The Consumer Complaints Blog

Fighting the trained monkey in modern society.

August 30, 2010

Patrick Byrne

Filed under: Musings,Society — Editor @ 2:29 pm

To say that Patrick Byrne is a complex corporate executive would be an understatement.

On one hand, the founder, chairman and CEO of is a well-known vocal proponent of free markets, smaller government and school choice. But at the same time, he’s called for greater SEC oversight, has written a CEO Owner’s Guide to ensure stronger ethics in business leadership, and is adamant about a crackdown on naked short selling of stock, a stance that has provoked the wrath of Wall Street.

Patrick Michael Byrne is chairman and CEO of, Inc., a Utah-based internet retailer that has been publicly traded since 2002. Under Patrick’s leadership the company’s annual revenue has grown from $1.8 million in 1999 to over $800 million in 2009.

Patrick received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and Asian studies from Dartmouth College, a master’s in philosophy from Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar,and a doctorate in philosophy from Stanford University. He has taught at the university level and frequently guest-lectures on business, the Internet, leadership and ethics.

Before founding, Patrick served as chairman, president and CEO of Centricut, LLC, a manufacturer of industrial torch consumables, then held the same three positions at Fechheimer Brothers, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company that manufactures police, firefighter and military uniforms.

In 2001, Patrick began,’s socially responsible store for products handcrafted by artisans from developing nations and rural areas of the USA. To date, more than $50 million has been returned to Worldstock’s artisan suppliers.

A self-described “classical liberal,” Patrick believes that our nation’s future depends primarily on a sound educational system and a healthy capital market. Towards those ends, Patrick serves as chairman of the Milton & Rose Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, supporting legislative reform to bring educational choice to parents. Patrick has also founded 19 schools internationally that currently educate more than 6,000 combined students.

In 2005, Patrick began a vigorous campaign against corruption in our capital markets through securities manipulation. His stance on naked short selling – an illegal form of market manipulation  experts believe has damaged thousands of promising public companies -quickly caught the attention of Wall Street analysts and reporters and remains a point of high controversy today, as the country recovers from the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression. “Our capital markets mean your savings,” Byrne says about his campaign. “Rogue hedge funds are killing businesses for profit. That doesn’t mean I’m against capitalism. It just means there needs to be more controls in place.”
Byrne says he is consistent in his thinking. He cites his belief in economic freedom, that he wants people to stop exploiting the system’s loopholes for personal gain and rallies around a common cry that education is at the root of empowering today’s employees as well as our youth.

Patrick also holds many interests outside of e-commerce. He holds a black belt in tae kwon do and at one time even pursued a career in boxing. Being a cancer survivor, it was important for Patrick to prove that nothing can stand in his way. Hoping to raise awareness and funds for cancer research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Patrick has cycled across the country four times. In 2000, while on his last ride, he raised record-breaking funds for the institute from across the nation.

This type of outspokenness has made Byrne a polarizing figure over the past few years and has drawn quite a few critics — as well as champions.
All that has done is crystallize Byrne’s resolve. It hasn’t distracted him from his passions, including his belief that fighting poverty and educating young people must be priorities. Byrne has personally founded 19 schools internationally, and in 2001, he founded, an micro site that sells handcrafted products from artisans in developing nations and from underprivileged artisans in the United States. Overstock keeps a low profit margin on these items and ensures that the artisans receive, on average, 60 percent of the total revenue.

With all of this, there’s one thing just about everybody can agree on about Byrne — he’s extremely passionate. But he has also shown a knack for growing a business that’s hard to dispute. In just over 10 years, Byrne has taken from a $1.8 million start-up and transformed it into a public company that generates more than $800 million in annual revenue and receives top-notch customer service rankings.

Byrne has said the key to his ethical values is the “Hindu term ‘Dharma,’ that is usually translated to ‘duty,’ but it means ‘the way you’re wired.’ I don’t think of myself as some super-ethical guy; it’s just the way I’m wired. But when you see certain things that are bad, you’re supposed to stop them, and when you see some chance to do some good in the world, you do that.

