/ / Suze Orman Teaches You How NOT To Handle Criticism

Suze Orman Teaches You How NOT To Handle Criticism

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In case you don’t follow business or personal finance news, financial “guru” Suze Orman recently announced the launch of her new prepaid debit card.

This article has nothing to do with the card itself.

No, instead, this is about how Ms. Orman reacted to criticism directed her way regarding this new product, and how she may have done some serious damage to her brand in doing so.

If you’re not careful, you can destroy a reputation in much less time than you can build one.

The issue stemmed from the large number of tweets criticizing the claims made about her new Approved PrePaid Debit Card.

The card was purported to help those who live a cash-only lifestyle build their credit profiles, which the credit bureaus themselves dispute since no debit-based transactions are reported or collected.

The new card would supposedly help build credit by working with the credit -reporting agency TransUnion in creating a new reporting system.

That in itself drew the ire of many bloggers since debit transactions can only be an indication of spending habits, and not an ability to repay debts.

The second issue many bloggers took issue with were the fees associated with the card.

There is a $3 monthly fee which was one of the biggies here.

Then there were ATM fees, which could be avoided in certain instances, but still apply even on in-network partners.

Add to that fees for speaking with a customer service representative more than one time a month, and significant fees associated with bill payments, and the bloggers had a field day.

[If you are interested in seeing the history of the tweet war, you can check out The Debt Princess and 20 And Engaged who did a great job documenting it as well as the man who set this whole thing off at PT Money]

Left at that point, the backlash would have been minimized.

That, however, is just where the story begins, and this is where you can learn a lesson on how not to react to criticism!

The Name Calling

The first sign that things were going to get a little hairy was when she started referring to those who were questioning her new product as being idiots, ignorant, haters, saying they think they know everything yet know nothing, and telling a Twitter follower that they should be pitied.

Rather than stooping to such juvenile, name-calling tactics, Ms. Orman would have been better suited responding with facts and real-world data supporting her claims while disputing the claims of others.

It seemed like this wasn’t even happening, and some even questioned whether or not this was actually Ms. Orman doing the tweeting or someone else doing so on her behalf.

Ignoring The “Little People”

At every turn, the bloggers were being shot down and belittled.

Ms. Orman at one point made a reference to “legit reporters” who are most likely her buddies writing glowing reviews as opposed to the bloggers who are the “haters.

At one point they were even reporting that they were being blocked by her Twitter account operator.

It may seem like the easy way to handle the criticism, since many of the people doing the bashing weren’t nationally (and internationally) known personalities.

Unfortunately, when that happens, people tend to find other ways to get their thoughts out to the world, and when it comes to personal financial bloggers, they are able to reach a surprisingly large number of people.

That is when all of the blog posts repeating the Twitter comments, and really dissecting the Approved Card popped up.

Just because individually, the bloggers didn’t measure up (statistically) to Ms. Orman as far as Twitter followers or Facebook fans go, they shouldn’t be dismissed, since when taken as a collective, their reach extends much farther.

Plus, all it takes is one person to catch wind of a small movement on the internet and it can blow up to a phenomenon.

The Backtracking

At one point, famed New York Times author Ron Lieber confronted her on the issue of the insults, to both the bloggers and himself.

To that, Ms. Orman claimed to never insult him.

Of course, he called her bluff, and was able to provide a direct insult coming from her Twitter account.

Then came Phil Villarreal to challenge her apology to Mr. Lieber (twice in fact) while ignoring all the others she insulted.

From there it was a bunch of blanket apologies to “anyone I called an idiot” and so on until she was called out on not apologizing to Mr. Phil Taylor (to whom her “idiot” remark was directed) because he wasn’t a writer for the Times (like Mr. Lieber).

Finally, she made a directed apology to Mr. Taylor…

Qualifying Every Comment

Unfortunately the most important of the apologies, directed at Mr. Taylor, was a bit half-hearted and prefaced by her saying “Even you PT…”.

She also stated among her apologies that she has a hard time taking “defending my self against things that are not true”.

This is where so many apologies go wrong.

You cannot be taken as being genuine if you slip in snide remarks that detract from an otherwise stand-up gesture.

Telling someone that even they are deserving of an apology after kissing the ass of a big shot is not cool.

Taking shots at the people you are supposed to be apologizing to by continuing to inject your “but they are still wrong” defense isn’t cool either.

She did earn some credit by admitting to not taking the high-road, and taking responsibility for her comments, but it still didn’t make up for the slights she tried to inject into the apologies.

While I do not know Ms. Orman personally, I do know that situation was handled in the completely wrong manner.

Rather than taking offense at each negative comment, she should have taken a proactive approach to the matter.

