Since I prefer to remain shrouded in the anonymity of the internet, allow me to reveal a few incontrovertible facts about myself:
1. I am lazy
2. I eat Mexican food approximately 83% of the time
3. I have limited cash flow coming in (unless people are rolling a lot of 5s and 9s or my poorly constructed and executed trading plans are squeezing out a couple nickels)
4. I am pretty fucking picky about my salsas – despite having tried over 11,000 different kinds, there are currently only two I’ll purchase at the store: Arriba Hot (good for tacos) and Frontera Chipotle (good for burritos).
(Disclaimer: this is not a contradiction of what I said here, salsa is a basic food group, not a condiment)
So knowing these facts, you will understand my consternation/frustration with my local grocery store for charging the astonishing price of $7.99 for a jar of Arriba salsa – it contravenes almost all of the important facts I established at the top of this page! This has been an ongoing battle, one that I thought I had finally won (and even commemorated in song) recently when they hung a sign (larcenously) proclaiming that $5.99 was the new everyday low price.
Fast forward to last (Taco) Thursday, when I was at Gristedes, our local grocery store, very early due to the SA jet lag….I saw the tag on the aisle said $7.99, but I was confident that the salsa would ring up at the still-high-but-okay-due-to-convenience price of $5.99.
Wrong. $7.99. I went fucking apoplectic, demanding to speak to the manager, raging about how the local bodega charges $4.99 and just generally acting dickish….the manager was extremely helpful and confirmed that the price was $7.99 due to the fact that’s what the tag on the aisle said. Thanks, bro. Excellent work. I was in a pinch, salsa-wise, so I made my purchase but vowed not to return until the situation had been resolved to my satisfaction.
Did I go home and stew in my anger? Yes, for a moment. Then I sprang into action. I took that most drastic of measures: I wrote an email to customer service. Might I become the Ralph Nader of a new generation? Judge for yourself.
CUSTOMER SERVICE EMAIL EXCHANGE
From: Chilly Seventeen [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Saturday, August 15, 2009 11:46 AM
Subject: Extremely High Prices on Salsa
Hello – I frequent the Gristedes on 8th between x and y streets and wanted to ask a question about the price of Arriba salsa. How can a jar of salsa be $7.99???? At the bodega down the street, when they have Arriba, the price is $4.99! Isn’t Gristedes supposed to be the local grocery store, with ostensibly lower prices? This seems like a mistake, and recently there was a sign saying “Arriba Salsa everyday price now $5.99.” Now it is back to the ridiculous $7.99. (And thank heavens that I don’t like Desert Moon Salsa – you have that listed at $8.99!?!?)
I have spoken to two different managers about this and the response has been “sometimes our prices are higher.” Okay, I’ll pay a little bit for convenience, I guess, but an 80% markup over a bodega? No way. I will not shop at Gristedes again until someone can satisfactorily explain this pricing to me. My suspicion is that there is a mistake at our store and they have not fixed it despite my repeated inquiries.
RE: Extremely High Prices on Salsa
From: Joe Grocery (Joegrocery@gristedes.com)
Sent: Mon 8/17/09 9:11 PM
To: Chilly Seventeen (email@example.com)
Dear Mr. Seventeen,
We have lowered the salsa retail to $5.99. We checked our cost which based on the amount we purchase from the vendor. Thank you for your email, and hope it somewhat helps.
Senior Executive Director of Groceries and Salsas
Victory is fucking mine. Finally. (Some names have been changed to protect the non-innocent) This was not my first customer service battle of 2009. I’ve had some major disputes with various airlines. One stupid-assed airline, which shall go unnamed, refused to give us the $800 in vouchers they promised for involuntarily bumping us from a flight from the DR on Jan 4th. After a vicious email/vmail assault (following a series of lies and inaction on their part) I was given $3200 of vouchers by the airline that shall not be named lest they figure out their mistake. I assume it wasn’t just a random act of kindness, since they gave two $800 vouchers to Chilly Seventeen and two $800 vouchers to Illy Seventeen. Fuck them, they lied to me about the max voucher being $400 so serves them right.
A MUCH TOUCHIER AIRLINE SITUATION WHERE WE WERE SOMEWHAT TO BLAME:
Sent: 22 Jan 09 17:42:26
Subject: Airport Experience
Submitted: 1/22/2009 5:42:17 PM
Hello – I had some travel difficulties last week and would like to receive the $400 vouchers that were offered. I have spoken to customer service a few times today – Jessica Gardner in Salt Lake at 4:30 PM EST and a supervisor Susan Hernandez at 4:50; Susan put me on hold and i was disconnected. Subsequently I called and gave my phone number and Susan was to call me back but i haven’t heard from her to this point.
