About This Site

I am a person who tends to sweat the small stuff, and I tend to speak up when I am displeased. However, rather than simply coming across as one more bitchy customer/constituent/son when I send people complaints, I like to have a little fun with it. Provided you aren't one of the people I send letters to, I expect you will too.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

FFW Guest Letter: The Birmingham Airport Baggage Claim

Nature of the Offense

We've covered shitty airport experiences before, but never specifically with the miserable slog that is baggage claim. I'm not sure it's fair to say that he set out to remedy that, but on a recent flight our good friend the Fast Food Warrior did just that. Apparently the airport in Birmingham made the experience even worse than usual. Speaking of "worse than usual," did you know that there's a black rom-com called Baggage Claim?

 photo baggage-claim-movie-poster-thumb-473xauto-12001_zps2b805e97.jpg
Working title: "People are stupid and will watch literally anything."

Anyway, back to something with more hatred for black people than the creators of Baggage Claim the movie...ladies and gentlemen, Alabama! Take it away, FFW...

The Letter

Dear Birmingham Airport Authority,

Would it be possible to install a louder, more annoying warning siren for the baggage carousels? The Martian ray-gun sound that you have installed at present is almost, but not quite, enough to induce insanity in arriving passengers as they await their luggage. When it fails to stop sounding, it comes very close. Such as last night, when it went off for about 15 minutes straight (all the while the ground crew failed to push the "deliver bags" button to operate the conveyor.

However, I'm not sure you have fully plumbed the depths of annoying sounds. For example, if you had it set to sound like a combination of a European ambulance and a raspy-voiced cat that won't stop meowing, you might be able to actually liquefy our brains (or at least drive us to attempt self-lombotomization), thus saving you the trouble of actually returning our bags.

 photo baggage_blaster_zps77b1b920.jpg
Just imagine it's playing this song over and over.

The downside, of course, is that this might result in a decline in business, and also make it much harder to collect parking fees now that passengers are unable to operate their cars. A more reasonable person would suggest that you simply replace the warning sound with something a little more bearable, or eliminate it entirely. When a flight gets in very late, say 11 pm (which I often end up on), all I want to do are get my bag, get home, and get to sleep, all with a minimum of siren/alarm sounds at this late hour. In the meantime, distributing earplugs to arriving passengers in the baggage claim area would be a much-welcomed gesture.

A frequent, and frequently annoyed customer

PS - Please ask the folks working the parking pay booths to get off their phones while on the job, so they can use BOTH hands while processing payments. I don't talk on the phone while teaching my students; they can show some courtesy and concern for their customers trying to get home after a day of travel.

The Response

Dear Mr. Warrior,

Thank you for your email to the Birmingham Airport Authority regarding your recent experience at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM). We know your time is important and we appreciate you contacting us. The Birmingham Airport Authority and our airline partners work in cooperation to deliver a world-class travel experience to every passenger. Our priorities also include providing a strong positive impression as the gateway to the Magic City.

We are sorry to hear that you were not pleased with your experience last night. This lets us know we did not meet our goals. While the baggage notification alert is an important part of the baggage system that cannot be changed, we have forwarded your concern to the appropriate management with the Birmingham Airport Authority for review of the volume.

Also, each airline manages their own baggage handling and delivers their passengers bags to the belts. Some of the airlines may choose to contract the service to a third party. We would be happy to forward your comments to the airline that served you or you may also contact them directly. The contact information for each airline at BHM is listed on our website: http://www.flybirmingham.com/schedules-airlines.html

We have also forwarded your concern to the Parking Manager regarding the level of customer service you received from the parking cashiers.

Again, we thank you for your time and we appreciate you making us aware of your experience. We value your comments and use passenger feedback as a tool to improve. We appreciate the opportunity to serve your travel needs and we hope to have the opportunity again in the future.

Kindest regards,
Birmingham Airport Authority

Translation: "None of that is our fault, it's all these people we subcontract to! Get bent!" Also, I was enchanted by the idea of there being some "volume review board" for the airport to forward FFW's concerns to. So FFW sent this delightful follow-up letter:

The Follow-Up Letter

Dear Authority,

I would like to nominate Dr. Angry Customer, PhD for the Baggage Carousel Alert Volume Review Board. In addition to serving as a postdoctoral researcher at a top tier research university, he and his wife own three cats, and he has spent numerous hours in social interactions with Greek immigrants. For these reasons, he is well-qualified as an expert in annoying sounds and excessive volume levels.


