Art by Mike LeeDear Kind Sir(s) and/or Madam(s):

Per your company's longstanding dedication to open-ended product development and distribution defined by but not limited to the spirit and substance of paragraphs 9 through 11 on your Web page entitled “Acme Interactive FAQs: Development and Distribution,” please accept this humble and minor criticism. My son, Edward, happened upon your site while searching for a skin-care product called Blem25. It seems your company manufactures a product called Blend 25, and what with Acme bearing such similarity to acne — well, you know how search engines are these days. In short, unaware that he'd arrived at the wrong site, Edward mistakenly ordered one unit of your Blend 25, priced at $19.95 plus ground shipping, the same price that Edward usually pays for his Blem25.

For the next five to seven working days, Edward could scarcely contain his excitement about the impending arrival of his Blem25, for this was to be the first parcel ever delivered to him by men wearing shorts. Your product arrived promptly this afternoon via United Parcel Service, or UPS. As I'm sure you can imagine, when we opened the package we were taken well aback to find that your Blend 25 is something not only unlike Blem25 but illegal to apply to the face. Sensitive fellow that he is, distraught young Edward locked himself in the bathroom, where he remains as I write, some six hours later. And who can blame him? About an hour ago, I gave up on negotiating with Edward and went back online. I looked up your company's FAQs, which referred me to your 24-hour customer-service number. I called the number and listened to 20 minutes of Average White Band and Terry Jacks phone-tunes before speaking with a representative who identified herself only as “Squeaky.” Ms. Squeaky thought she was being cute and clever by referring to me as “ma'an,”
as in “Yes, ma'an,” “No, ma'an,” a satiric device stolen directly from the pages of William Kotzwinkle's 1974 novel, The Fan Man (ISBN 0679752455). When I confronted her with this unauthorized use of Mr. Kotzwinkle's work, she hung up on me. A few minutes later she called back and, attempting to disguise her voice by doing a vocal impersonation of Kotzwinkle, threatened my family with a mild burning sensation if I made any further attempts at getting our money back, a topic I hadn't yet introduced.

I attempted to reach Mr. Kotzwinkle at his home in Maine and was told that he was asleep and to call back tomorrow.

Tomorrow?! I'll have you know my husband or wife is an attorney. So am I, and so is Edward.



C. Duncan Parkhill, Esq.


cc: E. Duncan Parkhill, Esq.

bcc: The Honorable Sandy Duncan Parkhill

™ Derrick Strand & Associates is “a results driven service organization that is tired of seeing businesses deliver poor customer service.” Derrick Strand & Associates has a mission: “To aggressively pursue, encourage, recognize, and reward outstanding Customer Service in the marketplace.” Derrick Strand & Associates dispenses $50 in cash each month for the best Worst Customer Service Story. April's winner ( is a classic tale of madness on the high seas, pitting nonexistent service against abused customer. Here are the openings of paragraphs one through six: “Two months after purchasing . . . After explaining that this . . . After trying this for hours to no avail . . . After paying a hefty shipping charge . . . I demanded to speak with a supervisor . . . I finally received my computer.”


™ Scott Pakin's Automatic Complaint-Letter Generator ( has been around longer than all other Web sites combined, and now features a friendly, almost flirtatious interface and a vocabulary of more than 5,000 words and phrases. Especially welcome is the November 13, 1998, improvement: “Deleted over 100 un-funny words and phrases and replaced them with new, funny ones.”


™ The unfortunate plight of one Steven Thrasher: His hard drive was fine, but his motherboard died. He shipped his laptop off to have the motherboard replaced, but when he received it, he found that the techs had also replaced his hard drive; from the tone of his voice documented in the recently famous audio file helpdesk.wav (available in quintuplicate on corporate mail-servers coast to coast), Steven did not make backups. So while we grieve for Steven's accidental fame, we thank him, too, for the gentle backup-reminder and the opportunity to assess the precariousness of our own marbles. Beyond thanks, a band of some sort called Duchovny Porn Smile has set Steven's breakdown to a form of music I like to call Aggressive Cocktail Rap, or “Unit Swing.” You can download “Hello, My Name Is Steven” in both streaming and nonstreaming versions from (The WAV runs about 1.4MB.) Caution: “Hello, My Name Is Steven” includes the terms “fucking assholes,” “goddamn disk drive,” “fucking me around” and “motherboard.”

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