My record locator for the trip in question is XR8GVS . I was traveling with my girlfriend, Significant Other, and we have both traveled extensively on business with Continental. We got to the airport much later than expected because there was a man wandering in the Holland tunnel, and our 20 minute commute took over 50 minutes. I had a boarding pass and Sig had gotten a seat assignment the night before, she just needed to scan her passport. We got inside a few minutes before 5:00 am and proceeded to the auto checkin terminal (we were checking no bags). As Sig scanned her passport, she was asked if she would like the $400 voucher as the flight was overbooked. She declined the offer, and then the machine hung up and we were directed to the counter. The first 3 people at the counter were no help, merely offering “you’re late, there’s no way we can help you,” even though there was no security line and we had confirmed seats. I gave up my seat because I couldn’t leave my girlfriend to travel alone. The continental desk proceded to schedule us for travel the next day, which wasn’t going to work for a 3 day trip. So I had us routed to Cancun, where we took a taxi and ferry to cozumel, arriving at 11:00 PM rather than 11:30 AM.
Granted, we were somewhat late arriving, but there were some factors beyond our control. We encountered little help and a fair amount of rudeness from the Continental workers (but ultimately there were two ladies later in the day who were pretty helpful – if we had encountered them at 4:58 am i wouldn’t be typing this missive!). I think it’s only fair that we receive the two $400 vouchers as we missed an entire day of our vacation and with a little help from Continental early in the day it could all have been avoided. i understand your counter workers have a tough job, but how about a little kindness and compassion for your customers instead of rudeness and casual dismissal?
Please contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx to further discuss.
Subject: RE: Airport Experience
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2009 11:28:16 -0600
Dear Mr. Seventeen:
You are a valued Elite member of our OnePass program and we strive to meet your travel needs at all times. When we don’t succeed we take it very seriously.
I was sorry to learn of the disappointing experience you and Ms. Other had when you trying to travel to Cancun. I understand how frustrating it must have been as your vacation was just planned for a few days. When you arrived delayed for your flight, you were fine because you had a seat assignment and boarding pass. When Ms. Other arrived, she didnt have a boarding pass. The machine recognized that the flight was oversold and asked her if she wanted to volunteer and of course she said no. When she denied the compensation she is not entitled to the denied boarding compensation. She placed herself in a position to be denied boarding when the check in time was late for the international flight.
I understand your dilema when you volunteered to get off the flight to accompany her another flight and were not given compensation as you should have been for volunteering. I will forward to you by separate email, the $400.00 Electronic Travel Certificate you should have received at the airport as a customer service gesture. Technically, you volunteered on your own as our flight did go out with one empty seat but because we value you as a customer I am forwarding that to you. I would like to assure you that your concerns have not gone unnoticed. I have registered them in an internal report that is shared with our senior management. Our management staff uses the information that we receive from our customers to improve the service we offer to each of our customers.
We appreciate your business.
Customer Care Manager
Sent: 23 Jan 09 20:12:09
Subject: RE: Airport Experience
Donna – I appreciate your quick response. However i am still frustrated by the overall experience – if the machine had not delayed Sig to give the option for the voucher, she would have had her boarding pass and we would have made the flight no problem. Granted we were much later than we had hoped due to circumstances beyond our control (homeless person walking in Holland tunnel), but there was ZERO security line (at 5:01 AM) and we would have easily made the flight.
We are both experienced travelers, travel extensively internationally for work, and have been devoted Continental fans for years. In my opinion, lack of help from the Continental workers at the counter cost us one full day of our 3 day trip to Mexico. Although two $400 vouchers won’t remotely repay the inconvenience we experienced (and I understand that our late arrival was the root cause, but could have been easily overcome by even a base level of CUSTOMER SERVICE) I would appreciate it as a goodwill gesture. If you cannot accomodate due to rigid internal practices/regulations I understand – but we will cease to spend time/energy to make sure we overcome our own internal practices/regulations to make sure we fly Continental business class to Athens every 2 months, rather than Olympic or Delta.
RE: Airport Experience
Sent: Sat 1/24/09 5:27 PM
Dear Mr. Seventeen:
Thank you for responding so quickly to my recent email.
Mr. Seventeen, I agree with you optimum customer service should
always be extended to our customer, and we absolutely respect your
perception that the service you received was unsatisfactory.
Mr. Seventeen, yes you are correct there are rigid controls that
prohibit giving Ms. Other an Electronic Travel Certificate when it shows
late international check in.
But because I value you as a Elite member of our OnePass program
and some travel irregularities are extraordinary in nature. I will be sending
along a $400.00 Electronic Travel Certificate to her through your email
address as we did not have one on file for her. All the rules and restriction
will be carefully printed on the certificate.
Continental Airlines employees are committed to providing you an
excellent travel experience. We appreciate yours and Ms. Other’s business and
look forward to serving you both in the future.
Customer Care Manager
Note the exquisite attention to detail – exact names and times – the vividness of the description veritably brings the story to life. Can you find the bluff in this exchange? This was quite a battle, but the situation was seriously fucked up – how often are people walking around in the Holland Tunnel at 4:30 AM? Continental ultimately did the right thing, but it was an epic struggle.
This type of work might involve a little too much selflessness, assuming I expand my crusades beyond those that are merely personally enriching. It might also require too much, you know, work. I had to write several emails for those fucking vouchers…If only there was a professional nap-taking league, or lucrative careers in magazine-reading? I continue to dream…