The Popehat Signal: Suburban Express Doubles Down On Attacks On Critics

Effluvia

It's time, once again, for the Popehat Signal.

New Popehat Signal courtesy of Nigel Lew.  Thanks, Nigel!

New Popehat Signal courtesy of Nigel Lew. Thanks, Nigel!

This time I'm seeking help for people sued or threatened with suit by Suburban Express, a Chicago-area shuttle bus company servicing local colleges.

I wrote about Suburban Express back in April; that post is prelude to this one. In short, Suburban Express and its owner, Dennis Toeppen, threatened critics with lawsuits and used boilerplate in its ticket contracts to file a slew of small-claims actions in another county, apparently hoping to leverage the distant and inconvenient location into an easy win over its targets, who were mostly college students. It appeared, for a time, that Suburban Express and Toeppen had reconsidered their course, dismissing the small claims suits and pledging to amend their practices.

That conclusion was premature. Suburban Express is threatening students right now. They require help.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I explained before that Suburban Express was furiously retreating in the face of a public relations disaster. That retreat was temporary.

Since I wrote my post in April, other writers have reported on new hijinks by Suburban Express and Toeppen. Techdirt reported on how Suburban Express, through new counsel, is now asking an Illinois court for a do-over, saying that its small claims cases in Ford County (including its defamation suit against one critic) should have been dismissed without prejudice, meaning with leave to re-file there or elsewhere. Suburban Express now claims that those cases were filed with prejudice — meaning, permanently — in error back during the period that Suburban Express was trying to rehabilitate its reputation and slow down the Streisand Effect.

Suburban Express' motions are set to be heard in Ford County tomorrow, July 30, 2013.

Ars Technica has reported that Dennis Toeppen has been using Freedom of Information Act demands to the University of Illinois trying to identify his online critics and discovery information about them. There's more here at Reddit.

Techdirt also reported that Suburban Express and Dennis Toeppen have used their website to attack Jeremy Leval, the young man whose criticism of Suburban Express set of its last paroxysm of threats and litigiousness. I have seen at least one other instance of Suburban Express posting its "side of the story." But in the case of Mr. Leval, Toeppen's intent appears to be to revile a litigation opponent.

I am a firm advocate of the more speech remedy to disfavored speech. Suburban Express is pursuing a more-speech remedy by attacking its critics online. It may be a rather questionable strategy from a public relations standpoint as a business, but it's better than suing over criticism — or it would be, if it weren't part of a campaign that includes lawsuits. Similarly, the Freedom of Information Act is an important tool that citizens can use to prevent unwarranted government secrecy. However, it can also be used to harass and to pierce internet anonymity in order to file frivolous lawsuits.

The Threats

Despite their retreat last Spring, Dennis Toeppen and Suburban Express now have at least four pending legal threats against critics.

First, Suburban Express seeks to revive their thoroughly bogus and abusive small claims case against Jeremy Leval.

Second, Suburban Express, though new counsel, is threatening an online commenter "Katherine C." with a defamation suit. The threat letter — redacted to remove her personal information, because she has not agreed to disclose it — is here. Suburban Express threatens to sue the young woman for, among other things, posing the rhetorical question "Do you really feel comfortable having your credit card information on file with these people?" That's a clear rhetorical statement of opinion, and my answer — based on what's disclosed in my posts and the other public coverage — is a resounding Hell, no. Someone, possibly a process server, has been skulking around Katherine C.'s home and office. She may have been sued already. Edited to add: a tipster informs me that Suburban Express has sued Katherine C. in Champaign County, seeking an injunction. Seeking an injunction in a defamation case is often a good indicator of frivolousness. Second Edit: I now have a copy of the complaint; update at end of post.

Third, Suburban Express has been threatening the moderator of Reddit's University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign subreddit. Suburban Express, through their lawyer, fatuously takes issue with the subreddit's heading, which previously said that Suburban Express is "likely to sue you" if you patronize them. This is astoundingly clearly protected rhetoric; Suburban Express' stubborn statistical analysis that 125 lawsuits does not make one against any given customer "likely" is sanctionably ridiculous. The letter is also replete with what I've come to expect from Suburban Express, Dennis Toeppen, and their lawyers: contempt for their customer base. In what amounts to projection, Toeppen likes to spin any criticism as narcissism, saying that the reddit moderator "apparently seem[s] to enjoy this attention." Toeppen has also written to me "Your coverage is giving a handful of young people an inflated sense of self-worth, Ken." This "you're just children doing this for attention and because you have nothing better to do" theme is common from Toeppen (and, in my experience, from other internet cranks faced with criticism).

Fourth, Suburban Express has used its new law firm to threaten another student for defamation, this time going as far as to include a draft complaint. That complaint is based on the student telling his version of events in a confrontation with a driver; Suburban Express has a different version of events. It's difficult, in light of the pattern of conduct of Suburban Express and Dennis Toeppen, to believe their version of events about nearly anything, but I don't have first-hand knowledge of what happened. However, it's clear that the threatened defamation suit is part of a pattern of attempted intimidation of critics.

Accusations of Sockpuppetry

Suburban Express has had its defenders as well as its critics. They've used various means. Suburban Express' Wikipedia page has been the site of an ongoing struggle to delete criticism. One Wikipedia editor who added critical material found her user page edited to add the second sentence in this description: "I am new to editing Wikipedia. I have a Conflict of Interest with Suburban Express stemming from my interactions with them on the UIUC subreddit. I am asian, female, and angry." Did Suburban Express have anything to do with that? Well, consider my exchange with Dennis Toeppen asking him that question:

Ken: Were you the one who edited a Wikipedia user page to say this about a user, apparently because you believed you had identified the user?

"I am new to editing Wikipedia.

I have a Conflict of Interest with Suburban Express stemming from my interactions with them on the UIUC subreddit.

I am asian, female, and angry."

Dennis Toeppen: I don't see that.

I am neither asian nor female.

Ken: So, it's your position that you didn't write that?

Dennis Toeppen: You didn't send me a url.

Ken: You need a url to tell me whether or not you wrote that?

Dennis Toeppen: If I were your client, would you advise me to answer a question about something I have not seen? I imagine not. So shoot me the url.

Draw your own conclusion. Otherwise, his correspondence with me expresses views of Wikipedia consistent with his disgust at his client base:

Wikipedia seems to have degenerated into somewhat of a social-media site and hangout for teen and twenty-something wannabes, with a dash of mature adults mixed in.

In response to reports that pro-Suburban-Express edits at Wikipedia were traced to IP addresses associated with Suburban Express, Dennis Toeppen told me this:

It is the case that some Wikipedia activity was from IP addresses registered to my company. Keep in mind that we have several computers in driver and student employee areas for their use, an we have wi-fi which is used by transient occupants of a driver apartment which we maintain.

So, a drifter with an iPad probably did it.

I asked him to comment on recurring allegations that he uses aliases to attack critics and competitors on Reddit:

Do you have any comment about whether you, or people acting with you, have been using pseudonyms on Reddit to comment? For instance, have you or people working with you commented as "totallyanonymous2"?

His response was somewhat coy:

I think anonymity online leads people to do things which they would never do out in public. I would like commenters to be compelled to provide their real names. I would support legislation which seeks defeat anonymous online commenting. I am willing to spend my own money in support of that goal. Nevertheless, I support off-the-record interactions between legitimate journalists and sources.

Who Acts Like This?

Why would Dennis Toeppen act this way?

His online activities may constitute classic "more speech" but they are nigh-suicidal for a business that depends on goodwil. The same can be said of his use of FOIA to unmask critics. His company's approach to customer service is loathsome; he runs the sort of company that responds to a call about a lost purse by saying "If it was so important, why did you lose it?" He seems incapable of comprehending how he sounds to his audience. In another context, this excerpt from Suburban Express' terms might seem whimsical; in light of Toeppen's pattern of conduct, it merely smacks of his contempt for his customer base:

Cellular Phone Usage

In the interest of the sanity of those around you, cellular phone usage is limited to 3 minutes per passenger per trip. If you feel compelled to yack for more than 3 minutes, please move to the restroom to do so, or put the call on speakerphone so that everyone can hear *both* sides of the conversation. Having problems with your boyfriend? Other riders will help you out!

Dennis Toeppen rails about people using the internet to trash-talk him, but gleefully uses it for the same purpose, posting screeds about opponents and posting snide videos of competitors.

In short, he's a failed cybersquatter and a small-time bully who can dish it out, but can't take it. He's a classic internet crank, Ignatius J. Reillying his way through one argument after another, bewailing the necessity of sharing the planet with the stupid and inferior people that bedevil him.

My Call For Help

Dennis Toeppen wrote to me "you're certainly willing to help those schmucks if you want to."

Okay.

First, the defendants in Dennis Toeppen's existing and threatened suits in Cook County need representation. They are students and don't have money. If you are a lawyer in Cook County [edited to add: or Champaign County], please consider helping out, as many past responders to the Popehat Signal have done. Lawyers in other states may want to back up locals with research, writing, and advice. People like Dennis Toeppen succeed in using litigation as a weapon of censorship because a defense is ruinously expensive to average people; a team of pro bono lawyers can probably make short work of him and his lawyers, and eviscerate his competitive advantage. Could Dennis Toeppen possibly identify a false statement of fact in a story or post about him? I'm not inclined to trust him, based on this evidence, but it's possible. But that determination should be made based on his critics having a vigorous defense, not based on thuggery.

Second, if anyone is close to Ford County tomorrow and can observe and report on the hearing on his request to revive his cases, your help would be appreciated.

Third, spread the word. Actions do, and should, have consequences. If more people knew the way Suburban Express acts, they might not use it, and Dennis Toeppen would face the consequences of his conduct. There's already a boycott movement, and it is difficult to imagine that students would willingly use Suburban Express if they knew its history and had an alternative.

Fourth, remember: keep standing up against censors and bullies of every stripe.

Note: this is not a full exposition of Suburban Express' conduct. That may follow, depending on its actions in these threatened lawsuits. I will be reporting on any filed cases and how they are litigated.

Updated to Add: Thanks to the generosity of readers, I now have several offers of help, some from local attorneys, some from attorneys nationwide who will contribute help, one from a computer forensics expert. However, I can still use help in Champaign County, please, to act as counsel in the case there.

A helpful tipster pulled the complaint against Katherine C., noted above. It's an extremely perfunctory affair; it alleges defamation without specifying any defamatory statement whatsoever, and seeks an injunction requiring the review be taken down and prohibiting the defendant from other "defamatory" postings. Remember my maxim: vagueness in defamation claims is the hallmark of frivolous thuggery.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

367 Comments

367 Comments

  1. matt  •  Jul 29, 2013 @2:14 pm

    The boycott link is borked.
    Clicky for those that want it boycottsuburbanbus.com

  2. Hoare  •  Jul 29, 2013 @2:35 pm

    hidden camera?
    copyright infringement?

    lol

  3. Hoare  •  Jul 29, 2013 @2:37 pm

    hidden camera?
    copyright infringement?

    lol

    "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zm5XqLtVCrM"

  4. StephenM3  •  Jul 29, 2013 @2:59 pm

    Wow, it seems like this guy really has a thing about hating young people. If I were his friend, I'd recommend he see a therapist.

  5. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @3:05 pm
  6. IlliniStudent  •  Jul 29, 2013 @3:09 pm

    @StephenM3: He is just an angry person in general…and yes, in my opinion, he needs SERIOUS SERIOUS help. Look at how he acts at point 2:23 on this video he posted…he starts using profanity towards the contractor when he doesn't get his way, like a 5 year old child. Although the contractor responds in a similar tone, Dennis is the instigator, yet claims the contractor is a "Hillbilly".

  7. Ken White  •  Jul 29, 2013 @3:14 pm

    The comment above purportedly by Mr. Toeppen uses the same email he used to communicate with me, FWIW.

  8. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @3:20 pm
  9. Anonymous Coward  •  Jul 29, 2013 @3:38 pm

    Wow this guy is back? Incredible. I wonder what made him abort his retreat and head into Charles Carreon territory.

    Ken hit it right on the head. He has no idea how bad he looks to his customers. He doesn't realize his hypocrisy of attacking people on the Internet for attacking him on the Internet. Does he completely lack the empathy necessary to understand how people see him? Or is it that he knows and just doesn't care? Either way, I'm glad I don't have know him IRL.

  10. Shiro  •  Jul 29, 2013 @3:42 pm

    Dennis,
    If your employees cannot be professional, fire them, don't cover for them.
    If you had ever actually worked customer service before (obvious you haven't considering your idiotic response), you would know that the customer can act how they want, but the company representative is to maintain a certain level of professionalism. Through your support of poor behavior, you are just as guilty as your unprofessional employee.

  11. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @3:49 pm

    @Shiro – If you read the employee affidavits, it will be clear to you that Mulreed fabricated his story.

    We are quick to provide coupons to customers when there are legitimate service failures. There was no service failure here.

  12. IlliniStudent  •  Jul 29, 2013 @3:53 pm

    @Dennis Toeppen:

    Yes, this is how you get around the Better Business Bureau. You send a BS online coupon for a "free ride"; however, since you ban the student and tickets can only be purchased online, they cannot use them.

    More BS from Dennis "the failed cyber squatter" Toeppen.

  13. Tious  •  Jul 29, 2013 @3:53 pm

    So, he basically wants to have everyone's anonimity stripped yet it is pretty clear that he himself is making up fake user names to mock those people on Wikipedia, Reddit, etc…?

    Brilliant

  14. Tious  •  Jul 29, 2013 @3:57 pm

    @Dennis Toeppen:

    Ok, he made up the story. So what? Are you this thin-skinned with everything else in your life?

    It is embarrassing how terrible you and your company look with these lawsuits and whoever is giving you legal advice really needs to be replaced.

    How you think you will come off looking good EVEN IF it is true that the story is fabricated….is beyond me and obviously everyone else outside of you and your crew.

  15. Grifter  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:05 pm

    Well gee, I hope Mr. Mulreed doesn't decide to sue for the defamatory relief from the claim that his account was "fabricated".

  16. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:11 pm

    @Tious -

    We are interested in feedback, suggestions, and, yes, critical evaluations of our performance. I will not, however, tolerate widely-distributed fabricated defamatory statements such as Mulreed's.

    We carried > 120,000 passengers last year and we now have a handful of crusaders on our hands. I don't have any comparables which I can use to assert that handful/120,000 is favorable, but I suspect it is.

    I would suggest that all readers take a look at the lawsuit pdfs. Do you really sympathize with the defendants?

    As for Murph Finnicum, the Reddit moderator, he has complied with our request to change the banner on his website. That fact seems to have been omitted above. Finnicum's banner is a dead matter as far as we are concerned.

  17. Shiro  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:14 pm

    @ Dennis-

    I would sympathize with any defendant persecuted by an overly litigious company. Any company that would go out of its way to post information about a customer certainly has something wrong with its culture. You cannot attack the message, so you attack the messenger. I have never seen anything so childish in all my time working in customer service.

  18. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:17 pm

    @Shiro

    We are playing defense. We push back when attacked.

  19. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:22 pm

    @Shiro -

    You clearly did not look at the lawsuits. They have nothing to do with freedom of speech, first amendment rights, etc. Rather, they are collection suits filed against debtors.

    The collection lawsuits are being used as a data point in an argument that has nothing to do with the actual lawsuits. Since most people are too lazy to read them, the data point is blindly accepted by readers.

  20. Shiro  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:23 pm

    @Dennis

    I am sorry, but filing or threatening to file lawsuits against those who share their opinions about your company is not defending your company. It is making you look like childish bullies. If you knew anything about customer service, you would have worked with those customers to address their issues, not attack, belittle, or dismiss them and their concerns. I really do not see any positive motivations for trying to destroy the personal lives of these people you are "playing defense" against by attacking them with the court system.

  21. jackn  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:24 pm

    Dang, this is funny.
    Do you know that feeling when you're embarresed for someone else?

  22. Shiro  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:27 pm

    Sorry- deceptive business practices like tacking on fees if the contractor doesn't like something you do and then suing for it is even worse.

    Question- do you also do work for First National Bank in Ohio, moonlighting as Anthony Thorne, their CEO? The resemblance is very striking- defending incompetence at any cost, damn the customer/victim, they had it coming anyway. Sound familiar?

  23. jackn  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:29 pm

    @dennis toppen
    Could you post exibit a to the marvalla pdf?

  24. StephenM3  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:30 pm

    @Dennis Toeppen

    You realize that "pushing back" by filing lawsuits against college students is actually hurting your cause, right? Even if you win every single lawsuit you file, you end up encouraging people to spread negative stories even further.

    I never would have heard of you if you hadn't been so litigious, and now if I ever meet someone attending University of Illinois, I'll probably tell them to avoid Suburban Express.

  25. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:31 pm

    @Shiro -

    You have brought up an important point, my friend. We respect the right of folks to express their opinions. What we take issue with is people making false assertions of fact.

    "I hate Suburban Express" is fine. Most of our riders don't feel that way, but hey, there are some people who will never be happy.

    "Suburban Express killed my mother" is not fine.

    In the first case, we might send the complaining party a coupon and try to address their concerns. In the second case, we give the party an opportunity to cure and then take it from there.

  26. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:40 pm

    @Shiro -

    Our $100 convenience fee, assessed if a person slips a bad ticket by a driver, is designed to create a negative expected value in the customer's payoff table when s/he is contemplating trying to pass off a bad ticket.

    The drivers are like goalies. They try very hard to keep people with bad tickets off the bus. But sometimes, someone slips one by.

    Our system is designed to facilitate FAST boarding and departure. We are not willing to slow down the process, and in doing so penalize all the people with valid tickets, to catch the half a percent of people who steal from us.

    Our boarding process was discussed ad nauseum last time around. Here are two videos that may help readers understand. Watch what the drivers are doing. Adding *any* steps or technology to their workflow would have disasterous consequences for boarding speed:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTy-yNCD488

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUnFLSFlKxI

    Note that these are LIGHT loadings. We sometimes load 10 buses at a time.

  27. Jonathan  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:46 pm

    Out of curiosity Dennis, do you mind sharing what precipitated the re-filing of these many cases you had dismissed before?

    Was it simply a crass (mis)calculation that the internet had 'forgotten' and you could press your cases without further interference?

  28. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:50 pm

    @Jonathan -

    We have not re-filed any cases. We have asked the court to change the status of approximately 20 cases from "dismissed with prejudice" to "dismissed without prejudice". Changing their status does not constitute re-filing. But that reality interferes with the melodramatic imperative which is so crucial to making an entertaining story out of this situation.

  29. Anonymous Coward  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:55 pm

    You clearly did not look at the lawsuits. They have nothing to do with freedom of speech, first amendment rights, etc. Rather, they are collection suits filed against debtors.

    Oh really? Well… why did you choose a venue that would make it difficult or impossible for the students to defend themselves? When a suit is brought for the purpose of suppressing speech, the actual content of the complaint doesn't really matter. It's still being used as a weapon to erode First Amendment rights.

  30. Grifter  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:56 pm

    Dennis Toeppen, if you didn't intend to refile or use these suits in some thuggery, why would it matter?