She should have encouraged the dialogue between herself and her detractors, which would have shown a genuine interest in improving her product.

The way she ended up coming off, was as a little child who insists that their school project is accurate and the best in the world with no one being able to tell her otherwise.

She also could have taken the criticism as what it was: honest opinions from people that were completely independent and who could have provided her with some great insight and possibly some future publicity for her platform.

Unfortunately, like many other celebrities, athletes, and public figures, in the heat of the moment she made a poor choice of words, which ended up spiraling out of control before anyone had a chance to contain it.

This should be a lesson to anyone who has a business or is on a public stage: be careful of how you react to those who do agree with you, as even the slightest mistake can lead to a firestorm of bad publicity and lost opportunities to improve.

Your Turn

How do you handle criticism? Do you immediately get defensive at any negative word? Do you take a beat and actually process the words? Or…do you simply ignore what others have to say no matter the intent?

suze-orman-taeches-us-how-not-to-handle-criticism

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Glen Craig
9 years ago

Great points! ¬†I also noticed that her¬†apologies¬†were a bit half-hearted and I saw how she backtracked by saying she can’t defend herself against things that aren’t true. ¬†

She still doesn’t quite get it, does she?

I guess she is teaching us though — how not to launch a product and create goodwill.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  Glen Craig

I’m pretty sure that’s why a lot of people in the public eye have so many people insulating them–managers, personal reps, lawyers, PR types–so they don’t step in it like this or at least minimize the damage

Ginger-GirlsJustWannaHaveFunds

She’s lost total credibility with me.¬† Now she seems more like a predator than someone that’s supposed to help those who dont know better.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago

You are certainly not alone. ¬†From what I’ve read, the sentiment has turned negative toward her based on this latest issue. ¬†But then again, if people decide not to view her any differently, that’s their¬†prerogative¬†and everyone is entitled to their own opinions (even if they are wrong LOL)

Travis Pizel
Travis Pizel
9 years ago

I’d LOVE to see this story picked up in the mainstream media. Badly behaving celebrities have been put up on the evening news for much less than this.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  Travis Pizel

For some reason, I really don’t see it getting that much attention from the mainstream or even being a hot topic for very long outside of our community. ¬†I do have to say that I do think often times the celebrities get off way too easy for some of the negative things they do and/or say.

LaTisha Styles
9 years ago

I’m glad the apologies came, it was really a juvenile way to handle criticism. No one is bashing you Suze, but if you have built your brand of being an honest person, we just want you to stick with it.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  LaTisha Styles

My sentiments exactly. ¬†This isn’t about character assassination, but rather a way for others who are (or may) in the same position to learn. ¬†I’m certainly not saying that she shouldn’t disagree with the feedback, but just find a more constructive way to respond.

Pam at MoneyTrail
9 years ago

Suze just had a totally immature response. ¬†We teach our kids to be polite, use their manners and that it’s ok if someone disagrees with their point of view. ¬†Where was she during this lesson?

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago

I can understand and relate to wanting to defend something you believe in, especially if it is your brainchild. ¬†But, there is a right way and a wrong way, and unfortunately her anger at the negative comments got the best of her. ¬†I’m just glad it didn’t break down into a flame war or cursing match.

Dominique Brown
Dominique Brown
9 years ago

I follow the principles of how to win friends and influence people and the “golden rule”.¬† What I learned from Ms. Orman was that PR training is needed at all levels.¬† I probably will not run my own twitter account if I become a celebrity or famous.¬† I am naturally sarcastic and a jokester so, I would be bound to ruffle tons of feathers.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago

I wouldn’t give up control of my voice in that situation. ¬†And f you want to talk about ruffling feathers, I think my last post did a pretty good job of that.

I Definitely agree with you about abiding by the Golden Rule.  There is no reason to treat others poorly unless you have a desire to be treated equally as bad. 

Dominique Brown
Dominique Brown
9 years ago
Reply to  Eric J. Nisall

The possible backlash due to my comment isn’t worth me running my own account

Miss T
9 years ago

I have always been a believer of exiting gracefully or approaching a negative situation with respect and maturity. I guess I am more insightful than some. To me your reputation and how you treat people is one thing that never gets forgotten.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  Miss T

Exactly.  Perception is reality as it were.  

Funancials
Funancials
9 years ago

This was blowing up my news feed the other day and I was cracking up. I would normally say no publicity is bad publicity, but this made Suze look extremely bad.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  Funancials

Yeah, that saying has definitely outlived its usefulness. ¬†Even before all of these new media outlets came into¬†existence, I could never understand how looking like a fool would be “good pub”.

