Thursday, January 24, 2008

Complaints department

This morning the store manager showed me a neatly typed, polite complaint letter she had just received. The writer was complaining that he had overheard one of our employees, in a transaction with a completely different customer, refer to an author's "alias." The complainer felt that the employee should have used either "pseudonym" or "nom de plume," and he had written to inform the manager of this egregious grammatical error on the part of our employee "in the spirit of cheerful helpfulness."

"Honestly," the manager said to me. "Don't people have anything better to do with their time?"

A month or so ago she received another letter of complaint, which she showed me at the time, from a woman who was horrified by the dog-themed display in one of our windows. The display features a book entitled Designer Dogs, an attractive photo book of purposefully-crossbred dogs like puggles and labradoodles. The letter-writer was a breeder of purebred dogs and felt these mutts are polluting the dog gene pool or something, and that the bookstore was being "irresponsible" for promoting them via this particular book.

Customers really do complain about weird things. Not just complain, but actually take the time to lodge a formal complaint. A few years ago I recall helping a lady buy a globe as a gift. Globes aren't my bailiwick, but I did some research for her, helped her select a particular style, boxed it up, and took it upstairs to be giftwrapped. The whole transaction took quite a bit of time but went smoothly. At the end of it, the woman thanked me profusely and I told her it was no problem at all; we may even have shaken hands.

Later, she called the store to complain to a manager that I had said "no problem" instead of "you're welcome." Apparently, that was all she took away from the transaction.

Nothing, though, beats a weirdo letter -- not exactly a complaint -- that our webmaster received several years ago from a regular customer at another bookstore he was managing. The customer had berated a bookseller over the phone, and P. stepped in and told the customer to shut up and stop giving his booksellers such a hard time. The next time the customer came in, he handed P. the following letter, which P. has kept a copy of and shared with me today:

Kind Sir**********:

I am compelled to offer a sincere apologia for my rather abrasive dialogue
during recent overtures to the extraordinarily learned & ENVIABLY
POLITE++++++++++ staffers at [bookstore]. There is no need for me to raise an
eyebrow, let alone my voice, in their direction inasmuch as they've been
inordinately courteous/solicitous & superogatorily generous with their time
& the deference toward me no matter the time nor the volume of my at times
cavalier approach toward their GENUINE DESIRE to please this misanthropic fellow
from the Bronx. A thousand pardons, I am genuinely SORRY for having
exasperated some of your scholarly associates. [This last sentence is underlined
twice in the original.] In closing, it is mandatory that I proffer
additional praise for the INNUMERABLE interludes whereby I've rung, asked for
some "information" about an author and they've provided me with copious data on
said subject sans ever saying, "T____, what has this got to do with selling you
a book?" In the future, I shall endeavor nay unwaveringly ACT as they do
and this reciprocal magnanimity on my part commences NOW, Saturday eve, July



Will said...

That shit is Krazy (with a K).

Caveman said...


kb said...

It really is amazing how many people in this world have absolutely nothing to do...except complain!