It’s a lot easier if you start off ethically, and it comes from having the right heroes. If you have the right heroes as a kid, you end up modeling yourself after them. Then it becomes easy. It’s not what courses you take in college.”

Byrne has been a vocal supporter of small businesses, believing that their success is directly related with the recovery of the American economy. His “Main Street Revolution Initiative” is an effort intended to increase the visibility of small, local businesses by giving them an avenue for exposure to national markets.
?“The point of this program is to sell products we’ve sourced from entrepreneurs around the country,” Byrne said. “By joining our network, small-business owners can reduce their supply chain costs and expand the awareness of their products among a much bigger audience.” is working with local chambers of commerce to find small-business owners to participate in the program. In addition to helping “homegrown” businesses reach a national audience, the program helps consumers support small businesses they otherwise might never have heard of. hopes the Main Street Revolution initiative will be as successful as the Worldstock program, which it launched in 2001. As of April, the Worldstock program-which gives global artisans from places like Bali, Columbia, Ghana, Nepal and Thailand the chance to sell their products on surpassed $50 million in total payments. It’s also a top tab on the home page.

Even after all the hard-work he’s put in to building the, surviving testicular cancer and campaigning against harmful financial practices like naked short selling, Patrick Byrne still has to hold his own against harsh critics and lobbyists.

He regularly defends his progressive views on television and online with the hopes of making a difference on millions of lives. Whether as a panelist on Fox News, or debating financial regulations on CNBC, Byrne is considered a credible source on the economy and was noted as one of the few people to have forecasted an oncoming crisis. Byrne saw fault in the global banking industries use of credit and sub-prime mortgages and warned online and on screen about the possible dangers that would eventually come to hit the worlds economy. Although, as the recovery continues and Americans try to climb their way out of debt and fiscal trouble, Byrne has yet to be given the full credit he deserves.

Yet, Patrick carries on because he knows that his work and its value to the people he helps and serves is what is most important. continues to excel in providing excellent customer service satisfaction by offering quality goods at a low price. Byrne may never be recognized for the work he has done, but as long as he helped a struggling student or middle class families carry on one more day, then he can feel proud about his many accomplishments.

September 17, 2007

Provocateur Cops in Canada

Filed under: Musings — Editor @ 11:23 pm

I usually don’t go in for the whole protesting thing. I really see it as nothing more than an opportunity for the media and higher ups to manipulate the public while the rest of us feel like we’re making a difference by blowing off steam and screaming. The truth is that unless there is a mass movement, protest don’t really seem to accomplish much.

I’m a much bigger believer in the grass roots organization movement and voting with my dollar rather than screaming in the cold or something. But to each his own. The point I’m getting at is the video below. The part about the boots was really kind of amusing. It’s nice to know that Joe Public is so easily manipulated into a riot situation for a good old fashioned ass kicking. The host is kind of slow like he’s speaking to a room full of 5 year olds. Anyway, watch the video and let me know what you think.

October 6, 2005

I Think I Know Why The Kids Are Sick

Filed under: Musings — Editor @ 1:16 pm

For this article I’d like to talk about SickKids Hospital in downtown Toronto, Canada.

The story begins with a call from my sister in law. My nephew hurt his arm and we needed to take him to the doctor because she couldn’t tell what was wrong with him. After an annoying trip to his incompetent doctor, we end up at Sick Kids Hospital. (I once had a guy on the street ask me why it’s not just called Kids Hospital since hospitals are automatically presumed to be for sick people.)

The Hospital For Sick Children, or SickKids as it is known, “is one of the largest paediatric academic health science centres in the world, with an international reputation for excellence in health care, research, and teaching.” That’s a direct quote from their web site.

