The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2012

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Page 32 of 140

MERRILL SHINDLER'S WORD OF MOUTH The Death of Care A t the risk of sounding like the Last Living Civil War Veteran, I remember a time when Corporate America actually . . . cared. There was a time when you wrote a letter to soup purveyor grousing that your last can of tomato tasted of tin—and they sent you both a letter of apology—and a case of soup. These days, the chances are good that you'll get no response at all. If you do, it will point out that their cans aren't made of tin, and you should buy another brand. This is not to say there isn't any goodwill left out there. Not long ago, I noticed that the handles on my Wüsthof steak knives were cracking in the dishwasher. I dropped Wüsthof a note, asking if I was doing something wrong. They sent me a dozen new knives. These don't crack. I guess that was their way of acknowledging a failing in their product. But for the most part, the responses from Corporate America are . . . sad. A few months ago, DirecTV stopped carrying Viacom shows during a payment conflict. That meant no SpongeBob (along with many other popular shows)—which around my house is a disaster. I called DirecTV, to whom I pay more than $150 a month for service, and said I wanted an adjustment for the shows I couldn't see because of greed, avarice and a lack of concern for the common good. I was told there was no adjustment—that they had added some more cartoon channels and I could watch them. This is like paying for osetra and being served paddlefish. They wouldn't budge. And then, there's my (losing) battle with Sparkletts over their Jr. Sports bottles. Not long ago, Sparkletts changed the bottles, which went from substantial plastic—to thin, flimsy plastic. The new plastic leaks—about one out of a dozen bottles in a pack is partly empty. I called Sparkletts. The first customer service representative I spoke with had no idea what I was talking about. I asked for a supervisor. I was put on hold for a long, long time. A fellow finally got on the line, and I explained the prob- lem. He cut me off, saying something along the line of, "The new bottles are made using 30 percent less plastic. They're better for the environment. We're not changing back." I told him I appreciated his ecological concern—but the new bottles leaked. He told me they were aware of that. They were looking into it. But they were never changing back. He asked if he had answered my question. He had no regret that his product was failing. He didn't offer to send me a replacement bottle. I was a bother. All I was, all I am, is a customer. These days, it's a sad thing to be. 32 / the tasting panel / november 2012 SOMETIMES IT'S A SAD THING TO BE A CUSTOMER

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