Mistaken Identity: Wearing Google Shirts To An eBay Event Might Be Bad For Your Health

Remember the fracas between Google and eBay, where Google was going to have a party for Google Checkout at last week’s eBay Live event? It scored some collateral damage when two employees of MyStoreSpace.com found themselves interrogated for wearing Google shirts, though talking up Google Checkout as they did probably didn’t help. Blogs MyStoreSpace’s founder, one of the two involved:

Events took an unexpected turn and I was thrown out by eBay’s VP of Marketing and a team of bodyguards for wearing a polo shirt with a Google logo.

The two were initially admitted despite the shirts, which had Google logos on them and were said to be purchased at the Google Store (you can get your own here):

The two of us arrived at 10AM on Day 3 and immediately raised a few eyebrows at the registration counter because of my shirt. I was asked if I was employed by Google, to which I replied, “No, we are with MyStoreSpace.com” A supervisor was called in who repeated the question about Google and asked us to state our intentions. We said that we are at the convention to promote our new product and to network with eBay sellers and tools providers. After a few awkward minutes and suspicious looks, we were finally allowed to pay the registration fee and proceed to the exposition floor.

On the floor, the two started talking about Google Checkout as part of their own product pitch:

While talking to sellers, we found ourselves describing Google Checkout over and over again. The stores created with mystorespace.com currently accept payments only through Google Checkout. We focused on the facts, saying that Google Checkout is as good as PayPal but less expensive. We also said that we would like to give our merchants choice in how to accept payments and plan on supporting both PayPal and Google Checkout in the future. However, some of the sellers became very outspoken on this subject, criticizing eBay and PayPal for exorbitant transaction fees. Others, who happened to overhear the conversation would join in and exclaim “yeah, someone like Google should really do something about it!” So we ended up inadvertently inciting a few small rebellions throughout the convention by mentioning Google Checkout.

Later, there was an initial encounter with eBay’s officialdom:

I was suddenly tapped on the shoulder by a man who introduced himself as Gary Briggs. I didn’t catch his title due to the loud music, but a Google search later revealed it to be “Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for eBay North America.” He approached me in a manner reminiscent of someone trying to start a bar fight, with another colleague who remained anonymous. “Are you with Google?” he asked. I said “No,” and showed him my badge with mystorespace.com as the company name. “You’re not promoting Google Checkout, are you?” he demanded. I was shocked by this intrusion, accustomed to software conventions and trade shows where companies are receptive of one-another’s technology. I replied (somewhat smartly) that no, since I didn’t work for Google, why would I be promoting Google Checkout, “but what if I was?” He said “I wouldn’t appreciate it, that’s all…. Have a good time gentlemen,” and walked away.

Soon after, the encounter renewed:

Ten minutes later I was pulled aside again, this time by at least three or four physically intimidating security personnel. My co-founder and I were escorted away from the crowd, where we were once again met by Gary Briggs, who repeated the same questions as before. I repeated my answers. He said that several people told him that the guy in the Google shirt was promoting Google Checkout on the expo floor

After further talking, the MyStoreSpace folks decided to leave:

I was beginning to feel insulted and angry for being intimidated, but I eventually ended it by saying that I didn’t want to talk to them any more and that we’ll just concede and leave. Gary Briggs grinned and waved “buh-bye.” Two of the security staff followed my co-founder and I through the quarter-mile exhibition floor, out the doors, down the corridor, and all the way to the building exit.

Note: A previous version of this story suggesting it nay have been actual Google Checkout employees involved has been removed.

Related Topics: Channel: Retail | Google: Checkout


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • http://blog.outer-court.com Philipp Lenssen

    Update: Paul in the comments http://blog.outer-court.com/forum/99756.html#id99788 points to another post that makes it likely that these two weren’t Google employees, but that due to their Google shirts (and perhaps the fact they were indirectly promoting Google Checkout in their conference chats), they were possibly mistaken for Google employees in any case by the security.

  • http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/ Matt Cutts

    Barry, in the blog post you pointed to, the person who was kicked out says that he is not employed by Google:

    “I tried to explain that we were there to promote our own, different kind of product, which just happens to use Google Checkout at the moment, that I really don’t work for Google, and that I bought my shirt and backpack at googlestore.com and wear them to a lot of computer conventions.”

    So it’s not accurate to call the person who was ejected a “Googler.” That is a word for a Google employee, and it sounds like this person doesn’t work for Google at all.

  • http://www.evilgreenmonkey.com/ evilgreenmonkey

    I’ll wear my eBay t-shirt to the next Google Dance to see what happens :oD

  • http://www.gowholesale.com kari

    I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems strange to me that they would wear Google shirts. I realize that they didn’t work for Google, and they had every right to be there; but it seems almost like they were trying to incite something. By the third day of the show, it was already the news of the moment that eBay and Google were in a row over the Google event, and I find it hard to believe that they didn’t know that Google Checkout would be a highly sensitive issue on the show floor and with eBay staff.

    If you’re with your own company and you’re trying to promote it, why not wear polo shirts with your own logo?

  • http://searchengineland.com Danny Sullivan

    I agree, Kari — there’s a strong feeling of “they were asking for it” in that piece. Getting tossed out for just wearing Google shirts would be one thing. But when it’s wearing those (somewhat deliberately, it seems), then going out and effectively lobbying for Google Checkout (the “it just came up naturally” part felt a bit weak), it doesn’t seem so innocent. Then again, the eBay reaction from not accepting Google Checkout at all in the first place and pulling the two aside in the end feels strange as well.

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