Political Campaigns and Overstock

We often receive political complaints at Overstock .  I am posting this so that in the future, when customer service agents get harangued by people angry about statements they believe are being made by our decision to advertise certain places or carry certain products or sell certain books, music, or magazines, those agents can just send a link to this post.

During the 2004 election, we created a book page with books by Hillary and Bill Clinton on one side, and two books by Dick Morris criticizing them on the other side. On the left, another book by James Carvel (as I recall). On the right, one by Ann Coulter. All images were of the same size, and there were an equal number of them on each side.

We were inundated with complaints from the Left and the Right about featuring books from the other side. Go figure.

We hear from from Family Values folks about the movies and music we sell (even though we actually are quite conservative, selling, for example, Playboy, but not the steamy stuff).

When we advertised on AirAmerica, we got flack for it.

A few weeks ago we heard from the Ron Paul folks protesting our advertising on Fox, given his exclusion from a debate they covered. I wrote a letter to our customers about it, saying that while I happen to support Paul personally, I was not going to change our TV advertising to punish Fox. Then we heard from people angry that I had mentioned that I personally support Ron Paul.

Last week we heard from the Family Values folks protesting the TV shows on which we advertise.

This week we are hearing about the Hillary Clinton Nutcracker on our site.

I respectfully suggest that people should remember, Different strokes for different folks. It is not up to us to make statements with what products we do or do not carry or where we advertise them.  Playboy is often our fastest selling magazine. The Hillary gadget was briefly one of our fastest selling items.  We have about 1 million products, and I’m not going to police American tastes, beyond not selling hardcore or kiddie porn (like some other etailers), and firearms and ammunition and such.

There was one exception: when Rush made fun of Michael J. Fox, we yanked our advertising.

This is going to be a long and exciting campaign. I don’t recall anything like it since 1980. I hope the citizenry gets through it as friends.

Most respectfully,


  1. The fact that you have caven in to the HSUS about fur tells me a lot about your company. The HSUS is no longer a “pet” organization, but a radical animal rights organization that wants to see the end to all animal usage, period. It’s ridiculous, when you sell leather and hunting products, that you expect sportsman to buy from your company. I hope the word gets out, and soon.

  2. After hearing about your company’s decision to no longer sell fur I have to say I am quite surprised a big operation such as Overstock would succumb to the pressures of the hypocritical and misinformed people of PETA. They consistently give out misinformation about the fur industry in terms of their policies and procedures. I know because I have done extensive research on this subject. I also happen to be an animal lover but can justify wearing fur as easily as I do for wearing leather or eating meat. So your website will no longer carry any leather or suede products as well then I assume. No you probably will continue to do that because you are just as hypocritical and ridiculous as PETA…who by the way has had executive members’ family treated for various diseases via ANIMAL research…funny huh? Well if it suits their needs I guess its ok….Anyway, I will no longer purchase anything from your website from now on and will hopefully spread the word so I can induce others to do the same.

  3. Like most companies you have your own set of morals and go with what you believe is right.

    But do you realise that sponsoring the apparently wholesome “8th Annual Say No to Drugs Race Holiday Classic” is not helping drug addicts so much as lining the coffers of the church of scientology? As Tom Cruise himself said, you’re either in it or your out of it. I’m out of it and so are many others. Looks like you must be in it. Sorry no fence to sit on with this one.

  4. Apparently, you endorse attempting to treat addiction with massive overdoses of niacin.

    I can think of no other reason why you would support an event promoted for the purpose of pushing people towards Narconon treatment, a treatment a former US surgeon general as described as dangerous and not in accord with any sound medical practice.

    Narconon is NOT Narcotics Anonymous, or affiliated with it in any way. This is a common point of confusion. Narconon does not employ any medical professionals, and denies addicts receiving “treatment” from them any access to qualified mental health professionals.

    The “drug free marshals” program is closely associated with this fraud, and will be using the 5k in Los Angeles to distribute Narconon materials and to collect names and phone numbers for later contact.