The Response

Note: I pretty much just needed an excuse to post this.

The Verdict

Severity of the Offense: 5/10

I give this a pretty low score just because it has to be placed into the greater context of air travel, and the miasma of horrific customer service that comes along with it.

Corporate Care Level: 6/10

First off, FFW got a response at all, which is enough to get some points no matter what. FFW claims he's nicer to these guys than I am, which is why he gets stuff. I really don't know.

Adequacy of Response: 0/10

As far as I can tell, no changes were made. I tried to call FFW to confirm, but he couldn't hear the phone over the ringing in his own head.

Overall: 3/10

This is about the highest score I could ever give an airport for any reason. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go one tab over to Netflix, where I have a date with Paula Patton at Baggage Claim...

Friday, January 31, 2014

Grace's Restaurant

Nature of the Offense

I expect a lot of my readers do some business travel, especially for professional conferences. So many of you are probably familiar with the trappings of the Great American Convention Center. It's basically a suburb minus the rustic, homely charm. Everything is built with cardboard, completely devoid of any soul or individuality, and outrageously expensive. Such is the case with National Harbor, Maryland, a barren strip of dirt just south of Washington, D.C. that some enterprising young asshole decided to bulldoze and put a disposable hotel on top of. It took me no time at all to start referring to it as Dirt Harbor, a name more appropriate than I initially realized; if you read the Wikipedia article linked in the last sentence, you'll see that they've made fast friends with the Sierra Club by dumping hundreds of thousands gallons of untreated sewage into the Potomac. This was no surprise to me, as the whole place was about as green as a brick.

Anyway, I'm rambling. I got roped into eating at a shitty, overpriced Chinese restaurant at the center, and got mild food poisoning. I wrote this letter between dry heaves.

The Letter

Dear Grace,

The home page of your website shows a picture of chopsticks attempting to pick up a single grain of uncooked rice. Your web designer must have had an experience similar to mine in your restaurant, because I cannot think of a more appropriate image to convey the frustration of dining at your establishment. And you probably don't care, because your customer base consists almost entirely of business travelers who will pay their 50 bucks a head because they're stuck in Dirt Harbor, Maryland and never come back. But I'm still going to send you this litany of complaints, if for no other reason than my own satisfaction.

 photo graces_chopsticks_zpsb5a786ef.jpg
Seriously, this is supposed to make me want Chinese food?

You use a Chinese character in your signage near the front door. Do you know what it means? I expect that super-trustworthy guy at the tattoo parlor told you it means "grace"--and he wasn't totally lying--but, like your web designer, he was trolling you too. You see, while that character is occasionally used to mean "grace," its more common translation in China is "expensive." Like a Kardashian, you have clearly confused the two, but the end result is hilariously more appropriate than you probably intended. You charge 40 dollars for a plate of crab cakes with asparagus, which might not be outrageous in some circumstances. But when the food arrived, the crab cakes were smaller, less fresh, and contained less crab than the cakes we got for free from the sports bar at the convention center the night before. And the three spears of asparagus were like a bad joke. I've had seven-dollar appetizers from Applebee's that were more filling and tastier than that entree.

 photo graces_zps4d562409.jpg
It means "General Tso's is not Chinese food."

Let's talk more about your advertising. Your website describes an "intimate" lounge, which is where my friends and I were seated. Tell me, how much should the music be allowed to shake the table in order for the setting to remain "intimate?" When I think of an "intimate lounge," I imagine tinkling pianos, indoor voices, and high-priced prostitutes. What we got was more like a Jersey Shore dance club. The pounding electronic music was so loud I had to shout to the person sitting next to me, and when it was my turn to order I simply held up my menu and pointed. The only thing "intimate" about our dining experience was dessert. We ate cookies in our hotel room.

