Inconceivable: TikToker Who Made Paint Mixing Very, Very Cool... Is Fired From Sherwin-Williams For Doing So

from the mix-it-up dept

TikTok remains a somewhat fascinating service to me, as different people experiment with using it to express all sorts of things in ways that are unexpected and often delightful. A couple months ago I discovered that there appears to be an entire genre of TikTokers creating videos about... mixing paint colors. I know... I know. At first that sounds insane. Who could possibly want to watch that? But some of them are truly amazing, as first noted by reporter Rebecca Jennings who tweeted about her discovery of Christian Hull, an Australian TikToker whose videos of him watching paint mixing videos and trying to guess what color the eventual mix will be is just so insanely joyful and addicting.

Some people argued that the viral attention towards these paint mixing videos was due to people getting cabin fever from the never-ending pandemic, but I'd say it's just one of those amazing internet oddities that have always gone viral on the internet since its earliest days. The ability to see this kind of actual, unfettered joy at something that seems so mundane, and which most people didn't even think was exciting -- only to discover that it's very, very exciting.

Anyway, Hull wasn't the only paint mixing TikToker out there. Another account, Tonester Paints (the user name of Tony Piloseno) worked at a Sherwin-Williams paint store in Ohio. He made a ton of paint mixing videos, including taking requests, and showing people how to make certain colors (with paints he purchased himself, which he then donates to Habitat for Humanity)). Again, the videos are surprisingly mesmerizing. (I tried to use TikTok's native embed code in this post, but it seemed to fuck up everything and was causing all sorts of problems, so I've now tweeted the Tiktoks from my Twitter account and are embedding those tweets instead).

Piloseno says as his TikTok (and YouTube and Instagram) paint mixing videos got more and more attention, he thought that perhaps Sherwin-Williams would be interested in having him actually represent the brand in doing his paint mixing. He approached executives at the company's headquarters (with the approval of his own manager) with a presentation about how to better use social media to gain attention. He never got the meeting, but instead the company fired him for "gross misconduct" in response to people calling the company in response to his videos.

He showed Buzzfeed his termination papers, which also said he was accused of "wasting properties [and] facilities" and "seriously embarass[ing] the Company or its products." The company also provided a bizarre quote to Buzzfeed saying he was fired due to a customer complaint:

According to termination papers Piloseno provided to BuzzFeed News, the official offense the company handed down to him was "gross misconduct," which included the offenses of "wasting properties [and] facilities," and "seriously embarrass[ing] the Company or its products."

Shortly after this story was published, the company spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that it was due to a "customer complaint" about Piloseno's TikToks that it had terminated his employment.

Piloseno told BuzzFeed News he did admit to filming TikToks while he was already mixing paints for customers when he first started posting to his channel in December 2019. But, as his page grew, he committed to purchasing cans of paint with his employee discount.

"They first accused me of stealing — I told them I purchased all my paint," he said. "They made me answer a bunch of questions like when I was doing this, where, if there was anyone in the store while I was doing [filming]. There was never anyone with me while I doing it."

So, you could see how, at first, the company might be upset that some of his early videos involved filming the paint he was mixing for customers... but... also... why? He wasn't revealing any private information of the customers. He was just filming the paint mixing process (which is, again, fascinating).

The Buzzfeed article notes that one reason why customers had called the company was in response to this video in which Piloseno mixed actual blueberries into paint to to color it blue:

That's amazing. And I say that as someone who once got out of being fined for significant room damage to a college dorm by buying some white paint and mixing in nutmeg and cinnamon in varying amounts until it matched the dull beige of the existing paint job (it also smelled amazing).

The whole thing seems bizarre. Sherwin-Williams incredibly corporate response to all of this is just silly:

The company told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that a "customer's concerns" is what launched its investigation, and what ultimately led to its decision to let him go "due to multiple company policy violations."

"While we don’t discuss the details of employee matters publicly, what I can tell you is that we were made aware of the TikTok videos produced by Anthony Piloseno through a customer complaint," said Julie Young, the vice president of global corporate communications. "We take all complaints seriously and thoroughly investigated the customer’s concerns. Following the investigation, Mr. Piloseno was let go in July 2020 due to multiple Company policy violations."

Piloseno is still making his paint mixing videos now. He's just doing them in a friend's basement where he's built a studio, according to his recently launched GoFundMe campaign. Oh, and he told Buzzfeed that he's not buying paints from Sherwin-Williams:

"I bought myself a light box. I bought some empty gallons at Lowe's — I basically started shopping at Lowe's afterward," he added.

