No Tesla for you!

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By | February 9th, 2016

Stewart Alsop thought he was buying a Tesla Model X. He plunked down a $5,000 deposit before seeing it. He agreed to wait the three to four months required before delivery. He was willing to pay the $130,000 price tag.

In September, Alsop went to a premier event for the vehicle sponsored by Tesla. He was excited to see, touch and hear about the car. But that’s when things went bad: The event began almost two hours late. He and a group of 3,000 were moved from outside to inside and back again. The slide show about the car was “amateur.” He felt misled and mistreated. And no apologies were issued.

Advocating for himself, Alsop wrote a blog post to Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk. Last week, Musk reacted like The Soup Nazi and told Alsop, “No Tesla for you!”

Apparently we now know how far is too far. But the question is, should Tesla have banned Alsop? Should a company ban customers? Is this right?

And for the customer, did Alsop go too far? When should we stop in our quest to advocate and accept that companies, both good and bad at customer service, will sometimes make mistakes that they either can’t or won’t fix?

We all must advocate for ourselves. Elliott.org exists to help consumers fight their own battles. There are plenty of articles, help available in the forums, and company contacts to assist you in your consumer problems.


In the midst of advocating, none of us wants to be fired by the company from which we purchased. To avoid this, slow down, take a deep breath and don’t go over the edge. Alsop has given us an example of how not to complain. There are things we can do to honor customer service representatives (and ourselves!) while fighting for what we think a company should do to make things right.

Related story:   Forwarding your complaint to a higher authority -- here's when to do it

Research.
Peruse the Internet to see if others share your problem. Look for existing solutions. You might be able to solve the issue before contacting the company.

Be courteous.
If you need to initiate a phone call or email, don’t yell, curse or make accusations about the company or the person you’re dealing with. Treat them with kindness and patience.

Know what you want.
What will make the situation right for you? Do you need a full refund? Do you need someone to fix something? Do you need guidance in how you can fix it yourself?

Keep going up the ladder.
If you’re not getting what you want, ask for a supervisor. Even as you continue to advocate, be calm and courteous. There are notes in the case files, and if yours indicates that you are unfriendly or angry, it may cause the person dealing with you to develop a negative bias against you.

Go public.
Facebook and Twitter can be good ways to get the attention of the company you’re dealing with. Companies will often respond better when things get public. But be careful. As Alsop found out, too much harshness could cost you their willingness to assist.



  • mbods2002

    Seems to me Telsa’s customer service and president doesn’t understand the fine art of appeasing irate customers, even the rude ones. “No soup for you!” is a “recipe” for a lot of lost business. Mr. Alsop will just take his $130,000 elsewhere, as he should.

  • Peter Varhol

    Alsop wasn’t an irate customer. He served two purposes here. First, he was a journalist, providing insight to the public about a product. Second, he wanted to become a user of that product, and was willing to pay handsomely for that privilege. If he were in fact an irate customer, then perhaps Musk would have been justified in his actions. But Musk doesn’t seem to understand the purpose of journalism, except when it suits his own purposes.

  • JenniferFinger

    I might eventually ban an overcomplaining customer, so I voted yes in the poll. But I’d take every reasonable opportunity to make things right with that customer first. If I did that and the customer still wasn’t satisfied, I’d tell that customer “I’m sorry, but it looks like I’m not able to help you with what you want.” I don’t get that Elon Musk did that.

  • Tanya

    We have had a few occasions to “fire” clients. We never like to, but there are times where personalities of our firm and the person just don’t mix well. Sometimes this can be remedied, but other times, life is just too short.

  • Whoa! “Alsop is a great example to us of how not to escalate too quickly.” That’s a bizarre comment to make when you start it off with “In September, Alsop went to a premier event for the vehicle sponsored by
    Tesla.”

    Granted, it was a group of 3,000 “exclusive” attendees. But essentially it’s a pre-sale event for highly desirable pre-sale interest clients — folks who can sling $130,000 around.

    Maybe it’s me, but when one is invited to be in an exclusive group like that, it sounds like the CEO SHOULD be told. Especially, when they only move about 17,000-18,000 units per year. Those 3,000 potential clients represent about 1/6th of their potential sales for the year. So, I don’t think you could escalate it fast enough.

    I’d want to know if I were the CEO.

  • Randy Culpepper

    As much as they like to claim otherwise, blogger journalist.

  • Randy Culpepper

    Tesla isn’t hurting for sales. Good on them for avoiding doing business with someone who chooses public shaming as his first resort.

    As for the poll question, this site regularly advises to consumers to avoid specific companies. Why shouldn’t companies be able to avoid specific problem customers?

  • James

    A journalist is someone who collects, writes, or distributes news or other information. Alsop clearly meets that definition.

  • Randy Culpepper

    There’s nothing journalistic about a blog post titled “Dear @ElonMusk: You should be ashamed of yourself”.