I actually shouldn't have complained too much earlier about the small portion size. Because starting about 20 minutes after dinner, I wasn't hungry again for about a week. Of course, that's because something I ate at your fine establishment had approximately the same effect as applying a vice grip to my stomach. Speaking with a few other people who ate there that week, it sounds like I wasn't alone in experiencing a bit of intestinal misery after enjoying your cuisine. But hey, I didn't touch my per diem for the rest of the trip, which my employer loved. So thanks for that, I guess!

All of Arrested Development is an inside joke, so why shouldn't this picture be?

The great American war hero Colonel H. D. Sanders once said "You can be expensive, or you can be of poor quality, but I'm too drunk to finish this sentence." I think what he was trying to say is that if you want to be that shady Chinese joint around the corner that always avoids a failing sanitation grade by the skin of its teeth, fine. But don't play yourself up like some happening D.C. lounge where Congressmen take their underage pages to get them drunk, and charge prices to match.

Angry Customer

The Response

As has become the norm around here, I got absolutely nothing back from Grace. Since I'm sure this is just because she's very busy, I took the liberty of writing the response letter myself, being pretty sure of what the message is here. With Grace being such a fan of half-assed Chinese translation, I used Google Translate to provide the authenticity that Grace's is so well known for.

 photo graces_translation_zpsb30af3b4.png

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Boris Diaw

Nature of the Offense

I write the following sentence with approximately the same level of shame as a registered sex offender going door-to-door announcing his move to the neighborhood. I am a Charlotte Bobcats fan. Perhaps because my father is a lifelong Red Sox fan, my definition of sports is choosing a team from a small list of acceptable semi-local teams and sticking by them no matter how historically shitty things may get. However, there is a notable difference between bad and lazy, and I don't have to put up with buying tickets to see millionaire athletes who can't be bothered to stay in shape.

Enter Boris Diaw.

 photo boris_burger_zps1ddee904.jpg
Tony Parker disapproves.

This fat turd has made a career out of playing well for a contender, signing a huge contract, and then packing on the pounds whenever his team's record dips below .500. Basketball guru Bill Simmons recently wrote about his potential to be "the fattest guy to play important minutes for a title team." Here's what he looked like in his later years with Charlotte:

 photo boris_fat_zpsbd3ecbe2.jpg
The first suggested auto-complete for Boris on Google images is "Boris Diaw fat."

Boris took home 9 million dollars in salary that year. And then dropped (some of) the weight to chase a title with the Spurs. Fuck him. Anyway, I was recently browsing his official website trying to find his email address to call him fat personally. The whole page is a delight if you enjoy making fun of fat athletes with inflated senses of self-worth as much as I do, but the real treat came on his "links" page:

 photo boris_friends_zpsfc503dc7.jpg

To translate: among links to his "friends," right up there with fellow French basketballers Tony Parker and Ronny Turiaf, he includes two burger bars, one each in Charlotte and San Antonio. Would you like to see this if you were the strength and conditioning coach for an NBA team? I say no. To learn more, I emailed Mortimer's, which is one of the many bars around Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte.

The Letter

Dear Mortimer's,

I was just browsing through former Bobcat Boris Diaw's website, because I've already seen every pair of female boobs on the internet, and remembered what a nice pair he developed during his time in Charlotte. Did you know he includes your pub as one of only seven links in the "Friends" section of his page? That's right, a world-famous, multimillionaire athlete has seven friends on the whole of the internet, and one of them is a Hotdog Panini Sandwich.

Did Boris come in often? Is that why he got so fat while he played for the Bobcats? Just to be safe, I would get in touch with his people and ask him to remove the link. Having Boris as your spokesperson would be like Hooters hiring John Daly, and we all know how well that worked out.

Angry Customer, Bobcats/Hornets fan

The Response

Hi Angry,

We aren't able to comment on our relationship with Boris, but we hope you enjoy Mortimer's and our menu offerings!

