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.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:07pm

    They really should have turned it around. "I'm sorry, it sounds like you purchased an imitation. We sell BIC pens. What you are describing is probably a DIC pen."

     

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  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:28pm

    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!

    16:27:58[r-730-4]

     

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

  3.  
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    vegetaman (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:31pm

    reminds me of a bastardized quote from Men in Black

    "No ma'am, we don't have a sense of humor that we're aware of."

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:44pm

    Somewhat remember glancing through this, thought it was real and it made me think better of BIC, seeing as they had a sense of humor. Even if it was fake, its great publicity. Instead sounds like they want to go the lawyer route, sad

     

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  5.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:56pm

    Viral indeed!

    This letter is going to everyone on my contact lists! I think even my 102 year old aunt would get a chuckle out of it! :-)

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Craig, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 9:08pm

    The Signature!

    Maybe it's my bent mind, but Edgar Hernandez's signature looks remarkably penis shaped ... :-).
    I wonder if Mr Hernandez's pen is possessed too?

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 9:15pm

    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.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 10:04pm

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Dec 17th, 2013 @ 8:44pm

    Same here. I thought it was an unusually savvy response to a joking letter. Call me gullible if you want. I was fooled, and thought better of Bic as a result.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 10:59pm

    I think it's about time to make a Bic Photoshop Layer Style to apply to some dildos and a R-Rated letter.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 11:18pm

    I was wondering what the white stuff was every time i flicked my bic

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 11:21pm

    Re:

     

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  12.  
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    ethorad (profile), Dec 18th, 2013 @ 12:29am

    Re: The Signature!

    That's definitely a phallic signature, part of the joke I assume.

    They should really have sent fifteen replacement pens, so that the complainant could join the "PEN15" club

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    CharlieBrown, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 1:00am

    We are sorry to hear that.....you must now sign for credit card purchases by "penning an enormous phallus"

    OK, seriously, whether or not you like "dick jokes", who didn't at least smirk at that thought?

     

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  14.  
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    Ninja (profile), Dec 18th, 2013 @ 1:41am

    They are missing a business opportunity! I can think of a few dozen people that would definitely get such pen from me (either as pranks or because they are jerks).

    *runs for the patent office*

    Wait a second. Considering it's cursed would I have to register it in the Church or something?

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 4:21am

    The Funniest Part Is The Signature!

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 4:42am

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 4:54am

    Shrewd marketing campaign.

    They still make lighters?
    "From the click of your bic, I can tell you're a prick".

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 4:58am

    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.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 5:16am

    I think my mate must have had one of these possessed pens. In every lecture where he was sat next to me a giant cock would end up on my notes.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 6:13am

    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....

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Jeffry Houser, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 6:14am

    I'm a Gullible Loon

    You just called me a gullible loon. I thought this was a company being awesome when responding to a "Fake" complaint.

    I guess not.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 6:16am

    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:

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dawn+french+expert&sm=3

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

     

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  23.  
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    Liz (profile), Dec 18th, 2013 @ 7:04am

    Re:

    The fact that DIC is a company that imports and translates cartoons for children in Canada and the United States makes this comment all the more amusing.

     

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

  24.  
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    Juan Villar (profile), Dec 18th, 2013 @ 7:30am

    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.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 8:07am

    Re:

    whiteout?

     

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

  26.  
    icon
    ChrisB (profile), Dec 18th, 2013 @ 8:41am

    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.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 10:24am

    Re: Proper response

    BIC didn't want them to say it was a hoax, they wanted the image removed (takedown request). That's where they crossed the line.

     

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

  28.  
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    Namel3ss (profile), Dec 18th, 2013 @ 11:17am

    That letter was damn funny! Kudos to the author.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Alt0, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 12:05pm

    Re:

    Yeah, and so what does that have to do with his pen?

     

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  30.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Dec 18th, 2013 @ 12:51pm

    Re:

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


    Wow. Most people just point out typographical errors without resorting to being an asshole.

    And it's not like you have anything close to a perfect record on that yourself.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Mike Mozart, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 1:07pm

    These are the Legalese Threats being related to anyone whom Dares share that image!

    You gotta see the official Crap they are slinging at anyone whom dares share that parody image! I am the Mike Mozart mention in the story https://www.facebook.com/JeepersMedia/posts/10202809655031909

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    Jeremy, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

    Re:

    That would require them not to employ an army of lawyers but instead a saavy marketing division and honestly if you're a pen company how much money do you spend on marketing?

     

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

  33.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 18th, 2013 @ 1:40pm

    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.

     

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

  34.  
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    ChrisB (profile), Dec 18th, 2013 @ 1:52pm

    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.

     

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

  35.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 18th, 2013 @ 2:50pm

    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.

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    Mike Mozart Mentioned in Article, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 2:57pm

    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!
    https://www.facebook.com/JeepersMedia/posts/10202815991750323

     

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

  37.  
    identicon
    simbucky, Dec 18th, 2013 @ 4:27pm

    Um...

    Is his signature like penis, or am I just looking too much into it....

     

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

  38.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Dec 19th, 2013 @ 12:10am

    Re:

    Well, I was wondering how you draw anything enormous on those little screens. I guess everyone has their own definition of enormous.

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    ranseli, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 11:44am

    Re:

    this is very good articles.. thankss

    by SOAL CPNS

     

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


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