Ron Suskind

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

We signed up for a six-day cruise from New York to Nassau, Bahamas, over Labor Day. Normally we are not cruise people unless the itinerary is fascinating. But a good offer came from Norwegian Cruise Line, and my wife, Peggy, took it. We knew it would be hurricane season, but we figured if a storm hit, the ship would go somewhere else. We could take a train to New York and avoid the hassle of flying (for a change).

On Aug. 13 and 14 we received a phone call and e-mail announcing a revision in the itinerary:

Due to unscheduled maintenance on the ship's propulsion system, Norwegian Spirit will cancel the call to Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas and instead overnight in Nassau, Bahamas. Please be assured that our technical issue in no way impacts the safe operation of the vessel.

We were given the option of canceling the cruise with no penalty. Those who opted to remain would receive a $50-per-cabin credit for any expenditure on shipboard excluding service charges and casino. OK.

On Aug. 29, two days before we sailed, word came via phone and e-mail that Tropical Storm Hanna was headed for the Bahamas and we would be detoured to Bermuda. OK.

What does this have to do with PR, pricing and marketing?

Plenty.

I just finished a splendid book, "The Forger's Spell" by Edward Dolnick, about how a mediocre painter named Han Van Meegeren painted a series of "Vermeers" in the 1930s and 1940s and conned the European art establishment into believing they were real. One of his forgeries was the crown jewel in the collection of the world's greatest art thief, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering. It was a delicious hoax.

When I put the book down and started looking for news stories to pin this column to, I found August was an extraordinary month for hoaxes, fakes, scams, scandals and pranks. Let's start with Wine Spectator.

Thomas Matthews, Executive Editor of Wine Spectator, is pissed. For starters:

Wine Spectator learned yesterday that, for the first time in the 27-year history of our Restaurant Awards program, a fictitious restaurant has entered its wine list for judging. To orchestrate his publicity-seeking scam, Robin Goldstein created a fictitious restaurant in Milan, Italy, called Osteria L'Intrepido, and then submitted a menu and wine list to Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards as a new entry in 2008. The wine list earned an Award of Excellence, the most basic of our three award levels. Goldstein revealed his elaborate hoax at a meeting in Oregon last week. He is now crowing about the fraud on his own Web site. The story has been picked up in the blogosphere, and now Wine Spectator would like to set forth the actual facts of the matter.

"Facts of the matter?"

Mr. Matthews, you were bamboozled. Hornswoggled. Thimblerigged. Flimflammed. Your awards program is a deeply flawed business model.

Gotcha!

More Blogs