Threatened at BlogHer

Someone tried to blackmail me at BlogHer. Seriously – I don’t even know how to summarize the story in complete detail as the past few days in Chicago have been quite the whirlwind. I understand that, as brands, we bring the “grabby” nature of swag bags out in people. I understand that people can feel cheated by paying for things and not receiving them. I get that – and while I don’t condone that behavior, I at least understand why it happens. What I don’t get is why someone would attempt to hold me hostage for a pair of shoes…

I’m sitting in the lobby of the Sheraton – where I spent much of my time. I was just hanging out, doing some work, and talking to the people who were coming up to me. Okay – I’ll be honest, I was talking to people and playing the “Tiles” game on Microsoft Surface because, (expletive deleted), that is possibly the most addicting game ever. Anyway, it was about mid-afternoon when someone came up to me. I’ll call her generic mommyblogger because I couldn’t pick her out of a lineup if I tried.

“Are you the Crocs guy?” she asks, timidly.

I look up and smile. After all, it’s nice to be recognize and it’s a sign that I’m doing my job right.

“Yes, I am.”

We continue with small talk. She says her name but, while I probably caught it at the time, it slipped out of my memory as the events of the next couple moments transpired. She asked how I was doing at BlogHer. If I was having fun. How it felt to be one of the only men there – all those typical questions that were being asked of me. Then her demeanor changed completely. She mentioned how she didn’t get any shoes at the SocialLuxe lounge. I apologized, saying that we provided what we could but it’s hard because we didn’t know everyone’s shoe size. She nodded but I could tell that wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear. Then she says something that I couldn’t believe.

“Ya know, if you don’t give me shoes – I could totally write something bad about you on my blog.”

“Excuse me?” I asked – hoping she would laugh or give me some indication that she was just joking around. Nope…

“It’s just a pair of shoes. It’s a lot easier to give them to me than deal with the negative press I could make.”

After hearing that, I start to laugh. First of all, I don’t recognize this woman at all. When she mentioned who she was at the beginning of the conversation, it didn’t ring a bell and I do a fairly good job at making sure I pay attention to the “players” in the sphere. Beyond that, I connect with hundreds of bloggers of all sizes and I am very good at treating them with the respect that they deserve as writers, photographers, artists, and people. This person was a nobody. So, I reacted in the only way that I saw fit.

“I could pick up my phone here and get in contact with so many people and tell them what just happened that you would be afraid to go near your computer, let alone attempt to blog again.”

She looked shocked – like she really thought her sad attempt to blackmail me would work. In a second, she walked away and, before I could really gather myself, disappeared into a sea of bloggers. I never saw her again and, if it didn’t effect me so much, I would have doubted as to whether it happened or not. Sadly, it did. I really hope it was an isolated incident but it’s something to watch out for. Brands aren’t the only people that have to learn how to work in this sphere. Bloggers do too. I know the BlogHer community would police behavior like that – so I just wish I could have remembered her name or grabbed a business card….

My whole experience at BlogHer was a positive one. I feel like Crocs nailed it, I got to meet some of my favorite people in person, and connected with a whole group of people I never met before. This incident was small and isolated. It was someone I never saw before and never saw again – the personification of an anomaly. I debated on whether I should even bring it up but then I realized that, while I may know enough people that I probably could have lived up to my response to her – other brands may not. I guess this is just a public service announcement that there are people out there that would do this, so as a community, we all need to watch out for it…

(Editor’s Note: Never thought this would become this big of a thing (I blame @jowyang haha) but, I did want to reinforce that this is NOT in any way indicative of behavior that I commonly see from Bloggers. BlogHer reinforced the fact that the bloggers I work with every day are some of the most intelligent, professional, and caring people in the world. As a man in a conference of women, I felt included and I am proud to call many people my friend. This incident was something I wanted to share with the 10 people that read my blog and a few people in the twitterverse. 7/27/09 6:16pm MT ~GS)

(Editor’s Note 2: The “nobody” comment was meant to be that she was a nobody because she threatened me. Not because she has no audience. My favorite bloggers to work with are the amazing writers that haven’t had a chance to be read. Most of the people that commented below would back me up with that, but I did want to clear it up 7/27/09 8:11pm MT ~GS)