What Would You Do? A Case of Rude Behavior Online-

I traded emails with a very interesting rude company today, and I am honestly perplexed at how to respond! I am hoping to lean on you guys for some sage advice.

I got an email from…let’s just call him Andy from marketing company x. They wanted a free copy of my book to review. Now, they aren’t journalists. They do have a company blog which seems fairly new.

Here is the discourse (names concealed for privacy sake)-

They said:

Hello Shama,

I would like to review your book The Zen of Social Media Marketing for xyz.com.

Could you possibly send me a review copy when you get a chance?

Cordial Regards,

Andy

I said:

Hi Andy,

Thanks so much for the offer to review it!

At this point, all bloggers are purchasing their own copies. If you

like it, you are MOST welcome to review it.

Cheers,

Shama

SIDE NOTE: At this point, I had already chosen multiple bloggers to send review copies too, and the book has sold thousands of copies in two weeks. All in all-I’m pretty satisfied! Any more reviews that were going out were from bloggers who purchased the book and enjoyed it enough to share with their readers. This was a blogger from a marketing firm, so I had no problem suggesting they grab a copy. (All journalists looking to review the book can grab a free copy. So can all non-profits (no review necessary).

They responded (retaliated?)

Hello Shama,

Standard PR practice includes providing review copies.

Our site is a solid PR 4 site focused. A backlink from us is worth about four times the price of your book.

This was a bit of a test actually. To see if you are as savvy as you say you are.

No worries. Maybe with some experience you’ll improve.

Cordial regards,

Andy

Now, I have to wonder! Does the fox think the grapes are sour, or was I remiss?

I decided to share this story with you guys, because I think there are multiple lessons to be learned here. I have not responded to “Andy” – but I am curious as to what you think I should do…or have done?

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46 Comments
  1. Shama,
    The caller was a mooch. Simple concept. Don’t second guess your position. Book publishers typically allow for X number of review copies to be made available when a book launches. It’s a limited number because that’s professional business ethics and best practices.

    You even go further in your marketing efforts in giving the book away to journalists and that’s exponentially validated by your service to the community approach with giving the book for free to non-profits.

    Anyone who has the audacity to try and scam you and claim PR return link value is a dumbass moocher. Honestly. First, because PR is NOT the be-all end-all that some myopic people think it is. Then to claim that their having a PR 4 is some earth shattering thing just shows how stupid the guy is. PR 4? so what? Worth more than the cost of your book? Amateurish ego in action.

    You were also totally on the best track to blog about this. Not only does it give voice to your being willing to ask for insight from others (showing your maturity in not thinking you have all the answers), it also helps others who might one day run into this kind of a hack scammer and thus can themselves become educated.

    Anyone who uses this type of tactic has no class, and more importantly, no respect for what it takes to write a book in the first place. Why would I want to give a book for review to someone like that?

    Anyone who thinks YOU look petty by airing this out is also lacking and could very well be the original requesting hack themselves, or a stooge acting on their behalf, or someone else who tries such tactics. If not, they’re surely stuck in their own ego and consciously or otherwise by calling you petty, it reveals their fear-based view of the world around them.

    I refuse to associate with anyone who does not appreciate the unique value I bring to the table. It’s not worth it. I am not a non-profit charity, a bleeding-heart people-pleaser, or a doormat for moochers. You shouldn’t be either.

    Never compromise your integrity.

  2. Seems like you made the right decision. Sounds like he was begging for a free book. What he probably doesn’t understand (or doesn’t care) is that those review copies still cost money.

    If he really wants to review the book for blog content then spend the money. I frequently review books and interview authors for my blog and podcast. Sometimes they send me a book (without me asking) sometimes I pay for the book if I feel the book is worth it.

  3. I’m going to be totally honest – I think posting this publicly, even though you’re doing so in the most polite way possible, is not the best move. Unfortunately rude people like this are part of being in the public eye. The only response is to ignore.

  4. Shama, I am sorry that you received this email as it certainly speaks of a problem with tone, more than anything else. People are often surprised at their own tone skills when they take a tone IQ, yet poor tone practices fuel flame wars since they see a discussion from one side only, and lash back without extending a conversation. I’d suggest you let it go and move on – since your own tone is delightful.

