CarMax man-handles Jose Canseco’s mean tweets

The one-and-only Jose Canseco recently tweeted some car-buying advice for his 400,000 plus followers. Unfortunately, that advice probably wasn’t appreciated by CarMax, who was the subject of the former baseball pro’s disdain. In a series of four mean tweets, Canseco warned his followers that they should avoid CarMax because it is a “scam.”

Within minutes of his initial criticism, that garnered 83 retweets, CarMax had a response to their famously unhappy customer. In a countering tweet, the company publicly apologized to the former sports star, offering to speak with him directly about his experience.As a large business that services car buyers and sellers, the company must receive a lot of complaints about the “dealership” experience in general. But I think that has more to do with folks who simply despise the car-buying and trade-in process as a whole. I’m not certain I’d classify it as a sweeping representation of CarMax. I have never purchased or sold a car at CarMax; therfore, I have no tangible experience upon which to base my opinion. I have heard both positive and painful stories from friends, but that doesn’t make CarMax any different from a regular dealership.

I contacted CarMax via Twitter to learn more about the situation, and a public relations representative promptly responded with a comment on the scenario:

We were sorry that Mr. Canseco was unhappy. We responded to him on Twitter to see if we could connect with him like we do every day with any customer. Every customer is important to us, and we respond to offer help any time we have a customer with a question or concern. We ask them to call or email us so we can have a more personal connection.

-Britt Drewes Farrar, Public Relations Manager for CarMax, Inc.

This is a classic example of why companies need to not only pay attention to social media but also participate in it. As part of my day job at Beekeeper Group – a public affairs startup in D.C. – I’m always telling clients that people are talking about their brand regardless if they’re listening.

I would consider CarMax’s handling of the situation a success. It didn’t take multiple levels of approvals and a week to process the company’s response. They politely, publicly, and quickly responded to a customer’s complaint. What better way to implement a crisis communications plan immediately?It is unfortunate that Canseco never responded. Perhaps he was just having a bad day, or maybe his twitter tantrum was a side effect of his raging hormones.

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Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

There are 6 comments for this article
  1. MPGomatic at 1:37 PM

    I saw CarMax’s response in my tweetstream as it happened. Got me wondering … what was he looking to trade in?

  2. Melanie Batenchuk at 1:46 PM

    I’m assuming that he was looking to sell his car to them, although I don’t know that for sure. And since he neither contacted CarMax (at least as of 9.30.11 when I exchanged emails with Ms. Farrar) nor tweeted any further explanation, we may never know!

  3. sportsattitudes at 8:28 AM

    Ironic an athlete (albeit former one) is involved here. Current athletes have been a shining example of the “trigger finger” aspect of Twitter where a thought or feeling regarding a singular experience by one person can become a corporate, PR fire that needs extinguishing – most often their own brand is the one needing repair. Indeed, everyone is now able to share their instant thoughts…not necessarily a good thing for either the “thinker” or the subject of their instant thoughts. CarMax did everything they could to address the situation.

  4. Bill Prosperi at 9:09 AM

    I see stuff like this all the time while ‘trolling’ a certain automaker on Twitter. People instantly take one bad experience at one dealer and quickly associate it to the brand, in this case the brand is a dealer. I visited a Carmax once and they were very fair with me. I actually enjoyed the experience. They gave me a fair value for my truck but did not have anything on the lot at the time the fit my budget or needs.Unfortunately in this day and age of ‘Idol’ worshiping of washed up athletes and actors, word like this can travel fast. When I was in sales the motto was: ‘Good news will make it to a the neighbor’s house, but bad news will travel the whole block.’ Good on CarMax to quickly jump on this and try to remedy it.

  5. Matt Keegan at 9:31 AM

    A good lesson on managing what people say about you. This is all the more important when a “celebrity” social media influencer steps in and says something that can be damaging. CarMax handled the matter appropriately. Canseco, however, comes away looking like a chump in my book.