  31. Bob Brown  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:57 pm

    OK, Dennis, if you do not intend to pursue those cases, why are you spending money on legal fees trying to get the status changed? (My Constitutionally protected opinion: because you're an asshat.)

  32. Anonymous Coward  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:58 pm

    We have not re-filed any cases. We have asked the court to change the status of approximately 20 cases from "dismissed with prejudice" to "dismissed without prejudice". Changing their status does not constitute re-filing.

    And what possible reason could there be for doing so other than re-filing (or the threat of re-filing)?

  33. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @4:59 pm

    @ Anonymous Coward -

    Your argument has no connection to the lawsuits, ergo, you still did not read them.

  34. Wick Deer  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:00 pm

    @Dennis Toeppen. Changing the status of the lawsuits from dismissed with prejudice to dismissed without prejudice is, technically, not, technically, be refiling; however, changing that status would serve no useful purpose except to allow them to be refiled.

    So, if you are not planning on refiling these cases, why bother with the motions? I've tried to think of an alternate explanation, but have come up empty.

  35. Jonathan  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:03 pm

    Dennis,

    Fair enough. Allow me to rephrase: What has precipitated your decision to ask the court to change the status of those cases?

    Surely this is an action you take when planning to actually re-file, or perhaps leverage the threat of re-filing. Of course I'm not your consigliere, but this seems a foolish move if you aren't planning to do anything with the cases as the fallout from your move to "change the status of approximately 20 cases" couldn't have been difficult to foresee.

  36. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:07 pm

    @Bob Brown -

    We want to keep our options open on the more egregious cases of fraud and theft.

  37. Bob Brown  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:10 pm

    Dennis, there is no "we." There is only you. You told the world you were dropping those cases. Now it appears you're not. What are we to conclude about your truthfullness from that?

  38. bponnaluri  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:14 pm

    I have taken screenshots of the comments that Dennis has posted in case they get deleted and I will showcase the comments on my website.

  39. Resolute  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:15 pm

    "We want to keep our options open on the more egregious cases of fraud and theft."

    In other words, the Reddit subtitle was far more accurate than you're comfortable admitting, eh Dennis?

  40. Delvan Neville  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:15 pm

    Your complaints go no further than to claim you are owed money from them. In one case, you are specific as to why (two copies of the ticket were ran and the nature of your horrendous attempt at terms & conditions puts the purchaser of the ticket at fault). In the others, you don't. Your record with Mr. Leval and Katherine C. establish a pattern of abuse of the legal system to suppress free speech. You do not identify why you have claims that extend in some of them to over $500. You do nothing but dodge any commentary on the cases here rather than responding in a straightforward, 'here's what actually happened' manner.

    Why on earth would you expect any benefit of the doubt that these weasel complaints stem from actual causes rather than fitting into your previous litigation history? Why would you expect commenters here to assume your complaints tell the whole story (especially given most don't tell any of the story)? All of your complaints you've linked lack a first reply by the Defendant, probably because of your tactic of filing them outside of Champaign to try to force the Defendant to default on the complaint.

    If you really contend there's nothing of note going on with these cases, why did you dismiss them shortly after gaining notoriety about your douchebaggery?

  41. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:16 pm

    @Jonathan -

    Fallout schmallout. Bloggers motivated by clicks are peddling a story which has been twisted around to conform with the melodramtic imperitive. That's what they do. Good for them.

    But we're running a business here, not a charity for cheaters. Riders who legitimately pay for their rides should not have to subsidize cheaters, nor should I. Whether the online world chooses to vilify me or not, we are sticking to our guns: people who cheat will be subject to collection action. Period.

    I doubt the 99.5% of the passengers who don't cheat the system take issue with our position.

  42. Fasolt  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:17 pm

    @Dennis-Do yourself a favor. Read this article and reconsider your actions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect

  43. Anonymous Coward  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:21 pm

    "Bloggers motivated by clicks"

    Clearly a defamatory statement of fact about Ken White. Release the lawyers!

  44. Matthew Cline  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:22 pm

    @Dennis Toeppen:

    We have not re-filed any cases. We have asked the court to change the status of approximately 20 cases from "dismissed with prejudice" to "dismissed without prejudice". Changing their status does not constitute re-filing.

    1) IANAL, but I was under the impression that if a case was dismissed without prejudice, then opening up the case again meant refiling. Is this incorrect, or do you mean that you have not yet refiled?

    2) Ignoring all that, you had dismissed the lawsuits earlier. The question is, after having dismissed them yourself, why are you now trying to continue them?

  45. TPRJones  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:22 pm

    @ Dennis –

    While the lawsuits are not about protected speech (at least not the first pdf, I stopped after that) you have certainly taken other actions that very much are. Specifically your treatment of reddit is rather specious, as has been your conduct throughout this matter. I'm very disappointed that reddit caved to your craven threats.

    I will say here and now that I agree with their prior heading: Suburban Express is likely to sue you if you patronize them.

    Would you like my address so you can serve me?

  46. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:22 pm

    @Delvan –

    Leval suit has nothing to do with First Amendment/Free Speech and everything to do with what we would characterize as disruptive and inappropriate behavior on a bus. Picking a fight with a driver as he is about to take control of a 45'/56 passenger bus is inappropriate, if not dangerous, behavior. We will not tolerate anything like Leval's performance on our buses.

    Katherine Chi matter is addressed above. See "Suburban Express killed my mother".

  47. Mark  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:23 pm

    Mr Toeppen, you have not yet reached the outer core. I suggest you keep digging. It's lovely out there and you'll find plenty of company to satisfy your misandry.

  48. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:24 pm

    @Bob Brown -

    If there is no "we", and I will not be in court tomorrow, then who will be?

  49. Fasolt  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:24 pm

    @Dennis-Finished reading that yet? You did notice your company was mentioned and your use of sockpuppets, right? Even though it looks to be too late, don't be that guy.

  50. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:29 pm

    @Resolute –

    "In other words, the Reddit subtitle was far more accurate than you're comfortable admitting, eh Dennis?"

    The evidence fails to support your conclusion.

    We filed ~ 125 collections suits for an operating period of >24 months. In that time period, we carried about 200k-225k people, I believe. If you do the division, you'll come up with a tiny percentage. So Murph Finnicum's banner stating that Suburban Express is likely to sue you was incorrect in the extreme.

  51. Jonathan  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:29 pm

    Dennis,

    Fallout schmallout? Listen, I like rhyming fake words with real ones for rhetorical effect as much as the next guy, but I think you're misunderstanding the gravity of the real word in this case. "Fallout" doesn't (only) mean that some anonymous hecklers get to laugh at you online. It means that the damage you do to your reputation, and the motive and means you give those who might wish to exacerbate that damage, can cause your business real lost dollars. "Fallout" means that when the crusaders you mention spread the Gospel of Suburban Sucks they can point to this activity as real, indisputable proof of you and your company's "wickedness". "Fallout" means that the damages you (might) recoup from prosecuting the alleged cheaters is likely outweighed by the damages you incur from the public who hear about this sans the context you would like them to hear and believe.

    You're probably right not to worry about the schmallout, though. I hear that's totes overrated.

  52. Delvan Neville  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:33 pm

    I take it as safe to assume that all of my other questions were dodged because the answer would be detrimental to your case or your public standing. That would lead to the following conclusions:

    1) You didn't mention what wrong-doing occurred in your other complaints because the nature of the cases is simply to extract money from students who can't defend themselves.

    2) There is no reason to give you the benefit of the doubt on the nature of any complaints you file.

    3) Your complaints do not tell the whole story

    4) You do not link to responses by the Defendants because your filing methodology is meant to inhibit their ability to have adequate representation in court.

    5) There is clearly something of note here in your decision to get the cases changed to dismissed without prejudice, likely so you can continue to use them to strong-arm victims.

  53. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:33 pm

    @Jonathan -

    ""Fallout" means that the damages you (might) recoup from prosecuting the alleged cheaters is likely outweighed by the damages you incur from the public who hear about this sans the context you would like them to hear and believe."

    So be it. We'll continue to provide the best service we possibly can, and the haters can do what they do best.

  54. Matthew Cline  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:33 pm

    @Dennis Toeppen

    The evidence fails to support your conclusion.

    We filed ~ 125 collections suits for an operating period of >24 months. In that time period, we carried about 200k-225k people, I believe. If you do the division, you'll come up with a tiny percentage.

    In the context in which that person was speaking, it's implicit that "likely" is in comparison to other businesses of a similar type (or even in comparison to other businesses in general), rather than being meant in an absolute, non-comparative sense.

  55. Mark  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:34 pm

    Mr Toeppen re: statistics, what is your exact comment on the following (taken from the text above):

    This is astoundingly clearly protected rhetoric; Suburban Express' stubborn statistical analysis that 125 lawsuits does not make one against any given customer "likely" is sanctionably ridiculous.

    As any online bully you seem to have a strong case of what I like to call quotationes selectivetitis.

  56. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:34 pm

    @Delvan -
    "I take it as safe to assume that all of my other questions were dodged"

    No, I simply have finite time and face apparently infinite online criticism. On that note, I'm going to head home.

  57. Grifter  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:50 pm

    Ah, yes, the "I had plenty of time to answer the questions I thought people might buy, but somehow don't have any time whatsoever to answer the harder questions" gambit.

  58. Anonymous Coward  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:53 pm

    "No, I simply have finite time and face apparently infinite online criticism. On that note, I'm going to head home."

    Don't take the bus, I've heard bad things online.

  59. Tious  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:58 pm

    Dennis,

    Can you simply tell us whether you made fake online profiles anywhere online?

  60. Ollie  •  Jul 29, 2013 @5:59 pm

    For someone with such a limited amount of time, you certainly spent a whole lot of time saying the same thing over and over again. If I didn't know any better I'd almost think you didn't have any real evidence to back up what you're saying, and that you were just trying fruitlessly to defend your awful behavior from people who are far less stupid or gullible than you seem to believe. But that would be rediculous, right?

  61. Ken White  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:01 pm

    You clearly did not look at the lawsuits. They have nothing to do with freedom of speech, first amendment rights, etc. Rather, they are collection suits filed against debtors.

    So, your position is that the Jeremy Leval suit is a collection suit?

  62. JR  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:03 pm

    Maybe he finally answered the phone and was chastised (loudly and descriptively, I imagine) by a very irate lawyer.

  63. Noah Callaway  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:06 pm

    Wow. Based on my reading of the previous few articles I didn't have a lot of respect for Suburban Express.

    Based on Mr. Toeppen's responses here I am going to activity encourage everyone / anyone I know in that area to avoid those bus lines.

    Just an absolutely astonishingly awful response to online criticism. This is a textbook case of how not to do PR.

  64. Phe0n1x  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:07 pm

    *me noms popcorn* This is highly entertaining. It seems to me that Dennis Toeppen is essentially Neo with his epic dodging skills. I feel as if I'm watching a political debate.

  65. barry  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:07 pm

    Sticking with my special subject, 'The Bleedin' Obvious'..

    "I hate Suburban Express" is fine… "Suburban Express killed my mother" is not fine.

    Except if Suburban Express did kill their mother, then it would be fine for them to say it (not fine that their mother was dead).

    In the second case, we give the party an opportunity to cure and then take it from there.

    Have some compassion, the poor kid just lost his hypothetical mother, and there's no cure for that !

  66. azteclady  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:14 pm

    Am I the only one amazed by the utterly adolescent tenor of Dennis Toeppen comments?

    Then again, it is consistent with the rest of his behaviour discussed both here and in the previous post's comment thread.

  67. Mark C.  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:15 pm

    Ken's link above had an extra thing… the correct should be http://www.popehat.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/LevalComplaint.pdf

  68. Ken White  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:24 pm

    As much contempt I have for the lawyers for the recent threats and suits, I am very much cheered by the fact that they have to deal with Dennis Toeppen, who is now actively arguing his case on the internet.

  69. mcinsand  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:28 pm

    Wow, does this guy need some mental help and meds or what? Being narcissistic to a pathological extreme is the least of his problems, and, with his 'logic,' he is undercutting any arguments he might have at every turn. We not only need a popehat signal for legal counsel, we need a Streisand signal for companies that the public needs to be warned about!

    Have any attorneys stepped forward to defend the persecuted?

  70. Shane  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:29 pm

    @Dennis Toeppen

    Why is it so important for you to be "right"? If your reputation is worth one iota then a few bad apples will make absolutely no difference in the big scheme of things.

    The people that I see that have a driving desire to be right usually end up in fights. And in a fight, the god of R(andom) N(umber) G(enerator) is usually the winner. If you are willing to fight and you don't care about the consequences, and only about being right then you will not win even when you win. Some call that a pariahic victory. Either way you lose.

  71. Trent  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:31 pm

    Dennis,

    Personally, I hope there is a rather successfull student campaign to destroy your business and I hope you competitors use these lawsuits as a weapon against you. You are a vile human being. I also hope a good team of pro-bono lawyers eviscerates your lawsuits and are successfull in counter suing for legal fees. There would be sweet sweet justice in you having to pay $25000 in legal fees per case.

  72. Jonathan  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:36 pm

    @Shane I am ashamed of myself for being a pedant on teh internets, but you meant to say "pyrrhic victory" – and I think that Mr. Toeppen is in danger of winning exactly that, as you say.

  73. EH  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:37 pm

    Like all bullies, the likely result will be cowardly silence once the ploy fails.

  74. Shane  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:40 pm

    @Jonathan

    … but you meant to say "pyrrhic victory"

    I did indeed, thank you for the correct.

  75. Nicholas Weaver  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:46 pm

    OK, I actually read Dennis's first "hey, we're just defending ourselves" lawsuit on his page. It a lawsuit for $500 because the rider's friend and/or relative was allegedly rude/threatening to the driver.

    This is hardly reasonable grounds for a lawsuit IMO, and makes me believe Dennis's "contract" is intended to abuse his customers, and his OWN EVIDENCE suggests he is using small claims harassment suits to abuse his customers.

    The choice of venue and other aspects are clearly make the impression that this is about extortion, not enforcing a reasonable contract.

  76. Nicholas Weaver  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:48 pm

    As much contempt I have for the lawyers for the recent threats and suits, I am very much cheered by the fact that they have to deal with Dennis Toeppen, who is now actively arguing his case on the internet.

    Ah ken. Its a double standard, I tells ya. Like all good defense attorneys, you want your clients to shut the F@#)(*@# up (if only they would), but its perfectly OK for some douchebag suing people to keep talking on the net…

  77. Nicholas Weaver  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:51 pm

    Oh, there IS a good use for a Suburban Express bus, however. Its really good for the Prendarists to throw each other under….

  78. bponnaluri  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:53 pm

    @Trent
    Many students including myself are already campaigning against Suburban Express, and I anticipate that more people will join after Toeppen's comments on this thread. A competing business has already used the news about the lawsuits to their advantage and I expect them to continue doing so. http://imgur.com/0lebpEo.

    @azteclady
    As a student who has been following Suburban Express for the past few months,Toeppen's behavior still manages to surprise me.

    @Noah Callaway.
    For the first two months, I was basically a bystander who did not do much except for make a few posts on Reddit. Like you, I was motivated to promote a boycott a few weeks ago after finding out that Dennis was continuing his unethical activities.

    @Dennis Toeppen. You do not provide great service based on the fact that you harass customers, and create strict terms and conditions that give you opportunities to sue people.

  79. Dan T.  •  Jul 29, 2013 @6:53 pm

    I hope he gets countersued into bankruptcy.

  80. James Pollock  •  Jul 29, 2013 @7:11 pm

    Perhaps, instead of setting up the Popehat Signal for pro bono lawyers for the various Suburban Express customers, what should really be happening is a different sort of signal asking for pro bono customer-service consulting for Mr. Toeppen.

  81. Pete  •  Jul 29, 2013 @7:22 pm

    I do not understand that it is ok to attack someone online, but not ok to defend yourself if you are attacked.
    Shiro • Jul 29, 2013 @3:42 pm wrote
    "If your employees cannot be professional, fire them, don't cover for them."
    "If you had ever actually worked customer service before… you would know that the customer can act how they want, but the company representative is to maintain a certain level of professionalism."
    I witnessed the Mulreed incident first hand, and it was totally fictitious as told by Mulreed. I am in my late 50’s and have been in customer service for large retailers and service companies. A company must stand by their employees when wrongly accused by a customer, or lose good employees. To fire someone who is wrongly accused, is just wrong. And yes, sometimes you need to fire a customer.

  82. barnassey  •  Jul 29, 2013 @7:25 pm

    This is why when it comes to going to the major college cites (peoria bloomington and ETC) I tell EVEYONE they should use Peoria charter. Less stress doesnt treat you like a TELCO customer and has drivers that are polite and helpful.

  83. Rob  •  Jul 29, 2013 @7:26 pm

    Shane • Jul 29, 2013 @6:29 pm
    …Some call that a pariahic victory.

    Shane • Jul 29, 2013 @6:40 pm

    @Jonathan

    … but you meant to say "pyrrhic victory"

    I did indeed, thank you for the correct.

    It may have been a malapropism, but it was very appropriate.

  84. Myk  •  Jul 29, 2013 @7:35 pm

    @jonathan @shane – I dunno; "pariah-hic" victory has a certain je ne sais quoi, in that those who win such will almost certainly make themselves pariahs in the process.

  85. Roger  •  Jul 29, 2013 @8:11 pm

    Dennis Toeppen, you posted links to two Youtube videos of your buses being loaded. Do you have licenses to use The Cure's "Friday I'm In Love" and the various sonatas you use as the soundtrack, or are you committing criminal and/or civil copyright infringement, punishable by prison time and/or liquidated damages of far more than $500 per violation?

  86. Jimmy C  •  Jul 29, 2013 @8:13 pm

    "you're certainly willing to help those schmucks if you want to."

    What an odd statement. It almost says something, but just not quite.

  87. Ryan K  •  Jul 29, 2013 @8:28 pm

    He styles the Leval case a collections case, but it's based on this interference/delay clause (though he doesn't state in the complaint how the defendant violated that provision). He's trying to "collect" liquidated damages.

    I doubt that the liquidated damages clause will hold up, even assuming the defendant did violate it. The general rule is that, for liquidated damages clauses to be enforceable, damages must be very difficult to ascertain at the time the contract is formed and the amount specified must be a reasonable forecast of what they might be. $500 doesn't seem like a reasonable forecast, especially given the broad nature of the clause.

    Further, as a general rule, contract remedies are to make the plaintiff whole—not to punish the defendant. Inasmuch as this provision comes off as a punishment rather than a remedy, it is possibly invalid.

  88. BaronLurk  •  Jul 29, 2013 @8:33 pm

    One has to wonder if Suburban Expresses' fleet consists of Short Buses …

  89. Some Random Guy  •  Jul 29, 2013 @8:35 pm

    @Roger, there are plenty of things that Dennis Toeppen is doing which are wrong and/or likely against the law, but copyright infringement (criminal or otherwise, at least as it relates to the music) in youtube videos is not one of those things. Google has already licensed that music for inclusion in videos on youtube (certainly true for the Cure track, almost certainly true for the other recordings). Let's not feed the copyright trolls, please.