    I too write books and these have been reviewed in wonderful ways, yet I’d rather not have a book reviewed by folks who lack communication skills. It’s a pity though, because good tone skills help us to communicate differences on any topic, while poor tone truncates almost any discussion when it strikes.

    A cynic’s brain gets hardwired to highlight the worst, and few have learned skills to tame their amygdala. When they don’t get what they demand, they tend to create conflict in much the same way an addict creates oppression. Best to move on, as you seem to have done, and I’d not engage this company further.

    Just my 2-bits and all the best!

  5. Hi Shama

    Sounds like sour grapes to me. I had a client, just two days ago, who “retaliated’ after I refused to discount my already very inexpensive package deal. It actually sounds like the same guy.

    K

  6. Shama,

    I had a similar experience recently with a reporter from the local newspaper (in an online exchange).

    Unfortunately, I let my emotions momentarily cloud my judgment, and I responded with a not so nice reply.

    At the time I felt I was wronged, and I still do. However, a day later I wish I had handled it differently.

    I realize I cannot change the behavior of this other person. But I can change my behavior. Unfortunately I allowed his behavior to alter my behavior.

    I responded the way I did because I felt attacked. I am sure I could argue in defense of my response. But again, I should not have allowed this person to get to me.

    So my advice is to do what you are already doing, and what I didn’t do. And that is, take some time to think about how you should handle it.

    Take a step back. Take a deep breath. Relax.

    Had I stepped back, given it some time, I would not have gone into attack mode. He was wrong for doing what he did to me. But so was I in my response to him.

    My mother always told me, two wrongs don’t make a right! If she were still around, she’d have reminded me of that yesterday before I made an ass of myself.

    I hope that helps!

  7. Hello Shama,

    My personal take on this is pretty straightforward. First, the book is your property and obviously you can set your own standards. Had this been in the very early launch phase I say it probably would be wise to have given them a free copy.

    However that is not the case since your book has already experienced great success. You have preset rules on this issue of distributing free copies for review. That is certainly the right of any entrepreneur.

    The personal attack on the reply to your response just simply exhibits a great lack of professionalism. Quite obviously these folks are not very “savvy”. I personally would not consider being involved with them to any degree. You certainly do not need them for your success.

    I have been to Shama TV a few times and I feel you are definitely very savvy and have a fantastic future.

    Actually they gave you a great PR opportunity without realizing it by giving you a reason to seek the opinions of your fellow tweeters. I know that was not your intent as you just seek legitimate feedback.

    Bottom line, press on, move forward and don’t give these folks the time of day. Just focus on some more cool, creative stuff for your twitter family. Take care!

  8. Dealings with certain types of people can only go from non-productive to counter-productive. This guy sounds like one of them. Chuckle, ignore, move on.

  9. Hi Shama!….

    I agree with most of those who have posted here. I would ignore him and not respond. You are such a giving person….you give so much information away….for free! ShamaTV is an amazing effort in time & content. Please don’t feel guilty for not sending this ungrateful person a copy of your book.

  10. I agree with Jay.

    Any company (PR or otherwise)who’s backlink is worth 4 times your book shouldn’t need to talk themselves up.

    And more importantly, a company important/influential site would know better than to send such a snippy communication. I think you are being very professional and gracious by withholding the name of the site.

    You don’t need their savvy stamp because honestly, it’s not worth much. This email was not very savvy. Not to worry; I’m sure they’ll improve with a little experience.

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  11. As Twittered ..You have more integrity than those that demand free stuff for a trackback…perhaps it is their integrity we all need to look out for.
    You didn’t back down on your principles and that is the test of your savvy not that it needed testing you have so much valuable info & its wonderful that you share so much we all see that …you don’t need to be insulted for that!

    SEROIUSLY I would blog about it … the free is great but not when it is disrespected therefore no value to the receiver and not certainly for a review that your followers already know the value of. I do not currently have your book yet I already know from being on your site that you are a woman of value and principles.

    I am so glad you took the time to know it wasn’t about you and you took your emotions out of it to see that your response is valid and reasonable to question.

    Blessings :)

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  12. Hi Shama,
    If this fellow wasn’t from a site that you’re familiar with then I wouldn’t even give a second thought to what this person thinks about you.
    To have said this was a “test” is unprofessional anyway.
    You’re doing a great job-keep up the the great work!

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  13. Alright you bit so I’ll answer!

