March 14, 2005

dear fred...


Let's say your name is Fred. Hi, Fred.

Let's say you're the editor of a very large, well-known London newspaper.

And let's say, not too long ago, you called up my bespoke Savile Row tailor friend, Thomas and booked an appointment because you wanted a new suit.

And let's say Thomas turned up and gave you a measurement.

So let's say you wanted to order two suits, but wanted a deal, in exchange for an interview in your paper.

And let's say Tom decided a bit of exposure would be just the thing to rev up his business, so he agrees. And let's not kid ourselves, it's kinda flattering to be asked. Makes you almost think your big moment is about to arrive.

So let's say the deal ended up being that you ordered a grey suit at full price, but offered to give Tom an interview in the paper you edit, if he threw the second blue suit in for free. Two for the price of one, basically.

So let's say you shake on it, and Tom goes away, and buys the cloth out of his own pocket for the first grey suit, with your blessing, because somehow you have convinced him that you didn't need to leave a deposit yet, what, with this big interview coming up and all.

And then let's say Thomas cuts the cloth, and gets it sewn, ready for your first fitting. Again, all out of his own pocket.

And let's say when all is ready, you keep cancelling meetings with Tom at the last minute, after Tom has already spent half a day driving down to London to meet you at the pre-arranged time. More than once. Again and again. Even your personal assisant is embarrassed by your behavior.

And let's say this keeps on happening till finally, you send Tom a hand-written note saying "Sorry, I've changed my mind... I don't think I want to give you any money, either... but let's talk about doing that interview later on, eh?"

And let's say the reason you gave for changing your mind was beyond lame. Something to do with your needing your girlfriend's permission before deciding on the second blue suit's fabric choice, and because she lives far away she can't come in and meet you two. Even though her input has nothing to do with the grey suit, the one Thomas has already shelled out for in order to get made. Whatver. Like I said, beyond lame.

Now let's say it's a few weeks later, and Tom's new blog is suddenly doing awfully well. And let's say his friend is a pretty well-known blogger, with a pet peeve against asshole big-media types who fuck with honest tradesmen, just because the scumbag thinks because he's got the big editor's job, it's somehow OK.

Don't worry Fred, I'm not going to reveal your real name. I only know one side of the story, maybe there was a misunderstanding, maybe there's some stuff missing from the equation I don't know about, whatever. Maybe Tom was a bit naive to trust you, and maybe he underestimated the corrupting affect that people who offer media favor can have on one's affairs. Education is expensive.

Besides, I know the circulation numbers of your paper. Seems you've already got enough to worry about.

What's more interesting to me is how, with his blog, Tom no longer has to rely on your kind to give his business the publicity impetus it needs in order to remain viable.

A lot of these 'artisan' businesses like Tom's traditionally live or die by whether or not somebody like yourself decides they're worth talking about. You know it, I know it. It's a lot of power in the hands of one person. But it's unreliable. It has always been thus, but since there was nothing else to get the word out with, the artisans could be relied on to play ball, making you look good and showering you with freebies and favors.

But Fred, scumbags like you no longer matter.

Now you're no longer the "Gatekeeper" to the success of the artisan. Hopefully other artisans will spot Tom's blog, and emulate his example.

Another nail in the coffin of scumbag, big-media, freebie-fattened, Gatekeeper culture, and I'm glad to be helping drive it in.

Posted by hugh macleod at March 14, 2005 5:54 PM | TrackBack

Asshat clients who think they are doing you a favor for gracing your business with their patronage are, unfortunately, a persistent and annoying part of the business landscape. Blogs can help - but for every Tom who has a high-traffic blogger backing him, dozens of proprietors are left twisting in the wind when some big swinging dick thoughtlessly throws his weight around.

Why hold back and not name this chap? Why are you protecting such an odious and abusive dickhead, Hugh?

Posted by: pjammer at March 15, 2005 12:23 AM

Wow. This sounds like something that an account exec (aka: "a suit") would pull at an ad agency. Are you sure that "Fred" wasn't an account exec at BBDO? Typical behaviour.