  90. Nat Gertler  •  Jul 29, 2013 @8:39 pm

    "We filed ~ 125 collections suits for an operating period of >24 months. In that time period, we carried about 200k-225k people, I believe. If you do the division, you'll come up with a tiny percentage. "

    First, I wonder if you carried 200k people, or 200 individual trips. If it is a trip count, and we presume that the typical customer averages more than one trip in that two year period, we've got a smaller number of actual individuals and thus a larger percentage of them being sued (presuming the 125 suits are against separate individuals.)

    Second, it seems to my IANAL self that even if that is an actual customer count, suing .05% of customers in a transportation business is actually a fairly large percentage. A large air carrier can so about as many passenger trips a day as you did in those two years; if an airline started suing 100 people per day, I think we'd hear it. Heck, we'd hear about it if they sued ten a day.

  91. bponnaluri  •  Jul 29, 2013 @8:39 pm

    Dennis or some other troll has been continuing to use throwaways on Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/user/ride_the_pcc

  92. bponnaluri  •  Jul 29, 2013 @8:54 pm

    @Nat Gerter
    Agreed, Dennis's claim that he has served 200k-225k passengers is probably false.
    The total student population of the universities that Suburban Express serves is somewhere around 230,000, and a significant portion of those students do not use Suburban Express.

    @Dennis. I would like to know how you came up with those passenger figures. It sounds like the equivalent of someone visiting your website every day for a week and claiming that you had 7 visitors.

  93. StephenM3  •  Jul 29, 2013 @8:57 pm

    Yeah, if you sue 0.06% of your customers, that's actually quite a lot. In fact, it's kind of an absurdly large proportion, in its context.

    Most medium-sized businesses go for years without suing ANY of their customers.

    Such a high rate of lawsuit-inspiring "rulebreaking" probably speaks more about the rule enforcement than the customers.

  94. DarkAsSin  •  Jul 29, 2013 @8:57 pm

    Mr. Toeppen, I resent your insinuation that the only people who take issue with your actions are those who would try to cheat you. I rode your bus once–I paid my fare, handed over my precisely-folded ticket, and proceeded to be a model passenger. I would never, ever consider attempting to steal your services to be acceptable behavior.

    I am, however, a person who finds the efforts you've made to sue and/or silence individuals who have spoken ill of you to be repugnant. I find your attempts to game the justice system by filing suit in an inconvenient and unrelated county venue to be a subversion of the court system. I find your obsession with online venues to be unnerving in the extreme. And, finally, as a person who had personal information posted by someone who certainly seems to have been you, I find your efforts to harass people who don't like your actions to be irritating, childish, and ineffective. More importantly, they seem to be evidence of an underdeveloped moral character.

    As someone who really, honestly tried to be reasonable about this, let me offer some advice: your actions here, your list of lawsuits, and your behavior in other online venues are not helping you. You're wasting your time, engendering more ill will, and otherwise ensuring that those who are motivated to take action against you are periodically galvanized. Grow up.

  95. Roger  •  Jul 29, 2013 @9:06 pm

    Some Random Guy, can you point me to sources? I'm an IP lawyer (and IP skeptic), and what you say is not particularly consistent with my understanding, though I confess I don't really have much experience with music licensing.

  96. Matthew Cline  •  Jul 29, 2013 @9:20 pm

    @DarkAsSin:

    Most medium-sized businesses go for years without suing ANY of their customers.

    Such a high rate of lawsuit-inspiring "rulebreaking" probably speaks more about the rule enforcement than the customers.

    Well, to present Toppen's side of things*, given the business methods he uses (which he claims are much different than that used by other bus companies), there are no feasible technological or procedural means to prevent tickets from being used more than once, so the only means he has to prevent ticket sharing is lawsuits.

    (*: not quite a "devil's advocate", but I don't know the technical term for it)

  97. Some Random Guy  •  Jul 29, 2013 @9:28 pm

    @Roger start with http://www.youtube.com/t/contentid and then search for announcements like http://youtube-global.blogspot.ca/2012/06/sing-it-youtube-opens-door-for-more.html. My google-fu must be getting weak because I have been unable to find a definitive list of music publishers and collecting societies with which google/youtube have broad agreements, but you should be able to sort them out one my one. Sorry that this isn't more helpful.

  98. BJI  •  Jul 29, 2013 @9:32 pm

    I must say, it is a rare and glorious day to see trolls (especially litigious trolls) verbally put in their place on the internet. I sincerely hope their is a follow-up.

  99. BJI  •  Jul 29, 2013 @9:33 pm

    I must say, it is a rare and glorious day to see trolls (especially litigious trolls) verbally put in their place on the internet. I sincerely hope there is a follow-up.

  100. BJI  •  Jul 29, 2013 @9:35 pm

    Well shoot … if someone moderates these comments hopefully you can remove this and the first of the double posts. Sorry.

  101. Some Random Guy  •  Jul 29, 2013 @9:40 pm

    @Roger not sure if my previous comment is awaiting moderation because of the links or because new folks get moderated for a while (I suppose I will find out when I submit this), but I wasn't able to find a definitive list of labels/rightsholders/collecting societies that are onboard with the Content ID system on youtube, but aside from searching for "Content ID" you can look for announcements of agreements on the official youtube blog.

  102. Nigel Lew  •  Jul 29, 2013 @10:07 pm

    I learn more interesting words in the comment section here than Word of the Day could ever hope to deliver :)

    With that said, this guy is simply an asshole.

    There is something inherently creepy about his newly acquired sense of decorum.

  103. Kellen  •  Jul 29, 2013 @10:14 pm

    We filed ~ 125 collections suits for an operating period of >24 months. In that time period, we carried about 200k-225k people, I believe.

    As anyone with half a business brain knows, caring about such a small percentage is a colossal waste of time, regardless of the specific merits of those cases. I guess we can add business cluelessness to the legal variety Mr. Toeppen already lays claim to.

  104. John Beaty  •  Jul 29, 2013 @10:17 pm

    @Matthew Cline, there are many technological fixes for the problem of duplicate tickets, depending on what level of tech prowess you think will be used to try to duplicate your tickets. The simplest is bar-coding with unique numbers. All solutions require spending some money, which clearly the owner doesn't want to do. But it's a solved problem at his level, just needs a not-terribly competent programmer to implement. I imagine he would have been able to get quite a good implementation from the computer folks on campus if he hadn't spent so much time poisoning the well.

  105. John Beaty  •  Jul 29, 2013 @10:18 pm

    @Kellen, the principle he's using is "kill one to keep many in line." It's not about the few directly.

  106. John Beaty  •  Jul 29, 2013 @10:24 pm

    @Shane "Some call that a pariahic victory" This wins my vote for best incorrect word: A victory that makes you a pariah among normal people.

  107. ysth  •  Jul 29, 2013 @10:28 pm

    Suburban Express killed my mother.

  108. Dan  •  Jul 29, 2013 @10:30 pm

    Wow…I'm kind of astounded by the arrogance espoused by Dennis Toppen. Sure, some of your clients may be crooks…but suing the people that complain about your business practices? That sounds, well, abusive. If you have problems with the clients who have problems with you, talk to them. Work with them. Try to come to a compromise. If they're really criminals, report them to the police and let them deal with it. If not, it's a regular customer service disagreement…and that should be handled with talk, not lawsuits.

  109. Deathpony  •  Jul 29, 2013 @10:43 pm

    This is bizarre. Its like someone put the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld in charge of a busline.

    And he clearly hadn't heard the "Just shut up" advice from his legal team until a tad too late.

  110. barry  •  Jul 29, 2013 @11:00 pm

    meant to say "pyrrhic victory"

    Not to be confused with "prrhic victory"; a victory won by a prrhic.

  111. Aaron  •  Jul 29, 2013 @11:27 pm

    Ken, any news on whether Pete has the same IP address as Toeppen?

    Oh, and Suburban Express is hereby rechristened Malshandir Express.

  112. Flip  •  Jul 29, 2013 @11:50 pm

    Hmm, Aaron got to my question about Pete before I could post it, but I have another one… Given Toeppen's stats on number of passengers/percentage sued, I wonder what the percentage of people fined/sued are for government run public transport. Larger system of course, but surely there's a way to compare stats to see which one has a higher propensity to sue their passengers… ?

  113. Matthew Cline  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:18 am

    @John Beaty:

    there are many technological fixes for the problem of duplicate tickets, depending on what level of tech prowess you think will be used to try to duplicate your tickets.

    Looking back at the original thread, at comments by an associate/friend of Toppen, the claimed problems preventing this are:

    1) That sometimes they'd sub-contract out to other bussing companies, and for some reason they couldn't give the bar-code readers (or whatever) over to the subcontracted driver. Or maybe the subcontracted driver wouldn't have the training to use it? I dunno, anyways, this was supposedly a problem.

    2) The loading of the busses didn't take place at or near the company's office, but at arbitrary places (on/near campus?), so there wasn't any guarantee of a network connection to the central database.

    3) If the serial numbers of the tickets was loaded ahead of time onto a scanner, only one scanner could be used. But since they might be loading five busses at a time, only having one person to check everyone in would make loading take too long.

    4) They couldn't use any sort of per-bus manifest, since tickets weren't assigned to individual buses. If you bought a ticket for a trip from point X to point Y, there might be five buses for that, and when you showed up you could get onto any bus you wanted. This was because large groups of friends would want to get together on the same bus. As for why they couldn't make it so that a ticket buyer could choose "I want to be on bus #3", and the friends could coordinate on which bus number to choose… I don't know.

    Also, the associate/friend said (paraphrasing): "if Toppen could have solved it technologically, he would have. So since he hasn't used technology to solve it, there must be circumstances preventing a technological solution, even if you and I don't know what those circumstances are".

  114. Greg  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:03 am

    @Matthew Cline

    So, we're to believe that these bus drivers can't f'n *COUNT*?

    I mean a serious technical solution to the problem would be to simply count that the number of riders you have in each bus is <= the number of paid fares.

    Probably in most cases it will be.

    When it's not, then you simply print out a manifest and check them off. When you find the duplicate ticket, you call the cops and have them come cite the person trying to scam you.

    I mean, with well less than an hour and minimal investment I could fashion a solution that would solve his problem.

    But that would deprive him of acting like a total ass – so I'm sure he'll continue to claim there's simply no technical solution – and he has to continue acting out his fantasy of being right and a dick all at once.

  115. barry  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:26 am

    @Aaron & Flip, The identicons are different, so the IP addresses which generate them are different too.

  116. barry  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:33 am

    I just assumed that, but they could be generated from the email addresses which might not be checked (ie: i don't know)

  117. Anony Mouse  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:06 am

    Dennis:

    The first rule of holes is, stop digging.

  118. Anony Mouse  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:28 am

    @Matthew

    I hear tell that smartphones have cameras on them that can read barcodes and even those wacky-looking QR codes. Creating a custom app might cost a little bit of money, but it seems that it would be far less of a pain than suing college students.

    Seems like it's less a matter of there being no technological solution and more a matter of a business owner who can't be bothered to look for one.

    Also, I have it on good authority that he eats paste whilst murdering mothers.

  119. JWH  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:25 am

    This is bizarre. Its like someone put the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld in charge of a busline.

    No bus for you! Back of the line!

  120. jb  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:46 am
  121. jb  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:47 am

    Sorry for screwing up the tag.

  122. ZarroTsu  •  Jul 30, 2013 @5:33 am

    It is the case that some Wikipedia activity was from IP addresses registered to my company. Keep in mind that we have several computers in driver and student employee areas for their use, an we have wi-fi which is used by transient occupants of a driver apartment which we maintain.

    I'm confused; are they implying defamation or implying they have terrible Wi-fi security?

  123. Nicholas Weaver  •  Jul 30, 2013 @5:39 am

    THey are implying that their customers and/or employees love them so much that their customers and/or employees will spontaneously edit wikipedia for benefit of Suburban Express

  124. Luke G  •  Jul 30, 2013 @6:07 am

    @ Barry

    I think it's a little of each. When I commented from a different computer it assigned me a different identicon, right up until I entered my E-mail address at which point it switched back to the little electric-green quilt square I know and love. Of course, that was one account from two computers rather than two accounts from one- but I'd assume it still goes by e-mail, so more than one person can have distinct online presences via Gravatar.

  125. ZarroTsu  •  Jul 30, 2013 @6:08 am

    What do you call a public group of hypocrites in a hurry to shove their heads up their own asses?

    Suburban Express.

    I'll see myself out.

  126. Newbergguy  •  Jul 30, 2013 @6:18 am

    Being a babe in the woods when it comes to law, feel free to tell me it's a dumb idea.

    Is there any reason the students affected by this, and the University can't complain to whichever department handles Common Carrier licenses for Illinois?

    Pressure on their license to operate might force a little sense into their business practices.

  127. mcinsand  •  Jul 30, 2013 @6:35 am

    N. Weaver, you get to a really great point. Look at the way this guy conducts himself. There is no way he is going to cultivate that sort of employee loyalty; if he motivates them at all, it will be to look for another line of work. In fact, I feel safe in betting that his parents wish they'd used protection.

    When he claims that others are responsible for the wikipedia edits, it's safe to bet that he's pulling a move from Prenda's playbook.

  128. John Beaty  •  Jul 30, 2013 @7:19 am

    @Matthew Cline, I saw that post in the original thread, and my thoughts were, "Bullshit. This is a problem that they don't want to spend money on." Coachella, Staples center, freaking Sudan Airlines all figure it out, Toeppan is just a paste-eating cheese-head that has decided not to bother.
    The funny thing is that if he weren't such a complete douchebag, people who know teenagers would be highly sympathetic to him. He does have problems that need solving (lost tickets, attempted scams, wrong bus) and I'm sure it's really frustrating. But he acts like one of the folks I met visiting my son in prison, who based their understanding of the law on Matlock, and assumed we would just all go along.

  129. Zemalkop  •  Jul 30, 2013 @7:43 am

    The public transportation system here in the Netherlands has seen some major changes over the last few years.
    Including those changes was a government mandated digital ticketing system, which was as faulty and broken as it could possibly be.
    Now, this isn't the fault of the transportation companies, nor is there anything they could do to fix it. But when the system fails I still get a free ride, because they value me being their customer higher than that one time transaction.
    I seriously don't get where Mr. Toeppen gets the idea from that he's on some moral high ground here, and that his inability to properly run a transportation company is somehow his customers fault. He's completely delusional.

  130. Black Betty  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:06 am

    Look at Dennis' video on YouTube. Check out Dennis' description. Would any parents on this board with college students want your kids anywhere near this man? I don't have kids, so that's an honest question.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1qOD8eZP0o

    Also…Ken, perhaps you could answer a legal question for me. Is Dennis violating copyright laws by using the Moody Blues song, "Your Wildest Dreams" for his video "tutorial"? Because I'm not sure that qualifies under the "educational" standard. Just askin'.

  131. Shiro  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:09 am

    If we were to look at ticketing from a technical and financial standpoint, we would see that he figures it would cost him a fortune to install and maintain a database for ticketing. Instead, he just assumes all his customers are cheats and sues them whenever they break wind or speak in their lingua franca. So instead of paying out for a database, he rakes in extra cash from lawsuits. It's a win-win situation for him.

  132. grouch  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:09 am

    I've read that Suburban Express may have killed someone's mother. It would be wrong to not speculate as to why Dennis Toeppen has not denied this. If the rumor is false, Dennis Toeppen should just make a public declaration to that effect. Alas, in the absence of such a declaration, we have nothing but questions and speculations.

    Why haven't we had an official response to the rumor that Suburban Express may have killed someone's mother? Did Dennis Toeppan start the rumor himself just to get attention for Suburban Express? Was or was not Glenn Beck involved? I, for one, do not believe that Suburban Express killed someone's mother, but Dennis Toeppan should step up and just prove it once and for all.

  133. ZarroTsu  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:10 am

    @Zemalkop

    It sounds like a case of childishness when put that way. Like a child inviting his friends to play some imaginary game with his toys, but because they're his toys, he's in charge. If you bring your own toys he gets mad at you for breaking undefined rules. If you get mad at him he calls his mom to take care of the situation for him. If you accidentally leave the toy of yours at his house, it's his and he poses the question "Why did you leave it here then?", while his mom feigns ignorance and he remains the upper-hand of the situation.

    "Mom" and "Lawyer" seem awfully synonymous from a squinted perspective, actually. Maybe lawyers should start including the phrase "I am not a representation of your, or any motherly figure to handle your situation or clean up your messes for you" in their contract? IANAL, but that seems like something in need of stressing despite it being hopefully obvious.

  134. Ken White  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:13 am

    @Black Betty: Again, out of context not remarkable, but in context, that video highlights his contempt for his customers.

  135. Shane  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:22 am

    If anyone is curious out about how another business owner views this.

  136. Black Betty  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:25 am

    @Grouch,

    OMG, are you saying that you actually saw the words "Suburban Express killed my mother" and that the owner, Dennis Toeppan may be personally involved in this somehow?

  137. Some Random Guy  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:26 am

    @Black Betty: regarding copyrights, see my comments above to Roger. IIRC, Universal does have an agreement with Google/youtube to use Content ID for uploaded videos.

  138. Darryl  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:32 am

    And who hires lawyers who are so allegedly "incompetent" that they mistakenly dismiss suits with prejudice that apparently (if you believe this coupon-bearing Toeppen character) were intended to be dismissed without prejudice? Or were they always intended to be dismissed with prejudice and Toeppen changed his mind? Is Suburban Express getting a refund of the attorney fees they paid for the dismissals with prejudice? Is Suburban Express going to report this to the state bar association so those incompetent lawyers can be disciplined? Inquiring minds want to know.

  139. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:38 am

    And who hires lawyers that agree to take the phrase likely to sue you literally/statistically, instead of rhetorically, like any regular human being would?

  140. Darryl  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:41 am

    Coupons? Reminds me of the first minute of this: "Coupins"

  141. Clark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:41 am

    So, a drifter with an iPad probably did it.

    A one-armed drifter with an iPad.

    And Dennis Toeppen will not rest until he finds him.

  142. S.BEAM  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:54 am

    @Anony Mouse

    Some of my friends did this for local game tournaments we had complete with online database and ranking system, it's pretty fast and works great. If a few yahoos can put the thing together over a weekend I'm sure a business can do it on the cheaps.

    You can also have member cards this way, so people can just use the same ticket over and over and prepay.

    *Have a manually inputable number just incase.
    *MAKE SURE you buy phones that read QR codes well in all lightings…this was an issue for us.

  143. TonyLurker  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:30 am

    In addition to all of these high tech solutions that people are mentioning, there are also numerous low-tech solutions.

    I've been to water parks that give you colored wrist bands so that you can come and go during the day. They prevent re-use of the wrist bands by changing the color each day! Sure an enterprising fellow could re-use the band eventually, but it's pretty effective at preventing re-use. Similarly, unique identifiers could be placed on the tickets that are specific to a given bus or route on a specific day. It's pretty easy for a driver to look for this on a printed ticket and would prevent use of the ticket on the wrong bus.

