Thursday, May 24, 2007


One of my pet hates is mindless positivity.

Yes, I realise that we're in the ad business, we sell stuff, and if we want people to buy it we'd probably ought to be positive about it. But that doesn't mean we have to be positive about everything.

Indeed, I'm a big believer in Barthes' theory that meaning is purely differential, that a quality becomes evident only in the presence of its opposite, that there is no beauty without decay, no light without shade.

By and large, people expect positivity from advertising and because they expect it they filter it out. A little dash of negativity is both more arresting and more credible, and therefore more persuasive.

But all that aside, negative stuff is a heap more fun to write.

So imagine my delight when an AD at work asked me to craft for him this nasty letter terminating his account with his ISP.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I would like to cancel my dial-up internet service with you.

Take a look at that sentence again: “I would like to cancel my dial-up internet service with you”.

It seems fairly simple, doesn’t it? It doesn’t use advanced syntax, it’s not conceptually complex, and it’s only twelve words long. Yet despite repeated efforts on my part to have you give effect to it, your ironically-named “technical support staff” seem unable to grasp its meaning. It would seem that your levels of customer service are, like your namesake, extinct.

Let me explain (I’m getting rather good at it by now – I’ve had quite a lot of practice).

Since you changed your connection numbers several weeks ago I’ve been unable to get online, yet I still seem to be paying for the service.

I’ve contacted your technical support people 8 or 9 times to attempt to have them rectify the situation. I suspect you will find this unsurprising, but they have proven to be spectacularly unhelpful. To be fair, I don’t think the fact that English is their second language, their third-world telecommunications infrastructure or the prompt cards from which they were reading helped them in understanding my particular difficulty, but they still seem to have an attitude to customer service that would be the envy of an Eastern Bloc secret police force.

The last time I called to speak to a customer service representative, I had to wait for 15 minutes before being put through to someone (and nothing says “service” like hold music). When we finally did speak, they were more than happy to help me cancel my service, which was great news, except they couldn’t do it there and then. Someone would have to call me back within 3 days.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that two weeks have elapsed and I’m still waiting.

Perhaps you could contact them on my behalf to find out why they were unable to solve my problem. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the same level of service and support as I have.

Instead of trying for a 10th time, I’ve decided to cancel my service with you.

As I have received no service since roughly the end of April, I expect you will want to refund my service fee for the intevening time. Don’t bother. Instead, I’d prefer you to make a donation on my behalf to the mental health charity of your choice, in order to provide some help to the poor souls who have been driven mad by the monotony, frustration and despair of dealing with your organisation’s staggering incompetence.


What fun.


underwhleming said...

Ok, so I'm not big on positive thinking either, but I am interested to get your thoughts on this:

The guy is the inspiration for that 'look into my eyes, not around the eyes' thing on little brittain. But this is rather spooky, and you can tell from how freaked out these guys are at the end, and how silly they look that it wasn't fake.

How much of what you see accidentally falls into your work?

writer said...

I can't stand over-earnest people in advertising.