Amy ********
Director of Marketing
Mortimer's Cafe & Pub

Wait a minute, you can't comment?! Does this mean Mortimer's actually has some business arrangement with Boris? The whole thing boggles my mind, but only adds to the enduring mystique of Boris Diaw the Obese Professional Athlete. I won't do a breakdown, because Mortimer's didn't do anything wrong, and they were kind enough to send me a personalized reply even if it didn't really say anything. Boris, if you're reading this, try a salad.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Fast Food Warrior: Outback Steakhouse

Nature of the Offense

Well, it seems our frequent contributor The Fast Food Warrior is back on the case! This time, he's managed to experience the bad side of Outback Steakhouse, which the New York Times Food Review once referred to as "the most authentic Australian cuisine you can get without going to Hooters." (editor's note: citation needed). As you will see below, the Miami Outback did not see fit to show a critical March Madness game on any of their many televisions, probably anticipating the enormous dump "the U" would take in its matchup against Marquette just a few weeks later. What ensued was a classic example of the indifference to customer service we here at Letters have come to know so well.

The Letter

Dear Outback,

This past Friday, I had the distinct displeasure of dining at your Flagler location in Miami, FL with several colleagues. We chose your restaurant and decided to dine in the bar area with the intent of being able to watch some of the Big East tournament. I should note that this year's Big East tournament will be the last one in its current format, due to the breakup of the league, and this would be the last chance to see my beloved Syracuse Orange meet the hated, despicable Georgetown Hoyas. This is one of college basketball's greatest rivalries, and it ended in spectacular fashion on Friday night with an overtime victory for Syracuse.

But I didn't get to watch it. Of the four TVs in the bar, three were tuned to a REGULAR SEASON Miami Heat game, and the other to the World Baseball Classic, which is a complete joke. I asked for the Syracuse-Georgetown game to be put on one screen, and your staff not only had difficulty finding ESPN in the channel lineup, but granted me about 90 seconds viewing time before turning back to the Heat game once Syracuse-Georgetown went into overtime. That's right, the game I was watching went into overtime, and they turned it OFF! It's not like I was freeloading - I was buying dinner and $9 drinks, so a little hospitality is to be expected. Instead, I have never felt less welcome in a fake Australian-themed establishment.

While I never was an enthusiastic fan of your chain of restaurants, until approximately 40 hours ago, it remained an acceptable option when traveling for a reliable source of gut-busting calories and a low likelihood of food poisoning. It's probably unfair to put your entire chain on my RNG list (Restauranta Non-Grata), I couldn't give two bollocks for fairness after the way I was treated like Aboriginal rubbish two days ago. There were two other screens showing the Heat game - was it really necessary to kill my POST-SEASON OVERTIME HISTORIC END OF A RIVALRY MATCHUP and put the Heat back on a third TV? They screwed up my food order too, by the way.

I'm another dissatisfied customer, and I approve this complaint.

The Response

The Fast Food Warrior seems to be better at getting free loot for his troubles than I am. On the other hand, he's just as good at having these companies fail to get his name right. Not long after sending the above letter, FFW received the following response from Outback:

 photo outback_letter_crop_zps8922957e.jpg

So the letter was stuffed with some vouchers for free food and drink, but what's so hilarious about all of it is how far out of their way Outback went to make sure FFW knew how little they really welcomed his intrusion. Let's look at the enclosed goodies, complete with comments from our site's Australian correspondent, Filthy the Kangaroo:

 photo kangaroo_zps0d5b0de7.jpg

First, a free(?) Bloomin' Onion! Because who doesn't love congestive heart failure on the house?

 photo outback_onion_mod_zps09629329.jpg

And let's not forget, a $20 gift ca... er, well, "shut up and leave us alone" card?

 photo outback_card_mod_zpsf9ae8e8c.jpg

What a mess. On to the breakdown.

The Verdict

Severity of the Offense: 8/10

The issue with the TV probably merits a 6 on its own. But to get the food order wrong too? I guess FFW just had to enjoy the authentic Australian atmosphere.

Corporate Care Level: 4/10

I'm making a distinction here between "care" and "the manager's training manual says to stuff some coupons in an envelope."

Adequacy of Response: 8/10

This grade comes from FFW, not me. I guess he likes getting free food enough to forgive some pretty serious grievances.