    There are similar low tech solutions to prevent use of duplicate tickets on the same rout using identifiers and a simple piece of paper, pencil, and clip board. It ain't that hard. it doesn't even require a passenger manifest.

  144. Roger  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:44 am

    Some Random Guy, I don't read those links to suggest that the music publishers have licensed their content for any random person to use as he or she sees fit; rather, it looks like Google's program gives publishers the ability to block or permit individual videos on a post-hoc basis. But that doesn't mean any user has the legal right to upload copyrighted material. It just means that the publishers have an easier remedy than filing a lawsuit or DMCA notice each time.

  145. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:47 am

    He removed the videos!! What a douche.

  146. MrPendent  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:48 am

    Wouldn't all of his problems be solved with web-reloadable, branded cards that the passengers swipe as they get on? His drivers won't have to do hardly anything, the loading is speedy, and no one rides for free.

    Consider: Ancient egyptians managed to build pyramids; early man built boats out of wood and nails that took them around the world; a pair of guys built a rickety pair of wings and a motor that let them fly; a relatively small group of people used science to deduce the structure and form of DNA; scientists with less computing power than we each carry in our pockets managed to send men to the moon repeatedly.

    All of that occurred without the advantages this dicknugget has at his disposal and yet he can't figure out how to keep 0.06% of his "customers" from riding for free? Really?

  147. Who is 'Dennis Toeppen'?  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:49 am

    If the person posting as Dennis Toeppen is the REAL Dennis Toeppen, then after reading his comments I am disinclined to trust him in any way.

    I was willing to move on after reading the article and comments, but now, based upon the comments by the alleged "Dennis Toeppen" I'm going to forward the link to this article to everyone I know in the Suburban Express service area.

  148. grouch  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:51 am

    @Black Betty:

    I've read that more than once on the Internet and, so far, Dennis Toeppan has not denied that "Suburban Express killed my mother". He has been strangely quiet on the subject since the rumor first surfaced. I should point out that I've seen no proof that Dennis Toeppan started the rumor on Popehat(.com) for publicity purposes, but, if he didn't, why hasn't he stepped forward to publicly disclaim such a thing?

    It's very distressing to me. Think of the children on the busses.

  149. jackn  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:54 am

    @Mark,

    They were too revealing about the mission and objectives of his business.

    Load my own bags? wtf?

    Don't get off the bus – I am sure there are exceptions to that rule. What about fire, or vomiting.

    Ride subURBAN express and experience life as a farm animal.

  150. Wondering  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:57 am

    I wish I knew anyone in the service area so I could tell them not to use Suburban Express. Sadly, I do not.

  151. JT  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:58 am

    "Now and then, we encounter extreme personalities who seem unhappy with everything around them, or who like to create commotion and conflict, or who thrive on attention."

    http://www.suburbanexpress.com/jeremyleval/

  152. Mark C.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:02 am

    @Who is 'Dennis Toeppen'?

    Obviously this is not 100% guaranteed but Ken confirmed that the person replying as "Dennis Toeppen" was using the same (undisclosed) email address to correspond with him.

    And, of course, the way he sounded like an absolute douchebag you can almost infer that it was indeed the right guy.

  153. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:10 am

    TonyLurker — You are so much smarter than Dennis. Why didn't he think of color-coded ticket stubs, it is so simple? It will be no problem at all having 75 different color tickets that the dozens of contract drivers who show up on a given weekend can distinguish between. And it will be no problem to assume that the tickets (which are printed by the students, on their own printers) have color printers and faithfully reproduce any of those color graduations.

    Similarly, S. BEAM, I'm sure you hacked together solution that works for a handful of cooperative people for casual gaming will easily scale to support dozens of buses in varying locations with unreliable wireless connectivity. Routing 3000 people in an afternoon should be no problem.

    Greg — you propose that drivers simply count the number of people boarding a bus. Do you really believe Dennis is an idiot, and that perhaps there are factors in running a non-trivial schedule that prevent a simple-minded approach like yours?

    Zemalcop — I'm glad that your public transit system gives free rides when their electronic ticketing system frequently goes down (I guess they don't know about TonyLurker's or S. BEAM's solutions). Would your taxpayers like to subsidize Suburban Express's losses when that happens to him?

    Roger & BlackBetty — Ooh, Dennis has music on his youtube videos. Is this really a concern of yours, or are you just attempting to pile on, now that the narrative has been set and the water has been chummed?

    To those of you blasting Dennis for being arrogant — I certainly catch the strong whiff of arrogance from a lot of the people commenting here. This point isn't really germane.

    I'm a friend of Dennis', and I'm not here to defend everything he does. It is his business and if he would rather piss off a portion of his market so he doesn't have to deal with them, that is his business, not mine. A number of people above make useful, insightful comments, and that is great. But quite a few, (I'm looking at you) add nothing.

  154. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:14 am
  155. jackn  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:17 am

    @Jim B
    Thanks for the update. We know 'It is his business and if he would rather piss off a portion of his market so he doesn't have to deal with them, that is his business", but also, if people want to ruin a bad business with a grassroots campaign to expose the bad apple, thats thier business, not yours.

  156. Mark C.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:22 am

    @Jim B:

    You saying that you are not here to defend him, but your passive-aggressive phrase It is his business and if he would rather piss off a portion of his market so he doesn't have to deal with them, that is his business, not mine. implies just that.

  157. Nigel Lew  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:23 am

    "Wouldn't all of his problems be solved with web-reloadable, branded cards that the passengers swipe as they get on?"

    Yep. Do it all the time with local restaurants I do some marketing for. That stuff is as trivial as my days are long.

  158. Mark C.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:26 am

    @jackn:

    Agreed. And, by the way, @Jim B: do you agree with Mr Toeppen and his lawyer of the literal interpretation of the phrase likely to sue you?

  159. dinatural  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:26 am

    @Jim B.

    Ahahahha yeah everyone believes you, of course you're not Dennis, not a sockpuppet at all. With all this contempt for everybody, and Dennis hasn't been accused of sockpuppetry before. Please continue.

  160. Mark C.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:30 am

    Nah, in this actually I think Jim B is really someone else. Mr Toeppen sock puppets always have idiotic names and throw quick stupid one-liners. You can clearly deduce (in my opinion) that Mr Toeppen has a short temper by their postings.

  161. Ollie  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:30 am

    I'm a UMaine student, from Connecticut, and I take a similar type of bus service part of the way home for breaks and such. The claim that individually checking tickets takes too long is patently rediculous, because I've seen it done and it really doesn't take all that long at all. Can you really not afford the 10-15 minutes it takes?

  162. McFate  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:31 am

    @Nigel: Would also have to swipe when they get off, to ensure people didn't ride a long distance on a shorter fare.

    I've been on buses in Kyoto that do that, but the process for getting on and off is kind of complex. (In particular have a gander at the machine pictured by step 5 in the instructions.)

  163. Ken White  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:33 am

    Update: about six lawyers from various locales and one computer forensic expert have offered pro bono help.

  164. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:35 am

    Dinatural — why are you so cocksure of yourself? When I attempted to join one of the /r/uiuc bashathons to offer an opinion, I was rejected. They only wanted to hear themselves talk. If I could prove to you that I am who I say I am, would you be willing to make a, say, $50 contribution to a charity of my choice? Yes, Dennis has friends, but I guess it is far easier to assume Dennis is Voldemort and there is nothing more to the story.

    Mark C — I'm not a lawyer. The things I commented on here were addressed at the parts that I'm more familiar with (being a programmer type). The people who claim that the solution to XYZ is trivial typically don't know a whole lot about XYZ, and I was pointing that out. You also are putting words into my mouth. I didn't say I wasn't here to defend Dennis. I said I couldn't defend everything he does.

    jackn — Do you think you are contradicting me? Please show me where I said other people shouldn't be allowed to say their piece. Nowhere.

  165. S.BEAM  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:36 am

    Actually the system ran a few hundred users and 3 areas of input and we ran into a few issues the first few times. I'm quite confident the solution would scale with of course additional issues we didn't encounter I can certainly think of a few right now. It wouldn't solve everything and could definatly be implemented in a poor fashion, but implemented properly it could cut down on people scamming the system and possibly make ticket purchases easier.

  166. Nigel Lew  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:37 am

    "Greg — you propose that drivers simply count the number of people boarding a bus. Do you really believe Dennis is an idiot, and that perhaps there are factors in running a non-trivial schedule that prevent a simple-minded approach like yours?"

    My roomate works for RFTA (Google it) that is how they typically do things. High volume, not so bright tourists. There is no defending this fellow so stop trying.

    "Idiot" does not serve to sum this guy up.

  167. Mark C.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:38 am

    @Jim B: why are you here, then? Can you clarify?

    Any opinion on the likely to sue you interpretation?

  168. jackn  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:40 am

    @jim b

    Here

    …., that is his business

  169. Ken White  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:40 am

    Jim B.'s IP address does not support the accusation that he's actually Mr. Toeppen. Certainly such thinks can be faked, but Mr. Toeppen has not exactly shown himself to be a Frank Abagnale in that regard.

  170. Newbergguy  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:41 am

    Bus services have been around oh, about as long as buses have been built. If you can't figure out how to make your ticketing work, there are a LOT of great examples out there already.

    No need to sue and rip off your customers.

  171. seebs  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:43 am

    I know Jim B, I know Dennis, and I know me. I would not dispute that Dennis can be a bit of an asshole, but I know Jim's not him.

    I think the thing is: Everything here comes with the assumption that we are in the normal, plausible, scenario. Guy is suing college kids. Therefore, obviously, everything they say is true and everything he says is false. Only… I don't think so. The guy's an asshole, but he doesn't seem to be a liar. He just mistakenly believes that The Rules are actually The Rules.

    Look, the guy can be really annoying. You know what people do when someone is an asshole to them? They try to hurt the asshole. They often try things like, say, saying whatever would make him look bad. They don't necessarily care whether the things are true. And normally, everyone just laughs it off because we all know college kids say stuff and no one cares.

    Now imagine that you were the guy they were saying stuff about. And imagine that it really were false. And imagine that you sincerely believed that the laws were meant to be taken at face value. Well, of course you could sue for defamation. That's what the law is for, to make people stop saying untrue things.

    Heck, the entire background of suing passengers who break the rules fits this same thing. Dennis seems to sincerely believe that everyone should, always, follow The Rules. If there is a rule saying you show up on time, then you show up on time. That people disregard this kind of thing seems to confuse and infuriate him, so he tries to force them to follow the rules.

    Which doesn't work. At all.

    And so he ends up doing things that are basically what you would expect from someone who was in the wrong, because he's not thinking about appearances, he's not thinking about implicit social contracts or what the law tends to view as "equitable" relief.

    Person says bad things which are untrue => Use all available means to make them stop because otherwise they are being allowed to break the rules.

    I won't dispute that his behavior is self-destructive or stupid. I do, however, think he is totally sincere, and I do think that many of his critics are, in fact, liars who have discovered that they can hurt him even more effectively by saying things that are untrue in ways that he reacts to poorly.

    I don't really think you can make a system work where defamation claims are useful and effective when used by companies against individuals, because the chilling effects and potential for abuse are huge. That doesn't mean that everyone who says bad things about any company is truthful.

  172. dinatural  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:43 am

    @Jim B.
    Well rats do have rat friends… Or companies do have several people on their payroll. Don't worry, it will all soon be over :)

  173. Mark C.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:46 am

    @seebs:

    This is really poignant, but could you point to a specific instance of someone you believe that is "lying to hurt him even more"?

  174. Siemens  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:47 am

    Just uh..

  175. Nigel Lew  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:49 am

    @McFate No, of course not, dude gets on bus, tells driver where he is going, driver clicks a button, customer swipes card.

    I made a post earlier with a bus centric example(local mind you). Any sort of technology required to flesh this out is secretary level shit.

  176. Jonathan  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:51 am

    Jim B,

    I have no doubt that a better solution to ticket checking and loading would be non-trivial to implement. I've worked with enough small businesses and their constantly moving parts to know that implementing anything is non-trivial.

    That being said, that really has little to nothing to do with the issues at hand. Various commentator's suggestions aside, it is up to Mr. Toeppen to leave unaltered a workflow he judges effective for his business.

    The issue with regard to the collection lawsuits (and the T&Cs that enabled the suits) is that Mr. Toeppen is attempting to cover the flaws in his workflow with excessive penalties for violations that are difficult to prove – given his workflow that he has chosen to implement and leave unaltered. Further, he has tried to enforce these penalties against students using ways and means that
    render defense difficult, or even impossible.

    Put another way, Mr. Toeppen's current loading workflow/process exposes certain (minimal) vulnerabilities to fraud. It is wrong and immoral of him to attempt to cover these vulnerabilities, which he chooses to leave systematically in place, by shifting the burden onto his customers via unfair (and ridiculous) T&Cs.

  177. Nigel Lew  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:52 am

    "I won't dispute that his behavior is self-destructive or stupid. I do, however, think he is totally sincere,"

    We concur.

  178. Justin S.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:53 am

    Am I the only one who wants a "Suburban Express Killed My Mother" t-shirt?

  179. McFate  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:53 am

    @Nigel: A system that depends on the customer to be truthful about the stop they're going to exit at, is easily gamed.

  180. jackn  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:54 am

    I don't really think you can make a system work where defamation claims are useful and effective when used by companies against individuals, because the chilling effects and potential for abuse are huge. …

    Actually, it is effective. It allows the public to identify companies that are lacking a customer focus.

  181. Justin S.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:54 am

    Or perhaps a "Suburban Express Killed My Mother and All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt" t-shirt?

  182. Mark C.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:55 am

    I don't concur. Mr Toeppen has shown in the past his apparent short temper. To assume that he is taking things literally literally (not a dup) is akin to an insanity plea. I do believe some of these attempts at lawsuits are very much censorious.

  183. grouch  •  Jul 30, 2013 @10:56 am

    @Shane
    From the page you linked:

    Negative customer comments are a treasure, as I can't be in every campground every minute of the day, and these comments are often the canary in the coal mine, letting me know we have an employee or process or training problem.

    Obviously the rantings of a lunatic. No sane person would try to do business like that. You must push back against those yakking, attacking, schmallout-causing, defaming, melodrama-peddling peasants!

  184. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:04 am

    dinatural — Thanks for taking my 49 year long life and summing it up for me based on one data point plus your huge extrapolation. The world I live in is shaded. Living in black and white takes a lot less mental energy. I take it you are declining to take my bet.

    Seebs is on the money. I'm sure he is also laughing at the people who are suggesting how trivial it is to create a ticketing system.

    Mark C: "@Jim B: why are you here, then? Can you clarify?" I thought I had. Dennis pointed out to me that he is on popehat again. He wasn't entirely happy that Ken took out the bits of the conversation which supported Ken's thesis and dropped all the counterarguments which Dennis had made. I read the thread with no intention of getting involved, but there are people making dumb claims, and so I refuted some of them, partly because they are wrong, and partly because I do have an emotional response to defend a friend. It is obvious that most of the people commenting here have even less of a personal interest in the issue than I do, yet they comment freely, and you don't question their motives. Why is that?

    jackn — I don't follow your response to me. sorry.

  185. Nigel Lew  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:07 am

    @McFate I am not sure how to respond to this " A system that depends on the customer to be truthful about the stop they're going to exit at, is easily gamed."

    I don't conjure up business models based on the notion that my clients customers are evil. The business in question here has no ethos, its just a huge shit sandwich.

    Your position is counter intuitive to getting anything done.

  186. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:09 am

    Jonathan said, "That being said, that really has little to nothing to do with the issues at hand."

    I completely agree. If he has a poor ticketing system, that really isn't relevant to the discussion. Discussions that Dennis is an idiot are both wrong and off point. The real issue is whether his business practices are legal/ethical. The most interesting comments here address those points, not the other yak yak, including mine.

  187. Jonathan  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:11 am

    @ Nigel,

    "I don't conjure up business models based on the notion that my clients customers are evil."

    Surely not. But of course, any business that centers around selling goods or services would be foolish not to take steps to minimize the possibility of fraud, theft, and cheating by their customers.

  188. azteclady  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:11 am

    seebs:

    I don't think everything the students say is true, and frankly that is not what concerns me. I work with customers all day long, and there is always a fraction that is indeed aiming to game the system and get a free meal out of you.

    That is the price of doing business–like it or not. Customer services basically means eating those losses in order to cultivate repeat paying customers.

    Mr Toeppen seems constitutionally incapable of grasping this concept.

    Further, the size of the business he claims (see his comments near the beginning of the thread) would seem to warrant a better investment in infrastructure in order to deter free loaders. I don't see how he can, wit a straight face, claim a quarter of a million passengers and not be willing to invest in a better ticketing system.

    YMMV, obviously.

    Finally, though, is Mr Toeppen's visceral reaction to criticism from any quarter, that makes me think the man is on the wrong side here, pretty much regardless of what the students say about him or his service.

  189. Mark C.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:12 am

    @Jim B:

    That's the Carreon defense. I don't buy it. You have a vested interest in this because Mr Toeppen is your friend, and that's fine. I have read all everything that is exposed here, including Mr Toeppen's postings, and in my opinion, I do believe he is a bully. Maybe he is borderline autistic in the Soup-Nazi sense, but that doesn't get pity points from me.

    Actually, I am not even mad at Mr Toeppen. He is free to think and behave as he likes and his actions are a good source of buttery popcorn for me.

    I do take issue with the lawyers that accept to take some of these lawsuits with no ethical reasoning. The fact that they succeed in so many of these censorious lawsuits is definitely a moral hazard in my opinion. And that is why I love this site.

  190. Jonathan  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:15 am

    @Jim B,

    With that settled, do you feel comfortable and able to comment on Dennis' business practices, with regards to the T&Cs, collection cases, and defamation cases? Or any of the above?

    I would be genuinely interested in your thoughts.

  191. Zemalkop  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:15 am

    @Jim B: It's a little bit more complicated than complete systems going down frequently. Most often it aren't complete system failures, but singular case-by-case problems. This makes some of the problems exploitable by keen passengers, who can use these loopholes until they are plugged. The passengers that do so are indistinguishable from those who do not, since a machine can not read intent.
    This is well known by our transportation companies. They lose money because of it. So they try to fix the issues as quickly as possible, to not lose more money.

    But Suburban Express holds their customers responsible for both failures, on both the customers and providers side, and even tries to argue that there aren't any faults on their side.

    And are you actually saying that because Suburban Express isn't subsidized that their customers should pay for failures on both part? Because you won't keep a lot of customers if you do that, subsidized or not.

  192. Ken White  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:18 am

    Please note update.

  193. Nigel Lew  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:20 am

    @Jonathan its still secretary level stuff to sort this out. My roommate drives a bus 10 hours a day. Mitigating what some shifty college kid may or may not do doesn't involve being a complete knob.

  194. McFate  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:20 am

    @Nigel, Not a question of assuming evil intent, just a question of ruling it out. Otherwise why bother even having tickets? You could just ask everyone boarding the bus if they'd paid, and take their word for it.