Carrie Smith
9 years ago

“The way she ended up coming off, was as a little child who insists that their¬†school¬†project is accurate and the best in the world with no one being able to tell her otherwise.” – I totally agree. The way it was handled was ridiculous and definitely not smart. Once you start insulting the financial blogging community, you will start to lose respect amongst thousands of fans.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  Carrie Smith

Sometimes, I think people don’t really care since there are millions of others out there who will go along with anything their favorite celebrities say or do. ¬†That kind of gets dangerous since the followers aren’t usually influential, whereas the ones who challenge and question her are leaders with pretty big combined followings of their own. ¬†Live and learn I guess.

Jeffrey Trull
9 years ago

I never thought much either way of Suze before, but I think this whole thing has been ridiculous. The cult following she appears to have is just scary, too.

After reading Ron Lieber’s column in NYT, I’m curious about what she stands to make from this card. The article seems to indicate that this could be a big money loser, although it doesn’t indicate how much can be made once the early losses are overcome. Either way, it’s hard to believe this is really anything but a business move for her.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  Jeffrey Trull

Have you looked at any of her followers’s response to this? ¬†Some of them are absolutely ridiculous.

His column also mentions that Russell Simmons spoke to her about the dangers of getting into this business. ¬†I’m sure the profits have to be significant for someone like stick with it through such large losses.

Briana Ford
9 years ago

She went way too far and her apologies didn’t come until she was pressured to do so. Heck, I don’t even think she would’ve done that half-assed apology to PT had MJTM not prompter her to. Apology or not, she has lost my respect.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  Briana Ford

I sure wasn’t going to let that go! ¬†Some people just don’t understand what it means to be highly visible or can’t handle it sometimes.

Mortaine
Mortaine
9 years ago

I suspect she reacted defensively because she doesn’t believe in the product. It’s a money-maker for her, but ultimately, she knows that it’s a bad product for her audience. If she really believed in it, she’d be able to defend it without resorting to childish tactics.

For rule of argumentation and sales: know what criticisms to expect, and be prepared with an answer.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  Mortaine

I wouldn’t agree that she doesn’t¬†believe¬†in the product; some people just cannot handle criticism or can’t distinguish between a knock on the product and a knock on them personally.

I do agree completely with your last point.  When promoting or selling anything you should always be prepared for criticism and be ready with information to counter rather than resorting to other methods.

Robert Farrington
9 years ago

I can’t believe how she reacted…I also can’t believe how awful her product is.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago

You are certainly not alone. ¬†I’m not sure what got the worse reception: the card or her response to the criticism.

Jen @ The Happy Homeowner

This whole thing boggles my mind!  Tasteless, classless and all-around pitiful for someone with so much public leverage.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago

That seems to be the popular opinion are here.  

John @ MarriedWithDebt

It’s fun to watch people self-destruct, isn’t it (though her brand is likely strong enough to easily overcome this). The Kardashians gave up on their prepaid card, maybe we can get Suze to do the same.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago

The Kardashians give up on a lot of things from what I hear. ¬†Strong brands can survive little bumps in the road, but I’m not sure this fits in just yet. ¬†It’ll take a little time for everything to become clear

Slug @ SunkCostsAreIrrelevant

This is what happens when you sell out or lose control of your brand image.  Sad.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago

Or when you can’t control your mouth

Thomas Jensen
Thomas Jensen
9 years ago

She’s showing her true colors. I have always disliked her self-promoting style. She’s a great communicator and could do so much for people … sadly she is just a sales person!

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  Thomas Jensen

She does seem to remind me of an infomercial host.  Unfortunately, some people choose to use their powers for evil rather than for good.

Jai Catalano
9 years ago

Legit Reporters?  WTF does that mean? My mom married my dad. I am legit and if I want to report on stuff then I am a legit reporter. Tweeted. 

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  Jai Catalano

That’s great lol! ¬†It must have been her was of digging at the bloggers saying that she doesn’t think we’re “legit” in her eyes. ¬†Oh well, can’t please everyone.

Katie
Katie
9 years ago

I’m glad someone else addressed the insincerity of her apologies! I remember reading them the day of and thinking, “Okay, but she’s still saying people who disagreed with her were lying about her product!” It’s the classic, “I’m sorry, but…” situation. If you can’t sincerely apologize, without rationalizing your actions, without claiming to still be right, why apologize at all? Great post!

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Thanks Katie!  I could have had a little more respect for her if the apologies were unequivocal, rather than thinly veiled shots at the people she was supposed to be apologizing to.  Unfortunately, when people attain a certain degree of fame their egos seem to block the reasonable portion of their brains.

Super Frugalette
9 years ago

Thanks for the coverage. I didn’t know this was going on…

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago

Follow the 3 links after the 1st paragraph and you will have so much info your head may spin!