    I think posting this makes you look petty by elevating the conflict since of course the chances are very high that the person will see this post. He is being very childish and posting this is engaging in his little fight instead of just ignoring him all together.

    Also I just think you should never post private business emails, even though this guy wasn’t a client. I know you would never post a beef with a client online, and I extend that category to anyone who contacts me privately.

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  14. I’d like to focus on this comment an ealier poster provided above:

    “Actually they gave you a great PR opportunity without realizing it by giving you a reason to seek the opinions of your fellow tweeters. I know that was not your intent as you just seek legitimate feedback.”

    Actually Sharma, I beleive this was your intent – I always granted you with a lot of ‘savyness’, and now I grant you with even more.

    I think you are above getting bothered about these kind rude people, because, as you well know, when you have an online people you always get the odd nutter that will criticize. However, you have used his email to cleverly promote, and inform about your up-coming book; affectively both getting your own back at their stupid email (who would want it reviewed by their poor communication skills) – whilst at the same time, informing and further hyping up your book.

    I was vaguely aware you had a book coming out soon, now I’m even more aware!

    This is a true online marketing resourcefulness and you know exactly what you’re doing, because you’re savvy, and all these people replying that haven’t quite cottoned on, have provided plenty of fresh keyword regularly refreshed content to further bump up you site and tick many marketing boxes indeed.

    You have a bright future because you’re both savvy, have absolutely first class communications skills with a delightful tone – and also a touch ‘wilyness’ essential to be a marketer that gets ahead in this day and age, whilst still using white hat techniques.

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  15. Shama, thanks for sharing the post, I learned a lot from you already today as you have responded quite well sharing information about your book. You are a young entrepreneur who obviously knows what she is doing with the work she is doing and the book you have produced.

    As an older person who soon will launch her first book I believe you should take a long hot bath, have a good meal, and not respond to this individual who obviously only has their interest at heart and wants to rob you of your time and effort.

    You are offering it to non-profits which is terribly gracious. Smile you are doing a great job and I am enjoying being a fan of yours.

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  16. Hey Shama, one of the things we would say here in Australia is…”stuff ’em if they can’t take a joke”.

    Seriously, what was he thinking…just ignore him & leave him hanging.

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  17. Dear Shama,

    The advice above is very sage, and your current course is sensible. However, since most people leaned in one direction, I wanted to have a little fun in the other.

    “Dear Andy,

    Actually, my response was a bit of a test of the competency of your public relations firm to communicate in an effective manner. You snarkly belittled me. Have your clients been finding this method effective in improving their public relations?

    Since yours was only a test, and not a sincere inquiry into receiving a free copy of my book, I will oblige by maintaining my original invitation for you to purchase a copy.”

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  18. Hey Richard-

    That was VERY creative, and I have the admit-a part of me is very tempted to copy paste and send! = )

    But-I’ll resist.

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  19. Hey Shama,

    Great post.

    My take is this is typical “big-end-of-town” stlye advertising agency arrogance. They probably create Yellow Pages ads for the clientele and are freaking out b/c everyone’s cancelling on them LOL!

    I think your posture is fine, as if they would even notice $27 for crying out loud.

    But, as I’m sure you would, the other principle that kicks in is “don’t burn the bridges”, so I think you should actually craft a very professional response, stripped of the emotion you naturally feel, and have the last say, from a professional posture.

    Pity you can’t block them from purchasing ‘cos they’re probably going to buy one and bag you out now anyway, but you can cope with that easily LOL! You don;t need them!

    Best

    Peter

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  20. You have to tell us what company this is!!!

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  21. I must admit that part of me agrees with Laura. When I saw the blog post on BC I didn’t think much of it, but when I see it on your business site it kicks my mind into a different gear. Asking what you should do in this situation carries an undertone of inexperience, especially for someone who’s specialty is marketing and relating to customers. If I was a potential client I would have been stopped dead in my tracks.

    For genuine advice seeking, I think that there is certainly nothing wrong with starting a dialogue about how to handle these situations, but perhaps in a more personal sphere (which is why the yellow flag didn’t go up for me on BC). This would work better for me on a professional blog if the context were reframed to carry more of a “this situation happens in business, have you been puzzled what to do?” kind of message. Then I go, “oh, yeah, she gets it, maybe she has the answers too,” instead of just offering my opinion and bouncing.

