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.