Overall: 8/10

There are two things working in Outback's favor here. First, they responded promptly with a (form) letter and goodies. Second, the sheer entertainment value of the non-gift card just makes this one of the more fun letters we've done here. Good stuff all around. But seriously, don't eat at Outback.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Alamo Drafthouse

Nature of the Offense

At this point, the Alamo Drafthouse has earned a fairly big reputation, even nationwide, so I don't need to spend much time setting them up. Basically, it's a second-rate movie theater that sells food and beer, and it's become pretty popular around Austin. They recently moved to a new system where, when you buy tickets online, you have to select a seat in advance. From everyone I've talked to, it's basically an unmitigated disaster, as my story can attest.

A couple days after I walked out without seeing a movie, I received an email asking for my feedback. Ask and ye shall receive...

The Letter

I purchased tickets for Valentine's day via your online ticketing system for myself and my wife. At the time, the seat selection menu only showed single seats available, despite the website stating leaving single seats would not be allowed. So I purchased two seats on the same row, trusting that the basic human decency of my fellow moviegoers would encourage them to slide one whole seat over and let me sit with my wife on Valentine's day.

 photo alamo_seats_zpse9b1a108.jpg Still more subtle than The Departed.

Perhaps I should have taken my cues from your petty, insensitive treatment of the girl you threw out of the theater for using her phone, and then turned her into a national laughingstock by posting her voicemail on YouTube, because your customers are just as rude. When I asked the woman in the seat next to mine if she could slide over one seat (to a better vantage point, no less), she acted like I had just split open a live infant child in front of her. Very quickly, two or three of your servers converged on me to see how I could have so badly offended this woman. When I told them of my situation, they were quick to inform me just how impossible it was for anyone to slide over even one seat in your system, whining something about "shifting tabs" like it was cold fusion. Mind you, this was 40 minutes before showtime, so it wasn't like I was holding up the start of whatever stop-motion Liza Minelli tribute you were planning to run before the opening credits.

After a few minutes of being treated like a kindergartener who won't go back to his desk and put his dick away, we decided to just leave without seeing our movie. My wife, knowing we wouldn't be able to get in anywhere else at 8PM on Valentine's day, was in tears.

I've tried to like you, Alamo, but as it turns out, the drunk girl on the voicemail is right. You guys are pompous and stuck-up, for no good reason, and more often than not the result of that is you treat your customers like shit. I will not be back for any reason, and more than likely the readers of Letters from the Angry Customer will not, either.

The Response

Greetings Angry,

I appreciate you taking the time to provide us with some feedback and I also wanted to take this opportunity to apologize for your sub-par experience. You are correct about our website not allowing single seat gaps but there are few instances where this can still take place such as when there are 3 seats available but only 2 are being purchased. I would like to think that most people would be willing to shift over a seat to accommodate a fellow moviegoer but we cannot force people to move from their chosen seat and some people go to lengths to ensure getting that ideal seat.

Since food orders are tied to those seat #'s it does make it difficult to ensure that orders are delivered to the proper table but this is by no means impossible. I agree that this could have been better handled by our staff and my biggest regret is that a manager was not involved. Rest assured that your comments open up the discussion about how to handle seating issues and I will take the opportunity to help coach our staff on the matter.

As for our PSA about the woman who got booted, we've actually gotten national attention in praise for our no talking policy. This was featured on Anderson Cooper which is why it got so big and made its way onto youTube. Since then, we've received tons of support from movie-lovers, actors, and filmmakers alike which has helped build our library of no talking PSA's featuring the likes of Danny Devito, George Romero, and Michael Madsen to name a few. As movie-lovers ourselves, our goal is to do everything we ca to preserve the movie watching experience where this is a common nuisance that is almost never enforced by most theaters.

Most of our policies are driven by guest feedback so you can always feel free to drop us a line through our website www.drafthouse.com and contact info can be found at the bottom of our main page. You can even leave comments specific to each location and there is a handy form that makes it easy to leave this response and gives us the opportunity to follow up with you.

Best regards,

The Verdict

Severity of the Offense: 10/10

Not once have I ever gone to a theater and not even been able to sit down. More or less a complete failure in every way.

Corporate Care Level: 6/10

The YouTube video of the girl's voicemail is pretty indicative of how much they value constructive criticism. I can't evaluate whether they really take customer feedback into consideration when making policy changes. Send them a letter and tell them I sent you; let me know if you get anywhere.

