Last Wednesday, PLB Sports founder Ty Ballou was at his charity event in western Pennsylvania when his son Ryan got a call on his cell phone.
“Dad, it’s a TV station and it’s for you,” his 23-year-old son Ryan said.
It was a reporter from WCPO. A viewer had called the number on the box meant to be for Feed the Children, but it instead turned out to be a phone sex hotline. Ballou went to his car and dialed the number and sure enough, it was a phone sex line.
He called Robert Bailey, the man in charge of Chad Ochocinco’smarketing, and made him aware of the issue. Ballou also dropped an e-mail to the president of Kroger’s, the chain that carried the bulk of the cereal on it shelves.
The next day, as Ballou was ironically guest lecturing on sports marketing and business ethics at his alma mater Northern Illinois, he began to learn how this happened and continued to react to the crisis.
It turned out the charity, Feed the Children, had sent the sports food maker an e-mail with a 1-800 number in June. It was supposed to be a 1-888number. Nevertheless, Ochocinco himself took the blame and said he hoped the extra publicity would lead to more people donating to the charity.
The phone sex number seemed to have been at least temporarily disconnected by Thursday afternoon, but it wasn’t because Ballou or Feed the Children made a deal with its owner. Ballou said so many people were calling the number and hanging up without paying that he believes the owner disconnected the line.
It was back up and running when we tried the number this morning. Ballou said that Feed the Children has identified the person who owns the line and the two are trying to figure out if they can buy the number.
If they can’t, Ballou said some of his profits from the 40,000 boxes of OchocincO’s cereal that his company has already sold will be eaten.
As of now, 26,000 boxes with the wrong phone number will be stored in the back rooms at the Kroger’s super markets.
If a deal can’t be reached soon on the number, Ballou said he’ll agree to donate the cereal to Feed the Children and then make Kroger whole for its losses.
Luckily, for Ballou, all was not lost. He said his Web site was slammed with people order OchocincO’s, even though they were told that the boxes would have the correct number for the charity printed on it.
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