Not surprisingly, this is not reflecting at all well on Sherwin-Williams. In the responses to his TikTok explaining all of this (which shows a brief screenshot of the marketing presentation he made for the corporate execs) people seem quite reasonably ticked off at Sherwin-Williams for firing a guy who was actually making their paint cool. The comments in response to the video about Sherwin-Williams corporate (again, his own manager and the people at the store supported him), suggest that they not only screwed up a huge opportunity, but they've now actively turned people off of the brand:

There are nearly 20,000 comments on that video... and pretty much all of them are saying some variation of how badly Sherwin-Williams fucked this up, and how the company execs should be fired instead.

This is going to be a case study in how not to handle social media and going viral for big companies.

Update: And just this morning Piloseno has posted about how he's gotten a new job because of all of this. A company called Florida Paints heard about his story, flew him to Orlando and has hired him to help promote their paint products.

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Filed Under: fired, paint, paint mixing, social media, tonester paints, tony piloseno
Companies: sherwin-williams, tiktok


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 9:52am

    An evergreen axiom:

    Having the right to do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Nov 2020 @ 9:53am

    And I say that as someone who once got out of being fined for significant room damage to a college dorm by buying some white paint and mixing in nutmeg and cinnamon in varying amounts until it matched the dull beige of the existing paint job

    There goes Mike shilling for big college hijinks again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 9:59am

    '... Wait, where did that sales spike go?'

    'This man is making videos of our products and driving a ton of positive attention to them, what should we do?'

    'Fire him, how dare he think of stealing our product for his personal gain!'

    'He's not only paying for all of what he's using he's donating it to charity afterwards, providing double the PR gain for us.'

    'Did you just suggest that I was wrong about something?

    'Nope, I'll get right on firing him for his impertinence.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Grammar Patrol, 24 Nov 2020 @ 5:33pm

      Re: '... Yee Haw

      Thanks for properly spelling impertinence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John85851 (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 2:11pm

      Re: '... Wait, where did that sales spike go?'

      I think it was more a case of:
      "Hey, that guy's getting us a lot of free attention and marketing. What the (bleep) are we paying the marketing department for?
      So, it's either fire the marketing department for not coming up with a better sales promotion or fire Anthony for making the marketing department look bad."
      Guess which one they went with?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jonr (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 10:00am

    Yay for Florida Paints

    And there's an update: In a video just posted to his account, Anthony says he has now been hired by the company Florida Paints and will be moving to Florida to help make their paint cool. So there's at least one paint company that gets it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 10:16am

      Re: Yay for Florida Paints

      Just saw that too! And added an update.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        TexasAndroid, 24 Nov 2020 @ 1:09pm

        Re: Re: Yay for Florida Paints

        Buzzfeed says that a bunch of major paint companies gave him various job and partnership offers. Florida Paints was the one he ended up choosing, because he connected to the company owner over their "shared passion for paints". :)

        So most of the rest of the industry immediately recognized just how stupid Sherwin Williams had been to fire him.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ted the IT Guy (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 10:27am

      Re: Yay for Florida Paints

      Florida Paints just gained the visibility of 1.4M+ new potential customers.

      They look like a pretty cool company already, probably an excellent fit for him.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 10:36am

      'First our sales tank, now theirs is spiking, what's going on?'

      Oh that is just too good, not only did Sherwin-Williams fire someone who was providing great PR for their brand but they ended up driving him directly into a competitor's arms in the process, leaving nothing but bad PR for them as the new employer gets all of the good.

      Whatever exec made the decision to fire him really needs to be shown the door post-haste, as while it may be too late to recover from this fumble with 'leadership' like that they're going to 'lead' the company straight into bankruptcy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Nov 2020 @ 11:05pm

        Re: 'First our sales tank, now theirs is spiking, what's going o

        Add to that that they fired someone who was enthusiastic about their job.

        A happy worker? That rare to find nowadays.

        I guess there is no cure for idiocy. Hope that company goes bankrupt.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 11:12pm

        Re: 'First our sales tank, now theirs is spiking, what's going o

        "Whatever exec made the decision to fire him really needs to be shown the door post-haste, as while it may be too late to recover from this fumble with 'leadership' like that they're going to 'lead' the company straight into bankruptcy"

        Wishful thinking, I'm afraid. I took a look at the company's status and it seems that it a Fortune 500 listed company and their share price is rather unaffected by all this. If they do die of mismanagement, it's likely going to be due to a long string of bad decisions that leave the clueless executives wondering what happened, rather than quick retribution for this one bad decision.