Adequacy of Response: 7/10

I'll mention here that I was offered a refund, which is what I consider the bare minimum for receiving absolutely no service whatsoever. I always appreciate a personalized response, although I suspect that paragraph about the YouTube video was pre-written.

Overall: 3/10

They get one point for giving me a refund, and I'm actually a bit split on whether even that much is warranted. The other two are awarded for the response letter. The bottom line, though, is that Alamo was never good enough in the first place to make it worth all this trouble. I'll just stick with Netflix.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sonic Drive-In

Nature of the Offense

Allow me to set the stage:

Nothing wrong with some discount ice cream, right? Right. However, imagine you were promised such a deal, only to have it yanked back at the last second. Angry yet? This customer was...

The Letter

Dear Sonic,

This started out as an email to customer relations about a recent visit, but a quick look around your website made me immediately realize that the problem is much bigger than that. First off, I see that customer letters are limited to 2500 characters, while investors have unlimited space. By my calculations, that means you believe--as most American corporations seem to these days--your investors are infinitely more valuable than your customers. Such a stance is problematic, at best, from a business standpoint. In fact, your entire business standpoint is suspect in my opinion. When I go to your customer feedback page I see the following quote at the top of the page:

"This page is all about business. Serious business. Well, as serious as you can get about Sonic, anyway."

Photobucket Because I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it for myself.

You think aggravated customers want to see that? Because if you don't take your business seriously, I'm sure as hell not going to. Let's discuss the experience I had at your 4929 Burnet Rd (Austin, TX) location last night, keeping the above quote in mind.

At approximately 6:30 last night, my wife and I decided we wanted ice cream. We had been to Sonic a few weeks before, and enjoyed your new ice cream, so we decided we would go back. However, I remembered that the last time we went, the whole restaurant was plastered with ads for half-price shakes and malts after 8PM. So we waited a full hour and a half before we came over. Do you know what it's like to decide you're getting ice cream, and then have to sit and wait a full 90 minutes before you can claim your reward? The only appropriate comparison I can come up with is the time between the age when a boy decides girls don't have cooties anymore and the time when he can do anything about it. It's agony. But we waited patiently, knowing the extra gallon of gas we'd be able to afford for waiting would be worth it.

So I pull into the parking lot just as the hour rolls over, and I say our order into the speaker. I ordered a caramel milkshake, and my wife got one of your new mini-sized Blasts, since she doesn't like large portions. Unfortunately, your speaker system--which is how customers are encouraged to order, I believe--is in such terrible shape that I couldn't understand your employee confirming my order. I decided to assume it was better on her end, since again, THIS IS HOW YOU FACILITATE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN SERVERS AND CUSTOMERS, and didn't waste any more time yelling at a plastic menu. Bad decision...

A few minutes go by, and a carhop comes out with my order. Well, she came out with AN order, just not mine. Apparently the speaker quality on the server's end isn't any better than it was on mine, and "Mini" came out "Medium." And according to Sonic, "medium" means "just small enough you can't swim in it." Because when it comes to obesity, Sonic is "as serious as you can get." We decided not to send it back, though, because as I mentioned before, we had already waited 100 minutes for ice cream at this point, and sending it back then would have likely caused us to eat each other's eyes out. Upon receiving our ice cream, the carhop asked for an amount of money approximately quadruple what I had expected to pay during half price shake hour, but I paid anyway, assuming the Blasts were sold by weight.

Looking at my receipt, I saw that this was not the case. Not only had I not been given the half price discount for my caramel shake (even though the receipt had a timestamp of 8:09), I had actually been charged an ADDITIONAL 10 cents for the caramel flavoring, which was mentioned NOWHERE on the menu. I guess I took the menu more seriously than I was supposed to. Also, what are your milkshakes supposed to taste like WITHOUT the flavoring? If forced at gunpoint to describe the taste of my shake as anything other than "nothing," I think the best I could have come up with would have been "chilled bull semen."


