Hasbro Offers Nerf Blogger Free Samples, Sends Lawyers And Investigators Instead

from the what-a-way-to-treat-a-fan dept

We've praised Hasbro in the past for embracing and supporting the fan culture that surrounds the My Little Pony cartoon, but we've also pointed out that they aren't always so accommodating. This story, unfortunately, falls into the latter category. Callum points us to a rather disturbing tale from the operator of an Australian blog about Nerf, another Hasbro product, who got quite a shock out of what he thought was a friendly gesture by the company.

It started wonderfully: he was contacted by a Hasbro product manager who was asking for his mailing address so she could send him some free samples of a rare-in-Australia Nerf gun to offer as a promotional giveaway on the blog. He gave it to her, and soon after got something in the mail from Hasbro: a legal nastygram.

Not the nastiest of nastygrams, sure—in fact he makes a point of saying how polite it was. Which is why he decided to comply with its request that he take down some photos of an unreleased Nerf gun from the blog, which Hasbro claimed were copyrighted and confidential. The letter also asked him to tell them where he got the images, and he responded explaining that he's not sure where they came from because he gets photos sent to him constantly—and also reminded them that journalists and their sources have certain protections under Australian law. They emailed back and said they wanted to talk more on the phone; he responded saying the matter seemed to be resolved and he couldn't see any point in talking further. In the mean time, he got another email from another product manager confirming that they were sending him free samples! He was understandably confused, and then things got genuinely nasty:

Flash forward to today- I forgot all about this for a bit and didn't reply to the latest letter from the lawyers. Then I get stories from neighbours that some strange woman and some burly, repo-looking type is hanging around my apartment block. How creepy is that?

Sadly they weren't here to give me free stuff. Turns out they're from Hasbro's lawyers!!! I told them the same stuff all over again and tried to explain that I got a bunch of stuff from ebay and taobao – of course they haven't heard of taobao and seem to want me to do their job for them.

Yup. They sent people to his house to investigate and intimidate him. All while at the same time trying to court him with free stuff from another arm of the organization. At first, naturally, he wondered if the offer of free samples was a ruse to track him down, but Hasbro's lawyers roundly denied that and as the story began to gain traction, Hasbro released a statement on the Nerf Facebook page:

We appreciate the opportunity to provide the following statement concerning Hasbro’s investigation into “leaked” IP information regarding its NERF brand products. As with anything, there are two sides to every story. While we cannot comment on the details of any ongoing investigation, Hasbro takes all circumstances of its stolen and leaked IP very seriously and will continue to investigate sources of unauthorized information and products as it relates to its brands. We would like to clarify one of the inaccuracies that has been reported. While a local Hasbro Australia marketing team did reach out to the Urban Taggers website to engage in promotional activity for which it required its address, it was completely unrelated to the confidential global investigation being conducted on Hasbro’s behalf by independent investigators looking into sources of leaked IP information. Hasbro greatly values and appreciates its fan communities and is very proud of its strong relationships with many bloggers and sites that cover our brands and products.

I'm inclined to believe them—but that doesn't make their behavior all that much less shameful. This is a problem a lot of big companies have: their legal departments and their marketing departments are completely disconnected, so one is out there encouraging activity that the other is trying to squash. It's why you get nonsense like Viacom suing YouTube over videos they uploaded themselves. This may have just been a coincidence with really horrible timing, but at the end of the day it's no way to treat a customer—much less a super-customer who promotes your products to others.

Oh, and he never got his free Nerf guns.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Apr 26th, 2012 @ 3:06pm

    typo

    ..."the offer of free samples was a rouse to track him down"...
    Should be "ruse", I believe.

     

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    identicon
    STStone, Apr 26th, 2012 @ 3:13pm

    Hasbro lost themselves a customer and a fan, and they damn well deserve it.

     

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    identicon
    The following is sarcasm, Apr 26th, 2012 @ 3:14pm

    Just another one of Mike's Piracy-Apologist articles. No one likes you but the Thieves of Pirate Bay. And Google.

    /s

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2012 @ 3:32pm

      Re:

      That is a terrible troll impression. You did not include
      -Freetard, Freeloads, etc etc, want everything for free.
      -You failed to insult Mike (either directly or otherwise).

      Had you been a real troll, I would have to point out Leigh wrote this and not Mike.

      you did include a /s, so i think that deserves a D- for the attempt. |-(

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2012 @ 3:23pm

    ... another company that doesn't get it

    So, what they've done now is confirmed that the images that had been previously posted were indeed legit and official... rather than just rumors and fan-generated images.

    Nice job there Hasbro!

    I suppose we'll see these images available everywhere in a day or two and then they won't be able to stop the spread.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2012 @ 5:18pm

      Re: ... another company that doesn't get it

      "Nice job there Hasbro!

      I suppose we'll see these images available everywhere in a day or two and then they won't be able to stop the spread."

      And that would in fact be great for Hasbro, as the people who are into their stuff would be getting all excited. Now, people will be thinking, oh isn't that the crappy thing from that shitty company?