    My "position" is merely an observation on the way that ticketing is done all over the place.

    Exit isn't checked in cases where there's only one destination (airplane flights) or the fare is flat, in general. But nearly everywhere that the fare varies by exit stop, ticket/fare is checked on exit.

    You gave an example of RFTA. I gave buses in Kyoto (a much bigger operation). I'll add JR (Japan Rail), and BART (Bay Area rapid transit). I'm sure that "my" list will always encompass a much larger number of passengers than "yours."

  195. Lowly Sysadmin  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:21 am

    I was curious about the lawsuit to customer ratio, and ran some numbers. Doing a quick "back of the envelope" calculation based on three minutes of Googling data, I figured Suburban Express's ratio to be equivalent to every Wal-Mart in the world suing 2 customers every day. Or just under 9,000 lawsuits daily.

    If that were the case, it would certainly stop me from ever shopping there.

  196. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:29 am

    Mark C,

    "The Carreon Defense" is too much inside baseball for me to understand, as I'm not a popehat regular, nor a legal eagle.

    Jonathan

    If it was my business, I suspect I'd take a different approach than Dennis does. But it isn't my business, and I don't know all the ins and outs. While Dennis may have what many think are outrageous requirements, they are not a secret trap — they are printed on every ticket and I'm sure they are on the ticketing website somewhere.

    Keep in mind that Dennis has been running this bus company for nearly 30 years, and has been the top carrier for nearly all of that time, for a reason. The vast majority of his ridership has had no problem with the rules, and in fact has benefited from the rules.

    Zemalkop

    My point was that you can't take practices which a public transit system uses and think they apply in a highly competitive market. For the past few years, Suburban Express was locked in a death match with Lincolnland Express. Lincolnland had really shoddy buses which didn't meet state requirements, frequently advertised routes which they'd cancel and reschedule at the last moment, but they offered lower prices. The operating margins were paper thin and giving out free rides, I'm sure, wasn't an attractive option. Eventually the state shut down Lincolnland Express for safety reasons.

  197. Nigel Lew  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:31 am

    @McFate you make a fair argument but I don't think our tangent is entirely germane to the point here.

  198. jackn  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:35 am

    It seems that the objectives, risks, and controls of this biz are not designed well. I dont quite understand the ticket difficulties, but it seems many of the controls are up to the customer, which is not good.

  199. Zemalkop  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:48 am

    @Jim B: I fail to see how our public transportation system isn't a highly competitive business, because it is. It's different, for sure, but there are still multiple companies fighting over a limited amount of customers. And how they treat their customers will affect how that balance shifts.
    Lincolnland express apparently went out of business because of their shoddy practices, we wouldn't want to let that happen to Suburban? Do we?

  200. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:55 am

    jackn –

    To give you just one wrinkle to think about. Suburban Express isn't like Greyhound with a fleet of buses at the ready. They are hired buses with hired drivers. Some portion of the bus count is by contract with various carriers, and some portion is scheduled dynamically as load demands. Say Thursday morning there are 15 buses scheduled, and that most routes have more than one bus running that route. The operator has to decide: should we just fill up the buses and lose any latecomers to the competition, or do we scramble to find a carrier to send over three more buses and hope that we can fill them? If sales taper off and the buses are not close to capacity, it is a loss. Some buses carry 54 passengers, some have 42, etc, so there is some flexibility to make late binding decisions how to allocate buses to routes. In short, it is a dynamic programming problem, with decisions being made up to the point the students start loading. Of course, one constraint is that everyone who bought a ticket from point A to point B at time C will get exactly that.

    That is one reason why printing color-coded tickets is silly. A student prints a ticket on Monday and is assigned the color red. But until minutes before the buses leave, there is no fixed count of how many red tickets there should be.

    On the one hand, you complain that the ticketing system leaves too much up to the customer, yet another way of looking at it is Suburban Express is taking on headaches to provide a better experience, such as allowing friends going to the same destination to pair up at the last moment and get on the same bus.

  201. Nigel Lew  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:56 am

    "My point was that you can't take practices which a public transit system uses and think they apply in a highly competitive market."

    lol..ok

    Why is it that you back up that word salad with no facts and an ad hom attack on someone else. There is nothing even vaguely salient in your comment.

    off to actually get some work done..

  202. Hasdrubal  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:58 am

    As far as going with a better ticketing system, the question is which is more expensive? The fradulent riders or implementing a better ticketing system? I can see the latter being a higher cost. (What's the marginal cost of a bus rider, after all?)

    The followup question is then, does he just eat the cost of the fradulent riders or make up for it some other way? If Toeppen were only suing people for abusing the ticketing system, I would have a lot more sympathy for him. A lot of small businesses that I'm familiar with just eat the losses that they can't prevent. Each business is different and that might not be the best course of action for him. The cost of one person riding free probably pales in comparison to the cost of having a reputation that it's easy to cheat and ride free on your busses.

    But he goes beyond just suing people for piggybacking tickets. He sues, don't forget that he also charges their credit cards for breaking his TOS, how many of those charges go to court?) for breaking any number of hit TOS conditions. The conclusion I draw from that is that he's either a vindictive asshole or that he isn't recovering all his lost revenue by suing/charging people who cheat on fares and he's going after other things to make up for it. (Can't catch all of them, after all.) Or, he simply found an easy revenue stream and is taking advantage of it.

    Cheaters are a cost to every business, first in what they take and secondly in the investments you have to make in order to prevent them from taking more. You need to come up with a strategy to minimize both of those costs. I understand if an upgraded ticketing system is too costly for Toeppen. If he tried to discourage cheating on tickets by having his drivers call the cops on anyone they found trying to do so he might get a reputation as an asshole but he almost certainly wouldn't get the Popehat Signal raised against him. Instead, he gets attorneys offering to defend against his suits pro bono.

    It's his punititive actions against people doing things that aren't fradulent, just annoying that is earning him Internet Fame. He'd be very well served to recast his opinion of cheaters as people who steal from him into simply a cost of doing business and readjust his attitude towards customer service so lawsuits are simply not an option for dealing with annoying customers.

    I got no sympathy for him.

  203. Roger  •  Jul 30, 2013 @11:59 am

    Jim B wrote:

    Roger & BlackBetty — Ooh, Dennis has music on his youtube videos. Is this really a concern of yours, or are you just attempting to pile on, now that the narrative has been set and the water has been chummed?

    Jim B, I think that copyright-infringement litigation is often (though not always) abusive and that the statutory damages in the Copyright Act are bad policy and likely unconstitutional. I don't think someone who uses a song in a random YouTube video should be sued. But when I see someone abusing the legal process, like Mr. Toeppen and his company seems to be doing, it strikes me as worth noting that the same sorts of abuse could turn around to bite him. If Mr. Toeppen "sincerely believe[s] that the laws were meant to be taken at face value," as your friend suggests, then he should be writing The Cure a large check.

  204. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:03 pm

    Zemalkop

    OK, you have a competitive market which mixes private and public transportation. Can I assume that the government entity backing your public transportation system, the one which gives away free rides whenever the ticketing system breaks down, has much deeper pockets than an independent carrier running a local market? That makes all the difference.

    "Lincolnland express apparently went out of business because of their shoddy practices, we wouldn't want to let that happen to Suburban? Do we?"

    I'm not sure what you are saying. If Dennis can't compete, then he should be driven from the market. I'm sure he would agree with that statement.

    Keep in mind that everything you have read about this case suffers from sampling problems — the people who are upset make 1000x the noise of the people who are happy. To read this thread one would wonder how Suburban Express has existed for so long, as they must be entirely incompetent and must offer a terrible experience. One solution to the conundrum is to ignore the question; the other is to suspect that things aren't so lopsided as presented here and on /r/uiuc. The first approach clearly is the most popular.

  205. Roger  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:03 pm

    Oh, and one more note on the copyright point: He's not using a song behind his family videos, or clips of his basketball moves, or something personal like that. He's using famous songs in videos that advertise his company's services. Brands pay a lot of money to do that.

  206. jackn  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:04 pm

    @jim b

    Im not complaining. I don't really care. Im here for the Schadenfreude.

    You sure know alot about their operations, maybe you could help them design customer friendly controls.

  207. TftInChi  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:13 pm

    Jim B–

    Hadn't heard about Lincolnland Express so I looked it up and found the wikipedia page for it. I noticed a number of edits about the company being shut down from a familiar IP. The IP was also used to edit the Megabus page and the Suburban Express page. And, on the talk page of the Suburban Express page, someone using that IP claims to be "Suburban Express."

    It seems quite likely that Toeppen was behind all of these edits. Dunno about you, but editing the wikipedia pages of your competitors with negative information seems quite sleazy to me.

    Why should anyone give this guy the benefit of the doubt?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lincoln_Land_express&action=history

  208. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:17 pm

    Nigel Law

    I have reread what I wrote and it is my opinion that it is clear enough, and it not word salad. I'll also note that your reply is nothing but self satisfied snickering. But I'll restate my point to address your reading comprehension.

    The finances of a public transportation system are much better funded than those of an independent carrier. Zemalkop's breezy attitude that it would be better for Suburban Express to copy the Netherlands municipal bus approach and to give away free rides if/when a high tech wireless ticketing system breaks down doesn't work for someone who doesn't have deep pockets.

    I have no idea why you think pointing that out is an ad homonym "attack."

  209. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:28 pm

    @Jim B:

    Your arguments seem to suffer from sampling problems as well. You have yet to address the main point of Ken's article (see his update for instance). The few mentions that you made where a little hand wavy.

    You friend @seeb made a valid attempt at explaining Mr Toeppen's behavior, which is the "he's a soup-Nazi" argument (I'm oversimplifying of course). That's doesn't justify his behavior, of course, and I don't buy it anyway. Mr Toeppen, in my opinion, seems a very unstable individual that somehow wants to use the judicial system to placate his ire to the detriment of everyone.

  210. Nigel Lew  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:29 pm

    @Jim B

    if this makes any sort of sense to you then we have nothing further to discuss.

    "My point was that you can't take practices which a public transit system uses and think they apply in a highly competitive market."

    You kids are under the gross misunderstanding that we can't spot a shill.

  211. Dan T.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:30 pm

    Suing everyone in site whenever anything goes wrong hardly seems like a better solution, with or without deep pockets.

    Looking over the various suit documents posted online (and knowing that any opinion I may have is just a vague impression, without sufficient facts to know the whole story), it seeems like some of them are probably people trying to defraud the bus line (e.g., the ones where tickets were used multiple times), a lot more are most likely people having some sort of glitch or screwup happen (maybe the customer's fault, maybe Suburban Express's, maybe a combination or just an Act of God that's nobody's fault) and ending up missing a bus or traveling mistakenly on the wrong one or something, and being treated in an excessively draconian way under the Soup-Nazi-ish rules. And a handful involve possibly foolish behavior by the students or sometimes their parents, motivated by the anger and frustration they experienced in their attempts to travel on the bus service when they hit a snag, and those are treated particularly draconianly.

  212. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:31 pm

    Roger

    You express concern that Dennis is ripping off the Cure by using their backing music on a youtube video. Did you notice that when you watch the video, there is an add next to the video description saying "Buy 'Friday I'm in Love' on Google Pay / iTunes / AmazonMP3"?

    Obviously, youtube is quite aware of what music is backing the video. If they had a problem with it, they'd take it down. I guess the copyright holders find it more lucrative to allow youtube videos to use their music (which isn't CD quality) as an ad to drive sales for CD-quality downloads on iTunes, etc.

  213. Shane  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:38 pm

    @Jim B

    The vast majority of his ridership has had no problem with the rules, and in fact has benefited from the rules.

    Then why worry about a few bad apples? In those 30 years he must have seen a few.

  214. James Pollock  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:40 pm

    "Obviously, youtube is quite aware of what music is backing the video. If they had a problem with it, they'd take it down."
    Why would YouTube care about someone else's intellectual property? Thanks to the CDA, they don't have to be proactive about defending other people's property… they only have to respond when the IP holder identifies infringements.

    "I guess the copyright holders find it more lucrative to allow youtube videos to use their music "
    Tell that to Viacom, which only a few months ago lost a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against YouTube.
    In other recent legal action, many other copyright holders tried to get class-action status, but were denied.
    Like other Internet cases, the copyright owners are limited to suing the people who actually infringe, which is both expensive and slow AND almost completely ineffective.

  215. Zemalkop  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:40 pm

    @Jim B: They point is that they are giving away free rides because their services have failed.
    I haven't gone into much detail because most of the American readers here couldn't give a crap about the Dutch transportation system, and it will only derail the topic even further. I was just making a point about transportation companies paying for errors that are not theirs.
    If you want to know who's paying for our free rides, then do some digging yourself, because it's truly irrelevant to this discussion.

    "I'm not sure what you are saying. If Dennis can't compete, then he should be driven from the market. I'm sure he would agree with that statement."

    But Dennis CAN compete. Lincoln went out of business. And if Dennis is stooping to their level, then guess who's next.

    As a complete outsider I'm not wondering how his company has been able to survive this long, and I'm really not sure how that's even relevant. A lot of companies can get away with some pretty horrible practices, even so much so that their victims need help (like pro-bono counseling) from outsiders because they can't possibly defend themselves. Just because only a small percentage is targeted, doesn't mean that we should let them get exploited.
    And that doesn't even mean that it has always has been this bad, most decline happens gradually.
    You like Dennis on a personal level, and I'm sure you've got good reasons for that. But right now he's acting irrational and self-destructive. And as his friend you should try to help him, not support his delusion.

    You might want to blame the vocal minority, but there is a reason that they're being vocal. And everything Dennis and you (to some extend, you seem like a nice person who's trying to help his friend) have made it sound like they are completely in their right to be angry.

  216. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:47 pm

    Pacey ruled in favor of Suburban Express.

  217. MrPendent  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:48 pm

    "Person says bad things which are untrue => Use all available means to make them stop because otherwise they are being allowed to break the rules."

    Uhhh…this is not a reasonable attitude at all, and I would say one that should suggest you refer your friend to a doctor. Really, the guy is starting to sound borderline psychotic.

    And Jim B: has no one in Illinois ever heard of Square? Paypal? Surely for what this lunatic has spent on lawyers (just this week!) he could have purchased enough 3G tablets to arm any number of bus drivers with digital means to verify every single passenger without any of these stupid rules.

    The point that people are making about his business practices (and ticketing) is that there are, and have been, millions of bus companies over the years, and very few, if any, have felt the need to create byzantine rules regarding paper tickets that Mr. Toeppen seems to find absolutely necessary or to sue the customers that don't follow them.

    This gives the impression that he is less interested in making a working system than he is in pretending to be a little dictator, making up arbitrary rules that he can attempt to enforce.

  218. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:50 pm

    Zemalkop — fair enough about the Dutch transportation system analogy.

    Shane — why worry about a few bad apples? Because if a few bad apples get away with it, then there will suddenly be many more bad apples.

    Nigel Lew — I agree, we have nothing to say to each other.

    Mark — no doubt I have sampling problems in that I'm highly unrepresentative of the population of people who might or might not know Dennis. I coped to that in my first comment to disclose such bias. You keep trying to draw me out on the legal matter, but I have pretty much stuck to refuting some of the comments about people who claim the ticketing system is trivial to solve, etc, as that is more up my alley, while legal matters aren't. As the friend of someone who is apparently facing legal challenges being abetted by the host of the blog, why would I want to take a position on what Dennis' legal issues are? First, it doesn't help him, secondly, I'm not all that close to the relevant facts (though more than most people here), and thirdly I'm ignorant of the legal issues. I've said as much as I care to in that regard.

  219. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @12:54 pm

    @Dennis:

    Thanks for the update. To clarify, so the suits are now dismissed without prejudice?

  220. jackn  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:01 pm

    Pacey ruled in favor of Suburban Express

    Yay! I am glad we will get to have fun with you for awhile longer!

  221. James Pollock  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:01 pm

    "As the friend of someone who is apparently facing legal challenges being abetted by the host of the blog"
    Um, nobody was abetting anybody until someone tried to change cases "dismissed with prejudice" to being "dismissed without prejudice". Who took that action?

  222. Zemalkop  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:04 pm

    "As the friend of someone who is apparently facing legal challenges being abetted by the host of the blog"

    This line has left me speechless. Well done, you've succeeded at silencing another person.

  223. grouch  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:05 pm

    @James Pollock:


    Tell that to Viacom, which only a few months ago lost a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against YouTube.

    In line with your point, Viacom Files A Second Appeal in Viacom v. YouTube/Google – They'd Like a Trial and a Different Judge ~pj. Viacom doesn't like the DMCA "safe harbor" section.

  224. Ken White  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:07 pm

    As the friend of someone who is apparently facing legal challenges being abetted by the host of the blog, why would I want to take a position on what Dennis' legal issues are?

    Normally one would use "facing legal challenges" to refer to being sued or charged.

    You seem to use it to refer to people defending themselves when Dennis sues them.

    Plus, "abetting" — as in "aiding and abetting" — is most frequently used to refer to assistance in wrongdoing.

    So: you seem to imply that defending yourself against Dennis, rather than lying down and accepting whatever he demands, is a "legal challenge," and that helping that legal challenge is wrongful.

    Little surprise you're his friend. Birds of a feather.

  225. wolfefan  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:07 pm

    Hello Jim B –

    What is your view of the lawsuit against Katherine C for defamation without specifying any particular defamatory remark? I know you are not a lawyer – neither am I, so I am not asking for a legal analysis, just your opinion. If you want to sue someone for defamation, shouldn't you say what they said that is defamatory? I'd also be interested to know if you think that statements suggesting that if you are a Suburban Express customer they are likely to sue you are intended to be taken literally, or do you recgnize them as hyperbole, and thus protected speech. If the latter, do you know anyone who would take them literally besides Dennis? If you have addressed these questions previously I apologize for missing it. thanks!

  226. jackn  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:08 pm

    abetted?

    Please explain

  227. Hoare  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:10 pm

    @roger

    As I posted earlier …
    on his youtube page…
    "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zm5XqLtVCrM"
    he admits to sneaking in a camera to record a live performance

    looks like he took it down today lol

  228. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:12 pm

    @wolfefan:

    I asked these questions to Jim before and he is overtly avoiding them. See here.

  229. Dion starfire  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:17 pm

    I can't believe I'm seeing this kind of vague language in anything related to a lawsuit, even the initial threat letter:

    there is absolutely no way that she was asking for directions.

    Reminds me of Vizzini's "Inconceivable!" in The Princess Bride

  230. Shane  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:18 pm

    @Dennis Toeppen

    Pacey ruled in favor of Suburban Express.

    You've won! Only more good things can happen now.

    And now you can be "right". Because being "right" is the most important thing in the world next to following the rules.

  231. wolfefan  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:19 pm

    Hi again Jim B – you posted your comment about being unwilling to comment on legal issues while I was writing my question above, or even to defend the ethics of his position, so no need to reply. FWIW, I do agree with the people who are questioning your aiding and abbeting/legal challenges comments. Dennis started this, not the riders, not the people he is suing, and not Ken. I hope that if you are his friend you will tell him privately that he is doing himself no favors long term, whatever the short term gain (if any) may be. Not all publicity is good publicity, and this is publicity he has brought on himself. If you'd like to learn more about Charles Carreon, just use the search engine on this blog or google him. Imagine that in just a short time a search for your friend and his business will generate the same results.

