For those of you that haven’t heard yet, Elon Musk denied a customer his Tesla for complaining about the Model X Launch Event. The basics of it is this: Stewart Elsop, venture capitalist extraordinaire, was made to wait for two hours for the event to start. He left shortly after it began and then, somehow to his own surprise, that meant he didn’t get to test drive the Model X. He went home and wrote a post titled “Dear @ElonMusk: You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself” and, once again somehow to Elsop’s surprise, Elon Musk took that personally. Musk cancelled Elsop’s Model X pre-order and let him know about it by calling Elsop himself.
It may seem like a petty reaction to some; after all, Musk was two hours late getting on stage. On the other hand, it’s hard to feel bad for a guy who complains about a two-hour wait on his brand new, state-of-the-art $130,000 car. Especially considering his blog post said he left just a few minutes after the event started. He waited two hours only to leave moments after the event began, which seems counter-intuitive. Either way, the billion dollar man Elon Musk didn’t need to engage with the blog post. It was clearly inflammatory; Elsop tagged him in the title and told him he should be ashamed of himself, but Musk by no means needed to engage.
Elon Musk is an incredibly smart business man, and he recognizes that branding is everything. Musk is a man who is familiar with his own brand. He is cool, calm, collected. He is always a step ahead in everything he does, and he is always effortlessly in charge. That is his image. He could have let the post go, it’s likely few people would have read it if he hadn’t acknowledged it. Instead, he decided to personally call Elsop and let him know he wouldn’t be getting his cutting-edge car because he didn’t feel like giving it to him.
Musk’s only real acknowledgment of the whole event came on Twitter where he said:
Must be a slow news day if denying service to a super rude customer gets this much attention
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2016
Once again, Musk comes off cool, but still very much in charge. He’s undeniably right: in any circumstance other than an online blog post, a business owner would deny a customer if they weren’t treating the business with respect. Sure, his offence may not seem like a big deal, but Musk recognizes that Elsop’s goal was to get a rise out of him. The customer service man that he is, Musk gave him what he wanted.
The moral of the story is this: Elon Musk always wins. That’s the whole story. He will never lose. No matter how petty your attacks against him, he will always win. This whole event may seem like Musk lost his temper, but that is extremely unlikely. He recognizes that this is all part of his personal image. His personal image is what drives his sales. Elon Musk doesn’t take your Tesla because he’s angry, he takes your Tesla because he can; because it makes him look cool, and looking cool is the driving force behind a high-tech consumer product empire.