       

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      Jim O (profile), Apr 26th, 2012 @ 8:45pm

      Re: ... another company that doesn't get it

      "So, what they've done now is confirmed that the images that had been previously posted were indeed legit"

      You're assuming that anyone cares.

       

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    identicon
    Will S Hakespier, Apr 26th, 2012 @ 3:30pm

    1) Let's Kill all the lawyers

    2) Then we do the rest ...

    It makes more sense now than ever.

     

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    GMacGuffin (profile), Apr 26th, 2012 @ 4:00pm

    Oh, and he never got his free Nerf guns.

    bastards

     

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    AC Cobra, Apr 26th, 2012 @ 4:15pm

    Another corporation to boycott?

    Sigh...another corporation to add to the boycott list. At this rate I won't be able to ever buy anything except whatever handmade items I find at the local craft fairs and farmer's markets!

     

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    JMT (profile), Apr 26th, 2012 @ 4:57pm

    "We would like to clarify one of the inaccuracies that has been reported. While a local Hasbro Australia marketing team did reach out to the Urban Taggers website to engage in promotional activity for which it required its address, it was completely unrelated to the confidential global investigation being conducted on Hasbro’s behalf by independent investigators looking into sources of leaked IP information."

    They have not "clarified an inaccuracy", they have tried to deflect blame.

    I work in a company that has a design/installation department and a service department. They are effectively operated as separate businesses and there isn't a lot of overlap between the divisions' activities, but we are constantly reminded of the fact that from the customer's perspective we are one company.

    As far as this guy's concerned Hasbo contacted him for promotional purposes and Hasbo investigated him as a source of leaked IP information. They need to be up front and apologise for what Hasbo did rather than point the finger at another division.

     

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      Watchit (profile), Apr 26th, 2012 @ 6:13pm

      Re:

      I agree Hasbro should apologize for how they made it look to him and others outside the company. Though, I do believe Hasbro is telling the truth when they said that the promotion deal asking for his address was completely unrelated to the investigation from the legal team.

      As far as my experience with Hasbro, they were awfully polite in their cease and desist letter when a song for MLP was leaked early, and the Brony community for the most part honored Hasbro's wishes.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2012 @ 8:11pm

    You make toys. Get over yourselves.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2012 @ 10:15pm

      Re:

      So it's not just me, then. A guy being intimidated by heavies over a picture of a toy. It's just insanity. What is wrong with these people? Do they not stop at any point to consider what they're doing? I'm stunned, quite frankly.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2012 @ 10:49pm

    While I don't want to get into slamming you Marcus (it is way too easy), I have to say that your big long story doesn't amount to much more than:

    "Hasbro is a big, big company".

    Like it or not, in companies that large the right hand and the left hand are often not only far apart, but located on different bodies.

    The whole story makes way more sense when you look at it that way. Buy you don't generally do that, because you seem to feel that very large multinational companies should have the same communication speed, accuracy, and cohesive action plan as a single brain. Just more proof that you don't appear to work in the real world, or perhaps just in an isolated corner of the copyright world making minor photoshop edits to people's used car ads.

     

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      G Thompson (profile), Apr 26th, 2012 @ 11:03pm

      Re:

      A court makes no distinction towards what division has done what. They are all one entity and the entity is Hasbro, as the first legal letter from Baker & Mackenzie states.

      If they don't know what one another is doing that is to the court a form of incompetence, misdirection or both.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2012 @ 11:08pm

      Re:

      Oh and Marcus, before you go off with your "but I said that", please note:

      I am making these comments with the understanding that you wrote those words, but also with the understanding that you just don't seem to believe them, grok them, or really care about them. It's a big long post to say "It's a big company", and then still to try to find a way to vilify them - and to take a shot at a **AA company.

      Your post (like many) is a self-serving turd.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 2:23am

        Re: Re:

        Just like your own ego-boosting pile of excretia? Does not matter what division, it was Hasbro. Keep trying to pick those nits. You might eventually find the stick stuffed up your ass.

         

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        Leigh Beadon (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 7:14am

        Re: Re:

        As far as I can tell, your position here is:

        "Aww, leave the poor company alone! They are much too big to be criticized!"

        That's an.... interesting outlook. Afraid it's not one many people share, though.

         

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      Niall (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 4:27am

      Re:

      So when just one division of BP screwed up (along with Haliburton, etc), did people say "That's ok, that's the drilling division, not their petrol (gas) selling division"? No, they boycotted anything BP en masse. Even though most of the petrol (gas) stations boycotted were not only innocent, but only third-party franchisers who had made the 'mistake' of picking BP (as opposed to Esso...).

      And yes, we all know how much you would love to 'slam' Marcus, and how easy you would find the idea ;)

       

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        Leigh Beadon (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 7:18am

        Re: Re:

        Yeah, good point. Frankly I don't see why everyone was so mad at BP anyway. I mean, they are a BIG company, right? And big companies can't be expected to do things right, and shouldn't really be held accountable when they do something stupid, or so I'm being told here anyway.

        So, when the oil spilled, people were being pretty "self-serving" by criticizing BP - they just weren't living in the "real world" where, hey, it's not like you can follow every safety procedure right? So let's let those poor guys at BP off the hook and stop trying to "vilify" them when they're only crime was being a big company.

