The complaint alleges BTOD and Greg Knighton were aware of the falsity at the time the statements were published but did so for the intentional purpose of discouraging potential customers from purchasing products from Next and to encourage customers to purchase competing products sold by BTOD and Knighton. Next filed this lawsuit against BTOD and Knighton to hold them accountable for their reckless and false statements and to establish the truth.
In the first deposition of the case, Greg Knighton admits that he did not even level the desk prior to performing his "review". Knighton also stated that he has never received any type of training in material analysis, never graduated from college and delivered pizza for Pizza Hut prior to launching the BTOD blog.
Watch Knighton's techniques to dupe viewers into buying a VertDesk V3 over competitors.
The use of any copyrighted video footage in the above video constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
"I worked first for Pizza Hut. I was a delivery person. I was a favorite in the dorm...because I always brought pizza home."
The complaint said that BTOD and Knighton were well aware the statements were false because Defendants claim to be experts when it comes to office furniture but promoted the false claim anyway.
The complaint said that Next sent BTOD and Knighton a request to retract and remove the false and defamatory postings but BTOD and Knighton refused. Next now seeks “millions of dollars” through litigation.
“Next therefore was left with no alternative but to file this lawsuit to: publicly establish the truth, properly inform BTOD readers and audience and the rest of the world of the true facts, and seek appropriate remedies for the harm caused by BTOD’s false statements and failure to retract and apologize for it.”
It is not entirely surprising that BTOD and Greg Knighton would publish such blatantly false statements about Next. Next alleges that BTOD and its writer, Greg Knighton, are extremely biased against competitors when it creates "reviews". Next alleges that many of the “reviews” at www.BTOD.com follow the same extremely biased formula. The BTOD.com owner, President and founder Greg Knighton, who penned the articles in question, also has a record of malice and bias against competitors. It lead one competitor to respond with this scathing review of BTOD's VertDesk V3.
Next alleges that BTOD clearly had a malicious motive in publishing the Defamatory Posts, and acted with reckless disregard for the truth. The defamatory, false and misleading reviews have caused Xdesk to suffer irreparable harm to its reputation and loss of business. Next is seeking a trial by jury and punitive damages in the “millions of dollars” as a result.
The BTOD blog or Beyond the Office Door is standing desk review website located at BTOD.com. The company built a business around promoting false reviews that bash competitors and redirect buyers to their products. That’s right, a “competitor” is writing bogus online reviews of competitor's products. BTOD gives their own Vertdesk 8.3 out of 10 stars on their own website. At the same time, they attempt to destroy all competitors, including quality desk makers, with malicious and deceptive business practices.
Greg Knighton is the founder and president of the BTOD blog, formerly known as Beyond the Office Door. Knighton owns 60% of BTOD and Ryan Bald owns 40%. Knighton attended Mankato State and UWSP for 6 years but never managed to graduate. His prior experience to BTOD includes delivering pizza for Pizza Hut and selling CDs at Best Buy. Knighton is the only person at BTOD that reviews electric standing desks. Knighton buys his Vertdesk V3 from his father and then resells it, driving interest and website traffic with his blog.
In order to drive business for his products, Knighton "reviews" competitors products and posts his findings to his website. Knighton was asked under deposition if he had a written policy or process for how he comes up with a numerical ranking. Knighton replied "We, I don't, I'm the only one doing this, so there isn't a writen formal policy that's on record for creating these."
"I do not level standing desks, no."
Apparently someone grew tired of BTOD's review scheme and wrote a review of the reviewer.
Important Note: The below review of BTOD was not written by Xdesk. It is a publicly available review. The opinions and allegations expressed below are not the opinions or allegations of Xdesk.
BTOD is known by just about everyone in our industry for writing reviews of all their competitors’ products with extensive outright falsifications, hyperbolic exaggerations, and a great deal of omitted truths. You can read more about this in our article Can BTOD Reviews Really Be Trusted? In short, they do this in an attempt to route all their blog readers to buy a BTOD house brand product. For example, in their own review of the VertDesk v3 they use staged photos to selectively compare their controller board against Autonomous’, the insert nut welded into the bottom of their desk’s foot versus the Evodesk’ foot having just a plain threading, and their spindle rod against a photo of the UpLift Desk’s spindle rod — as if the reader could tell anything substantive from these photos — all with the intent of creating the impression that their product is better built than these competitors’.
