If you went into a store and the staff started making fun of your choices, would you stay around? Of course not. You'd be gone to a competitor in a flash.

But some tech companies like OkCupid and Netflix are apparently doing just that: mocking and trolling their customers. And they've done it with the very personal data like user name choices and behavioral data about what people do on the sites that helps them make money.

It seems sort of innocent on the surface, except from a business viewpoint it isn't, and I'll explain why in a minute. First example is OkCupid, which had decided to get rid of user names:

You see, DaddyzPrincess29*, we all have names. Good, noble names that took weeks, perhaps months to choose-- from Hannah to Jordan to Lady Bird. And what we've discovered is that those names actually work best--better than usernames--when it comes connecting with people. So listen closely laidback___stu, because this applies to you -- even if you are straight chilling right now on a basement futon.

OkCupid explains that it tested using real names. Fine, it's their service and they can do as they like. But the company has just blamed the users for the change and mocked some of them in the process. If you consider the "fun stats" about those stupid user names, it includes 888,124 that had either "cat" or "cats" in them, 157,553 that had "lover" in them categorized as dirty words (would that include "ice-cream-lover"?), or anyone that is a fan of the Insane Clown Posse.

Or there's Netflix, which decided to make fun of a few dozen people who had watched a sappy holiday movie called A Christmas Prince repeatedly:

The response was massive (retweeted about 110,000 times so far) and alternated between amused and scornful: Wow, Netflix, way to shame your own viewers for watching a movie that you commissioned and featured and promoted on your streaming service. Also, it's a creepy reminder that this company has access to loads of personal data about all of your viewing habits, and probably has drawn some other intriguing conclusions. And it might tweet about them.

Netflix tried to defend itself to E! News, claiming that customer privacy was important and that the information wasn't of specific, identified individuals.

Technically the information wasn't specific. But the gang of 53 knew exactly who Netflix meant. It doesn't matter if someone else knows a business is insulting you because you know it. And when you do it in this manner, everyone else can see what you think of consumers and then wonder when it might be their turn.

That any business would go down this road is astounding. The attitude is terrible and a problem in any company in which it appears. These "ludicrous" people help ensure that employees and management get paid. They are the reason the jobs are there in the first place. Maybe ticking them off and looking smug and creepy in the process isn't such a good idea.

Published on: Dec 24, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.