I received the following email this morning from Bill Groome, the owner of Madhatter Magic Shop, about whom I’ve written previously and who has posted several comments on my blog (along with one of his employees) which if anything make him look even worse than what I wrote about him:
Subject: Re: Lawsuit
Date: Tue, 31 Jan 2012 08:41:49 -0500
From: Bill Groome <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It has been a while. Hope this email finds you well.
There is a blog about myself and my business that categorizes me as a “crook and a liar”. This blog is designed and tagged in such a manner as to follow my business on search engines. The blog is intended to smear myself and damage my business. The blog contains inaccurate information of which I have evidence to the contrary.
Here is the blog: http://blog.kamens.us/2010/03/08/bill-groome-owner-of-madhatter-magic-shop-lies-to-me-about-a-product-and-then-refuses-to-refund-my-money/
I have copied Mr. Kamens on this email so that he is fully aware of my intent. I wish to file a lawsuit against Mr. Kamens for damages.
I will call you this afternoon to discuss this matter, or feel free to call me at your convenience.
Mr. Groome, since I know you read my blog, I will offer you my response here.
Executive summary: Snort my taint. (h/t Ken @ PopeHat)
I hope that by now Mr. Elliott has explained to you that you have no grounds whatsoever for any sort of legal action against me, and that such action would be so obviously frivolous that you would most likely end up not only losing, but paying my legal fees and expenses as well.
Have you ever heard of the “Streisand effect“? If not, I suggest you read up on it. Your annoyance now about the fact that my blog posting about you shows up right below your web site in search results pales in comparison to how bad you’ll be made to look all over the Internet if you sue me.
Don’t waste your money paying your lawyer to send me a threatening letter. It didn’t work for the last guy to try that, and it won’t work for you.
Please be advised that since you have threatened legal action against me, I will treat all past and future correspondence from you or anyone representing you as public records and publish them as I see fit.
Let me offer you some advice, which I’m sure you won’t take:
Admit that you gave me inaccurate information about a product. Admit that you should have fully refunded my money because of your error. Admit that you treated me rudely. Admit that you should not have threatened to sue me. Apologize. Promise to try to do better in the future.
If you do these things, then I will post your apology at the top of my blog postings about you, and that will undo some of the damage that you have done to your own reputation by treating me the way you have.
That is the best outcome you can hope for at this point. If your lawyer is any good, he’ll give you the same advice.
UPDATE [February 6, 2012]: As it turns out, I’m not the only documented case of Bill Groome being rude to a dissatisfied customer, nor of Groome responding to a negative review by threatening to sue. See also:
WATCH OUT FOR MADHATTER COMPANY WHO CARE NOTHING ABOUT CUSTOMER SERVICE
placed an order for the one item i wanted (fake skin for $2.75). I wasn’t told it was not available until days later. I order several items all of which i placed simply because i was already paying shipping for the item i wanted and thought i was getting. When mad hatter told me it wasn’t available i told then to just cancel the order and they refused to so so and shipped all the additional items. Customer service was not of any interest with this company. So I received a box of item i didn’t need and did not get the one items i wanted. i wounder how many packages they sell like this every week since their website is not updated with items out of stock!
Just got ripped off on over $50 on shipping 4 packages of balloons. Totally agree with the other statements here. Bought the balloons for the sake of helping school kids with a carnival. BBB should lower their rating of this business.
I’m sorry to hear about all the complaints. I was really shocked to come accross this information about Mr. Groome. I have been a loyal customer of Madhatter Magic for many years–actually, it’s the only online magic shop that I currently use. As an international customer, I have been taken advantage of, ripped off, etc., by EVERY major U.S. magic dealer. If something arrives here, in Greece, damaged, I “have” to keep it, since the shipping cost for returning it is usually higher than the cost of the prop. I had come to both expect and accept this unfortunate situation, until I came accross Madhatter. Bill has the BEST customer service ever, and if I am ever dissatisfied with an item, he will refund my money– without me having to return the product–just by taking my word for it. I place about 5 LARGE orders per year, and have NEVER had an issue. The testimonials on Bill’s website can attest to his high business standars. Really sad about these accusations.
do not feel too bad. he actually took me to court. got his ass handed to him, and owes me around $30,000. he thinks he’s law minded even though he has no clue I know this from personal experience after working for him at one time. He is a crook and a liar . when his wife went into the hospital for an operation.he closed his shop in one day and moved as far away as he could so she wouldn’t get any of it. even emptied out the bank account so she can pay her hospital bill. to date he has not paid one red cent of what he is supposed to be for thejudgment. I’m not sure how but somehow. he got away with not paying off a bunch of the magic retailers . completely stiff them and said it was his wife’s bill to take care of not his. if you ever need a character witness just let me know. I’ll show how much of a bad character he really is . and trust me this is not the first time he has screwed over somebody selling magic to them.
Laughing so hard at the p!ssed consumer posting. Especially “our standards have been documented as some of the best in the industry”. An empty statement — who made such a pronouncement, and what are their credentials? How are these standards measured — is there a points system, a letter grade? Which industry — joke shops, retail stores? He relies on empty statements like this to win people over with smoke and mirrors.
“The BBB ruled in our favor” also made me laugh. The BBB offers mediation services, they are not an arbitrator. They don’t “rule in people’s favor”, they summarize whether they got responses to complaints and whether the were resolved. Furthermore, they define “resolved” as the following:
“BBB records show the issues raised in the complaint have been resolved. Either customer confirmed the complaint has been resolved, or business confirmed the complaint has been resolved and customer did not respond to BBB correspondence informing customer that complaint will be considered resolved unless BBB hears otherwise from customer”.