Now don’t get me wrong. This is not an assault on the hospital or its abilities. In Toronto and around the world, they really do have a superb reputation for excellence. Something not all hospitals in the Canadian system can claim, and I’m speaking from first hand experience. I once had to sit in the emergency room for over three hours with an exposed, gashed open knee before anyone looked at it. Of course this wasn’t as bad as the kid next to me who’s wheelchair was parked in a pool of his own blood. But I digress.

So we’ve established that SickKids Hospital is famed for its excellent doctors and the good work that they do, including teaching.

My nephew, by the way, was taken care of by a doctor who found that his arm was just dislocated. A common condition in young children apparently. He popped it back in in a second flat.

While we were waiting for the doctor, I had a chance to look around. This is the part I don’t get. In North America, we have a growing problem with obesity and heart disease and you name it. The culprit of which is overeating and a fast food culture. So why then does one of the world’s best hospitals for children allow Burger King onto their premises? Is this not a conflicting message to send to children and people in general?

Now, I’m not a granola munching vegetarian hippy or anything, but I am against hypocrisy and I do hate fast food. Not because I don’t eat meat. In fact, there is nothing I love more than a good charcoal barbecue dripping with flesh. (I think I’m getting hungry.)

No, the reason I hate fast food is because it’s insulting to consumers and humanity as a whole. I can barely even call it food to be honest. It’s a pathetic example of minimum standards for low quality human consumption, masked with flavour enhancers and cleverly marketed with lies and propaganda. Not to mention how it’s prepared. This truly is the lowest form of food created solely for profit. The worst part is how people keep eating it and even defend it if you point it out.

But the real problem is that this famous hospital has no problem sending this mixed message to children and parents. What are we as consumers supposed to think? Doctors are telling us that we should avoid this crap but the hospital seems to think it’s okay. Which one is it?

I went back a different day and shot some photos.

Burger Kind sign at SickKids hospital in Toronto
This one is a shot of the sign from the street. The hospital wants to make sure you know what’s inside for you to eat.

Sign making sure you can find Burger King inside SickKids.
They also want to make sure that on the way to that cardiac scan, you can grab something at Burger King.

Burger King inside SickKids Toronto.
This is inside the hospital. Burger King seems to be closed on Sunday. Guess Sundays aren’t profitable enough.

What about this question of profitability? Would these companies be in the hospitals if they weren’t turning a profit? Hell no! So why then does this hospital send out a yearly campaign asking people to donate money? Other hospitals in the city use their facilities to make money that goes towards the hospital. Why is The Hospital for Sick Children such a corporate whore?

All good questions that I’m sure some twisted individual at the hospital can give a BS answer to when they could do a much better job of running their facilities. At the very least, stop sending out mixed messages.

As always, thank you for reading.

September 27, 2005

When Is Advertising Considered False?

Filed under: Musings — Editor @ 4:04 pm

Today I thought we’d tackle the issue of false advertising. Too often
we hear and see things in print or television that are just not true.
Take this advertisement from Rogers for example.

The advertisement in question is proudly hanging in their store windows, most
probably part of their other integrated efforts, like print and direct
mail. In fact, they’re currently using it on the Rogers Video website
as I write this.

The sign states in big bold letters: “RETURN IT FAST FOR CASH”. It’s
almost screaming it at you and has a tacky set of arrows to go with
it for dramatic emphasis.

Rogers Advertisment - Return It Fast For Cash

So now it’s time to find out what they mean. Will they actually give
me back some money? That would be cool…

Direct quote: “Return FAST-BACK BAYBACK MOVIES by 12 NOON the next
day and GET $1 OFF your next movie rental.”

Hold on! Wait a minute. Did they just say I’ll get $1 off my next
movie rental? That doesn’t sound like cash to me. It sounds more like
credit. In-store credit and a scam to have me come back for more
movies. Is it? I have to look this up to get the dictionary
definition. I have to make sure I am not misunderstanding the word “cash”.

Let’s see now, here is the official definition of the word.

. money in coins or notes, as distinct from checks, money orders, or
. money in any form, esp. that which is immediately available.

