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Gene Weingarten: Three-ring circus

Today, yet another installment of my Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the plight of the beleaguered customer-service representative.


Vaseline ® Intensive Care Products

Me: Hi. I am a compulsive bathroom reader.

Shelley: Okay. ...

(By Eric Shansby)

Me: Usually, I bring reading material with me, but if the urgency of the moment precludes that, I search for anything available. Recently, therefore, I found myself reading the active ingredients in Vaseline Intensive Care Total Moisture Dry Skin Lotion. Do you happen to have a tube of this around?

Shelley: I do.

Me: Read out the ingredients to me, starting with triethanolamine.

Shelley: Triethanolamine, magnesium aluminum silicate, urea. …

Me: I think we can stop right there, young lady.


Me: Your company puts pee in a product we rub onto our faces.

Shelley: It’s a chemically synthesized ingredient, not derived from animals.

Me: It’s the pee molecule.

Shelley: Let me check.

(Eight minutes pass on hold.)

Shelley: Okay, I grabbed an available brands specialist. We can’t exactly give out what it is. …

Me: A-ha!

Shelley: But we are not putting urine into the product. It’s FDA-approved.

Me: You are putting the FDA-approved pee molecule into your product. If I go to the media, this scandal will be as hot as the heat from a thousand exploding suns. Perhaps we can prevent that by your sending me a lifetime supply of Vaseline Intensive Care Total Moisture Dry Skin Lotion With Pee. I love the product, actually.

Shelley: I don’t think that can be arranged.


Giant ® Strike On Box Matches

Me: Have you ever heard the expression “everything is possible in life except striking a match on a bar of soap”?

Susan: No, sorry.

Me: My father used to say that all the time. He meant it as encouragement to follow my dreams. The problem is, one of my dreams then became striking a match on a bar of soap. It kind of crushed me.

Susan: Aww.

Me: My point is, the expression is out there. It’s even become a Chuck Norris joke on the Web. Chuck Norris can sneeze with his eyes open. Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door. And Chuck Norris can strike a match on a bar of soap. Do you see where I am going with this?

Susan: I’m trying.

Me: Well, I think you should advertise your matches as “Giant Matches — You can strike it on a bar of soap.”

Susan: Well, I’m gonna take a shot and say …

Me: That you can’t strike it on a bar of soap?

Susan: Right! It’ll just get soapy!

Me: Here’s the genius of it. It’s not a lie. You can strike it on a bar of soap! You just can’t light it on a bar of soap! But you don’t tell ’em that! And Giant matches will stand for the elusive American dream! And Chuck Norris!

Susan: This is going right to our Creative Team!


Bambú ® Rolling Papers

Me: According to the Commerce Department, many more people buy cigarette rolling papers than buy loose cigarette tobacco for rolling. Do you know why that is?

Sarah: I have no idea.

Me: I’m thinking it must be because people’s store-bought cigarettes keep falling apart, so they fix them with your product. I want to suggest a new ad slogan: “Need a fix? Get Bambú rolling papers.”

Sarah: I have no idea what the customer does with our product. I never smoked a cigarette in my life. I’m 84. I don’t even know the Internet, Google and such.

Me: Wow! And you’re answering the phones at Bambú Rolling Papers Inc.

Sarah: Yep. My children own the company.

Me: And they never told you what people do with the product?

Sarah: Nope.

E-mail Gene at Chat with him Tuesday at noon at

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