  232. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:20 pm

    OK, excuse my ignorance. I thought Ken was rounding up lawyers to mount an attack on Dennis. Apparently he is rounding up lawyers to defend against Dennis' legal claims. Obviously, that is a world of difference. Like I said, I'm not legal-minded and I've focused on the parts of this thread that I'm more familiar with. I'm sorry.

    Ken said, "Little surprise you're his friend. Birds of a feather." Hah hah. Your derision is noted. Your conclusion is invalid.

  233. Ken White  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:25 pm

    I thought Ken was rounding up lawyers to mount an attack on Dennis. Apparently he is rounding up lawyers to defend against Dennis' legal claims.

    Yes, I can totally see how a fair-minded and sensible person might draw that conclusion, what with my coy language like "this time I'm seeking help for people sued or threatened with suit by Suburban Express" and "the defendants in Dennis Toeppen's existing and threatened suits in Cook County need representation."

  234. kps  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:30 pm

    Perhaps, instead of setting up the Popehat Signal for pro bono lawyers for the various Suburban Express customers, what should really be happening is a different sort of signal asking for pro bono customer-service consulting for Mr. Toeppen.

    Asshat Signal?

  235. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:36 pm

    Ken, there are 200+ comments here. I know most people are hanging in your every word, but not me. Notice that my comments have been about the technical aspects of how trivial (not) a ticketing system is? Count how many times I've avoid ignorance of the law. All that registered in my brain is that you were asking for lawyers in Champaign to due battle against Dennis.

    Likewise, someone who doesn't know or care about the law would be unaware that "abet" has a specific technical meaning — it is just a lawyerly sounding word that means "assist" to me. The salient points that you think will just jump out and are impossible to miss don't apply to joe average. Sure, is was my mistake for not going back and reading your exact phrasing. Apparently saying "I was wrong; I'm sorry" isn't sufficient for you. It is more fun to imagine that I'm scheming.

  236. barry  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:39 pm

    I did not mean to imply that Suburban Express runs over people's mothers on purpose (it could have been an accident).

  237. Nigel Lew  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:39 pm

    "Ken, there are 200+ comments here. I know most people are hanging in your every word, but not me. Notice that my comments have been about the technical aspects of how trivial (not) a ticketing system is? "

    We get it, and its not what we are talking about.

  238. Zemalkop  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:41 pm

    @Jim B: Glad to see you're still a reasonable person. Although it seems a little bit presumptive to respond to all these comments without even knowing what's at play here. I advise you to read the other posts on Suburban Express and Dennis, here, on Techdirt, on Yelp and other places. Just google Suburban Express, the results may schock you.
    People aren't going to let this go, and the further Dennis pushes, the bigger problems he will face. His behavior has consequences, to him and his loved ones. This will not only cost him his company, but also future job prospects. Please, try to intervene before it's too late.

  239. mcinsand  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:44 pm

    The greatest danger to Mr. Toeppen's business is Mr. Toeppen, especially if the videos posted here and the comments of whoever posted as Dennis Toeppen are representative of Mr. Toeppens behavior, character, or intelligence. I would never let my children ride his system for fear of litigation; if he had any business ability, his lawsuit/customer ratio would not be nearly as high as it is, period.

    Rather than hiring lawyers, the money would be better spent on therapy, education, and hunting down whoever posted as Mr. Toeppen, if that person is not him.

  240. Ahkbar  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:47 pm

    @Jim B

    The number of comments in this thread has no correlation to your inability to properly read and comprehend the actual post which clearly states what Ken quoted.

    Perhaps you need some a tube of Malshandir?

  241. ZarroTsu  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:51 pm

    @Jim B

    So by laughing and telling jokes on what is effectively a comedy blog, I'm adding nothing to the subject?

    Oooooookay then.

  242. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:51 pm

    Zemalkop — I understand what you are saying, but Dennis is fully aware of his reputation. This isn't a matter where I need to clue him in. As Seebs said earlier, Dennis has a certain way of viewing the world, and he operates according to that view. Telling Dennis that maybe he should mellow out is like asking a diabetic to just make more insulin. Yes, he has an extreme personality, but it is exactly those traits that allowed him to survive three decades where many others have come and gone.

  243. mcinsand  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:51 pm

    @Ahkbar, you comments lead to a question that has been bothering me. Jim B claims to be a programmer. No way. Programming requires at least minimal logic skills. I'm not being cute, but serious. There's just no way that this dude could make a living programming.

  244. jackn  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:52 pm

    @Jim B

    I think he can win. He already had a small victory today. Next time, he might even be able to 'take down' those who have wronged him. He is very close to vindication.

  245. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:52 pm

    I think the point is that you, @Jim B, came to a blog post, completely ignored the context and decided to focus conveniently on the challenging technical aspects of a ticketing system, which, quite frankly have nothing to do with the main point that the post was trying to make. You are, after all, in the comments section of a blog post.

    I mean, we can all round this thread up to 500 comments debating the technical merits and demerits of this or that ticketing system, but I feel that would leave us nowhere.

    Maybe that now things are clear for you, we can start debating the actual problems? You (and maybe @seebs) are in the unique position to argue against what was written on the post.

  246. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:55 pm

    @jackn:

    In the case of the "likely to sue you" he already won: the reddit moderator changed the text to "they have sued hundreds". Too bad.

  247. Hoare  •  Jul 30, 2013 @1:59 pm

    Is that Mark Knopfler's Boom Like That embedded @

    http://www.suburbanexpress.com/lexsafety/

    someone in "Dire Straits"?

  248. Dan T.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:00 pm

    @jackn: He had a technical, procedural "victory" in that the cases can be re-filed, but this has no bearing on the merits (or lack) of the cases.

  249. d8uv  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:03 pm

    I actually like Toeppen's ticketing system. Print your own tickets, walk up to any SEx bus, give ticket to driver. Driver hands stacks of tickets to Main Office, where they validate it. Works everywhere, a little chaotic but very simple, and requires no technology. And, seeing as how most people are honest, everything runs pretty smoothly.

    This isn't really about fraud, though. Nobody wants people to defraud Toeppen, everyone's pretty much in agreement.

    This is about Toeppen's abysmal administration and customer service skills.

    It's about the old ToS where you could be charged/sued for the driver making a mistake, and having to defend that charge in a court a county over, without transportation or legal help.

    It's about Toeppen making sockpuppet accounts to try and intimidate critics. It happened to my girlfriend, she said something vaugely negative about Suburban Express, and within the hour, he replied to her message with a one-line snarky comment using her RL name.

    Talking about tickets seems to miss the point entirely.

  250. Zemalkop  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:03 pm

    @Jim B: That's why diabetics take insulin. And if he doesn't want to take insulin and continue his dangerous lifestyle their friends and family need to step up and convince him to take his insulin. If not, he's going to end up with medical bills he can't afford because he is unable to work to pay off his debt.

    I understand that you want to respect Dennis "old way"' of doing things, but this isn't 30 years ago. And if he's not going to change his mind, it's up to you to do it.

  251. Jim B  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:05 pm

    Ahkbar said, "The number of comments in this thread has no correlation to your inability to properly read and comprehend the actual post which clearly states what Ken quoted." Maybe you have a photographic memory, but I don't. The more I read the hazier the old comments become. Sure, it would have been better had I gone back to Ken's comment and read it again before posting, but I failed to, and I've apologized for muddying the waters. I believe I've made my arguments here in good faith (and if there is a legal meaning to that phrase, it isn't what I intend, just the common parlance) but you and others apparently don't believe it.

    Mark, I admit it — I have only commented on the parts of the story that I cared to. I have gotten sucked in to the Duty Calls syndrome. The legal matter is what is important, and I'm not qualified. I'll make myself scarce now.

  252. jackn  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:09 pm

    @Dan t and @mark

    I know.

  253. Matthew Cline  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:09 pm

    @seebs

    I won't dispute that his behavior is self-destructive or stupid. I do, however, think he is totally sincere,

    If he was sincere, why would he be going to the effort of reopening lawsuits he had dismissed? I asked him that question myself (assuming that was him) and he ignored the question.

    @Mark:

    And who hires lawyers that agree to take the phrase likely to sue you literally/statistically, instead of rhetorically, like any regular human being would?

    Personally, I take it as a literal statement, as a non-absolute comparative to other businesses rather than an absolute non-comparative; other people have interpreted it similarly.

  254. Steven H.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:16 pm

    @Jim B:

    " The more I read the hazier the old comments become. Sure, it would have been better had I gone back to Ken's comment and read it again before posting, but I failed to, and I've apologized for muddying the waters."

    Old comments are irrelevant. What Ken was quoting were from the Post that we're all commenting on.

    Yes, it does behoove readers to at least read the Post before they comment, though coming from /., I can see where that might be optional….

  255. Hoare  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:19 pm

    Suburban Express rocks!!!!
    free mp3!!!!

    http://www.suburbanexpress.com/lexsafety/boomlikethat.mp3

  256. JTG  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:22 pm

    I witnessed the Mulreed incident first hand, and it was totally fictitious as told by Mulreed.

    @Pete (From way up there) I was wondering if you had any specific details about which parts of Mulreed's story were false?

  257. Ahkbar  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:23 pm

    @Jim B

    I don't have a photographic memory. I do have the ability to realize that if you are going to comment on the substance of a blog POST (not comment), you would be well served to read and comprehend what is stated in the blog POST (not comment). Especially if your comment is casting the author of the blog POST (not comment) in a unwarranted negative light.

    You keep focusing on the comments, which is not relevant to my point; I believe it is disingenuous on your part to claim ignorance on the pertinent substance of this blog POST which is for Ken to gather resources and assistance for the legal defense of those associated with legal challenges brought by your friend.

    I have no comment on your technical arguments, but if are going to throw in a comment that implies that blog author is assisting in "legal attack" of your friend without comprehending the substance of the POST you are commenting on, don't be surprised if there is reluctance to believe you are acting in good faith.

  258. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:25 pm

    @Matthew Cline:

    That's interesting. You mention others have interpreted similarly: do you happen to have any example of rhetorical hyperbole being successfully used in a defamation suit? (Genuine question.)

    In fact, Googling for those terms pointed me to an interesting article (although maybe too technical for me, so I just skimmed it): AMBIGUITY IN THE REALM OF DEFAMATION: RHETORICAL HYPERBOLE OR PROVABLE FALSITY?.

  259. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:29 pm

    @Jim B: I'm not qualified in the least, but do I enjoy the debate. Thanks for participating, though, and don't feed the trolls (but I guess you know that.)

  260. JR  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:31 pm

    Is "I didn't mean to" enough cause to allow a reversal from with prejudice to without? Or were there extenuating circumstances present?

    It seems the bar is set awfully low for something that significantly changes the tone of a case.

  261. barry  •  Jul 30, 2013 @2:52 pm

    I didn't mean to, and don't think I did.

  262. Duvane  •  Jul 30, 2013 @3:10 pm

    @Jim B

    Yes, he has an extreme personality, but it is exactly those traits that allowed him to survive three decades where many others have come and gone.

    I think the fact that the customers in this case are students isn't a coincidence, and not just because they are ill-equipped to defend themselves. It's also about population turnover and how that affects word of mouth. After spending a few years in a city that has a large university in it (but isn't entirely or even mostly a college town), some of the distinctions between businesses that intend to deal with students and those that don't become more obvious. Landlords are the archetype–when your entire customer base turns over every four years or less, and practically every tenant you have is only going to be with you for a year anyway, what do you do? Depending on how (un)scrupulous you are, you build as cheaply as you can, sweeten the deal up front as much as possible, put as much fine print into the lease as you can pack, then do the absolute minimum in maintenance to get by, and keep the deposit at the end. If you assume that practically no one will re-sign anyway, and that the former customers will move out of town in a couple of years whether they end up hating your guts or not, it's the logical thing to do.

    I suspect that if Suburban Express's customer base consisted of long term residents (even those of the same income and legal savvy as the students that are its current customer), that those "traits" would have put him out of business twenty-five years ago.

    Suburban Express wants to offer the flexibility and convenience to its customers that comes along with the online ordering and printed tickets, but it doesn't want to invest in the necessary ticketing systems (that obviously exist, and are obviously used by other organizations, regardless of arguments over their cost) to support them. At that point, their choices are to either eat the cost of the inevitable fraud, or attempt to recoup the costs in vigorous enforcement. If your customers are part of a stable population, the enforcement option (if applied on more than the tiniest levels in the most egregious cases) will destroy your business, simply by word-of-mouth, regardless of whether the customers fight back directly.

    The thing that has changed is the internet. Fifteen or twenty years ago, you could abuse a substantial portion of your customers (up to the point where if they and all their friends stopped using you, you wouldn't go under immediately), and as long as you weren't relying on long-term repeat business, it didn't matter. Even in the worst case, it would all blow over in a couple of years. Today it's the exact opposite–if you abuse a couple of customers badly enough, its going to be all over town in a pretty short amount of time. Now, suddenly, a lot of your customers are looking more closely at the T&Cs, reading other people's interpretations of them, and deciding whether they want to keep doing business. The biggest problem (for Suburban Express) is that this can't be memory-holed. Forevermore, when someone searches for "Suburban Express" or "Dennis Toeppen", this is what will come up. That will be true long after the current batch of students are gone, and there's nothing that can be done about it now. Toeppen is right to fear the internet–its pretty much the destruction of the way he's been approaching his… "customer relations". He's wrong to think that there's anything he can do to stop it.

    In my opinion, this is a good thing. More information, more communication is always good. Moronic quibbling over semantics aside, potential customers will want to know that they are (far, far) more likely to be sued if they use Suburban Express than if they use one of their competitors. That's information that was difficult to collate before the internet, but its very, very easy now. If in the long run this leads to higher ticket prices, that seems like a good trade if it avoids the current race to the bottom between competitors who either run unsafe equipment or sue their customers for extra cash.

  263. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @3:37 pm
  264. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @3:38 pm

    This really weirds me out:

    Laurie Casas, 2013SC55, did not appear but her attorney happened to be there for something else, and was surprised to hear that the case was on the docket. "Has anyone been served?" "No, none of these have been served." I'm not clear on this but apparently none of the defendants were ever told that their cases were coming up in this way, and apparently that was okay (???). The attorney registered an appearance on behalf of Laurie Casas and got the date reset to the future.

    Is that permitted???

  265. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:03 pm

    "Moronic quibbling over semantics aside, potential customers will want to know that they are (far, far) more likely to be sued if they use Suburban Express than if they use one of their competitors."

    Lawsuit defendants are not selected randomly. The probability of being sued is about zero if one does not try to cheat the system.

  266. Ken White  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:04 pm

    The probability of being sued is about zero if one does not try to cheat the system.

    Or criticize it.

  267. Matthew Cline  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:20 pm

    @Mark:

    That's interesting. You mention others have interpreted similarly: do you happen to have any example of rhetorical hyperbole being successfully used in a defamation suit? (Genuine question.)

    I'm not sure what you mean. I'm saying that, when interpreted the way I'm interpreting it, the statement is a true statement of fact, which is defense in defamation.

  268. V  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:23 pm

    I was looking at one of the "suits_to_reinstate" complaints where a ticket was collected twice. The ticket was part of a set of two tickets. What I'm wondering is, was the other ticket for the same trip? if so, was that ticket collected?

  269. Matthew Cline  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:29 pm

    @Dennis Toeppen:

    You had dismissed lawsuits earlier, and then just recently gotten the status of some of them changed from "dismissed with prejudice" to "without prejudice". This would imply that either:

    1) you've changed your mind about suing them,

    or

    2) you think in the future you might change your mind about suing them.

    If #1, what changed your mind? If #2, what new facts could come up that would cause you to change your mind?

  270. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:31 pm

    "Ticket 1 of 2" means this ticket is the first half of a round-trip. "Ticket 2 of 2" means this ticket is the second half of a round-trip.

  271. Steven H.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:33 pm

    I'm confused here.
    How is it possible to convert a "dismissed with prejudice" to a "dismissed without prejudice". I'd always understood that "dismissed with prejudice" was pretty much the same as "game over, don't bother to play again….

  272. V  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:34 pm

    Thanks for clarifying that.

  273. Matthew Cline  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:41 pm

    @Steven H.:

    How is it possible to convert a "dismissed with prejudice" to a "dismissed without prejudice". I'd always understood that "dismissed with prejudice" was pretty much the same as "game over, don't bother to play again….

    From what I understand:

    1) The filing party can request that a lawsuit be dismissed with prejudice, which is what happened in this case.

    2) Toppen claims that the "with prejudice" in the request to dismiss was a mistake, and what was intended was "without prejudice".

    3) The judge said "okay" and changed the dismissal status of the lawsuits.

    Now if the cases had been dismissed by prejudice by the judge, Toppen's request would have been ignored.

  274. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:41 pm

    @Matthew Cline:

    I would be curious to understand the reasoning behind that. My request for examples was precisely that point: examples where a sentence needed to be decided if it was a statement fact or merely hyperbolic opinion, where the former prevailed in a defamatory lawsuit.

  275. Steven H.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:43 pm

    And he didn't notice till now that what he got was different than what he asked for?

    Amazing coincidence that "with prejudice" shutdown much of the criticism, where "without prejudice" wouldn't have, isn't it?

  276. Black Betty  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:43 pm

    @Grouch,

    I'm not only thinking of the children on the busses, I'm thinking of the mothers under them.

    TOEPPEN! Answer the question!

  277. Scote  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:47 pm

    "The probability of being sued is about zthatero if one does not try to cheat the system."

    Didn't you also have a clause in the ticket contract said you could fine customers if one of their friends or relatives did something you didn't like?

    Even the Soup Nazi didn't sue his customers, he just refused to sell then his superior product. It's an insult to the Soup Nazi to call you the Soup Nazi.

  278. Black Betty  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:47 pm

    Dennis Toeppen…

    It is my opinion that you sir, are a CRAPWEASEL.

  279. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:50 pm

    Now now kids…

  280. Matthew Cline  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:52 pm

    @Mark:

    I would be curious to understand the reasoning behind that. My request for examples was precisely that point: examples where a sentence needed to be decided if it was a statement fact or merely hyperbolic opinion, where the former prevailed in a defamatory lawsuit.

    1) I don't know about any precedent or case law.

    2) Are you saying that, from a tactical/strategic viewpoint, the defendant in such a case should claim that the statement was rhetoric/hyperbole, and force the plaintiff to prove that it was meant as a statement of fact? If not, then I still don't understand your point.

  281. Ken White  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:53 pm

    @BlackBetty, that crosses the line of personal attack.

  282. Mark  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:54 pm

    @Matthew Cline: yes (2) is precisely my point.

