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On July 2, officials from the iconic Texas fast food chain Whataburger announced that they would not allow firearms to be carried openly in their restaurants. Predictably, open carry activists took to Facebook and voiced their disapproval. When a man with a confederate flag as his profile picture posted a tirade about how he would never spend another penny at Whataburger, and ranted about how the venerable Texas restaurant wouldn’t ban gay people, an official-looking commenter tagged “Customer Service” quickly responded.

“We’re concerned that people who need a firearm while eating a cheeseburger might not be the best customers to have,” the agent said. “Gay people are usually smart enough to avoid cheeseburgers in the first place, so there wouldn’t be many to ban even if we wanted to do so (which we don’t).”

The post ended, “Hope that helps!”

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Of course, the comment wasn’t actually written by a Whataburger customer service representative, but Arlington native Nick Price and his colleague Ben Palmer, a professional comedian living in Atlanta. The two troll company websites and provide fake customer service, and take screen shots of their interactions for laughs.

“In a way, we’re saying the things that the reps at these companies are thinking, while absolving them of the consequences of saying it,” Price said. “And I think that’s part of the reason that so few companies have even blocked us from their page.”

One of the more memorable moments for the two mock customer service reps occurred when Price was trolling the Facebook page of Canadian mobile phone provider, Telus. The real reps all had Telus as the last name on their account. When a company staffer contacted Price to ask him to stop providing support, Price switched gears and became “Nick, Facebook Customer Service.”

“Hi Eric! Please be advised that the name on this account appears to violate the Facebook terms of service,” Price wrote. “Please update your information to provide the name you use in real life. Note that Facebook offers pages for professional personas, organizations, and businesses –– Nick, Facebook Customer Service”

The legion of fans following the exchange on Facebook then took it upon themselves to report every single Telus rep for violating the fake name policy, which effectively knocked all of them off of the web until it could be sorted out –– giving Nick and Ben the run of the page.

For people who have followed Nick Price’s trolling career, none of his antics come as a shock. In 2010, Goatse Security, the hacker group Price is a member of, found a substantial flaw in AT&T’s security that allowed the hackers to download a significant amount of user data. Goatse Security alerted the media about their accomplishment rather than using it for personal gain, and AT&T pressed charges.

“I’ve always been a bit of a troublemaker online, and at one point I went through an FBI interrogation and was put in front of a federal grand jury because a couple of friends of mine were accused of hacking into AT&T’s servers,” admitted Price. “If you’ve ever met a federal prosecutor, you’d know that they don’t generally have a very good sense of humor.”

During the grand jury hearing, the prosecutor grilled Price about an online chat in which he pretended to be a lawyer who gave everyone terrible legal advice, such as advising his friends to destroy evidence. The prosecutor demanded that Price explain why he didn’t use LOL (laugh out loud) if he was only joking.

“I told him that I didn’t say LOL because lawyers don’t have a sense of humor and don’t laugh,” said Price.

In response, the Grand Jury and FBI agents laughed. The federal prosecutor was not amused.

Although sometimes the customers are fooled into thinking that the posts are really from the company, Price said that is not his goal. He gets more satisfaction when the customers get the joke too, and he says that sometimes his marks even come to Customer Service Facebook page and laugh at themselves.

Their sarcastic responses to difficult customers sometimes rubbed off on the real service reps.

“For three or four days in a row, we were making a ton of posts on Chipotle’s page and they never blocked us,” said Price. “And I was looking for posts to comment on there and noticed their actual reps being snarky with their customers –– before they’d been quiet and boring and professional, but they started having fun with the unreasonable people just like we did. That was better than seeing any customer reaction.”

Since its initial launch, independent branches of Customer Service have shown up in other countries. There’s a Dutch version, a German version, and a Swedish version.

“We also made our own Servicio al Cliente page, which was mainly an excuse to Photoshop a sombrero on the head of the stock image we use as a profile picture,” said Price.

Contributors have come and gone, but the original page is now manned by Price, Palmer, and a new recruit named Ryan Shipley. Price is the only one who is not a professional comedian. The group is even planning to publish a coffee table book and they have been approached about a possible TV show. They have a website at http://www.wehopethathelps.com with a collection of what they consider to be their best work.

“We originally put together that website as an archive in case Facebook banned us altogether, but it’s actually turned into a pretty active community on its own,” said Price. “And fortunately for us, it seems like we’re still skirting by Facebook’s rules well enough that we haven’t drawn their ire.

“Or maybe it’s that the reps from companies simply haven’t reported us yet because they appreciate what we do,” Price continued.

 

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