Tuesday, 22 October 2013

PR Fail

PR companies are quick to contact us bloggers. Most are quick to respond when we contact them. But some, it seems, will do almost anything once a post has been written or a campaign completed to avoid dealing with me. Especially if it involves returning money.

Over eighteen months ago I took park in a very nice weekend campaign run my a certain well-known PR firm on behalf of Volvo. The PR team had a plan (involving taking a rather smart V60 out on a test drive) and writing a post about our experiences and I was happy to take part. I wasn't paid; I seldom am. But it was agreed that any out-of-pocket expenses would be reimbursed provided I furnished them with receipts. Which I did. Several times.

Fast-forward a year-and-a-half and - finally, after almost insurmountable obstacles and a darned inconvenient wait - the rather modest sum appears as a credit on my bank statement. Twice.

Now, I'm faced with a dilemma. Clearly the PR company wants it's money back (rather more urgently, it would seem given their speed-of-light response to the error, than they were prepared to give me mine). And I, of course, am happy to return what isn't mine (of course).

But the temptation to play them at their own game, to keep them waiting, to frustrate them, to annoy them and generally to confound them as they have me is almost overwhelming. So, in case I decide so to do, I've been using their emails to me as a basis for an imagined correspondence on the subject. It goes something like this...

PR firm:

Hi, er it's us. Look, this is really embarrassing but it seems that when we finally got around to paying your claim for out-of-pocket expenses (dating from May 2012) last month we, er, did so twice. Ha! I know this is awkward, but... Hey, can we have our money back?

Blogger (at least one, maybe two months later):

Hi PR firm. I'm sorry, but the person dealing with this matter has since left the company/country/solar system and is absolutely out of contact. And before she left she shredded all the documents, deleted all her email and wiped her office laptop. Sorry!

Mmm, difficult line that, especially as I'm the only 'employee' as-it-were. And I'm not a 'she'. Ok, so skipping a few thousand increasingly desperate emails (and the odd phone call) from the PR company, how about this:


Hi PR firm, we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused and can assure you that this is now receiving our most urgent attention. If you could just supply my colleague Jan (cc-ed) with the following information then we will get back to you, I promise, as soon as humanly possible -

Information required:

  • Name
  • Bank Account
  • sort code
  • NI number
  • shoe size
  • mother's maiden name
  • father's maiden name
  • passport number
  • birth certificate
  • driving licence and Love Film membership.

Thank you.

Later... Much, much later:

Dear PR firm, Jen here (fictitious accounts manager for Bringing up Charlie). Sorry but I don't seem to have some of the information essential for our finance department to process this claim. Would you please supply me with the following... (same list - see above).

Much, much later still...

Hi, Jen here again. Still waiting for the height/weight records and the school report from your final year at primary but we've hit a snag. The system can't process a claim unless accompanied by the applicant's 100 metres breaststroke certificate...

Even later...

Hi, Jen's now left the company. I'm dealing with this and would appreciate it if you could forward at your earliest convenience...

Exactly a year-and-a-half to the day since first making the claim...

Hi, Tim here. Er, look - this is really embarrassing but you know that duplicate payment for expenses you made for the claim I paid over three years ago now. You know, the one it took you eighteen months to process and then mistakenly paid me twice? Ah well, it appears we may have duplicated the reimbursement of the duplicated payment. Yes I know. So if you could see your way to reimbursing the non-duplicate payment of the duplicated refund of the duplicated payment - this side of the grave? - I'd be really, really, happy.

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