  283. Black Betty  •  Jul 30, 2013 @4:55 pm

    @Mark,

    I know. That was harsh. However, I do not see this as any different than the Prenda cases. And I feel confident in my assessment of it. I see Mr. Toeppen as engaging in the same sort of conduct as Steele. And I suspect that Judge Wright would use a similar word to describe him.

  284. Ollie  •  Jul 30, 2013 @5:16 pm

    At UMaine, there are a variety of bus services. Compare the market though- around 12,000 UMaine students, maybe 50,000 people in the surrounding area. Granted, some of the buses also serve other cities like Boston and Portland ME, and other schools like Dartmouth, but the size of the market overall still pales in comparison to a bus service running in Chicago. If multiple bus services can survive serving mostly in rural New England, using print-out tickets just like what you're talking about, despite all the fraud you claim, then I have no sympathy for you plight. How can you complain about the impacts that .06% have on your business with 200k customers a year, when the same type of service with less than 1/3 of the customers and probably the same level of fraud is doing just dandy?

  285. Fasolt  •  Jul 30, 2013 @5:16 pm

    @Duvane: Wonderful analysis. How right you are. Ol' Dennis would have been long gone if not for the customer turnover. I'm sure the kids just put their Suburban Express experience down as some of the crappy part of their college experience and moved on after they no longer needed the service.

  286. Edward  •  Jul 30, 2013 @5:23 pm

    @ Dennis,

    I find it surprising that a party to the case discussed on a site such as Popehat would ever attempt to discuss aspects of that case on the same site. Its certainly not something I would recommend to one of my clients.

    I apologize if this has been asked and I missed it, but what do you expect this community to make of your efforts?

  287. Fasolt  •  Jul 30, 2013 @5:26 pm

    Just read the article on Jeremy at the Suburban Express site. The truest statement there?

    "Everything on this page is true to the best of our knowledge and belief, or it is our opinion."

    Heavy emphasis on the "it is our opinion", I would think.

  288. Doctor Railgun  •  Jul 30, 2013 @5:37 pm

    Someone has a lot of time on their hands, huh?
    If maybe they spent 1/5 of the time working on a new ticketing system than they do here rebutting EVERY SINGLE POINT then they'd have sheer genius already.
    But then again, there's every incentive not to do so. The lawsuits are likely profitable. Luckily, when the Popehat signal responders win then this fool can be paying legal costs much like the Prenderasts,

  289. Michael Donnelly  •  Jul 30, 2013 @5:47 pm

    @Mr. Toeppen:

    Do you find it at all unsettling that no other company chooses to attack its customers in the way that you do?

    So is it simply that you are right and the rest of the world is wrong, as far as the proper business protocols to deal with theft of service or negative commentary?

    I'm assuming all unknown facts in your favor in this hypothetical, so we can safely say anyone who misplaced a ticket did so with malicious intent. Likewise, anyone who posted degrading comments regarding Suburban Express is 100% guilty of libel. Even in those situations, other companies typically (I use the term very loosely, since I can't find an example) do not litigate such minor controversies en masse in court. My personal suspicion is that such action is not cost-effective, in that it costs the firm more in fees and ill will than the possible judgment, particularly if you factor in the difficulty of collecting on such judgments.

    Maybe you can fill me in on what's special with Suburban Express, and why this makes good business sense to you alone.

  290. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 30, 2013 @6:01 pm

    @ Donnelly -

    There have been no suits "en masse" relating to libel. That is simply false. You are confusing a large number of collection actions with two suits related to libel (Chris Mulreed and Katherine Chi). Visit http://www.suburbs.com/lawsuitpdfs.

    @ Ollie -

    There is no claim of rampant fraud, and we have a workflow to deal with the fraud which does occur. I imagine other carriers also have some small amount of fraud, and I imagine every carrier has some process for dealing with it. Please check with the carriers you speak of and report back.

  291. Trent  •  Jul 30, 2013 @6:02 pm

    I suspect when Dennis is actually foolish enough to refile these lawsuits he will find an immediate motion for reconsideration of the dismissal with prejudice. The fact that the prejudice was ruled on without opposition (except a single case by chance) because none of the defendants were served will grant the Judge discretion to hear arguments on whether the suits should be reheard. I would hope that with time for research the lawyers would easily find justification to dismiss the suits and file for attorney fees for such blatant abuse of the legal system. It will be trivial to prove Dennis dismissed the suits to avoid a public relations disaster then once that died down promptly asked to un-dismiss the suits indicating his bad faith.

    Dennis you are a vile person and I hope you end up paying significant money for your hubris. It would be just deserts if this ends up costing you the business you've used to fuel your overgrown ego.

  292. Hoare  •  Jul 30, 2013 @6:03 pm

    ahhhhh

    no more Mark Knopfler @

    "Suburban Express rocks!!!!
    free mp3!!!!

    http://www.suburbanexpress.com/lexsafety/boomlikethat.mp3 "

    /sadface

    that's 2 copyright infringements you've removed …
    think I can find another?

  293. Ken White  •  Jul 30, 2013 @6:05 pm

    @BlackBetty:

    That was not Mark. That was Ken. You know, the person whose site it is?

    Are you a person who requires very explicit instructions? Very well. STOP.

  294. JT  •  Jul 30, 2013 @6:14 pm

    @Michael Donnelly

    There is at least one other company:

    http://youtu.be/3XjgHEctcy0?t=5m10s

    Warning: pony reference at 0:37.

  295. Hoare  •  Jul 30, 2013 @6:38 pm

    omg dennis ….

    "* Development of the current multi-user SE ticketing began in January,
    1995 and was completed in November, 1999. The system was written in
    San Jose, CA and cost in excess of $230,000."

    seriously?

    did those college kids (custimers) have smart phones in 1999?
    your customers were ~5 when your software was "high tech"

    smh

    "* Although we carry many thousands of passengers each year, we receive
    only a handful of complaints. This is no doubt due to our punctuality
    and clean, modern buses."

    no doubt!

    "* Al Gore's daughter rode the bus when she was attending UIUC . On one occasion when the bus was
    sold out, she was very mature and patient in asking about her
    alternatives."

    most college kids are immature and impatient, huh?

    http://www.suburbanexpress.com/bulletpoints.html

  296. John O.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @6:50 pm

    I give Suburban Express 18 months before they go under, they've completely alienated their core base and are doubling down on essentially a gamble on extracting a few extra Bens from people who have little money to begin with. There's no actual constructive business plans going into the company which tells me there revenue has stagnated considerably and they're left forced to resort to belligerent behavior to stay alive.

  297. Ollie  •  Jul 30, 2013 @7:38 pm

    Ah, now I remember how they do it. Your name is printed on the ticket you print out. You show your ID and your ticket when you get on the bus, they collect the ticket. The date is printed on the ticket. Pretty simple way to avoid having to sue anyone. They also happen to have reasonable rules and don't sue people for breaking them. They're willing to trust their customers, they'll even let them ride on a different date than their ticket shows if there's room. I've never heard anything bad about them at all, among the many people I know who ride the bus. So clearly they are doing something better than you are, because even us evil manipulative college students haven't come up with libelous stories to get free rides.

  298. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 30, 2013 @7:42 pm

    @Ollie -

    You are describing a situation where the carrier has either chronic excess capacity does not have reserved seats.

  299. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 30, 2013 @7:43 pm

    Throw an "or" in that last message and it will make more sense.

  300. Sharon  •  Jul 30, 2013 @7:48 pm

    YAY Dennis is back!

    The best part about working after hours is NO COMPETITION FOR THE MICROWAVE when I need to make popcorn!

  301. Dark water  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:15 pm

    Mr Toeppen,
    I realize the Reddit subreddit has already been renamed, but i was just wondering, in lieu of "you are likely to be sued if you ride Suburban Express" would you have been okay with "your odds of being sued if you ride Suburban Express are astronomically higher than if you rode one of its competitors"?

  302. Marie  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:22 pm

    @Dennis Toeppen

    First of all, you cherry-picked, and failed to address the question of why your ticketing system doesn't make use of names on the tickets to allow verification against ID.

    Second of all, are you suggesting your bus system actually uses reserve seating rather than just sending as many buses as required for the number of tickets purchased for a given trip? Because if it is the former, then there is literally no reason that you can't assign riders to specific buses in order to give the drivers manifests.

    Have some integrity. If you don't care that you have a flawed system, say so. Don't make specious arguments when the truth is that you'd just rather sit in the middle of the floor and throw a tantrum over how unfair everyone's being toward you.

    (P.S. Do you turn customers away rather than send an extra bus when there aren't enough people to fill it to capacity? Because although that sounds like terrible customer service to me, it's the only way that you could claim to never have any excess seating available for walk-ons.)

  303. bponnaluri  •  Jul 30, 2013 @8:48 pm

    @Ollie Agreed, I don't see Suburban Express continuing to exists as a functioning business for much longer. Competing companies such as Peoria Charter have already seen a major increase in business over the past year, and this was before the current round of lawsuits. The main thing keeping students from avoiding Suburban Express is the fact that Suburban Express provides the best travel times for them.

    @Dennis. On toeppen.com, you criticize companies for attempting to sue you to take ownership of domains names that directly related to their business. If you think it was wrong for you to be sued, then why do you feel that you have the right to sue passengers for arbitrary reasons?

  304. DontBother  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:14 pm

    Nothing that Katherine C. wrote on Yelp comes CLOSE to what Toeppen's former company Net66 once published about GTE on their website.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20000623020853/http://www.net66.com/status.html

  305. azteclady  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:24 pm

    Duvane, that's a wonderful analysis.

    And the more noise (aka thuggish legal threats) Mr Toeppen indulges in, the faster the decline of his company.

    Guesses on actual collapse date?

  306. Dan T.  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:25 pm

    Obviously, if Toeppen says nasty stuff about anybody, or sues anybody, that's perfectly justified. If anybody says nasty stuff about him or sues him, they're totally evil. That's just the true facts.

  307. Mike  •  Jul 30, 2013 @9:32 pm

    Via Mental Floss, another instance of the Streisand Effect that might be apropos: http://www.dailydot.com/news/yelp-dentist-stacy-makhnevich-awol/

  308. Anony Mouse  •  Jul 31, 2013 @12:23 am

    Simple question: if QR codes or barcodes are too complicated, and color tickets are probably also more than a slight pain…

    How about putting the date on the ticket? I mean, they're bought for a specific date and time, aren't they? Seems it would be pretty simple to put that information on the ticket. If someone's using a ticket from last week, it's probably not valid.

  309. Matthew Cline  •  Jul 31, 2013 @12:38 am

    @Anony Mouse:

    Simple question: if QR codes or barcodes are too complicated,

    The problem isn't complexity, but:

    1) The boarding process would take too long if only one employee could check the tickets. (Or so Toppen supporters claim)

    2) With more than one person checking tickets, they'd all have to check against a centralized database to make sure there was no duplicates, but circumstances make it infeasible to get all the ticket checkers a reliable connection to a central database. (Or so Toppen supporters claim)

    3) Thus, the only practical solution is to check for duplicate tickets after the fact.

    How about putting the date on the ticket? I mean, they're bought for a specific date and time, aren't they? Seems it would be pretty simple to put that information on the ticket. If someone's using a ticket from last week, it's probably not valid.

    The problem with that is that the person who purchases the ticket prints it out, so they could print up multiple copies and use them all on the same day. Since in any one trip there'll probably be multiple buses, identical tickets could be used at each different bus, and the driver of each bus wouldn't be able to determine that they were duplicates.

  310. Kat  •  Jul 31, 2013 @12:45 am

    I'm just amazed that not only has Dennis Toeppen come here and argued his case for himself, he also whined to all his friends and had them come and argue his case/plead for mercy on his behalf as well.

    I'm having trouble putting into words, as a business management/accounting student, how counter that runs to every baseline principle of quality business management.

  311. granny weatherwax  •  Jul 31, 2013 @12:59 am

    @Dennis's "designed to create a negative expected value in the customer's payoff table"

    You must be an absolute monster. What did the English language ever do to you to deserve that kind of abuse?

  312. Fasolt  •  Jul 31, 2013 @5:10 am

    Come on Dennis. This looks easy to me. Every one of those kids has a student ID. Print their name on the ticket. That along with the date, time, and however you designate each trip really ought to do it. The rider shows the ticket and their ID to the driver. Problem solved. It will not take that long to check the IDs and tickets. Apologies to anyone else who may have posted this glaringly obvious solution and I missed it.

    As stated before, this isn't about you punishing the cheaters, it's about you silencing your critics. You should at least be honest about that.

  313. V  •  Jul 31, 2013 @5:40 am

    @those trying to design a better ticket system
    From the one complaint I read, the ticket seems to already have the following fields:
    trip code and date
    departure location and time
    arrival location and time
    paid amount
    ticket # and barcode
    name

  314. Jonathan  •  Jul 31, 2013 @6:09 am

    "This looks easy to me."

    Famous last words.

  315. Hoare  •  Jul 31, 2013 @7:03 am

    @fasolt

    the competitor lets the riders show the ticket on their phone. I'm guessing the reason Dennis doesn't is so he can match up later which ones get the privilege of paying another $100 for their ride because it wasn't the correct date and time.

    from his "trivia" page …

    "Margins have declined substantially, but we were able to survive through
    innovative use of computers for ticket selling and dispatching. Our
    prototype computerized ticketing system was used spring break 1984. The
    CPU was a first-model MacIntosh. We carefully evaluated the IBM PCjr and
    Apple MacIntosh prior to purchasing a Mac.

    * The first production SE ticketing system took two weeks to write in
    Microsoft Quickbasic, in September 1985. The code was written in 139
    Townsend. A major revision was made in 1986. The 1986 revision was used
    (with minor incremental changes along the way) until 1999."

    http://www.suburbanexpress.com/bulletpoints.html

    He was running quickBASIC one month after it was released in 1985

    He "evaluated" the IBM PCjr one month after it was released in 1984

    decided the "mac" was better to run quickBASIC

    wrote the code in two weeks

    did a major upgrade to the code in 1986

    but quickBASIC wasn't available on the mac until 1988

    /roflmao

    "QuickBASIC 1.00 for the Apple Macintosh operating system was launched in 1988."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QuickBASIC

    he WAS cutting edge 30 years ago.
    now his "new" software is 14 years old and he's clinging to an old business model

    55k riders a year X 14 years = 770k
    $230k / 770k = 30 cents

    30 cents of every ticket goes to software
    and that drops every year he doesn't upgrade

    he lost the "cutting edge"
    so its time to bully

    rules?

    http://www.suburbanexpress.com/policiesuiowa.html

    compare to the competition…

    - All our buses are equipped with WIFI.
    - Our customers are more than welcome to bring food and beverages onboard.
    - Please feel free to bring pillows, coats, blankets, etc on board to make your ride more comfortable.
    - We will not refuse our customers service for printing out their tickets the "Wrong Way" or even not having the ticket with you. So long as you booked a ticket online we will allow you to ride.

    https://www.peoriacharter.com/tickets/?mrkt=wiu

  316. Ken White  •  Jul 31, 2013 @7:07 am

    The student in case number four above is represented by a signal responder, who is backed up by a half-dozen lawyers willing to help; a response letter has gone out.

  317. bponnaluri  •  Jul 31, 2013 @7:28 am

    @Fasolt: Showing student IDs is probably not an obvious solution to Dennis because of his desire to be right and charge fees to students. Nevertheless, he needs to take a few rides on a Peoria Charter bus and see how they effectively handle checking student IDs.

  318. apauld  •  Jul 31, 2013 @8:19 am

    Dennis Toeppen, As a businessman I have to tell you, that I think you are doing business wrong. I really believe that the time spent (defending yourself on online venues) and the money spent (on all of these lawsuits), would be better spent getting yourself a better business education. Even if every thing you say is true, about how your just suing for non payment/fraudulent use of your services; you are still wrong. You are destroying your own business to sue a bunch of kids who just started their credit ratings. If it is really such a problem, shouldn't you do better background and credit checks? Also, you now disagree with the way your former lawyer allowed your lawsuits to be dismissed. You now (I must assume) have a new lawyer, are you prodding the new lawyer or is he/she prodding you to
    re-open those suits? Either way, if you ever get any judgements, most will never be paid. Have you missed all the news stories about the crippling student loan debts these days? You will be the least of anyone's worries. I do realize that in writing this; you probably won't change, as change doesn't seem to fit your rigid nature; but I feel that getting yourself better educated in business (and even business law) is something you should really consider. apauld

  319. Darryl  •  Jul 31, 2013 @8:27 am

    What does it cost to bring my pony on a SubEx bus?

  320. azazel1024  •  Jul 31, 2013 @8:28 am

    Yeah, I am going to have to go out on a limb here and say that ~125 law suits against roughly 200k customers is a rather high number. Even rounding down, a 1 in 2,000 chance of getting sued is rather high. The few times I've worked for private companies in a public facing manner I can remember the number of times we brought a law suit from our store, business, etc easily. Because it was none. That probably covers at least in to the tens of thousands of customer interactions for the places of business during the time I worked there…probably at least low hundreds of thousands.

    I am ignoring the small handful of shoplifting cases when I worked retail for a year and a half back in High School. We didn't file any small claims against them though…and that was when actual THEFT occured.

    I don't see how it is fraud or theft if someone grabs the wrong bus by accident, misses their scheduled bus, etc. Paying well over the going rate of a regular bus ticket (okay, I am not sure how much a ticket is for them, but I am remembering my days of taking Grey Hound from PSU all the way down to Baltimore, or about 200 miles, which was only about $80 IIRC a decade ago) as a "fine" because they messed up. A ticket that they already paid for too.

  321. Darryl  •  Jul 31, 2013 @8:37 am

    Maybe a little insight into the guy? From http://www.toeppen.com–"Of course, it is the job of one's attorney to transform objective reality into something more melodramatic and exciting than it really is."

  322. mcinsand  •  Jul 31, 2013 @9:07 am

    azazel1024, when the ratio of lawsuits to customers is as high as it is for SubEx, then you can rest assured that the problem is with the business, rather than the customers.

  323. Ec the (former) Illinois student  •  Jul 31, 2013 @9:14 am

    TftInChi – As a recent University of Illinois graduate, I can confirm everything Jim B said about Lincolnland Express. They were shut down around last November due to unlicensed drivers (or maybe un-inspected buses; I don't remember exactly). Until then, Dennis was in a "death-match" against them; I remember one time when I was waiting for a late Lincolnland Express bus, and a Suburban Express representative came up to me and handed me a coupon saying "Next time, try our service instead!"

    bponnaluri – I hope you're right that Suburban Express is losing business fast. However, Peoria Charter would be gaining business anyway over last year, because Lincolnland Express was shut down. I don't suppose you have any passenger numbers for Suburban Express?

  324. Fasolt  •  Jul 31, 2013 @9:18 am

    Here's some fun quotes for Toeppens website.

    "The Panavision and Intermatic cases formed the foundation of modern Internet trademark law. Unfortunately, both unreasonably favor the trademark."

    Translation: That idiot judge didn't appreciate my cyber squatting.