Posted by: Keith at March 15, 2005 12:45 AM

I'm from Brooklyn. And in Brooklyn we know how to deal with asswipes like this. Let me at 'im.
On top of everything else that is disgusting about this story is the notion that this dick would consider "selling" space for a suit.

Take an ad out in this paper and then use your clout to get the publisher to scream at the editor.


Posted by: Jerry at March 15, 2005 12:52 AM

Hugh: don't need his name, but why not publish his phone number? heh. That way, those of us who feel like discouraging such behavior can call him at 3 a.m., and, not knowing his name, i guess we could just call him asshole, or some such fitting appelation.

In ten years of doing custom work, I've only had one client stiff me like that, and at least I had the forsight to get a deposit. Nor did I turn over the work when they refused final payment... so I was a little better off than Thomas, but it still burned me up.

Posted by: john t unger at March 15, 2005 1:04 AM

great post - and a promising post genre! Put the boots to the fucker.

Posted by: John at March 15, 2005 1:49 AM

Hi Hugh,

um, why don't you publish the name of the guy who did this to Tom? That to me seems the logical conclusion of the new way of doing things - name and shame people if they behave in such an appalling manner. I can't see that it will do English Cut any damage, and it shows you're not to be messed with. Particularly if you say it rather than Tom. That still keeps him in the moral high ground with you doing the customary swearing and bitching underneath. Same as it ever was...


Posted by: Chris Mitchell at March 15, 2005 5:13 AM

I don't know how many lawyers there are in jolly ol' England, but in the U.S. if you named this guy he'd be all over you with lawsuits. And he's an asshole, so you know he has an asshole lawyer. Libel, slander, malice. No proof. Hearsay. You get the idea.

Posted by: barbara at March 15, 2005 6:12 AM

Pass on the info to Private Eye.
They know how to stand up to newspaper editors.

Posted by: geoff lane at March 15, 2005 6:27 AM


Posted by: Steve at March 15, 2005 7:38 AM

Great post; it always shocks me a little to hear about this kind of media corruption though I don't know why I'm surprised.

Posted by: Johnnie Moore at March 15, 2005 8:09 AM

what an asshole (and pardon my french.).

Posted by: giorgia at March 15, 2005 8:29 AM

that man does not even deserve a thomas suit.

Posted by: sue at March 15, 2005 8:44 AM

Wow. That felt like watching Rocky all over again.

Posted by: Thom Lawrence at March 15, 2005 9:26 AM

excellent exposure

Posted by: Steve Griffiths at March 15, 2005 10:53 AM

Do yourself and Thomas a big favor and chalk it up to experience. Fred is an asshat and leave it at that.

He still works at a newspaper and those things (dinosaur blogs?) still have readers and have some influence and the last thing you need is to pick a piss fight with a bigwig at a major newspaper by writing about it all here.

However... I'm sure there's some London equivilant to Gawker who would LOVE to hear the story.....

Posted by: david at March 15, 2005 10:58 AM

Nah. We're not bothered. We think it's kinda funny. That's why I didn't name names.

Posted by: hugh macleod at March 15, 2005 11:11 AM

I fucking love it. Best post yet, and I've been reading Gaping Void daily for months now; even decided last night to do my own blog very soon, for a very specific purpose. If it works, I'll let people know...

Posted by: mark at March 15, 2005 11:37 AM

let me know if you need a bigger hammer

Posted by: alan herrell - the head lemur at March 15, 2005 11:45 AM

Now THIS is what blogging is all about!
Loved it! :)

Posted by: Steve Gill at March 15, 2005 2:23 PM

Seems yesterday was a day for shame. Coincidentally AdPulp posted a piece on the organized use of shame to fight prostitution in San Francisco - publicly displaying convicted johns images on billboards and such.

And Barbara is right, to post Fred's real name would be a strong case for slander.

AdPulp post:

Posted by: Peter Meddick at March 15, 2005 4:45 PM

Perhaps I'm young and naive, but how would it be slander if this man screwed Tom out of however much time and money, and then Hugh (Tom's business partner) called him on it in a public forum?