Afford Anything
Afford Anything
9 years ago

I’m surprised by the way she handled the whole situation — as you said, it’s a textbook lesson in what NOT to do. You’d think that — given that she’s been so famous for so many years — she’d be well-versed in handling criticism by now. All celebs have to develop a thick skin and they have to handle the fact that people will criticize them, so I wonder what it was about this situation that struck a nerve or caused the comments to get under her skin.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago

That is the surprising thing, her experience in the spotlight. ¬†I’m sure her FICO kit and some of the things in her books got at least some negative feedback. ¬†Maybe this was something different in her mind, being that this is something that is going to change the world of credit and all!

JoeTaxpayer
9 years ago

If you read her disclosure regarding the product, you find that she’ll share the available data, I assume deposit and spend patterns of anonymized users. This, in an attempt to see if Transunion can find any value in the data being used in their scoring. The concept is admirable, an interesting experiment. But since she, herself, was clearly against preloaded cash cards, it’s a bit of a flipflop to now offer one with no assurance the trial with Transunion will be a success.

¬†By the way, I’ve met Phil, many of us have. He’s a gentleman who can critique a product to help his readers without resorting to ad hominem attacks. The groundswell of support for Phil when this happened speaks volumes.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  JoeTaxpayer

I guess when it comes to the opportunity to make money, some people go against their “beliefs” and will rationalize any way they can.

Melissa@PersonalFinanceJourney
9 years ago

Her response makes me wonder if she truly endorses this card as she is so quick to defend.  Either way, you make a good point about criticism; she would have been much better off just ignoring the criticism rather than engaging in such negativity.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago

It’s the things people do when faced with adversity that really defines who they are. ¬†And, in this case, those actions do not speak very well of Suze.

Marie at FamilylMoneyValues

I’ve never really been a fan of Orman and typically have more respect for people who take the high road in situations such as this.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago

I’ve never been a fan either. ¬†Until now, I at least had a little respect for her based on how she got to this point in her career, but I don’t have much left after this.

Dannielle at Odd Cents
Dannielle at Odd Cents
9 years ago

Not a good look. I would imagine that some of the “idiots” that she referred to would be the same “idiots” that she would have been targeting to use her card. And many bloggers come with large fan bases who are very protective. Were her PR people on vacation?

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago

They were probably too busy reaching out to all of her buddies to run positive press pieces on the card and she took advantage by running her mouth in a very non-productive or endearing manner.

Morrison
9 years ago

I’m one of the PF bloggers Suze Orman blocked.¬† Nasty.¬† Here’s my follow up post:

http://alldoorsconsidered0.blogspot.com/2012/01/suze-orman-blocks-my-tweets.html

101 Centavos
9 years ago

I’ve caught Suzee’s show a couple of times, and wasn’t very impressed.¬† We can only hope that her ratings plummet after this gaffe.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  101 Centavos

I doubt that her fans will react negatively.  I saw some of them defending her on twitter with nonsensical comments.  Fans by nature are generally weird when it comes to the celebs they like.

CentsToSave
CentsToSave
9 years ago

It is just crazy that she would sabotage her own success.¬† Too bad for her.¬† I used to watch her…. but that was a long time ago.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  CentsToSave

I used to also. ¬†That, however was basically just for entertainment value of the questions the ¬†callers and writers would submit and for her responses. ¬†Now, I wouldn’t be able to even look at her without thinking of this gaffe.

Lizzie
Lizzie
9 years ago

I have never heard of this women before but she really doesn’t sound the brightest, either financially or in her PR.

Eric J. Nisall
Eric J. Nisall
9 years ago
Reply to  Lizzie

She’s a pretty big celebrity in the financial world. ¬†Unfortunately for her, if this is anyone else’s first impression of her, they probably feel the same way as you do.

Alex Morris
9 years ago

Wow. Clearly she didn’t handle this very well! I think if you’re launching something like that you have to just follow the old maxim of “the customer is always right”, even if you don’t believe it. Made for great reading, though! Nice article. Twitter wars are always fun. Someone will no doubt bring a book out about it sooner or later.

Miss J
9 years ago

Living in Sydney, I’ve never heard of her before this big PR debacle. I’ve read her tweets though & have been following the whole thing on other PF blogs. She sounds like a nasty person. I wouldn’t trust her with my $$ that’s for sure!

Lara
Lara
9 years ago

I did not see the value in this product when it was announced, but figured it’d be suitable for some people.¬† I do follow Suze’s show, but have never admired her people skills.¬† I also don’t care for her ventures in to the world of psychological counseling – telling callers their marriage stinks or that they should or shouldn’t marry their fiance, that type of thing.¬† Her ego is overbloated and she seems to think she’s more than she really is.