I pointed out the error to the carhop, who took the issue to her manager. She came back a few minutes later and told me she could not rectify the transaction because I paid with a credit card. That's interesting, because I guarantee if I call Visa and tell them you defrauded me they won't have any issue making things right. But hey, let's don't get too serious about credit card fraud, right? Anyway, the girl shoves a coupon in my face and scampers off, never to be seen again. Looking at the coupon, I see it's good for one free Sonic burger, but that cheese, chili, bacon, or jalepenos will cost extra. Great, so between the wrong size Blast and the double-price spooge shake, you've screwed me out of approximately six dollars, which you make up for by offering me a plain slab of ground beef between two dry buns that probably costs you about a nickel. I guess in this exchange you only value your investors 120 times as much as your customers, which is certainly a better ratio than the infinity I arrived at above.

Do you "seriously" think any of this makes me want to go back to Sonic? Because the only "serious business" I want to do at Sonic right now is the kind I normally reserve for the toilet.

If you want to keep this from happening again, I would suggest you put some "serious" effort into improving your menus, speakers, registers, and most importantly, your attitudes. Also, I'd like a little better compensation than this pitiful coupon.

The Angry Customer

The Response

Some three weeks after sending the above letter, I got this from Sonic's Investor Relations Department:

Hello, Angry.

We would like to thank you for taking the time to bring this matter to our attention and to apologize for your inconvenience. We always strive to provide great food and drinks with quality customer service. With this being said, we wanted to reach out to let you know we care! I have forwarded your concerns to our customer service department (telephone number (866) 657-6642) as well so we may resolve this issue for you.

Wishing you a super SONIC "Tot" Day!

thx - Rj

Renée J****** Investor Relations Sonic America's Drive-In

No, thx you, Renée! So she's passed things on to customer service, and a couple more weeks later, I get another email:

Dear Angry Customer:

We are very sorry that your 06/07/2012 visit to the Sonic Drive-In in Austin, Texas did not live up to expectations and are grateful to you for telling us about it. If people like you did not bring these matters to our attention, we would never be able to fix them. We have forwarded your comments to the appropriate drive-in supervisor for the location that you visited. If you have any further concerns in the future, please share them with us. Our goal is to continuously improve the Sonic Drive-In experience and to keep you as regular guest.


Sonic Drive-In

Customer Service Manager

Replies to this email address are not monitored. Should you need to contact us again, please call 1-866-OK-SONIC and provide the report number in the subject line above.

I tried a different approach with this letter, actually asking for remuneration. Unfortunately, this was the end of my communication with Sonic, as the "drive-in supervisor" didn't get back to me. Guess it's time for a recap.

The Verdict

Severity of the Offense: 7/10

Let's see...overcharging, bad food, and terrible customer service? Pretty much nailed the "bad customer experience" hat trick there.

Corporate Care Level: 3/10

This is a letter that didn't need to happen. I voiced my displeasure at the time of the incident, giving Sonic an opportunity to make things right. They got a second chance with my letter. Think I'm feeling valued as a customer?

Adequacy of Response: 4/10

Ordinarily, I'd be ecstatic that I actually got two responses from real human beings. However, as I mentioned before, I was fairly specific about what I wanted from this letter; if you rip me off, I expect my money back, at least. A "thanks for sharing" email isn't going to cut it.

Overall: 3/10

It's sad that this is an example of one of the more satisfactory exchanges I've had with a company. And still, it falls way short of what I expect as a paying customer. I won't be doing any more business with Sonic.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Third Letter to Tennessee

“I was in Nashville, Tennessee last year. After the show I went to a Waffle House. I'm not proud of it, I was hungry. And I'm alone, I'm eating and I'm reading a book, right? Waitress walks over to me: 'Hey, whatcha readin' for?' Isn't that the weirdest fuckin' question you've ever heard? Not what am I reading, but what am I reading FOR? Well, goddamnit, ya stumped me! Why do I read? Well . . . hmmm...I dunno...I guess I read for a lot of reasons and the main one is so I don't end up being a fuckin' waffle waitress.”

― Bill Hicks

Nature of the Offense

Oh, Tennessee, why must we do this? Seriously, I'm starting to feel like I'm taking shots at an aircraft carrier with a Nerf gun. This state is such an impenetrable fortress of stupid that if their public school system could teach students which way to turn the pages of a book, they would lead the nation in yearly improvement on a percentage scale. Nevertheless, they have chosen to further cripple the lifetime earning potential of their children with a new law enabling public school teachers to include anti-evolution material in the science curriculum.

