Yesterday I was driving home and spotted a Geek Squad van (Geek Squad is a computer repair division of retailer Best Buy). I thought it would be fun to create a video where I play a fictional Geek Squad hero responding to farcical “help calls,” so I shot some footage of the Geek Squad van. Later, I decided, I would videotape myself in our van, and edit it so it appeared I was the driver.
As I began to videotape the van, the Geek Squad driver became suspicious and concerned. He was speeding, so maybe he thought I was going to report him… and that intimidation would redirect the situation. He began to take photos of my car, write down the license plate number and give me odd looks. So at a stop light, I handed him my business card and explained my intent in hopes that it would diffuse the situation. I told him I was making a video parody for YouTube — not at his expense — but in a parody of people who call tech support for erroneous reasons. He replied, “good now I can sue you.” I thought that was an antagonistic response to my gesture, but I just smiled and drove away when the light turned green.
Minutes later I saw police lights in my rear-view mirror, and posted a video real-time on my Unclenalts account. I also Tweeted pictures of the event, and alerts. Seems the Geek Squad driver called 911 and reported me, saying I got out of the car at a red light.
The video documenting my experience is now among the most highly-rated videos of the week on YouTube, and the comment cloud below summarizes the reactions. Twitter exploded with @bestbuy and @geeksquad alerts, propelled by fellow YouTuber CharlesTrippy. Nearly 700 people “thumbed up” the video versus 16 “thumbs down.”
I’m still not quite sure why the driver became so defensive, or the rationale for the “reckless driver” citation I received for $85. I do plan to contest it, if only to keep my nearly perfect driving record stable.
Meanwhile it’s unfortunate for BestBuy (who I regard as one of the better companies in social media, as well as one of my favorite stores… until yesterday). Here’s a blog post I wrote about BestBuy’s Barry Judge, and my “man crush” on him.
No official response from BestBuy or GeekSquad, although I did get a positive tweet response from http://twitter.com/AgentEAN. I did alert BestBuy’s corporate PR to the situation via e-mail on Friday. No response yet.
I’m really no fan of drama like this, much less when it reflects negatively on a corporation I like (BestBuy) and involves the police. But I do feel obliged to surface this via social media… the driver’s defensive and confrontational reaction reflects poorly on Geek Squad. And it not only got me a police citation but ruined a rare date night with my wife last night. Hard not to look at the Geek Squad logo without getting a viscerally negative feeling… like when you smell burnt hair or hear a chalkboard scratch.
BestBuy, known for its heroic approach to social media, didn’t acknowledge the Twitter tornado on Friday (almost all searches for BestBuy and GeekSquad were about this situation).
Here’s the video on my Nalts channel that shows the blow-by-blow. I thought the police officer handled it well, even though I would have appreciated him not giving me a citation given that it was based on a report from the Geek Squad driver (rather than anything he witnessed). I can’t envision that holding up in court, since the “eye witness account” was clearly not objective. I would have also appreciated him allowing me to talk with the driver, which he refused.
Parenthetically, it’s not illegal to videotape a van or a policeman in public, despite many myths. I’ve only heard of people getting in trouble when videotaping in a private place and refusing to stop or leave…. or for obstructing justice or demonstrating disorderly conduct in public while videotaping.