Bic Loses Its Mind Over Parody Customer Service Letter

from the the-parody-is-mightier-than-your-pride dept

At some point, major corporations are going to have start learning that parody is protected speech and fighting against it just makes them look silly. I sort of thought Larry Flynt settled that some time back, but apparently not. From professional sports teams, to well-known bands, to cable companies, corporations just seem to have the thinnest of corporate skin.

Now, thanks to reader Mike Mozart, we can add BIC, makers of pens and shaving equipment, to the list of companies that are going after obvious parodies. This all started when an obviously fake customer service letter with BIC’s logo atop it went viral recently. Here’s a picture of the letter:

Should you be unable to read it, it’s a humorous fake reply by BIC to a customer complaint about BIC pens that were only able to draw certain, um, things. You should be able to get the gist of it from this text in the letter:

Having spoke to our team of engineers, we cannot ascertain why one of the medium point BIC crystal ball point pens that you purchased “only draws massive cocks”. We have never heard of this occurring previously and we couldn’t recreate this anomaly so we can only assume that this pen was temporarily possessed and we will drop it off at a local church for exorcism.

Hopefully it won’t accidentally end up next to the marriage register.

We are sorry to hear that this pen ruined your Grandmother’s birthday card and that you must now sign for credit card purchases by “penning an enormous phallus”…Yes, the pen lids are very good for scratching your ears and blowing through the lids is a great way to annoy people. no, we have never received any reports of our orange BIC disposable razors shaving penises into things.

Many thanks,

Edgar Hernandez

Advertising and Promotional Products

Now, the letter includes jokes about genetalia, so of course I think it’s hilarious, but even if this humor is too low-brow for you, you’re hopefully not so dense as to be confused over whether this is real or not. I mean, it’d take quite the gullible loon to surmise that this was a real letter from a real person at a real company’s very real customer service department. I think humanity in general is smarter than that. BIC, apparently, disagrees.

When Digiday reached out to Bic, a spokesperson for the company replied:

“This letter is by no means an official document, this is just a forged document used for humoristic purposes by Internet users. The Bic Group is now trying to contact the transmitter website to ask them to point out that it is a fake and a joke and by no means an official document from the Bic company and, if necessary, to remove it from their website.”

Which is apparently exactly what they then did. There are several reports of the image being removed by social media sites and internet sites as BIC has been going around and filing takedown notices. Their logic is reportedly that their logo was used on the letter. Unfortunately for them, that is fairly well-traveled ground when it comes to the law’s view on parody and speech. It’s protected and those images should be put back up immediately.

And, on top of that, all this thin-skinned behavior is going to net the company is the photo and story going even more viral than it already has. In true Streisand Effect fashion, tons more people will now hear about this, the letter, and the company’s response than ever would have if the folks at BIC had decided to just have a chuckle instead of going legal. So congrats, BIC. You’re the proud owner of your very own crap-storm.

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Companies: bic

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Comments on “Bic Loses Its Mind Over Parody Customer Service Letter”

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John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you’re Bic, you spend a metric shitload of money on marketing. They’re selling a commodity item (cheap pens). Marketing is the only way to distinguish your product from the other cheap pens out there.

I tried finding a record of how much they actually spend, but failed. I did find, however, that they’re introducing a new perfume and for that alone the marketing budget is $15 million.

out_of_the_blue says:

Timmy, you can't even spell "genitalia". But you do crap up a storm.

“the letter includes jokes about genetalia, so of course I think it’s hilarious,”

Hey, Mike: even if Techdirt had some balance with thoughtful pieces that weren’t mere re-writes of standard fare, is Timmy’s diarrhea the best you can afford for “odious comic relief”? Or do you just like his frequent mention of your own laughable claim to fame?

You’ve found the site of Internet Quipper Mike “Streisand Effect” Masnick! — As you’ll frequently be reminded!


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Timmy, you can't even spell "genitalia". But you do crap up a storm.

Is there ANYTHING AT ALL you don’t feel your an expert to comment on btw?

What an arrogant prick you must be IRL, probably one of those people that tries to tell programmers/surgeons/military hardware analysts/dog groomers/arctic explorers/grocers/chemists/astromers (etc you get the point) how to do their job better….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Timmy, you can't even spell "genitalia". But you do crap up a storm.

Average out of the blue horse with no name often reminds me of this:

Where Dawn french is on morning TV and every day is an expert at a totally different subject ranging from Royalty to space exploration.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, it’s actually pretty easy to mistake this for some rep at BIC having a decent sense of humor when you’re just glancing at the letter itself, having a chuckle, and moving on. You have to spend a little time really looking at the picture to notice that the envelope is unsealed, and therefore the letter is a fake.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can see why they are upset

Playing devils advocate here, I can see their point.

Sometimes large cooperation’s PR departments do have a chuckle and send humorous replies to customers, although it is usually over social media so others may see. BIC obviously decided this very low brow humour had the potential to put off customers if mistaken for genuine.

Juan Villar (profile) says:

Wonder what the libel laws are in the UK. As the writer correctly points out and the Flynt court made clear, an obvious parady cannot be libel. Might be different in the UK, though.

That aside, I should like to share a strange anomoly. It has snowed heavily here in New England these past few days and on occassion I have taken a leak on the snow when feeling the urge outdoors. Strangely all of my urine patterns are in the shape of a large BIC pen. Go figure.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Proper response

I think they responded properly and Digiday are either idiots or assholes. Look at the response, “This letter is by no means an official document”. So obviously Digiday asked, “Hey, is this an official document?”

Are they braindead morons? Of course it isn’t an official document! Why the hell are they asking this? More likely, they were going for the gotcha story, where they ask an idiotic question and then post the ridiculous looking answer. And Bics answer is very clear. If someone like Digiday, who should be familiar with fake customer service letters, is asking Bic about it, maybe other “morons in a hurry” will be confused. So Bic asks people who post it to clarify it is a hoax. A very reasonable request. Only in Tim’s mind, could this be unreasonable.

So in addition to cops, Tim hates corporations, too, I guess.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Proper response

I have yet to see any evidence of takedown requests. But Bic’s response is clear: “point out that it is a fake” and remove it, “if necessary”. That doesn’t sound like a takedown to me. It just sounds like a company reasonably trying to point out they didn’t write this fake letter. Parody is fine, as long as people know it is parody.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Proper response

It’s vague, but the article says “There are several reports of the image being removed by social media sites and internet sites as BIC has been going around and filing takedown notices.”

Searching the web for “bic parody takedown” also comes up with quite a large number of reports of takedown notices.

I’d have no problems with BIC just complaining about the parody and nicely asking for a disclaimer. I’d make fun of them for it, but wouldn’t get outraged. When they’re issuing takedowns, however, they’ve crossed a line.

Mike Mozart Mentioned in Article says:

Here are the Actual Screen Capped BIC Takedowns against my Facebook page

To All,

Here are the Actual Take Downs against my Account by BIC against my share of the top Reddit Front Page post of the BIC Parody Customer Service Parody Letter.
This damaged my account and hundreds of others across the Internet including Twiiter, Tumblr, Facebook, Imgur, Google + and 4chan…. Good luck with 4 chan BIC here are must takedown notices!

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