Here's Bo Watson, the idiot state senator who sponsored the bill, discussing the merits of the new law. Don't worry if you can't stand to watch the whole thing; I'll filter the shit diamonds from the rest of his verbal sewage below.

I sent the following letter to State Senator Watson (because I'm not going to dignify him with just "senator") as an expression of my disgust.

The Letter

Dear State Senator Watson,

Congratulations on getting your now-infamous "Monkey Bill" passed! Now that I've written the obligatory polite opening sentence, allow me to go into detail about how much I hate that spineless piece of kindling you and your fellow "Christian Conservatives" rammed up the tailpipes of Tennessee's science teachers.

As someone who teaches science at the collegiate level, I find myself constantly working to undo the damage done by public school systems who believe in the "scientific weaknesses" of things like evolution and climate change. You want to know why American schoolchildren are falling further and further behind "the other countries" (as you put it) in science? Because teachers are being forced to either waste time discussing "alternative theories" to established science, or leave it out altogether. I saw an interview you gave recently, in which you attempted to defend the bill, and explain why my viewpoint is not valid. I'd like to go through some of the points you made, and maybe try to stimulate some of that "critical thinking" you're so big on all of us doing.

1. You want science teachers to be able to incorporate "all the information from the internet" when students bring it in. I spent a little time looking up scientific theories online, and found a few for your consideration:

-1 X -1 = -1 and Jews are evil.

The sun is the only luminous body in the universe, and everything else we see is due to "space mirrors."

Dark matter is actually caused by trillions of supermassive free-floating planets that formed in the first fractions of a second after the big bang.

The age of the Universe is given precisely in the Qur'an. I'm pretty sure the whole "Jews are evil" thing can be found in this one as well.

State senator Watson, which of these theories would you like to teach Tennessee students in order to boost their science education above "the other countries?"

2. You said that you did not mean for the Monkey Bill to encourage creationism or climate change denial in particular, but that those topics were simply meant to illustrate "common areas of debate." Where, exactly, are these topics common areas of debate? At a Koch brothers meeting, certainly, or perhaps the comments section of a Fox News article. But not in a scientific research journal.

Real comment from a news site.

Perhaps we should use our science classes to debate issues that are truly argued on a frequent basis, like "do you think Bo Watson can read?" or "is Tennessee the worst state ever?" Actually, I'm just kidding about that last one. Nobody debates it.

3. You claim this bill will "improve a teacher's confidence" when answering students' scientific questions. No doubt about that one. I'm sure the next time a student raises her hand in class and asks about a hot-topic debate like "how can we know the universe is really expanding when it is at least equally plausible to conclude that the luminosity of a Type Ia supernova is not constant in time?" the teacher will say "Hey, I may be an underpaid, overworked public high school teacher who majored in dramatic performance in college, but a bunch of conservative Christians in the Tennessee state legislature just passed a vague law encouraging the discussion of scientific strengths and weaknesses in the classroom. I GOT THIS!"

"I have genital herpes, and a degree from DeVry! Let's tackle the tough stuff, yeah?"

4. You say a major consequence of your bill will be that students will be able to "disseminate" credible information from non-credible. Did you mean "differentiate?" Oh wait! The law hasn't taken effect yet. I'll email you again in a few months, when your bill will allow me to ask the hard-hitting questions.

5. The final benefit you point out is that your bill will prevent the ACLU from "beating down the doors" of any teacher who dares to answer a student's question on creationism. It's funny, in all the years before your bill, I never had an ACLU member beating on my door. You know who does show up uninvited at my place? Religious nuts like you. How is your bill handling THAT?

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't think your legislation doesn't have a place. It does. You know that Sunday School class you teach? Take it there.

The Angry Customer
Graduate Researcher
Department of Astronomy
The University of (redacted)

The Response

As with the other two letters to the Confederate Stronghold of Tennessee, this one seems to have fallen on deaf dumb ears. I think the quote at the beginning of this post says it all. Nobody reads, or writes, or does anything in that state other than run in a circle and wave their cocks around. I won't do a full wrap-up here, because the point is pretty obvious, but let's just slap this down for good measure:

State of Tennessee, Final Grade: F-