        To put this into perspective - according to Wikipedia, the company has been involved in fighting off numerous lawsuits regarding lead poisoning of children, a scammy supposed charity donation that had a bunch of handy loopholes that stopped them having to pay out $1 million as promised, and some issues with defective products.

        I don't think they're going to be too worried about this case, but it seems that if it does inspire some people to look for a better paint provider then that's good, and it's probably better for this guy's karma that he's not working for that company any more, anyway.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 1:41am

          Re: Re: 'First our sales tank, now theirs is spiking, what's goi

          "To put this into perspective - according to Wikipedia, the company has been involved in fighting off numerous lawsuits regarding lead poisoning of children, a scammy supposed charity donation that had a bunch of handy loopholes that stopped them having to pay out $1 million as promised, and some issues with defective products."

          Yeah. Shervin Williams is a company which almost seems cinematically evil. Looking at their history conjures the image of a CEO laughing diabolically after strapping the opposition to a table with a laser cutter.
          Or in this specific case acting with vehement and immediate belligerence at the idea that an employee would use his own time and his own money to generate money to charity and put that in connection with the company name.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 9:02am

          Re: Re: 'First our sales tank, now theirs is spiking, what's goi

          it's likely going to be due to a long string of bad decisions that leave the clueless executives gently gliding on their golden parachutes

          FTFY

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          dbrower (profile), 30 Nov 2020 @ 9:09pm

          Re: Re: 'First our sales tank, now theirs is spiking, what's goi

          In my neighborhood, they just put a paint store basically across the street from the store of a somewhat loved semi-local brand. That seems... dubious.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tim R (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 10:50am

    A Florida entity stepped up and did the right thing? The election and the vaccines are just an illusion. it seems we're still in the Upside Down.

    --- a Floridian

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2020 @ 6:17am

      Re:

      I'm beginning to plan my retirement. Florida isn't included in my planning because of what you've alluded to. Fortunately, do to global warming, it looks like South Carolina is the place to retire. Florida will be too hot and under water.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Beefcake (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 11:10am

    Summary

    Paint saint complaint restraint attaint.

    Update: Aquaint

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nerdrage (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 11:12am

    this smells like lawyers

    Corporations can be so stupid. A competitor to Sherwin-Williams that wants to build a hip image should hire this guy and let him go bananas. I mean he's mixing paint, as long as he doesn't get it in his eyes, what's the problem

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 12:48pm

      Re: this smells like lawyers

      As noted in the update that's exactly what happened, another paint company saw a golden opportunity and snapped it right up, hiring him so that they can benefit from his work and the many fans he's gathered.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Nov 2020 @ 12:49pm

      Re: this smells like lawyers

      Update: A competitor called Florida Paints just did.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Mel, 25 Nov 2020 @ 6:23am

      Re: this smells like lawyers

      Yeah, feels like lawyers. Maybe somebody would try mixing spinach or something into the paint, and suing the manufacturer if it didn't work out. "You told us we could in that video." Like, imagine if somebody decided that the strong smell of spices in their room was triggering their allergies. The risks are enormous, for somebody who's trained to look for risks.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    K, 24 Nov 2020 @ 11:41am

    This is the evidence that diversity at C level is important. It's obvious that Sherwin-Williams's executive team had no idea how the world is different now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coffee U (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 12:51pm

    Take the time

    To let Sherwin-Williams know how (un)likely you are to ever buy paint from them again: https://www.sherwin-williams.com/painting-contractors/contact-us/feedback

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Nov 2020 @ 1:25pm

      Re: Take the time

      How does this internet PR snafu compare to the "United Breaks Guitars" PR incident years ago?

      I realize this guy was making videos and that was the "problem" but does SW care about PR?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sumgai (profile), 24 Nov 2020 @ 5:25pm

    Speaking of viral....

    I'd say it's just one of those amazing internet oddities that have always gone viral on the internet since its earliest days.

    The Internet had, and still has, nothing on people getting caught up in whatever's "odd" at the moment. After all, I just placed my order with Florida Paints for a custom color to put on my Pet Rock!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JustMe (profile), 25 Nov 2020 @ 8:11am

    Never shopping at Sherwin-Williams again

    I'll drive the extra couple of miles to Ace or the big box store. Is this what 'winning' feels like Sherwin-Williams? Because it looks like you lost the Internets.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bobob, 26 Nov 2020 @ 5:56pm

    This is a perfect example of how curiosity and thinking are discouraged and squashed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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