Wednesday, August 25, 2010

consumer advocacy

I couldn't find one of Ralph in a serape, but this is pretty good.

My brother, mother and I take consumer rights pretty seriously. Once we've laid down cash for a product, it should be replaced continuously by the seller, for free, until eternity. I'll never forget when the VCR died. Lechmere wouldn't take it back (probably because it was 8 years old) so my mom bought a new one, put the broken one in the box and returned it. My brother is a calm, reasonable individual. When he gets pissed off, he has a list of corporations that have over charged him or taken advantage in some way. Instead of yelling at his kids, coworkers or wife, he calls one of the paid customer service drones to absorb his fury.

I'm the opposite. I pretend the customer service reps are my best friends. Of course I'm getting a new Sonicare in the mail this week. I told the woman I give people his/hers Sonicares for wedding gifts instead of pottery. My dad always said in his thick Boston accent, "NEVER tell people things are going well. ALWAYS find something to bitch about. They'll love you. I was the most popular guy in Manchester when your mom divorced me...." With this in mind, I started complaining that the second I turned 40 I became unable to read the small print in response to her request for the serial number of my toothbrush. I continued, "It's a good thing there's so much mildew down there; I can see the letters perfectly..." It almost back-fired. She paused and said with some trepidation, "Is that what's wrong with your toothbrush?"

Ralph Nader would applaud our tenacity. My dad went to Harvard Law with Ralph. Apparently the two of them developed some sort of test/note sharing that was bordering on cheating, plagiarism or fraud. My father, Ralph, and 2 other guys were summoned into the Dean's office. The 3 stood there in their identical Brooks Brothers suits, white shirts and horn-rimmed glasses mumbling that Mr. Nader would explain everything. "Where is Mr Nader?" demanded the imperious Dean having just threatened expulsion. All eyes turned to the quad. I can hear my dad telling the story, "Like an apparition Ralph Nader was loping along the path engulfed in a streaming Mexican serape!" My father says words like serape, yarmulke, taco, manicurist, and leotard with a conspiratorial emphasis as if they can't possibly truly exist and you too must see their humor. I sometimes catch him saying hand-made pottery in that same tone.

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