  • pauletteb

    When I worked retail, there were some customers I just walked away from, knowing they would be more trouble than their business was worth. I think Alsop fits firmly in that category.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Did you actually read the blog or just the title? No doubt it was whiny at times but there’s plenty of legitimate criticism in there. Tesla held an event where test drives were the primary draw and started it several hours late so that many weren’t going to be able to get their test drive unless they wanted to stay there all night. It sounds like a huge mess. Was he not supposed to report on this at all? Or downplay how bad the event was?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    It’s interesting how the same actions get viewed differently depending on who is doing them. Musk, the head of the small and hip car company, got a lot of support for his actions in this case. Now imagine the head of a giant automaker like Toyota or GM doing the same thing: They’d be totally skewered for disrespecting the customer.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    They’ve never once been profitable and are shooting for 2016 to be the year that finally happens. That isn’t going to happen without sales continuing to increase. To say they aren’t hurting for sales is kind of an odd statement.

  • Randy Culpepper

    While they aren’t profitable yet, demand continues to outpace supply by a large margin. They are not, in fact, hurting for customers.

  • Carchar

    My husband talks about buying a Tesla, but now he sees that dealing with the company is probably not worth it.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Agreed. A sincere apology can go a very long way to appeasing upset customers. In fact, one of Alsop’s main complaints made in the first few lines of his blog centered on that Tesla’s people didn’t even apologize for the event starting 2 hours late. Not only were these people being kept waiting in the very small group who can afford $130,000 automobiles but Alsop had put down a $5,000 deposit sight unseen. This event was going to be his first opportunity to actually see and drive the vehicle he’d already agreed to buy.

    Safe bet Alsop wasn’t the only one at the event peeved and Musk ended up sending the message he doesn’t want to hear from you if there are complaints. Not the ideal message to send.

  • Alan Gore

    This must be a first for us, a CSR case that has already made national news.

    Is there any chance we can get the case of that disgruntled Comcast customer who Comcast got fired for airing his discontent?

  • taxed2themax

    I wholly agree. I think “firing” a client is and should be a last-resort kind of thing.. I think for the business as well as the customer, all reasonable steps should be taken to try and fix whatever it is.. However, I do think that there can in fact be a point where the realization must be that whatever you, the business can and will provide, will just not ‘satisfy’ what the customer wants, and if you get to that point, I think it’s good for everyone – business and customer – for both to go their separate ways and find a new customer/business to engage. but again, this really should be a last resort measure… In this case, was it last resort? I don’t know as I’m not privy to all the facts.

  • RightNow9435

    At this point, Alsop likely doesn’t want a Tesla anymore. But on the chance that he does, his “differently uncle in Peoria” needs to buy it, then immediately sell it to Alsop.

  • just me

    What makes us all Americans? What makes USA different from the rest of the world? Please think – everyone will have something to say.
    The bottom line is – we all want the Constitution to work for all of The People.
    Censorship is not allowed.
    You as a natural person – have a choice not to speak or listen and you can ban a person from your castle because you do not like what they say and how they say it (a.k.a. censorship).
    Company does not have any right to censor customers as it affects the national commerce and to be a company it is a privilege that is not compatible with acting like a menopausal men. Corporations of any sort are not people. Do not confuse “incorporation” that gives some “people” attributes to an inanimate legal construct to give The People’s rights.
    The advice in the article might be practical – but how did we get to this point.
    If we have the right to say that the President is an idiot and he cannot retaliate, the Tesla kind of retaliation is even less acceptable.
    Mr. Musk – I do take a note of your reaction – not that you care — and this is the problem.

  • just me

    Companies do not have personalities and your own personal fillings you should keep in check and not to impose it on customers.
    I am sorry that you do not know wright from wrong. If your company is in business to provide service — not providing service is against the priviledge you were given. So you should get out of business. Once you rationalize “firing” customers – the slippery slope begins. Pitiful. “No soup for your” under any color is simply stupid.

  • Fishplate

    Only the Government is not allowed to censor speech. Any other entity is allowed that privilege. Will your local newspaper print anything you tell them to?

  • Tanya

    With all due respect, I am going to disagree. I see no need to have to listen to a client who thinks it is appropriate to call up and yell at either myself, a co-worker, or a staff member, if there is a problem with someone, then please address it in a professional manner. It is not appropriate and it is a reason to “fire” a client. The same also goes for a client who does not respect the time it takes to work on a job and constantly complains about the bill, if our rates are too high, please go find another firm to do the work. And those who do not respect our time by bringing in information at the very last minute. That being said, you are free to have your own opinion on this. I still feel that there are occasions to “fire” clients. I would rather lose a bad client than a great employee any day.

  • Bryan Kilian

    Except the event didn’t start 2 hours late. It started 45 minutes late. Apparently Alsop was counting from the time people were told to arrive. If a plane was scheduled to leave at 8pm and left at 8:15, you wouldn’t say it was 2 hours and fifteen minutes late because you were told to get to the airport two hours before departure.

    Then he whines that he didn’t get to touch or test drive the car _because he left early_.

    That entire blog post is a case study in entitlement issues.

  • judyserienagy

    THIS is a funny story. Who would WANT the damn Tesla after this kind of treatment?

  • Éamon deValera

    Only the government can censor. Corporations can’t keep anyone from speaking their opinions. Corporations or individuals don’t have to do business with people they don’t like as long as there is not some other reason for which they’re covering up in which a customer is a member of a protected class.

    It may not be wise to exclude a customer, but someone who puts that much effort into a presentation that was delayed will probably be a whinger.

  • Éamon deValera

    Perhaps they do see the risk of appeasing irate customers, or potential customers. They may become unreasonable customers.

  • Thanks for that additional information re: 45 minutes late vs 2 hours.