So essentially a business can say “we made it clear that blah blah blah was true, case closed, customer understands this”, and the customer gets the letter, sighs to himself, and says “what good is replying to the BBB going to do me if this is the only response I got thus far”…it will still show up as resolved.
Gr00me, just apologize. Seriously. People are more likely to forget if you at least show contrition.
In direct demonstration of the Streisand Effect;
I had never heard of Madhatter Magic Shop before today. But now, thanks to the power of the internet, I have. And because the whole setup is so funny, I’ll probably pass this link on to some of my friends, too…
Mr. Groome, I don’t think you have a legitimate case for a libel suit against Mr. Kamens in this case. If you decide to go ahead with the suit…..well lets just say I will feel sorry for your lawyer. I look forward to reading Mr. Kamens followup post on how he won the case against you and made you pay his legal fees.
Bill Groome is a giant douchebag. I hope he loses business not as a result of what Jonathan has written, but rather as a result of his own douchitude. It would serve him right.
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As a practicing attorney, I can assure you that when my clients copy the opposing party on emails sent to me, my first thought is not: “Gee, I sure enjoy having clients who all fall into the upper quintile of IQ”.
Nope. That’s not my first thought.
My first thought is “Is it too late to fire this client?”
So, he cc’d you on his email to his lawyer seeking legal services? Sounds like a waiver of the attorney-client privilege! Time to seek all formerly privileged communications….
You’re the one with the J.D. so you’d know better than I, but it seems doubtful to me that the courts would see it that way.
Do you really think they would, or were you just joking? The law being what it is, it’s hard to tell sometimes.
Mr. Groome, would you care to explain exactly which factual statements I have made on my web site you believe to be false? Do you have any proof to back up any of your claims?
I have proof to back up every one of the factual claims I have made on my blog about you and your business, and I would be glad to post said proof if you would like (the rest of it, that is; some of it I have already posted). I have refrained from doing so before now only because posting our email exchanges in full would reveal the “trick” behind the apparatus you sold me, and magicians tend to frown at giving away the secrets behind the tricks.
As for the claims that are not factual, the ones made by me are clearly and obviously statements of opinion and are therefore not actionable as libel, slander or defamation. As Ken has already pointed out, I am protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996 from legal action for the claims made here in comments by others.
I understand that you are upset that my blog posting follows your web site in search results, but that is not my doing, and I don’t have any control over it. Your assertion that my blog posting “is designed and tagged in such a manner as to follow my business on search engines” is absurd and has no factual basis. All I did was post something to my blog with your and your business’s names in it; the search engines did the rest.
The title (and content) of your blog states that I refused to refund your money. In fact I did refund your money, although you kept the merchandise. The refund was processed by me, not the Credit Card company. I have the bank records to prove this.
You have inserted meta tags into your blog to where this appears under my business. This was your doing.
Your blog was intended to damage my reputation and my business. It was done with malicious intent and with inaccuracies regarding our transaction.
But, just so we’re clear — you are the guy who said “Now I have more important things to deal with than a little boy crying over a $5.00 trick” in a response email, and the guy who responded to the post by arguing “he believes he is entitled to special privileges wherever he goes because he is Jewish.”
Because I have to tell you, those are the parts that are, by far, the worst for your reputation. I think you’re going to have a problem with damages, and with causation — with showing that any harm to your reputation is the result of an allegedly false statement that you didn’t process a refund, rather than a result of you acting like a miserable douchebag.
“You have inserted meta tags into your blog to where this appears under my business. ”
You mean where he describes who he’s talking about with normal tags? Most bloggers do that. You’re resorting needlessly to jargon to describe that, and making it sound like he designed some devious google bomb. Do you have a reasonable basis to make that accusation?
You have a jilted customer, and handled opinions you didn’t like with legal threats. I would never to business with you, and I’m sick and tired of people who behave that way.
Just to be clear, may I assume from the claim which you are disputing that you are not disputing the other claims I have made, in particular:
Do you dispute any of these statements?
Concerning the specific question of whether you or the credit-card company processed the refund… According to my records, I actually received two different refunds. One, dated January 29, 2010 in my records, covered only the original shipping cost of the product. The other, dated March 10, 2010, covered the cost of the product itself. The fact that there were two separate refunds, and the dates when they were posted to my account, tell us several things:
Are you familiar with the legal doctrine of Substantial Truth? To quote Wikipedia, “a statement with ‘slight inaccuracies of expression’ do [sic] not make the alleged libel false.”
In other words, if the best you can come up with is to claim that it was inaccurate for me to say on March 8, 2010 that you had refused to refund my money, when (a) you sent me a letter on that day refusing to refund my money, (b) you didn’t refund any of my money until two days later, and (c) in the end you only “voluntarily” (in quotes because issuing a refund, after refusing to do so, only after a dispute has been initiated, is hardly “voluntary”) refunded some of my money, and the rest of the refund was forced upon you by the charge-back process; then you have about as much chance of winning a defamation suit against me as the birthers have of convincing the Supreme Court that Obama isn’t eligible to be President.
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Presumably if Mr. Groome’s counsel is even minimally competent, he will be familiar with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which would preclude any suit against you based on something that one of your commenters wrote.
Presumably, if Mr. Groome’s counsel is even minimally competent, he will also know that only false statements of fact, not statements of opinion, can be a basis for a defamation suit. It does not appear that Mr. Groome has specified what the alleged false statement of fact in your post is. I suspect that if he specified it, and demonstrated to your satisfaction that you got something wrong, you would run a correction.
Let me know if you need me to throw up the Popehat Signal to get you pro bono counsel to fight any threats or suits.
(keep posting updates, jonathan, they’re immensely entertaining — magic shop dude needs to read up on laws or somethin)
Hey Mr Groome, can I be a part of the suit too? cuz I think you’re a gigantic tool and I hope nobody ever uses your business again.