Monday, August 14, 2006

Updating Troy Hake, The Gaybaiting Gardener of Independence, OR

My goodness! It seems that people don't take kindly to being told by their gardening supply man that the gays are ruining television. I'd estimate that at least 3,000 hits to LoadedO in the last few days were seeking out this story, and of course the near-universal sentiment has been "Yuck."

Now that the initial shock phase has passed in the blogosphere, some updates are warranted, and some followup issues should be addressed. Firstly, I'm aware of three communications Hake or the company has made since this story broke. One, a person named "Joe" (no relation) at the number listed for OutsidePride confirmed for me that the email was indeed sent. Second, for anyone who sent an email in response, apparently what they got back from the company was a form letter.

Number three I think is less well known. At the (now)-famous Dave's Garden website, there is a great feature that more industry-tracking sites should follow: the ability to comment on experiences with individual companies. Unfortunately for Dave, things quickly went a little nuts in his garden as people began to flood the site with complaints about Troy Hake, the Gaybaiting Gardener of Independence, Ore. But suddenly the comments began to turn the tide, and positive notes sprouted as if they'd been fed with LazyMan Soil Aerator.

And they just might have...since it appears that many of the comments originated from within OutsidePride:
Note from the Garden Watchdog editors:

This comment was submitted from the same IP address as several other customer comments, and has been determined to have originated from the company representative. It is the stated policy of the Watchdog that companies can NOT submit customer feedback to inflate their own rating. The rating, originally positive, was changed from positive to neutral so that it would not affect the overall rating given by customers. [emph mine]

Whoopsie! Shoulda used an IP spoofer, I guess.

I'm tired of this little game of Pin the Tail on the Homophobe, and to date I'm still not aware of any traditional media coverage. Maybe it's because they can't find anyone to talk to. I dialed up the number again this morning and asked to speak with the Communications Director or someone who handles PR or media relations. I was told that the way to get in touch with them was to use the email form on their website. No, I said--I want to talk specifically with whoever handles media contacts. "I can't give you their name or number," I was told. What a curious way to handle media outreach--give the PR guy an unlisted number and don't tell anyone who he is! It's like the old joke of the fire station that got too many calls so they switched to an unlisted number.

We went round and round a few times on why SURELY this person had a phone at his or her desk, or at least a name they went by, for y'know, convenience's sake. The phone jockey revealed no names, no numbers, no way to talk to anyone in the company except through the email form--which is not an easy way to conduct an interview. I asked to speak to Troy Hake (although I broke my code for the moment and did not ask for Troy Hake, the Gaybaiting Gardener of Independence, Ore.). He doesn't have a number where he can be reached, either. Maybe they just shout at each other over the cubicles--according to this business report, they have just 3 employees and $310,000 in total revenues.

Nonetheless, I doggedly pursued the crazy notion that somebody, somewhere has a phone they will answer. And I've succeeded in finding such a phone--one that belongs to Mr. Green Thumb himself, or at least his family, based on the answering machine message. I didn't pay for this information; I simply searched the Internet for Troy Allen Hake (once again, I left off the Gaybaiting Gardener of Independence, Ore. part to increase my odds of search success. I hope I didn't get the wrong guy!) I left a detailed message asking for a brief time to discuss the incident with him, and my own phone number. This may color some of you as less than surprised, but so far he has not called back. I'll keep trying, though! Keep checking in...