You're Right, but Don't Write

The other morning I woke up at about 5 a.m., angry. So angry that I went downstairs to the computer to compose an angry letter. I sent it to my office email address for use later.

One of the hardest things to learn is how minds almost never change. And even less so in email. There's something about arguing in print that seems to do nothing but blow up the problem. Sort of like putting a fire out with gasoline. 

This guy who made me angry bought software — discontinued years ago, before Windows Vista, and also lacking a serial number — that was both obsolete and pirated to boot. He got it for pennies on the dollar from a fraudulent eBay seller, believed what that grifter told him, and blamed us for it. And did so with insults and threats.  He insisted that because he'd bought "an unopened retail box" from the trickster, we had done him wrong. As if the eBay seller couldn't possibly have lied.

The person who tricked him also stole from us: money spent on pirates is money not spent on legitimate software. He damages our market and our reputation. But he was mad at us. And I was mad back at him.

Fortunately for all concerned, by the time I'd printed out the letter, I showed it to Jake Weatherly, VP customer experience. He showed it to Sabrina Parsons, CEO. She said "don't send it." So I didn't.

I liked what I'd written. I pointed out that if he had bought a 2004 Toyota from somebody who pushed the odometer back to zero and said it was brand new, that wouldn't be Toyota's fault. And if he bought a fake Rolex from a guy in a trench coat with watches displayed in the lining, that wouldn't be Rolex' fault.

Sabrina and Jake pointed out the real truth: no matter how right, no matter how reasonable, letters (and by extension, emails) don't change people's minds. As president of the company, I could either apologize — and I wasn't going to do that — or not respond.

It's sort of like that bit in the movie War Games: the only way to win is to not play.


  • Mark Smallwood says:

    I was once berated and threatened by a lawyer for a customer company of ours, over the price of our standard support contract. He wanted us to give him a special break before the contract expired in a few days. I guess he thought that bullying was the way to get it. My CEO said, "Just ignore the guy's calls." I did, and sure enough, on the day the contract expired, somebody else called, contritely, and asked nicely if they might renegotiate the terms of the contract, given that they were a large and longtime customer.

    You did the right thing. Ignore the jerks. Responding to them is just a form of approving of their tactics.


  • Tim Berry says:

    @Anthony thanks, but that goes without saying. The incident here was only after a long series of appropriately worded neutral emails, and some phone calls too — with our customer experience team, trained and professional, and not cranky old entrepreneur me. I didn't want to get into that much detail in the post, so I had left that out.

  • Dax says:

    Tim, I couldn't agree more…arguing in print is like talking through a megaphone. No matter how careful you are it still comes across deafening.

  • Anthony Testi says:

    My wife sometimes tells me to write it down to get it out of my system/mind but like you say, do not send it. I have more then once wished at later times that I have taken her and now your advice.

    Your 'customer' may have one more complaint thou, that is that he wrote a email and the *&^#%# software company never responded. He might go so far as to slander the company in public.

    Maybe a very calm email that informs the potential customer that he does not really have a copy of the program and that you will be of service to help him in a legal case against the seller. e.g. provide a noterized affidavit that can be presented in court that the software he bought was illegal etc.

    You know what after typing this I think you course of action is the best, guess I will not even post it.

    ooopppss pressed the post button.

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