Here’s a guest blog post from Thaddeus Van Haltren, who founded The Hired Pens in 1931 and now serves as our senior copywriter emeritus. His current accounts include Richardson & Robbins Plum Pudding and Heinz Mince Meat.
I hear plenty of whining from recent college graduates these days. Seems many of them are having a hard time finding a job. Well, try finding a job in the early stages of the Great Depression with nothing more than an eighth-grade education!
Well, that was the hand I was dealt back in 1930. At the time, my nine older brothers were toiling at the local bouillon cube factory. We didn’t have fancy machinery back then, so my brothers’ job was to individually wrap hundreds of tiny bouillon cubes every day.
It was a tedious responsibility – and later drove three of them clinically insane – but it was work, damnit! And it put food on the table. (Though never bouillon cubes, ironically enough. They were too expensive.)
Anyhow, soon after dropping out of ninth grade, I headed over to the factory to inquire about employment. The manager took one look at my plump fingers and laughed in my face. “You’ll never make it in the bouillon cube industry, my boy. Now go find something else to do with those fat digits of yours.”
How I cried that night! But the next morning, I regrouped and trudged over to the headquarters of Jelke’s Good Luck Vegetable Oleomargarine. They were looking for a customer service representative and agreed to hire me for $3 a week (under the table, of course).
One of my main tasks was surveying our customers to gauge their satisfaction with our vegetable oleomargarine. This involved going door to door for hours on end, asking people if they liked the Jelke product. If they answered in the affirmative, I’d hand them a coupon good toward their next purchase. If they did not like our vegetable oleomargarine, I’d slap them in the face with a chilled salmon I carried in a cooler. Life made a little more sense back then, I suppose.
These days, I feel like I’m inundated with customer surveys. I call Microsoft for technical support; two days later, they email me a request to fill out a survey about my experience. I spend a night in a hotel; soon enough, another survey arrives in my inbox. An oil change on my car … a meal at my local Arby’s … the monthly visit to my proctologist … Well, you get the idea. Too many damn surveys.
What’s the point of this missive? Email technology has made it too easy to conduct customer surveys, and Corporate America is abusing the privilege. I suggest the Microsofts of the world instead hire a few hungry ninth-grade dropouts with a penchant for pounding the pavement and a willingness to fish-slap the occasional dissatisfied customer.