of the other 9 has lawyers who can articulately defend their anti-social and anti-consumer behavior.  But I think it’s a sad day when retailers forget who the customer is and acts with such arrogance towards the people who pay their bills.  We need to show them who’s the boss and laugh these “TOS-Walls” off the Internet. Because we all know if one of Nordstrom’s vendors demanded a contract before even telling the company what they have to sell Nordstrom would laugh them out the door. Nordstrom has lawyers that prevent it from doing something stupid like signing such one-sided contracts: the same lawyers who are hoping we’ll do something stupid.

1 For reference, the sites are:

  1. Groupon
  2. Gilt
  3. Zulily
  4. Living Social
  5. Rue La la
  6. HauteLook
  7. Beyond The Rack
  8. Ideeli
  9. One King’s Lane
  10. Fab