Crowd Power

Indiegogo Now the Official Fundraising Home For People Publicly Shat Upon

Hmm, this sounds familiar.
picture 2 Indiegogo Now the Official Fundraising Home For People Publicly Shat Upon

(Photo: Indiegogo)

Yesterday, a video surfaced on Reddit that showed a man ordering a free water at a Chick-Fil-A drive-thru, then verbally bullying the employee who happily served it to him. His rage was rooted in Chick-Fil-A’s discriminatory and widely panned policies surrounding homosexuality and religion, but his behavior towards an innocent fast food employee–who exercises no power over corporate decisions–came across as petty and meanspirited.

The video immediately went viral, and was picked up by news orgs like HuffPo and Reuters. The man, Adam Smith (no relation to the economist, we assume), was the CFO at Vante, a radio frequency technology company in Tuscon. But when the video went viral, the company immediately fired him, writing:

Vante regrets the unfortunate events that transpired yesterday in Tucson between our former CFO/Treasurer Adam Smith and an employee at Chick-fil-A. Effective immediately, Mr. Smith is no longer an employee of our company.

Now, it seems, Mr. Smith will get further comeuppance: Aside from the online flogging he got (he’s lucky, for SEO purposes, that his name is so bland), the young Chick-Fil-A employee who was the target of his abuse now has an Indiegogo campaign started in her name, called “Rachel Needs a Vacation.”

The user who began the campaign, Chris Burton, writes:

Rachel, an amazingly awesome and happy Chick-Fil-A employee was treated with great disrespect by a customer during Chick-Fil-A appreciation day.

At the beginning of the video you can see her glowing personality and how happy she is but by the end of the video, you can clearly see just how uncomfortable she was to be put in that situation. Let’s give her the vacation that she deserves.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a remarkably analogous situation to the Karen Klein “bullied bus monitor” fracas. After video of children in upstate New York calling her names on the schoolbus went viral, users contributed to an Indiegogo campaign, ultimately¬†raising over $700,000. A spate of spots on local and national TV followed until the story died down, and Ms. Klein was left with her pot of gold and a lifetime of Internet fandom.

The “bullied” Chick-Fil-A employee, Rachel, experienced a similar plight, though the insults hurled at her by Mr. Smith were arguably fewer and less personal than those Ms. Klein endured. But the stories are the same: two viral videos of a woman being bullied and two Indiegogo crowdfunding campaigns to send the victims on vacation.

Internet crowdfunding has enabled people from all over the world to contribute to the welfare of people they’ve never met. But in situations like this, it also sets a strange precedent: are we really going to set up a campaign for every person who is filmed being bullied? Is giving money to a person for a vacation really the right way to go about this, when we could also donate that money to an anti-bullying organization? Is this a temporary solution to a much deeper problem?

Given the recent advent of widespread Internet crowdfunding, these are all questions with which we’re just beginning to grapple. For now, Mr. Burton is raising $2,500 for Rachel’s vacation. To date, the campaign has only raised $423–though we have a feeling it will meet its goal.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com