Phoning It In
Don't try this at home

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, August 7, 2005

Do you know how I occasionally go to stores and copy down those toll-free numbers on product packages -- then make stupid, immature, harassing calls to customer service reps? Irate readers sometimes write in to ask if I have nothing better to do with my time. Well, I have decided they are right. Today, I saved time by using products I had around the house.

Pepperidge Farm Inc.

Me: I'm a lifetime fan of your Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White Bread, because I like its simplicity and lack of complications, such as spices and flavoring, and it doesn't confuse me with actual taste sensations.

Susan: That's good to hear.

Me: I'd like to pass along an idea for a favorite sandwich of mine: mashed potatoes and marshmallows on Pepperidge Farm hearty white bread.

Susan: I've never heard of that. It wouldn't appeal to me.

Me: Well, sometimes to liven it up I add puffed rice, tofu, and a spritz of Pam nonstick fat-free cooking spray.

Clairol Inc.

Me: Hi, I enjoy your Herbal Essences Moisture-Balancing Shampoo very much. The one with chamomile and aloe vera. And I noticed on the label that it contains "a special blend of all-natural organic herbs and botanicals that come to us in pure mountain spring water, with herbs grown under certified organic conditions."

Natalie: Right.

Me: Well, I happened to be reading the ingredients, and I was wondering if there is a tree called the hydroxypropyl trimonium chloride tree, and what part of the world it might grow in?

Natalie: Hmm.

Me: Also, I noticed it contains linoleamidopropyl pg-dimonium phosphate and methylchloroisothiazolinone. Are these also the names of trees, or are they medicinal shrubs?

Natalie: Let me put you on hold and research this.

(Nine minutes pass.)

Natalie: Okay, it turns out all of those three things are chemicals.


Natalie: Yes.

Me: Is this stuff safe to use on my dog?

Melitta USA Inc.

Me: I have a marketing idea.

Susan: Okay.

Me: I opened a 4-ounce can of Hormel processed meat and meat byproducts -- specifically, Spam -- and dumped it into a white Melitta #4 coffee filter, and nothing leaked through. Do you see where I am going here?

Susan: Not really.

Me: You could market this as a "100 Percent Effective Spam

Filter." And it's got a really low price, like $3.99 for 100, so it would fly off the shelves. By the time people realized what it was, it would be too late. They couldn't return it, because you didn't lie!

Susan: Well, let me get your name and number, and I will pass that to the filter division, and maybe they will call you.

Me: Doesn't it sound great?

Susan: To me it does, but I'm just an Indian here.

Me: You shouldn't disparage your ethnic heritage.

Susan: I mean I'm just a worker.

Me: Oh.

Susan: We'll see if they contact you. We don't get too many calls from people with ideas.

Me: Well, if you use this one, you have to cut me in.

Susan: Okay.

The Gillette Co.

Me: I am calling about Gillette Foamy shaving cream with "comfort glide." I am very dissatisfied with this product.

Kelly: Okay.

Me: I am a political activist, and I express my displeasure about corporate greed through concussive acts of civil disobedience for the purpose of strategic humiliation. And I have found your product to be insufficient for the purpose.

Kelly: I'm sorry, you kind of lost me.

Me: I am a pie-face assassin. I hit people in the face with pies. Traditionally, we use graham cracker crusts filled with shaving cream. That is the accepted industry norm. But your shaving cream does not have sufficient adhesion.

Kelly: So, the problem is it doesn't stick to the face?

Me: Right. And I'd like a refund.

Kelly: I don't know that there's a whole lot I can do for you.

Me: But I have 150 cans!

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