Unclear on the Concept

One of my pet peeves is Public Relations Flacks. These are not to be confused with Public Relations Professionals — PR people who do a good job getting The Word out about their clients. They hate the word “flack,” but when they make their clients look bad — well, they’re inviting the derision.

The following story ran in the 30 April 2000 issue:

Do It Yourself

Police in Albuquerque, N.M., say Edward Hall, 50, stole a utility trailer from a Home Depot store by hitching it to the back of his pickup truck and driving away. A few miles from the store, it came loose and crashed beside the road, so he went back to the store and stole a second one. The second also came loose and crashed just 75 yards from the first. As a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy investigated the crashes, Hall clipped the deputy’s parked patrol car with, yes, a third trailer as he drove by. A chase ensued as Hall tried to get away — at a mere 25 mph, “probably because he knows the trailers, at high speeds, don’t stay on very well,” a detective said. Hall was charged with possession of burglary tools, three counts of unlawful taking a motor vehicle, and leaving the scene of an accident. (AP) …However, he’s been signed to do a series of Home Depot commercials with their new slogan, “Take it From Us!”

Home Despot Begs to Differ

Yeah: I did it myself!

Of course, anyone who speaks English fluently that spends enough time on this site to find my telephone number can easily see what This is True is all about. If he’s a thoughtful professional, anyway.

So when I found this message on my voice mail shortly after the story went out in True’s free feed, well….

Yeah, this is Don, Home Depot’s public relations manager. Randy, you did a piece about a guy who stole not one, not two, but three trailers from our Albuquerque, New Mexico, store before he got caught. All of that is true. The last line, however, in your story, however, “He’s been signed to do a series of Home Depot commercials with the new slogan, ‘Take it from us!'”, uh, that’s very humorous, Randy, but this is FALSE! You lost some credibility with me, big guy! click >

…it was immediately clear who he was on the “Professional” vs. “Flack” scale.


Don! It was a joke! And everyone who reads True knows that. (Well, OK, a few don’t, but I make fun of them too — just spend a bit more time cruising this site and you’ll see several examples of that.)


Some good friends are PR pros. They know, however, that True never, ever uses press releases as a source. If you’re a pro, you won’t send me releases. If you do, you’re a flack, because you’re making your clients look bad.

Sometimes I do talk about books I like, so I’m getting more books lately. Got one the very day I was writing this, in fact, from Workman Publishing. Right up my alley, even. But it’s never going to get a mention because the morons at Workman sent it to my PO Box — via UPS.

Now, every publisher in the country knows that UPS cannot deliver packages to a PO Box, so I had to go to UPS to get it. Send me out of my way and expect free publicity? Hah! That’s another example of making the client look bad, and failing the most basic part of their job. Sheesh.

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10 Comments on “Unclear on the Concept

  1. I almost expect a note from someone higher up at Home Depot to say “This idiot does not speak for us. We got the joke and thought it was funny.”

    Well, it happened a long time ago and I haven’t received such an email (or phone call) in that time…. -rc

  2. How did you even know about the package if it was sent via UPS to a P.O. box?

    Back in those days, UPS would send a postcard saying they had “a” package, and better call them soon or it’s going back, creating a sense of urgency. Sometimes you had to go get it. -rc

  3. Well, apparently not EVERY idiot in the country knows that UPS won’t deliver to a P.O. Box!

    No, but people doing P.R. work for a big company should have! -rc

  4. You mentioned the Home Depot article happened “a long time ago”. Did the book sent to the P.O. Box happen a long time ago also, because my post office works with UPS and FedEx and will receive items from both of them for my post office box. I just had to fill out a signature card for them to accept it. My post office has offered this service for a while now, 10 years maybe, so you might want to check with yours to see if they do also.

    The entire post, including the book incident, was written 23 years ago, as the post date shows. Yes, things with UPS have changed dramatically in the past 23 years. -rc

    • I can vouch for this. I’m a clerk at a post office. We receive UPS daily that is destined for either a PO Box or for us to deliver to the house. Not sure why that isn’t working that way where you are.

      Yes, as mentioned a lot has changed in 23 years. Back then, USPS refused items from UPS for “last mile” (or, as the case may be, “last 10 feet”) delivery because there was no payment for that. There is now. -rc

      • I actually tried to FedEx something to a PO box less than a year ago and they refused to accept it from me. I only tried as I needed to use their printers to print the documents I was mailing, and figured I might as well try while I was at the store in the hopes of avoiding a second stop.

  5. That reminded me of Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoon that mentioned Jane Goodall. Her institute sent him a nasty letter about him disparaging her. She actually thought it was funny and they became friends over the issue.

    One needs to be very careful in hiring an official spokesdroid. When they get it wrong, it can bring a lot of negative attention. Luckily, the Goodall case turned out well because everyone “got it” except the spokesdroid. -rc

    • There was a similar situation when Chris Hadfield, commander of the ISS, recorded a version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” IN SPACE. He put it up on Bowie’s official site and it was taken down by Bowie’s PR team… until David actually heard about it and told them to put it back up! He was apparently thrilled that someone had done his song on the space station!

  6. Flack: I’ve learned a new word today. It’s one we don’t use in the UK. (Though we have plenty of other words applicable to the situation!)

    I’m sure your words are at least as colorful. 🙂 -rc

    • Too colourful for such a respectable organ as TIT, Randy.

      Don’t say “organ”! It gets me all tingly! 😉 Yes, I have to be very careful to not trip spam filters, but I can be a lot more free on the web site. 🙂 And hey, isn’t “Randy” a pretty colorful word over there?! 😀 -rc


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