    Narconon has never proven any success rate at all in any peer reviewed study.

    It’s possible that at the time you agreed to sponsor the “Say No to Drugs” Fun Run in Los Angeles, you didn’t realize that this was what you were supporting, but you have been made aware.

  5. Thanks for telling me that you don’t give a damn.

    OVERSTOCK Customer Service:
    “We’d rather not listen to and consider your concerns about human rights abuses, blatant fraud, and suppression of free speech.
    Instead, here is a link to blog for you to read. Have a nice day!”

    This is a just a bad and lazy response to your customers concerns.

    For others reading:
    This is in response to Overstock.com’s sponsorship of a self-serving “charity event” called the “Say No to Drugs Race.”
    This is a Scientology public relations, recruitment, and fundraising effort which most experts will tell you is a scam and will not help anyone except the highest officers of Scientology.

    In my opinion, Overstock.com has been tricked, lied to, and scammed (or perhaps they are a willing collaborator in this fraud.)

    Scientology is a Dangerous Cult.

  6. Dear Mr. Byrne,
    After reading an article in the Humane Society Legislative Fund. I would like to thank you, thanks for making a difference for speaking up for the animals. people need to be educated and aware of what is going on. breeding animals and the torturing them, and even skinned alive for their fur is just barbaric and sick .thank goodness for peta, HSUS,etc.. who do the undercover work to educate people

  7. Hey Folks,

    I’ll give a few responses.

    1) Animals – I found the HSUS-people quite reasonable, and not at all like PETA-people. I’m not anti-hunting myself. But the commercial fur industry is, in places, just a bit too whacked out for us to want to have any part of it. That’s not an extremist position.

    2) Scientology – No comment, other than, if anyone wants to tell me why this charity event in question was improper, or post a link to a credible criticism of its work, I’ll read it.

    3) Hillary – Yes Heather. I would happily consider any other positive Hillary item. I would also sell “Dick Cheney Brand Shotgun Shells” if someone would get around to inventing them. And if we did not have a policy against selling ammunition.

  8. Patrick,

    I am here to give you links for your perusal on why the “church” of Scientology really is more of a pyramid scheme than a true organized religion.

    Get some popcorn. You’ll be reading for a while.

    Read this first: http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Scientology_cult_Clear_Expansion_Committee_documents

    Then this: http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Scientology_cult:_AOLA_tax_exemption_trick_for_Advanced_Org_members%2C_Nov_2008

    Enjoy your day, Patrick.

  9. The Ron Paul thing was important because you have more power than we do, Patrick. You had the money – all we had were several million angry letters.

    It’s been almost a year, and I am still disappointed that you didn’t throw us a bone.

    Pulling the ads, if only for a few weeks, would have earned you immediate, albeit possibly short lived, legions of Ron Paul supporer shoppers.

    But it’s water under the bridge now. Good luck during the recession.

  10. Patrick
    Being a businessman myself, I understand your noncommital answer. But, when we as businessmen decide to sponsor devisive and polarizing issues and speech we open ourselves up for public disagreement. The only form that we as consumers have is to: (1) let our feelings be known in the ballot box (2) let our feelings be known in the market place
    (3) let our feelings be known to the folks that sponsor the divisive and polarizing speech.

    When you sponsor\support Rush Limbaugh you align your company with such a figure representing a segment of society and culture that speaks only for the elite and out of touch Conservatives that aren’t your consumer base. In today’s political and financial world I would think that supporting a show or public forum that allows us to make positive steps forward would gain the company more market penetration than supporting such a negative show as Limbaugh’s. I suppose that you are saying in your response that you don’t care what Limbaugh says and stands for, you will continue to sponsor him anyway! So, you are also saying that you believed George Bush and Dick Cheney when they said that “if you aren’t for us then you are against us, so you support terrorism”! If that really is your position then you must really have your head in the sand. By not taking any stand, and continuing to stay in the middle you indirectly support the continuing polarization of the nation. So, also by staying in the middle, you must believe that the nation can tolerate the current Republican parties disintegration and with no action to correct the current direction, one could believe that by your lack of action that you support the Democratic successes. Taking no action to correct lies and distortions of the truth by Limbaugh in such a negative public forum has consequences that your company will must agree with.