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  22. It sounds like that person was offended by what you said (nothing offensive there at all!) and lashed out with his own insecurities. If they are a hotshot company, they wouldn’t be asking for a book…YOU’d probably be sending it to them!

    You know that function on gmail where you can do a math problem because you decide to really send the message you just composed? That person might need it. He’s not creating good PR at all.

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  23. Shama,

    I’d do exactly what you did in this unique situation. So I think it comes down to individual preferences and individual perception. If someone read this and decided they would not then want to do business with you, that’s their prerogative.

    My personal philosophy is that as long as I am willing to grow and learn, if someone in any given moment of my journey chooses to judge me unworthy of their business then so be it. There are more than enough business opportunities to go around. And for those of us who respect you more for how you have handled this, let that be an indicator.

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  24. Shama,

    I understand where you are coming from and I definitely think it’s an interesting and salient point to discuss. My original comment was meant as more of a constructive criticism on the phrasing and how it comes across.

    Love the Shama TV by the way, watching through some of the backlog.

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  25. Hey Shama,

    Your response to his email was 100% correct…as was your non-response to his follow-up.

    I call these people energy vampires. They just want someone…anyone…to “play catch with”. And when you decline, they get angry, pout and try to egg you into giving them what they want.

    Ironically, this is proof you’re successful at what you do. That’s the only time these critics will show up…when you have achieved something they cannot.

    Or as the saying goes, critics are people who hide in the hills until the battle is over and then come down to shoot the wounded.

    Harsh, but often nonetheless true.

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  26. Very unprofessional, almost child-like response. I question whether he is legit. He doesn’t deserve a second response from you.

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  27. I don’t think you need to worry much about these kind of people who behave in a unprofessional manner. After all we are professionals :).

    “Our site is a solid PR 4 site focused. A backlink from us is worth about four times the price of your book.”

    I think we can complaint about this statement to Google to take some action against them on their display in Google SERP’s …hehe :D

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  28. In any good trade of goods, services or information, you must give equal to what you expect to get.

    Now if this email was written by a reviewer at the NYT for example, that would be a wise investment to give to them.

    The author of the asking provided you with what publication credentials that were of what value?

    None.

    None gets None.

    You did fine, smart move.

    “Qualified Traffic” is the phrase that comes to mind.

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  29. I assure you you are not mistaken to react to such rude behavior and you are NOT being “petty” by truly wanting the reality of others to reinforce your reasons. It’s true, most of time, online disrespect runs rampant because people that can make a difference choose to turn a blind eye to the problem without realizing that that is as equally a part of the problem–or as you put it “not discussed in a healthy manner”; they just IGNORE the problem and expect that the issue will disappear as a whole. For everyone who understands the real issue, we appreciate your concern and willingness to act on it–and you are not alone!

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  30. just two words of well done to have put it out there simply. It’s an issue all have to deal with sooner or later, alas, in personal as well as business mail. Instinct reigns best and when in doubt, impeccable courtesy in your reply, which can give as good or better back hand slam back, as hooking into the drama, which leaves you the loser no matter how..the french figured this out a few centuries ago…why they are known as the world’s best diplomats.
    Hat’s off!

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  31. I’m a very new –albeit enthusiastic– student of web marketing, and this is one of the BEST lessons I’ve seen so far on building online reputation.

    I totally agree that putting it up for discussion and admitting that you don’t have all the answers was a savvy move. If you had written a blog simply announcing what you did without opening it up to discussion that would have loosened the social ties instead of strengthening them. Even if you’d decided on your own, then opened it up for discussion simply to “educate us”, that would been less savvy than what you did. As I understand it, that would have been Old School.

    Not being open to our input tells us that our ideas and opinions are less valuable than your own. It sets you up as an Omniscient Authority.

    That distances and belittles people, and it discourages them from communicating with you. Instead, you did a very savvy thing. You let us know that we all have something valuable to say. You affirmed the value of this discussion, and that can only engage us more, make us want to contribute more.

    You also let us know you are human, which increases the warmth of the communication. Speaking for myself, that makes me want to make sure you’re protected from moochers and critics –thereby enlisting us in promoting you, so you don’t have to do it yourself. You presented the story in a classy way, with no drama or complaining, so you definitely have my respect. A beautiful balance of professionalism and warm, effective community- building.

    And yes, I agree –even if you didn’t do this on purpose– this is a great way to remind us all about your book :)

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