Nutjob attempts to extort $35 computer from non-profit foundation

Here’s a (totally unedited except for the addition of some line breaks to make it easier to read) conversation that some guy who managed to get hold of Eben’s email address started with Eben today. We have to laugh, because otherwise we’d be crying; this is an extreme example of a conversation that everybody at the Foundation has at least once a day with someone or other.

Read to the bottom, because it just gets better and better.

Steve: Hello Eben
Sent at 3:46 PM on Friday
Steve: It’s Steve, B.A Applied Math Student
Do you have a minute?
Sent at 3:47 PM on Friday

me: yes

Steve: I wanted to present to my lecturers and administration your computer
I mean the RP
And because I am going to visit my high school too I can show it there too
so if they will be interested then they may buy thousands of units

me: excellent

Steve: Can you please send me sample of model B so they can see it?

me: sorry, I’m afraid we can’t provide free samples

Steve: But what I do is a free advertisement for you
what will I get if they will buy thousands?
Sent at 4:02 PM on Friday
Steve: It doesn’t cost you 30 dollars, show me please where will you
find free advertisement with potential for thousand units to be sold?

me: sorry Steve – it’s foundation policy

Steve: But you are the director
aren’t you?

me: I am indeed

Steve: then you can decide
Sent at 4:06 PM on Friday
Steve: Look I see that my offer doesn’t interest you. I am totally
respect your decision. There is a similar board that is sold and you
can make it a computer too. They told me that I will get a free sample
for ad purposes.

me: understood – which board are you considering using?

Steve: I can give you the name
but I am not interested, only because I should get the samples soon
their project is similar to yours but offers much more options
small board, computer but for large purposes
If you decide to send me the free sample that doesn’t cost you
anything you will get much more.
Sent at 4:11 PM on Friday
Steve: Think that university and a high school and maybe the town I
live in will be interested!
Sent at 4:13 PM on Friday
Steve: If it so difficult for you to send me a sample, to make a
post about this on your blog with a video I will do then I will go to
your competitors who agreed to send me some free samples.
Sent at 4:14 PM on Friday

me: okay, thanks Steve
Sent at 4:17 PM on Friday

Steve: If you don’t mind I will publish that conversation to some
press because we were interested how friendly you are to new potential
Sent at 4:18 PM on Friday
Steve: Eben, I have been second ago with the IT admin who was
interested in your product. He asked me to talk to you and ask for a
Sent at 4:20 PM on Friday

me: I’m sorry Steve, I can’t help you with this.
Sent at 4:25 PM on Friday

At this point, Eben closes the conversation window. But Steve is not put off:

Steve: Hello Eben
Steve: I think you can but for some strange reason can’t even try to
send me a sample. If you wanted to, I am sure you could find the way
to send it.
Sent at 4:41 PM on Friday
Steve: Meanwhile we are contacting the inventor of the board I
mentioned before and I think we will buy the boards from him. You have
a great customer service

me: okay, best of luck with your project

Steve: First time I get such customer service, even Samsung sent us
some equipment for free before we bought it.
Sent at 4:44 PM on Friday
Steve: Maybe be some comments and youtube video we will upload along
with a coverage in press will show you how to treat potential

me: that’s certainly a possibility

Steve: What did we ask from your company?
To send a sample
that’s all
It’s worldwide practice before buying to send a sample.
Sent at 4:47 PM on Friday
Steve: I thought I am talking to a company who knows about worldwide
standards and treats people who may transfer thousands and hundreds of
thousands of dollars.
We are amused here, all of us

me: understood

Steve: And what does it mean?
We don’t need your understanding we want to know what is the reason
not to send a sample.
Sent at 4:50 PM on Friday
Steve: You are the director. You can order your people to send us
the sample as ad. compaign.
Sent at 4:52 PM on Friday

me: I can, but I don’t see anything to indicate that sending you a
sample will result in sales of enough units to cover the cost of the

Steve: What do you want to get if you will send the sample?
Sent at 4:53 PM on Friday

me: I would need to be convinced that there is a credible prospect
of a significant number of sales.

Steve: Ok but if you will send me this sample
I will show it in my university and high school
Firstly they need to connect it and see what they can do with it.
To test it in various laboratories.
And to see if it is good enough.
If yes, lecturers have grants and they can buy your product.

me: I understand the pitch, I’m just not interested, sorry. The
foundation doesn’t send out free units.

Steve: Why?
It’s a worldwide practice.
So you confirm you don’t want to have a potential customers who will
buy like 2000-3000 units?
Sent at 5:00 PM on Friday
Steve: Your answer please
So you confirm you don’t want to have a potential customers who will
buy like 2000-3000 units?
Sent at 5:03 PM on Friday
Steve: Eben?
So you confirm you don’t want to have a potential customers who will
buy like 2000-3000 units?

me: we’re absolutely interested in customers of that sort

Steve: And I can give you such customers

me: however, they tend to be prepared to pay $35 for a trial unit first

Steve: if you will send me a sample they should buy the amount.
But you are keeping to be on your position and lose such customers –
those who can hear from me about your product
Sent at 5:06 PM on Friday
Steve: I the places I have been to including the army there is a
need in such devices, but I am not going to show or tell about your
product if I will not get the sample. It’s a payment for me to do

me: I appreciate that

Steve: Don’t you think you should grant me with a sample for my hard
work to tell and advertise your product?

me: no

Steve: Don’t answer me such answers, I am a journalist who works for
a newspaper in New York
Do you really want me to post that you refused to have customers and
didn’t want to grant a good guy who advertised your product?

me: I suspect that demanding free product in return for positive
coverage in a newspaper might be considered ethically dubious in most

Steve: Maybe because I am Jewish
Now I get the point, you don’t want to do it because of my nationality.
Sent at 5:11 PM on Friday
Steve: This was the reason and now I understand it. I am totally
shocked and I will cover the real reason for your refuse.

me: classy

Steve: “Eben Upton refused to have deal with Jews”
I think I will add some and write a great coverage about the customer
service of the director of RP
Sent at 5:16 PM on Friday

me: that’s certainly an eyecatching headline

Steve: I see you want me to publish it
ok, as you wish
Sent at 5:18 PM on Friday

me: thanks for your time

Steve: You have taken time from me
Hope my coverage will hurt your sells
Maybe then you will talk in a different manner
Sent at 5:20 PM on Friday