    Good luck, Patrick

    Karma is a bitch!

  11. The facts are pretty simple here. Rush spreads hate, lies and fear. You sponsor his actions. That is a choice that you have made. You could spend your advertising dollars anywhere and you choose to support Rush. I have a choice as to with whom I will conduct business. I can spend my money anywhere. Do I want to spend my money with a company that supports someone who openly hopes Obama fails and that we fall into a major economic depression? No. Hence I choose to no longer do business with Overstock.com so long as you facilitate his actions. The irony is that if he succeeds, your company will likely go out of business. Smart move.

    1. I totally agree! I don not do business with any company that advertises on RL’s show! O.co is cutting their proverbial nose off to spite their face. Too bad.

  12. I’m sorry to see you give the HSUS any recognition or support. They are NOT about animal welfare. They are a cult which promotes Animal Rights. Their actual goal is to stop pet ownership/research/anything which has humans interacting with or using animals/animal products in any way. Wayne Pacell is PETA in a suit and tie and veganism is the cult’s dietary rule. Like PETA,they have killed more dogs than they have “rescued.”

  13. You are choosing to spend your advertising dollars with a person who wants the country that you live and do business in to fail. I thinks your nuts!!! Greed is what caused the economic cluster f*#k. and stupidity will allow it to continue. SHAME ON YOU !!!!!!

  14. George articulated perfectly what I came here to say. Just curious though….how long AFTER Rush made fun of a Parkinson’s patient did you decide to start advertising on his site again? How long did your righteous indignation last?

    I think a perusal of my account will indicate that for the past five years, I’ve done all my Christmas and birthday shopping on Overstock, and have made large purchases of furniture, etc. as well. Will Overstock go broke because they are losing my business? Most likely not. However, as word spreads of your support of the most hypocritical, hatemongering traitor imaginable, I hope you do feel it – right in your wallet.

  15. your display and sale of items from both side (extremes) of the political spectrum is just fine and to be admired. On the other hand, your advertising with and apparent support of extremely one-sided hate speech on the Rush Limbaugh show is NOT balanced so don’t give us your spiel on that.

    I WILL boycott you in every way I can. I WILL tell others to do the same, until you return to a balanced marketing campaign. Rush Limbaugh is an insult to ‘thinking’ and ‘caring’ Americans. His despicable views are anti-american.


  16. I have also ended shopping ($$$) with overstock because of their rush limbaugh ads.
    I don’t care about left or right politics as much as I do somebody that wants the president of our nation to fail.I wish I could return all the items I bought over the years and get my dollars back. Just the thought of those dollars going to that disgusting man makes me very angry. good-bye overstock, I thought I knew you well.

  17. As disgusting as it is for Rush Limbaugh to make fun Michael J Fox, I believe his racist remarks and undermining of the 1st Af Am president is far worse. He is using his hateful rhetoric to rile up the RW racists. Limbaugh is using abhorrent stereotypes and blatant lies which are not only revolting but dangerous. If you believe his actions do not warrant pulling your ads, then you will lose reasonable customers who do not want to support hateful and dangerous rhetoric.

    BTW, I have been an avid read of Deep Capture and applaud your exposure of the financial miscreants who have brought down so many good people. I don’t see how you can’t understand how types like Limbaugh are equally dangerous to society.

  18. It’s nice to know that Overstock is honest in it’s approval and support for the kind of extremist, hateful rhetoric spewed by Rush Limbaugh. It makes my shopping decisions (as in: where not to spend my money) so much easier. I wouldn’t spend another dime here any more than I would send a check to the KKK. Goodbye Overstock.