Note the part that says “as distinct from credit”.

So let’s apply a test. I go to the drug store next door.

“Excuse me.”


“I took back some movies to Rogers the other day. They gave me $3 off
my next rental. Can I use that to buy anything here?”

Deadpan face. “No.”

Aha! So it is not money. I can’t spend it and it is not immediately
available is it?

How is it possible for this to happen? Could it be that the people in the
Roger’s marketing department are illiterate? That can’t be right or
they wouldn’t have been able to write the resume they used to get the
job. Or is it possible that they thought the word CASH in huge
letters would grab people’s attention more than IN-STORE CREDIT? Hmm…

The point of all of this being this. Is this false advertising? It is
clearly saying things that are not true. You will not even come close
to seeing cash for returning a video fast. So why are companies
allowed to mislead people this way? All I can do is ask and hope that
people pay attention and think.

As always, thank you for reading.

Cell Phones. Are They Highway Robbery?

Filed under: Musings — Editor @ 2:28 am

There was an interesting article recently in the paper about how the government is unwilling to make Canadian wireless companies release phone numbers in order to allow consumers the choice of switching carriers.

So lets tackle the wireless cell phone (mobile for our UK friends) companies in Canada and North America as a whole. The phone number issue is a good place to start.

This issue is particularly irksome because it is already available in the US. Yes that’s correct. In America you can take your phone number and move between providers. Sounds a lot more fair than in Canada doesn’t it?

So why is this important you ask? What’s the big deal? If you don’t like your company just move to another one and get a new number. On the surface that does sound good but let’s take into account a small business owner. Changing a cell phone number can be a decision which can cost thousands of dollars. Not only would they need to reprint business cards and stationary, but they also stand to lose future income from past clients that know the old number. Imagine the hassle / embarrassment of calling up all your past clients to tell them of your new cell phone number. The worst part is that these corporations could release the numbers and have the technology to do it.

But lets leave that issue. The cell phone companies have been having a ball with us for years. The phone number issue is just salt in the wound.

Here is an issue that, for some reason, gets no attention at all in North America. In fact, only recently has Fido (owned by Rogers) begun offering free incoming calls.

What’s that you say? Who has free incoming calls? Well, lets start with Europe. Incoming calls are free, and have been for years, in most if not all European countries. Even Eastern Europe. That’s right. Non first world countries have free incoming calls. In fact, and you’ll like this, even pay-as-you-go customers have free incoming calls.

Now we’ll move on to Asia. Yup. That’s right. Free incoming calls. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find developed countries outside of North America that have to pay for incoming calls.

So think about that for a moment. Why are North Americans being treated like total idiots? The answer is really simple. Because we let them treat us like this. Every time I travel, it’s fun to tell people about how our incoming calls are not free whenever the subject comes up. I find that most people get a puzzled look on their face because they can’t comprehend the notion.

Add to this the fact that if you choose pay-as-you-go, you are told that you have bought and paid for minutes. Then if you don’t use them, they just disappear into thin air. Wait a minute, did I buy those minutes or rent them? They told me I bought them. What’s going on?

In case you’re wondering, in the US you can find companies that roll over your minutes. Same as in the UK and Europe. So once again we’re left bent over and shafted.

The issue is not how badly we’re getting ripped off. That’s pretty much become par for the course with corporations. Here are the more important questions: Why do these things get no coverage in the media? Why don’t our politicians do something about it? Why is there so little choice in the Canadian cell phone market? Is it the consumer that benefits from this?

We as consumers have to become active in our own lives. Don’t let government and corporations force feed you. We should not be satisfied until there’s a plethora of choices, and good one at that. We are in an agreement with government. As citizens, we fund to keep our country a place worth living in. They in turn agree to protect our rights so we don’t get trampled on. Or revolt. As a society, we are keeping up our end of the deal. Government?

Society exists for the people not the corporation. Generating money is not the sole purpose of humanity.