         

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    G Thompson (profile), Apr 26th, 2012 @ 11:00pm

    Just gone through that blog post and read the correspondence

    Hasbro & it's representatives have acted extremely strange and unprofessionally (ethical concerns as well) and any Australian Judge would be very intrigued with the way the solicitors have responded and how hasbro has done certain things (A Facebook oficial page response? Really???)

    Though the sneaky ways of extracting info, by asking for address, then phone number (hopefully he never gave it) and then sending 'investigators' around to sniff him out are normal though the way the 'investigators' confronted him at his residence is highly unethical and liable to get them charged with harassment and/or intimidation or at the least having an ADVO (a type of Police created restraining order) placed on them.

    My advice to Mr Callum [if he reads this] would be to forward any and all further correspondence (in any way) to a solicitor (Check law Society in your State), keep a camera handy for if the 'investigators' show up again, call the police if they confront you, and say nothing anymore other than through your solicitor.

    You also might want to make a complaint to the Legal Society in your state about the unprofessional nature of the correspondence (especially the 24hr notice in first letter) and intimidatory investigators.

     

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    G Thompson (profile), Apr 26th, 2012 @ 11:18pm

    Further developments

    Thought I had read about this.

    Seems My advice above was given by others too. From Crikey:
    http://www.crikey.com.au/2012/04/24/nerf-guns-at-10-paces-hasbro-faces-boycott-after-siccin g-lawyers-onto-fan-site/


    Yang has referred the exchange to the Office of the NSW Legal Services Commissioner and is seeking redress from Baker & McKenzie (read his email to the firm’s senior partners and the OLSC here).


    Jasmine Clubb, a senior associate at Baker & McKenzie said she “can’t make any comment on that” and referred Crikey to the firm’s media relations area. Robert Arnold did not return calls but Annelise Cleary, a Baker & McKenzie corporate affairs manager, emailed later to tell Crikey that it’s “not appropriate to comment”. She did not respond to a follow-up email asking why the firm had come to that view.


    Hasbro’s Gibson hung up on Crikey when we called her for comment, saying that “I’m not allowed to comment…I’m going to have to go” when asked whether the she had used the Pinpoint Sight offer to trick Yang into disclosing his address.


    Meanwhile, Yang’s fondness for Hasbro products has dimmed. “I was very, very disappointed with Hasbro …  People are often surprised that my blog is all done for free and for the geeky love of Nerf and I had genuinely believed that I was not doing anything wrong by Hasbro given that my endorsements are for genuine products etc,” he told Crikey. “As a consumer and long-time fan, I felt that the far from up-front emails from Hasbro and their lawyers were very poor behaviour from such a large and sophisticated organisation.”


    A boycott Hasbro campaign has now been set up on Facebook, attracting the opprobrium of Aloysius T. Dudefella, who wrote that he would now be avoiding Nerf guns forever.


    Though the following Meme that is floating around says it all I think :)

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-UYADQv0KpEo/T5X6NJIWtVI/AAAAAAAAERc/kQgUWM1M248/s1600/hasbrobaby.jpg

     

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    Callum, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 1:45am

    One thing I'm curious about is, how did Hasbro get his address to send the nastygram if the departments really are as separate as the claim?

    He's using blogspot, and doesn't have his real name or contact details anywhere on the site.

    The timing's also too convenient, give a company your address, a few days later, receive a letter from them.

     

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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 3:10am

    I don't support bullies.

    "Oh, and he never got his free Nerf guns."
    Which leads me to believe that yes, it was a ruse to get his address.

    Hasbro? Hadbro you mean?

    Hasbro, you won't be getting any of my money. You can keep your stupid ponies and your nerf products, and stick them where the sun doesn't shine.

    I don't support bullies!

     

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      Niall (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 5:00am

      Re: I don't support bullies.

      Well, that certainly ecnourages me to go more Pathfinder than D&D 4E, not that it was a difficult choice originally...

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 6:12am

    This is what I was worried about. Suits investigating from private companies, corporate police, tricking us, looking through our shit. This is the new today.

     

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    Amuter, Apr 27th, 2012 @ 7:22am

    For those of you that want to stop watching MLP:FIM because of this

    I m not sure if we can blame any of the developers from about this, Hasbro makes more than just My little pony. I doubt that the developers are among the ones that take care of the copyright stuff/lawyer stuff.

    The creator of the show Lauren Faust isn't even working for Hasbro.

     

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    BentFranklin (profile), Apr 27th, 2012 @ 7:27am

    Hazbro is pure evil. I will never give them one cent. I will never forgive them for ruining MTGO.

    On another note, this is what you get for aligning your life around collecting a line of commercial products. They will always make you regret it.

    On another note, nerf? Really? Who becomes a nerf evangelist?

     

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    lrobbo (profile), May 23rd, 2012 @ 4:32pm

    e Nerf gun has just lost its potent fun factor for me . . . :P

     

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    jason, Apr 7th, 2013 @ 6:42am

    love nerf

    Hasbro youbare a really good company I hope that you would give me a free sample of nerf stuff like guns or darts and to me you are better then buzz bee or any other companys

     

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