  19. It’s good to know that you draw the line with Rush Limbaugh in his mockery of Mr. Fox’s disease. Could you please extend this outrage to his disrespect for those who have served in our military? He seems to think that he can impugn the patriotic character of those who have laid their lives on the line because they disagree with him.

    It is worth noting that Mr. Limbaugh has never served in the military.

    I will be happy to plan our family’s Christmas with your help, but in order to do that, I’m going to need a commitment on your part to our men and women in uniform.

    It’s only a few hours a week. You’ll hardly miss it. Mr. Limbaugh’s programmers, on the other hand, might just remind him that his enterprise is dependent on public relations, something the talk radio guru clearly needs improvement on.

    I will follow this matter with great interest, but if you wish to continue having my patronage, I must insist you stop funding Mr. Limbaugh’s excesses.

  20. Patrick,

    It is worth adding that with as many people are on here complaining about Rush Limbaugh’s on-air excesses, you might consider just giving us what we want.

    Come on. It’ll make you feel good to cut the gasbag off. Think about it this way: if you and all of the other merchants that advertise on his show pulled your ads for good, the radio stations would have to put something new on–something that would cost you a lot less than you’re currently paying to advertise during his show.

    It’s not a hard decision. 3 million dittoheads will have a lot shorter memory than the tens of millions of us who will drive you out of business if you continue supporting this kind of show.

  21. Sorry, Patrick.

    Don’t want any part of my dollar enabling fascist propagandists like those on Fox News.
    Loved overstock for xmas shopping
    and interesting products.
    Now we’re just saying, NO.

  22. I received the email form letter and then this link in response to my letter concerning your appearance on Glen Beck. I also strongly believe in the freedom of speech and also the freedom of the market place. You have mixed politics and business with the risk associated. I don’t buy your politics and I am not going to buy your products. Beck is a disgrace thats my free speech and your support by appearing on the show gives me much too insight into the politics of Overstock. Your appearance was overtly and I think disappointingly partisan to the extreme. Beck spouts and rants uncontested crap each night and tonight your support of it lost another customer, not because of your individual views but because of the obvious use of Overstock.com to give you personal credibility and status as an expert.

  23. I’m going to quit supporting your company because the network that you support has lead to violence and murder (Knoxville, Little Rock, George Tilley, Arizona to name a few) and it continues to incite people with its lies and half truths. I was a frequent buyer.

  24. Sponsoring Rush Limbaugh says to me you agree with his hate. It is understandable that your customers are from all walks of life and you cannot take sides with the Right or the Left, but sponsoring a viscious, treasonous, racist talk show host that brings out the worst in people tells me that you agree with him. I cannot in good conscious purchase products from you. I will be doing business elsewhere.

  25. Do you really think the Rush Limbaugh fans are your best customers and that it makes sense to thumb your nose at the majority who object to his divisive hatemongering? I did not “harange” Overstock Customer Service. I simply informed that I will not buy from Overstock as long as it’s a sponsor of Rush Limbaugh. What I got for a reply was a link to this blog. Well, okay. You reject my business and I reject yours. I imagine as more and more people realize your association with Rush Limbaugh, more and more will stop shopping at Overstock.

  26. The truth is a powerful commodity. When a media giant like Rupert Murdoch creates false journalism, lurid journalism, fake stories, distortion and disinformation that is researched and found to be be completely bogus, then one has to make a stand.
    You don‘t have to announce anything, just stop giving them your business. It‘s really quite simple.

  27. Thank you for responding to my phone call so quickly. It is good to know that you have not sponsored rush limbaugh since June 2006. I am always interested in reading what Patrick Byrne has to say. Thank you again. curlywoman

  28. I appreciate it must be hard to separate your personal views from your Company. I am very glad of your decision not to advertise on Rush Limbaugh programs, I wish you would consider the same of Fox News , as I find it hard to think of any reason to support their content.. They are the ones who have made more of a media attetion to Rush and his views. They seem to be in full support of Rush and in the case you refer to with Michael J Fox, were quite flagrant in their agreement with Rush on this and other insulting situtations.

