Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered

The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered
Clive James

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy’s much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life’s vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one’s enemy's book—
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seemingly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs.

The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I rejoice.
It has gone with bowed head like a defeated legion
Beneath the yoke.
What avail him now his awards and prizes,
The praise expended upon his meticulous technique,
His individual new voice?
Knocked into the middle of next week
His brainchild now consorts with the bad buys
The sinker, clinkers, dogs and dregs,
The Edsels of the world of moveable type,
The bummers that no amount of hype could shift,
The unbudgeable turkeys.

Yea, his slim volume with its understated wrapper
Bathes in the blare of the brightly jacketed Hitler’s War Machine,
His unmistakably individual new voice
Shares the same scrapyard with a forlorn skyscraper 
Of The Kung-Fu Cookbook,
His honesty, proclaimed by himself and believed by others,
His renowned abhorrence of all posturing and pretense,
Is there with Pertwee’s Promenades and Pierrots—
One Hundred Years of Seaside Entertainment,
And (oh, this above all) his sensibility,
His sensibility and its hair-like filaments,
His delicate, quivering sensibility is now as one
With Barbara Windsor’s Book of Boobs,
A volume graced by the descriptive rubric
“My boobs will give everyone hours of fun”.

Soon now a book of mine could be remaindered also,
Though not to the monumental extent
In which the chastisement of remaindering has been meted out
To the book of my enemy,
Since in the case of my own book it will be due
To a miscalculated print run, a marketing error—
Nothing to do with merit.
But just supposing that such an event should hold
Some slight element of sadness, it will be offset
By the memory of this sweet moment.
Chill the champagne and polish the crystal goblets! 
The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am glad.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The singular of data is anecdote

Good customer service usually happens because something has gone wrong.

Elephant Walk screwed up a takeout order on Saturday night, putting rice into Lisa’s “no rice because I’m allergic to rice” dinner. (A forgivable though frustrating mistake.) So they remade it, which consisted of scraping out 95% of the rice, waiting an appropriate length of time, and giving it back to Lisa. (An insane and callous move.) We discovered this an hour later. I called the manager, who was appalled and genuinely apologetic. Within 20 minutes he had figured out where their order system was truncating messages and fixed it, refunded the entire order, made her a new dinner and added in a couple of her favorites, and was hopefully making plans to retrain the relevant kitchen staff on food allergies. And he offered to personally oversee our next takeout order to make certain that it wasn’t screwed up.

AmEx sends an occasional rebate check on one of my cards, and they bury it with advertising in the back of a statement so it's easy to miss. Today they called me to let me know that I had missed one worth over $400 that would be expiring in a couple of months!

What’s your latest experience of good customer service?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Parents of young children must be bad customers

As parents of a 6-month-old, we’ve had occasion to go shopping. A lot. We’ve hit a few local stores—Magic Beans (three locations), Henry Bear’s Park (two locations), Tadpole, Isis (two locations), Wild Child, Giggle, Baby Warehouse, Bellini (two locations)—and it’s been rather startling how restrictive the return policies are. The last one we went into was limited to 14 days, with a receipt, for store credit only.

This suggests that returns are a huge problem for these stores. Are parents doing retail renting? Experiencing buyer’s remorse? Discovering that products aren’t as good as advertised? Or just shopping on Amazon after they get an item home and finding it cheaper there, or showing it off at a playdate only to be told there’s a better choice in that product category, or finding that their child has outgrown the item in just a few weeks (since a lot of baby products are only good for a very brief developmental stage)?

Amazon goes the other way, offering 365-day returns on a lot of baby purchases. They may be counting on a lot of baby purchases being bulky and a pain (or expensive) to ship back, or they may have found that customers buy more when they feel more protected by a generous return policy. Babies R Us keeps track of your purchases for you, takes returns for 90 days, and goes outside that when pressed. But the local stores really act like they’ve been burned repeatedly.

Perhaps we’ve been insanely lucky so far (or very undiscriminating), but we haven’t wanted to return almost anything. We only returned a few outfits that we received duplicates of, and a travel bassinet that the manufacturer said wasn’t safe to use. We enjoy passing along to friends items that David has outgrown, and there are plenty of local swap or donation options if that ever fails. I know this, but I still wonder about a place that only offers store credit for a product returned the next week unopened.

Friday, June 8, 2012