I am not now, nor have I ever been, a snowplow operator. But I’ve been on the hiring end, and I’ve heard an earful over the years from contractors. While it’s obvious that a plow can’t be everywhere at once, that doesn’t seem to slow the stream of texts and voicemails from restless, exasperated, stir-crazy clients. They all want to know the same thing: “Where is the (expletive) plow?”

In a real storm, plows rule. Anyone who has ever waited for a plow to arrive knows this stark winter truth.

Against this backdrop, I received an email last week from Jason, our plow guy. It seems that a bunch of his clients had weighed in after recent storms, so a new policy would be taking effect: The old inch count that had defined a plowable snow would no longer apply; Jason would now show up whenever there was “accumulating” snow.

He clicked “send,” and within hours, all hell broke loose.

“Are you telling me you will be charging me $40 to plow 2 inches of snowfall?” one client snarled.

A second canceled her service, saying she’d found another plowing firm.

A third questioned Jason’s new plan for billing, and asked for his revised definition of a storm.

Apparently a storm is what happens when you press “send all,” and suddenly your clients all know each other’s names and email addresses, not to mention opinions. Granted, there’s no rule about “patient confidentiality” in the world of snow removal, as there is with physicians. But frankly, Jason’s client list is none of my business. I suspect Jason may have reached this same conclusion on his own.

Then yesterday, with an actual snowstorm afoot, some of Jason’s clients launched a new round of emails, milking the database. One person asked for the name of that replacement plowing contractor mentioned in the earlier thread. Ditto from another aggrieved client. Then Jason’s loyalists chimed in, vouching for his good character and plowing skill.

Prior to this free-for-all, Jason ran a solo enterprise. Presumably he worked out individual agreements, based on people’s property and needs. Then, with a simple errant keystroke, his one-man plow operation became a democracy of protest. Jason spoke, the marketplace responded and his entire business model went kaput. His once-private company had morphed into a public outcry.

The internet can do that in a nanosecond. Just ask any vendor who’s ever been dissed on TripAdvisor, Google or Yelp. The difference is that Jason’s was a self-inflicted wound: Either he didn’t know about blind-copying, or was too lazy to send the same message multiple times.

Democracy has many virtues as a form of government. As a model for plow operators? Not so much. As the last week unfolded, Jason probably learned a thing or two about running a business. Tending to his client list would make a fine start.