If this is some kind of performance art, I’m starting to tire of it. I got home from work today and read my emails. A reader had emailed me this photo. I’m speechless. Whoever created it is, I allege, guilty of fraud and libel. I published no such statement, and anyone who has been following the Stencil cafe PR debacle would know this.
Courtesy of a reader / copyright: used under the fair dealings provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 / c2012
Fitzroyalty receives thousands of pageviews a day, whereas a poster will be seen by far fewer people. If viewers of the poster are not familiar with Fitzroyalty, this poster is meaningless and, if they are, few are likely to believe it or care much about it even if they do.
Fitzroyalty has no business model and earns no income, so hypothesising about suing for defamation is pointless as I cannot demonstrate tangible losses. If any loss of reputation or esteem comes from this poster, it will be miniscule and intangible.
Furthermore, while it’s highly likely the poster was created by the proprietors of the cafe, I cannot easily prove this to be true. So I wouldn’t know, with the necessary conviction, who to sue.
Suing for defamation because of trivial offences tends to backfire badly for the belligerently litigious, as Melinda Tankard Reist has recently discovered. I see no point in responding to it, but I will write about. It’s fundamentally dishonest. Creating it is a malicious and unethical act that is potentially also a criminal act.
Another email in my inbox was from the Stencil people. It is published below intact:
I have just looked at the site.
I think we both agree that this thing has gotten out of hand, and you being a local and us being a local business about to open our doors we need to sort it out for the benefit of everyone involved before it’s too late.
It’s important for both of us to keep our good names in the eyes of the community.
In hindsight I would’ve perhaps done things differently and am happy to admit that, and I’m sure you probably regret things as well. So, I apologise and I believe it would be in the interest of both parties to come up with a solution.
My suggestion is telling readers that the whole thing was a gag to get everyone talking about Fitzroyalty and just for readers to enjoy as a bit of different content on the site. We could then say that Stencil was kind enough to get in on the fun. If we say it was a viral type ad for Stencil and not content for you is people could still look on not only us but you badly as well, and that’s the last thing we’d want.
So in basic terms it would be like ‘Gotcha! Was just a fun idea me and the guys at Stencil cooked up for something different on the blog’.
This is a win win situation for all parties involved as it will make us both look good.
IMPORTANT! Obviously we would be willing to help you out financially for making a statement like this and are happy for you to discuss a rate, much like it would be as advertising on your site. Now I know you don’t accept free coffee! etc for a review but perhaps we could bend the money rules for this situation as it is very different. We’d of course make sure the money would be worth your while.
The only other solution is for both of us to blame a third party- whether it’s a gallery [few down Smith St] or another food place like Grilled Burgers etc or just someone anonymous and say that they pretended to be Stencil on your blog to make us look bad as they were a competitior. Personally I don’t think this is a great option, but it’s on the table if you’re happy with it.
I trust this will interest you and look forward to sorting it all out and if you have any ideas happy to hear them.
As I said, this is not a PR statement. It’s for you.
Phil and Christine
Stencil cafe team
I’m speechless again. Another bribe? An offensive suggestion that I ‘regret’ what has happened? I don’t – I’ve been amused thus far by this and I am now very angry, while remaining proud of the transparent ethical methodology I choose to abide by. Don’t tell me to deceive my readers, and don’t ask me to say things that make you look good.
Don’t claim to have a good name in the eyes of the community – you don’t. These people have behaved appallingly and it is entirely their own fault that they are in this predicament. They should take responsibility for their behaviour, apologise and tell the truth, which is that they are stupid.
But they don’t mention telling the truth as an option. Suggesting that they are willing to defame a business like Grill’d is a serious escalation of their stupidity. Is this really how some people think, and how they do business? I wonder what Grill’d's lawyers think of this?
When will the Stencil people learn that I don’t want or need their money, and that my preferred response to morons is to encourage them to publicly humiliate themselves?