  29. No, sorry, this flip little blog doesn’t address the issue. We are not talking about “mere political differences.” Rush Limbaugh is urging his listeners *not to donate money* to ease the suffering of the victims of the Haitian earthquake. This is beyond the usual political nonsense. It is anti-humanitarian, cruel, and cynical to the extreme.

    As long as Overstock.com continues this position of supporting someone with no regard for human suffering, I will take my business elsewhere, and encourage my friends and family to do the same. The masses are growing on this one. Enough with Rush. He’s an embarrassment to humanity.

  30. Rush Limbaugh making fun of Michael J. Fox was over the top, but the song, “Barack the Magic Negro” wasn’t? Limbaugh’s politicization of the devastation in Haiti isn’t too much for you?
    As long as you sponsor Rush Limbaugh’s show, I will not be a customer of Overstock.com

  31. First off, it is insulting to suggest that your customers are “haranguing” your customer service agents by expressing their views.

    Second, while I understand your desire to be balanced, Rush is over-the-top hateful. Your company recognized this when you stopped your support after the Michael J. Fox incident. Yet Rush’s continued divisive, racist, hateful dialog is evidently acceptable to your business.

    I really enjoyed ordering from your business, but no longer, unless or until you stop advertising with Rush and/or Fox News.

  32. I’m sorry to hear that my concern over where my money goes, and what it eventually supports, amounts to a harangue directed toward your customer service staff. That was not my intent at all.

    My intent was to inform you that I have the freedom to spend my money where I choose, and that my choice is influenced by the things a company elects to support through their advertising dollars. If a company makes the choice to support something I cannot agree with, say Rush Limbaugh, they can. It is up to them. I was merely informing you that you will be doing so without any of my money.

    I will not harangue your customer service reps any more.I will not bother your web server with any use of bandwidth from my shopping. Nor will I harangue the people who process orders with my purchases. I will refrain from annoying the people who balance the books with any influx of money from my purchases.

    I will further attempt to reduce the strain on your business by recommending to all of my friends that they stop bothering you too. I will suggest to them that they follow suit, and encourage their friends to stop putting unnecessary pressure on Overstock through all of that irritating shopping and spending.

    I hope that I am able to greatly increase your leisure time by reducing the bothersome attention customers seem to require.

  33. I’m glad to know that you consider being outraged at the increasingly nasty tone of political discourse “haranguing” your customer service reps. It’s also nice to know that you think pointing us to a blog is going to make it all better. I find it laughable that you rightly draw the line at the hateful things Limbaugh says but turn a blind eye to the vile attacks and hate on MSNBC. Keith Olbermann calling a woman a “mashed up bag of meat with lipstick” is as bad, if not worse than anything I’ve ever heard Limbaugh say.
    I’m not even that political, I’m an independent but this goes beyond politics into the realm of corporate responsibility in the care of the image you wish to present to the world. With the arrogant tone of your blog accusing people who care enough to take the time to
    get involved and make a small stand against the DEvolution of our culture as “haranguing”, you’ve only made my initial instincts and
    resolve to boycott Overstock stronger. I will advise my friends and family to do the same. It may not make much difference to you either way but from what I can see of the other comments here above mine, you are effectively generating some NEGATIVE advertising with your position and I have to wonder if there comes a time when the customers you gain by advertising with hate mongers like Keith Olbermann and Rush Limbaugh are overtaken by the customers you lose.
    No worries, I will no longer “harangue” you with either my opinions or my business.

  34. I believe that boycotting networks with their slant toward one political party or the other will not work. When we boycott companies that support or sponsor them like overstock sponsors CNN and MSNBC then we get someones attention when we don’t use their company anymore. My family and friends will not use Overstock for anything again until they pull sponsorship from CNN.

  35. Image my surprise to have an offer to win the ultimate Red Sox experience — why is Overstock pimping for the Red Sox now? Have they moved to home ESPN territory to hold up the Sox banner too!

  36. Having read this I thought it was extremely informative. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this content together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

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