    >Since a trademark does not confer a right in gross, and since I was not
    offering a competing product, I chose to litigate this novel matter of law
    to establish my rights. Interestingly, one of the judges on 9th Circuit
    bench said, "Clearly, you win on the law, but…"

    Dennis, if one of the judges said you were right on the law, where's that appeal to the Supreme Court?

    "When I chose to litigate panavision.com, I clearly overlooked a lesson I
    learned in an undergraduate class called Law and Economics, that courts
    sometimes rule in favor of [a viscerally] appealing outcome without
    regard for [statutory] law or established legal doctrine."

    Definitely grounds for an appeal there. Let's get that appeal paperwork going. You have a landmark case on your hands here. Don't pass up a chance to make history.

  325. Fasolt  •  Jul 31, 2013 @9:20 am

    And of course the word "for" in that first sentence should be "from".

  326. Dennis Toeppen  •  Jul 31, 2013 @9:24 am

    @Hoare -

    You're citing a trivia page which was written in 2003 and which contains information that was current in 2003.

    Our current system is several generations newer than the 1999 system, and we spend about a Porsche per year on software development.

    Ergo, your conclusions have no basis in fact.

  327. Ursus Maritimus  •  Jul 31, 2013 @9:29 am

    Its great that the first case of a weaponized shrink-wrap agreement(1)
    is a minor Illinois bus magnate ("Illinois Magnates." "I hate Illinois Magnates!"), and not a large company that could afford to win by bankrupting the opposition.

    (1) "Shrink-wrap/click-through terms of service are legal and enforceable. No court has restricted what you can put in them. I choose to put in that I charge $500 if you harass anyone in my company. Note that I didn't write 'during the journey', so you just gave me the right to collect from you if you EVER harass anyone in my company after you have accepted the agreement. If you don't like that you shouldn't have signed, sucker!"

  328. bponnaluri  •  Jul 31, 2013 @9:44 am

    @Dennis

    If the information on the page is not current, then why don't you remove the page or update it?

  329. barry  •  Jul 31, 2013 @9:54 am

    From the Surburban Express Terms of Service quoted on the The Daily Illini website (Apr 25th):

    If passenger or passenger parent / friend / companion / ride interferes with or delays departure of bus in any way… you agree to pay Suburban Express the amount of $500 for liquidated damages ..

    So if the bus runs over a passenger's mother as it is departing, causing a delay, the passenger has agreed to pay Surburban Express $500? And if they have any brothers or sisters on the bus, they have to pay $500 each too?

    Is it attempts to not pay these $500 fines liquidated damages that he considers 'cheating the system'?

  330. Alex Wild  •  Jul 31, 2013 @10:10 am

    I live in Urbana.

    If nothing else, Dennis Toeppen has convinced me to never again patronize Suburban Express and to warn others from doing so.

    It's impressive that Toeppen and his buddies have somehow managed to sidetrack this thread into the minutiae of bus ticket logistics. Let's not forget the central issue: Toeppen uses his money to suppress critics. Thugs like him are the enemy of a free society.

  331. DarkAsSin  •  Jul 31, 2013 @10:19 am

    @ Those still on about tickets:

    As V said, it isn't a matter of putting more information on the ticket. Here is my ticket, with information redacted and text added to prevent forgery. It's not a matter of the ticket being insufficient; there's no on-site manifest or other verification system in place (including checking IDs; I remember having my ID out and not needing it when I boarded) to prevent fraud, save for the bus driver's paying attention. The argument given by the company is that any additional verification would be either too costly or too time-consuming to be practical. Personally, I disagree with that assessment, but I've already done the arguing on the internet thing, and I don't own a bus company, so whatever.

    The point isn't really his lack of verification; it's more the decision to file in another county, his decision to reinstate these suits whilst school is out of session, the company's treatment of customers who aren't being accused of fraud, the lag time involved in the fraud cases, and, above all else, his decision to go after people who are negatively reviewing him on the internet.

  332. Trent  •  Jul 31, 2013 @10:27 am

    The funny thing is that liquidated damages are an area where the legal system has litigated extensively what is and isn't liquidated damages and personally I doubt Dennis can prove that bullshit number has any bearing in reality. The best part is his statements here that they are calculated to punish will be used against him in court.

  333. Jonathan  •  Jul 31, 2013 @10:29 am

    @DarkasSin,

    Here, here! Well said.

  334. Hoare  •  Jul 31, 2013 @10:55 am

    @dennis

    "You're citing a trivia page which was written in 2003 and which contains information that was current in 2003"

    the release date of quickBASIC for mac has changed since 2003?

    since there is no mention of the "new" software…
    and you used to be so proud of your "tech savvy"…
    what is it?
    Quickbooks Pro?

  335. Doctor Railgun  •  Jul 31, 2013 @11:07 am

    Ollie said: "Your name is printed on the ticket you print out. You show your ID and your ticket when you get on the bus, they collect the ticket. The date is printed on the ticket. Pretty simple way to avoid having to sue anyone. They also happen to have reasonable rules and don't sue people for breaking them. They're willing to trust their customers…"

    My friend, I think you misunderstand what's going on here. Mr. Toeppen isn't trying to trust anyone or to avoid suing people… suing defenseless (unless dedicated attorneys such as the ones responding to the Popehat Signal offer their time) students is a revenue stream.
    If Mr. T was really clever, he would create shell companies in the name of his relatives and start sending out settlement emails to his customers.
    Oh, wait…

  336. Dan T.  •  Jul 31, 2013 @11:40 am

    Making students liable for the actions of others (such as parents or friends) who they have no control over has GOT to be legally unenforceable.

  337. Doctor Railgun  •  Jul 31, 2013 @11:46 am

    Dan T wrote: "Making students liable for the actions of others (such as parents or friends) who they have no control over has GOT to be legally unenforceable."

    It is when one files suit in small claims court in venues difficult for busy defendants to get to, against people who can't defend themselves in the first place.

  338. R R Clark  •  Jul 31, 2013 @12:22 pm

    @ Mr. Toeppen

    I am curious: what model Porsche are referencing when you say you spend "about a Porsche per year" on software development?

    I could easily be convinced to build you a better mousetrap in exchange for a new 911 Turbo every year.

  339. Some Random Guy  •  Jul 31, 2013 @3:06 pm

    @Roger, sorry for the delay in replying and thanks for making me take another look.

    I believe now that I was likely mistaken. My understanding at the time that most of the music publishers and collecting societies settled their differences with Google/youtube was that they had agreed to use Content ID. This led me to believe that, if they had not removed the content or had agreed to be compensated for it, then they had essentially licensed it. However I can't seem to find any links or articles to confirm this understanding.

    Even if my understanding had been correct, it would likely still be correct to assert this would be quite different from actually having licensed their works for use on youtube subject to the condition of using Content ID.

    Thanks again for making me take a closer look.

  340. Howard Robinson  •  Jul 31, 2013 @3:36 pm

    I am just curious why someone hasn't filed a SLAPP complain yet?

  341. Michael Donnelly  •  Jul 31, 2013 @3:46 pm

    After getting caught up on the replies, this whole thing is starting to feel like Hoarders. It starts off funny, but then turns awkward as you realize that the person has some serious issues. Then it starts to feel exploitive to continue to engage, as it's clear the person simply needs help.

    I cannot fathom the subtlety of the affliction that affects some of the people on that program. Or, for that matter, how Mr. Toeppen can attempt to rationally support his point of view while choosing to not process very basic facts or logic as presented by the posters here. It's not evil or pride or even greed. It's something else.

    Whichever mental camshaft is bent or gear is stripped, it's something unsettling and nowhere near as much fun to heckle as Prenda. It's just a bummer that all those poor kids have to feel the brunt of it.

  342. ChrisTS  •  Jul 31, 2013 @4:09 pm

    @Michael Donnelly

    "Whichever mental camshaft is bent or gear is stripped, it's something unsettling and nowhere near as much fun to heckle as Prenda. It's just a bummer that all those poor kids have to feel the brunt of it."

    This. I keep wondering how to explain/account for the bizarre behaviors (plural). I do think the fines are probably a revenue stream, and therefore bad conduct. But the need to control, to condescend, to be correct at all costs, and to come here – repeatedly – and argue this in the open….I just cannot fathom it. (And, I have to think that his lawyer is none too pleased by the last behavior.)

  343. bponnaluri  •  Jul 31, 2013 @4:20 pm

    @ec

    I don't have specific passenger numbers, but I have noticed a significant decline in the number of Suburban Express busses around UIUC since the beginning of the year. Also, there is no way Suburban Express had over 200k passengers in the past two years unless they are counting once for each ride.

    @Dennis. UIUC has around 42,000 students and a significant portion of them do not use Suburban Express. Also, all 125 lawsuits have been against UIUC students, so it sounds like you are underestimating the chances of getting sued.

  344. JT  •  Jul 31, 2013 @7:08 pm

    @Michael Donnelly

    Addressing your post generally, some people with borderline personality disorder are often highly intolerant of criticism and have a compulsion to set the record straight. Hence, querulous behavior.

    Not a diagnosis of anyone here, just an observation that people are literally of different minds sometimes.

  345. SJ Elliott  •  Jul 31, 2013 @8:01 pm

    Dennis, to get a better grasp of the situation, I have two questions.

    (1) How many employees (including you) does SubEx have?

    (2)Do the buses have the name "Suburban Express" on the side?

  346. Michael Donnelly  •  Jul 31, 2013 @9:18 pm

    @JT:

    If it's "borderline personality disorder", then so be it. Whatever it is, it's not normal and it's not rational. All the jousting here is way past the point of intelligent discourse.

  347. G Thompson  •  Jul 31, 2013 @10:01 pm

    Quick question Ken since it's different under US system.. Wouldn't promissory estoppel come into play here if the court allows the changing of status from with to without prejudice and he then decides to re-file/re-sue the defendants? Especially taking into consideration that he made the statement over and over again that he "wouldn't sue" to a worldwide public audience?

  348. Ec the (former) Illinois student  •  Jul 31, 2013 @10:04 pm

    @SJ Elliott -

    I can answer the second question from being on campus for four years. Some buses do. Many don't and in fact have other logos (of companies I've otherwise never seen anywhere near Champaign, which is why I believe Dennis when he says he rents many of his buses); they have several 8.5×11 pieces of paper taped onto their sides or the bottom inside of the driver's window saying "Suburban Express." I'd say they're noticeable.

  349. flip  •  Aug 1, 2013 @1:15 am

    My biggest question is: I wonder if Toeppen is suffering great business losses at the moment, and is actually knowlingly heading towards bankruptcy? Everything I read about the defenses of outdated ticketing systems in the face of lack of funds, the way he treats customers, the use of sales in order to undercut a competitor, over the top TOS, the difficulties with subcontracters… it sounds an awful lot like a small service mismanaged as the owner struggled to deal with increased scale and a difficulty in comprehending that a business must change over time in order to keep up with its competitors/technology/customer base. Is anyone aware of the financial status of his business and how it's doing?

    Actually reading the Net66 page, I think it might just be possible that Toeppen needs to learn the phrase "shut up" not just about law suits but because he's simply not the best person to do his own PR.

    I know Ken is fond of saying that outsourcing your marketing is outsourcing your reputation… but I don't think he'd disagree with me in suggesting that the reverse is true in this case. Toeppen sounds like someone who can't handle things when something goes wrong or unexpected.

    @Lowly Sysadmin

    Thanks for posting those stats. Very curious indeed.

    @Barry

    Gravatar allows you to have numerous images attached to different email addresses. So I could change my gravatar easily without needing a different IP address; just type in a different email when leaving a comment.

    Having said that, I get the feeling that leaving comments without using gravatar is a combination of using the same email and same IP. Don't quote me on that though… I really have no idea.

  350. StripeyMiata  •  Aug 1, 2013 @1:41 am

    Mr Toeppen wrote: "Our current system is several generations newer than the 1999 system, and we spend about a Porsche per year on software development."

    You can buy an early 80's Porsche 944 for about $2000, is that what you spend or is it more than that?

  351. Dan T.  •  Aug 1, 2013 @5:10 am

    The guy in #5 in this article somehow reminds me of the protagonist here.

  352. JT  •  Aug 1, 2013 @7:10 am

    @Michael Donnelly:

    I totally agree. It's a hobby of mine to try to figure out behavior that seems nonsensical on the surface, because even the strangest of behaviors can be explained by the right details. It started years ago with a coworker who got fired for threatening behavior but who still managed to go out as a martyr among some people who did not know all the details. Now I'm into vexatious litigants.

  353. KC  •  Aug 1, 2013 @7:54 pm

    Reading with interest and would love some feedback from readers here. I was recently hurt by a diet that the FDA has said is illegal and did not know it was illegal when I started it. I've blogged about the experience and this particular MLM company because the company deletes any and all posts on its forums which are negative in any way. I just felt the other side of the coin needed to be shared and, in fact, it seems to be helping others judging by the comments and emails I receive. I just received a letter threatening me with defamation by their attorney. Any thoughts? Just unsure which direction to take this.

  354. Bill  •  Aug 1, 2013 @8:21 pm

    @KC – do you have a link – would love to read what you had to say.

  355. KC  •  Aug 1, 2013 @8:26 pm

    Yes I do.

    The page I started after I started having so many side effects:
    http://www.squidoo.com/unsafe_hcg_diet

    and the blog I started because that page was just getting too long:
    http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_journal_summary.asp?id=CARIKAY

    I just really wanted to present all I've learned since I did that diet. Had I found all that information in one spot, I never would have done it. Thanks for any feedback.

  356. Bill  •  Aug 1, 2013 @8:36 pm

    @Dennis – spending money on something doesn't equal anything relevant in and of itself. As much as you all whine about how hard ticketing it is, I can assure you it can be done for the price of a new 911 – or even a cayman. My name and info are linked so feel free to call me on it – if you're willing to write me a check for 110k – I'll get you a system in place that can stop the ticketing issues immediately. if you're sincere in what you say – why not hire external consultants to analyze your requirements and vouch for the fact it's soooo prohibitively difficult. Hell, do this – convince me it's impossible or prohibitive and I promise I'll go on Reddit and anywhere else you want and plead your case – an email exchange is all that's necessary – I'm not even talking about an actual consulting engagement. If you're case is so clear – I'm open minded about this – show me why it's so hard and you get a free defender – I'll even put up a post on our corporate blog about how you've been so unfairly attacked on this issue. I just did some off the cuff calculations which include the backend software, a portal that accepts payments, laser barcode scanners which operate instantaneously – throw in a monthly data plan for 100 drivers and I'm still coming to < 25k rounding up on everything. If you want to run crazy with it – we could do it with magnetic cards (like hotels) that are generated for each rider on the scene for well under the price of a Cayman. Come in, scan your printed pass, get your card before you get near boarding – even getting ridiculous with it will come to under 100k. If you're really paying the price of a porsche each year on software dev this bad – something's wrong.

  357. flip  •  Aug 2, 2013 @2:02 am

    @KC

    Not exactly an answer to your question, but there are lots of science-based health blogs and websites out there and you wouldn't be the only one criticising MLM and various 'treatments' out there. If nothing else, reading those or researching what they say about various diets, would help you feel less alone. Many of the science-based medical bloggers get threats like this all the time and they may be able to give advice or put you in contact with a lawyer. (Science Based Medicine is actually a title of one of the blogs I'm thinking of, and would be an excellent place to start. QuackWatch might be another)

  358. KC  •  Aug 2, 2013 @8:20 am

    Thanks Flip. Yes, I'm reading and reading. I've been on both those pages/sites in the past but now would probably be a good time to revisit them. My goal with my pages really was to inform others of the risks because the company does so much to deny them. I wasn't writing it with the intent of 'going after the company' but would be curious to hear if others think it comes across that way. Thanks!

  359. bponnaluri  •  Aug 2, 2013 @7:29 pm

    Is suburbanexpress.com down for anyone else or did Dennis try to block me from the site?

  360. Aaron  •  Aug 2, 2013 @8:19 pm

    @bponnaluri, http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com is your friend.

  361. flip  •  Aug 2, 2013 @11:36 pm

    @KC

    Speaking from experience, some people don't consider a distinction between "criticising to inform others" and "defamation, out to get me, axe to grind". Those who don't make those distinctions are usually the butthurt owners of the companies you criticise.

    Still, good luck with it, and I'm glad you're already reading those sites. One of the reasons I came to Popehat in the first place is because I've been in a similar situation as you – and I wish I came earlier because then I wouldn't have been so scared about the vague legal threats that never materialised. I hope that yours turns out the same way!

  362. Trebuchet  •  Aug 3, 2013 @7:24 pm

    @bponnaluri:

    I don't have specific passenger numbers, but I have noticed a significant decline in the number of Suburban Express busses around UIUC since the beginning of the year. Also, there is no way Suburban Express had over 200k passengers in the past two years unless they are counting once for each ride.

    Counting once for each ride is undoubtedly what he is doing; and in fact is probably the only he could do it since he doesn't have names on the tickets.

  363. KC  •  Aug 5, 2013 @2:07 am

    Flip, thank you. This really does feel like a David vs. Goliath thing. This company seems to be quite effective in keeping criticism off the internet. They delete any criticism of their products from their various sites, forum and blogs.

  364. DanTan  •  Aug 6, 2013 @12:40 pm

    The main problem with the Suburban Express bus service is that they still hold a near 50% monopoly for students going from campus to Chicago. The simple fact is that neither service is good, both services overcharge ($50 for a 1-way 2 hour trip when I last took it), and they both don't give a crap about their passengers. I was on a bus multiple times where they had people sit in the aisle on their suitcases.

    The only other alternatives are..
    1) Amtrak, runs 3 times a day, but does not leave from campus, nor does it go to the airport
    2) Megabus, does not leave from campus and only goes straight to union station
    3) Greyhound, does not leave from campus and only goes to the greyhound station.

    So students are simply left with the choice of "shitty bus company #1, shitty bus company #2, or an extra hour+ of commute/transfers" :(

  365. Clark  •  Aug 6, 2013 @1:00 pm

    @DanTan

    The main problem with the Suburban Express bus service is that they still hold a near 50% monopoly

    mo·nop·o·ly – n – The exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or service

  366. andrews  •  Aug 10, 2013 @9:48 am

    Glad to see the popehat signal and the evidence of attys showing up. I am not licensed in IL, and know very little of IL law. I think I can spell the name of the state as required by their legislature, but that is about the limit.

    I will say that in [state], where I'm licensed, an oddly mis-codified statute provides that, where the contract provides for fees for the drafter, the fee shifting provision is made reciprocal. Thus, if Suburban Express came into [state], it could easily wind up paying the fees of the initially "pro bono" atty who showed up and defended the case.

    I suppose that if one of the targeted defendants got a threat letter from Suburban Express here sent to his home here in [state], he could bring a dec action here. It would be interesting to watch the bus company object to forum non conveniens, after reaching into [state] with its threat. They would likely be subject to Secretary of State service and would find the whole experience enlightening.

  367. Draven  •  Aug 31, 2013 @4:57 pm

    <blockquote cite="there are no feasible technological or procedural means to prevent tickets from being used more than once, so the only means he has to prevent ticket sharing is lawsuits.".

    bar code on ticket, android or iphone app, online database. problem solved.