Posted by: Brendan Thorne at March 15, 2005 5:02 PM

Heh. Brendan, you may be right. Perhaps there isn't any malice towards Fred in Hugh's post. And perhaps by publishing Fred's name Hugh wouldn't hurt his reputation or livelihood. Now, I don't mean to speak for Hugh or Tom, but I would imagine neither gent would want to find out through costly litigation. Tom learned a tough lesson - that Fred is untrustworthy. Does that mean that Tom shouldn't extend this kind of trust to other clients? Hopefully not. Apologies for the diversion from the topic.

Posted by: Peter Meddick at March 15, 2005 5:39 PM

You guys need to think of something good to do with the suit. I am sure there is something good that could come from the work already completed. I hope it doesn't get deconstructed.

Posted by: Brandon at March 15, 2005 5:40 PM

Best. Maddox. Ever.

Posted by: Brendan Thorne at March 15, 2005 5:56 PM

man - i thought this was hypothetical

Posted by: tabasco at March 15, 2005 6:22 PM

If you have proof of this then you should absolutely go public because the raison d'etre was to gain newspaper coverage. The need may not be so great now but his competitors would give you that in droves and you could emphasise the points you made in this post rather than appear vindictive.

Posted by: john at March 15, 2005 7:09 PM

Glad you've found a way to succeed without the hindering "help" of this hapless hoodlum.

Posted by: Isaac B2 at March 15, 2005 7:46 PM

Having a weekend artisan-ish business, I can say with confidence that giving away your product for a bit of publicity is a mug's game. It's in the bird-cage or recycle bin the next day, and you're still paying the bills for what you gave away. Never mind the opportunity cost of the escapade, which is probably far greater than the cost of the finished product, anyway. How many solid customers could have been pleased as punch with the time and attention wasted on the mediot?

Of course, your friend has learned this lesson the hard way, and it certainly cost him far more than it could have ever cost me. The really good news is that it's a lesson you only have to learn once.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin at March 15, 2005 8:17 PM

remind me sometime to go off on my prepackaged rant about the blessed, not one minute too soon passing of the ancient custom of handing out demos. another highly expensive, highly ineffective practice that has been rendered completely unnecessary by mp3 technology, musician blogging, and the complete elimination via internet of the parasitical middle-man. by the way, it also sort of eliminates the need for the guest list spot, the free swag, etc. etc. etc. etc.

Posted by: ceo_bwm at March 15, 2005 9:44 PM

On behalf of very PR person out there...thank you!

Posted by: Nathan Schock at March 15, 2005 11:02 PM

well done hugh. let's hope this festers into something truly embarrassing for "FRED". I like the idea of saving the suit as evidence. cinderella's glass slipper in reverse.

Posted by: Vinny at March 16, 2005 1:06 AM

[round of applause]

brilliant post...

what an arsehole..

why do I have evil revenge tactics going around in my head? I shouldn't be thinking these things...

of course let me know if you want to know them ;)

Posted by: mindmelt at March 16, 2005 6:34 AM

Seems that a lazy Guardian journalist subscribes to Hugh's RSS feed ....

A national newspaper editor approaches tailor for a new suit, gets measured up and suggests if tailor wants to give him another suit free, he'll make sure he's interviewed in the paper. Then newspaper editor reneges on the whole deal, leaving tailor with lots of expensive cloth. He thought his moment had come, but education in the corrupt ways of the media is an expensive thing, as his friend helpfully points out on a blog. The blogger is not naming names, but Monkey believes he resides in the Canary Wharf vicinity. Anyone willing to confirm this, email

And a link to Hugh

Posted by: Barry Dorrans at March 17, 2005 4:59 PM

Loved it. Loved the comments. Loved learning a new word ("asshat").

As someone who is not a journalist but has a journalism degree, let me say that Fred is extremely unethical. Considering the fact that if he did that to Tom he probably does that to other people, he probably shouldn't have his job. Real editorial shouldn't come via bribes. Something is either newsworthy or it isn't.

Posted by: Katherine Stone at March 18, 2005 3:05 AM

Two things, hugh:

Post the measurements of the fellow, maybe someone who reads you needs a nice suit at a discount and might be in London soon.

Also, you should know better...a man who would offer to do such a thing is not one you should deal with. Stand firm on rpicing, regardless of coverage, then you can't be screwed like this.

Posted by: Chris DiBona at March 18, 2005 9:10 PM