We have come to expect a lot of untruths and selective disclosures from Greg Knighton and Ryan Bald’s reviews of their competitors’ products, but they just seem to try unbelievably hard to put lipstick on the pig when it comes to making the VertDesk v3 appear to be the very height of high tech. It is in fact one of the most overpriced and technologically backwards products still on the market today, pumped by creative marketers who explain just enough about how the internal mechanisms of these products work to lull consumers into trusting their “expertise.” Don’t be fooled. Far from being the best standing desk under $1,000, in our estimation the v3 needs to go the way of the v1 and v2, back to the drawing board.
Beyond The Office Door, LLC is an online retailer of office furniture products founded by Greg Knighton while he was still a college student in 2005. His parents, Bill and Beth Knighton, are the owners of RightAngle Products and K&A Manufacturing, which has been manufacturing ergonomics products and office furniture for more than 30 years. It’s a family-owned business that was started by Bill and his father, Warren. Greg’s sister Camille also worked in marketing at RightAngle until 2017. Greg was eventually joined by his college buddy, Ryan Bald, who was selling furniture on eBay at the time. Together they built up the BeyondTheOfficeDoor.com website to make it a superstore of office furniture offerings, albeit most prominently promoting the Knighton family’s RA products, but they didn’t really have much of a presence online in the active workstation category for a long time.
Greg Knighton was an early practitioner of SEO – search engine optimization – and used it to build traffic to his website. His openly apparent aim is simple: do whatever it takes to beat out the competition to the top of Google search results. In 2016 Greg and Ryan acquired the shorter BTOD.com domain name from Black Tears of Death, and launched a more sinister business plan to use whatever means necessary to dominate search results in the office products sector.
Beyond SEO and content fakery, BTOD uses other classic con tactics to give consumers the impression that they have a completely positive reputation, starting with the very bold messaging at the top of their Breakroom Blog site about why they can be trusted. They curate user reviews on their own site (to be expected) but then use third party sites like TrustPilot to lend the appearance that they have hundreds of five-star reviews from satisfied customers. If you look through them you’ll find that a high proportion of them use a positive tone that seems remarkably inauthentic, and indeed there’s plenty of evidence on the web that TrustPilot can be gamed by subscribers to post fake reviews on their own company. One clue? Almost all the reviews are posted by people using only their first name, and with only one review published on TrustPilot. Given the popularity of the platform (hence why people are supposed to trust it) that is very odd, indeed. Too many of them read like enthusiastic marketing copy, and too many of them mention that other reviews they’ve read were untrustworthy but they found BTOD’s reviews to have the best reputation.
Numerous manufacturers have been burned by Knighton. His typical process begins by ordering a competitors’ product, taking it apart and portraying it in the most contrived false light imaginable in his misleading reviews, and then shipping it back for a refund. He has friends order the products for him so that it can’t easily be traced back to him. The aim? Convince the consumer that the competitor’s product is bad, and point them at the house brand BTOD product instead—something invariably made by his father’s company, such as the Duke, VertDesk, RightAngle, or Levl brand products (Levl being a fledgling new gaming desk and chair brand Knighton and Bald launched in 2016).
The next step they take is to write not one, but multiple reviews of the same product. One will be the primary review, such as Autonomous SmartDesk 2 Business Edition Standing Desk (Review / Pricing). Another will lead off with a title like Top 5 Problems With Autonomous SmartDesk 2 Business Edition. Multiple articles may pit one product against another, such as Autonomous SmartDesk 2 VS. Jarvis Desk: Which is better?. Then he’ll make some Youtube videos such as Autonomous SmartDesk 2 Stability Test – Business Edition Wobble and Rocking. All of these pages are pointed at each other and into big roundup reviews like “The Best Standing Desks of 2018”, to lend domain authority to each other. Now, you might think that this is just white-hat SEO stuff, and some of it clearly is, but the net effect of it is to flood the top of Google search results with BTOD links. From the link titles alone, BTOD aims to leave consumers with the blink impression that the product they are searching for has many problems, wobbles, and may not be the best one to buy. Once the consumer clicks on any of BTOD’s article’s they’ll be led by the nose to believe that BTOD’s substandard VertDesk standing desk, for example, is the best of the best.
Xdesk was one of the first entrants into the standing desk industry and we've seen a lot of changes. As competition has increased, the tactics used by the low end segment have become increasingly more aggressive. These malicious and deceptive business practices described above are a bad reflection on our entire industry. As our industry matures, the bad actors are eventually exposed for what they are. This takes time. We didn't respond to the false BTOD reviews for over a year. Then we thought about it more. Sometimes if you want a change for the better, you have to take things into your own hands.
The complaint alleges that the BTOD policy has exclusions for injury “caused by or at the direction of the insured with the knowledge that the act would violate the rights of another and would inflict ‘personal and advertising injury.’”