Monday, February 9, 2009

Sticking it to the Man in Longhand

My grandmother is 85. She lives alone in the rowhouse in Philadelphia that she and my grandfather bought in 1962 or so. Most people would describe her as a "character". On bad days, my mother refers to her as "that old bat" and implores us to please, for God's sake, TELL HER IF SHE'S TURNING INTO NANA. (One time I did, and she told me to go right to hell.) My grandmother has always been a bit peevish and irritable, even when she was fairly young (she had my mother at 21; my mother had me at 20, so she was a grandmother by the time she was my age). She's also highly opinionated and outspoken without reservation, a trait that has intensified with age. You're familiar, I'm sure, with the type of old lady who says whatever pops into her mind knowing that she can do so with utter impunity because of her advanced age. That's my Nana.

Nana has always been a writer of strongly worded letters to newspaper editors, local officials, and members of Congress. She has very nice Catholic school Palmer Method handwriting, and she writes her letters in longhand, on lined letter paper (the kind you used to be able to buy in tablets at drugstores) at the end of her kitchen table. Back when she smoked, she'd organize herself carefully before she set to work. Her ashtray, cigarettes, and gold lighter on the left; a cup of black coffee on the right, and her pad of letter paper in front of her. She had the names and office addresses of the mayor of Philadelphia, the governor of Pennsylvania, her Senators and Representative, and every member of the Philadelphia City Council (they were a frequent target of her outrage) in her leather address book. I don't recall that she ever wrote to the President, but perhaps she did. Or perhaps she just copied him on her letters to her Senators. Her letter-writing efforts were not restricted to politicians and newspaper editors. If a product or a service or an establishment didn't live up to her expectations, those responsible would hear, in letter form, from my grandmother.

I’ve found unsettling resemblances between myself and Nana recently. I’m not peevish like she is (although I have my days and can easily see how they’ll increase in frequency with age), but I’m always railing against some outrage or injustice, and I don’t generally stop with just verbal ranting. My Senators and Representative receive frequent emails from me, and not just via the form letters you can send electronically via their websites. No, I sit down and compose letters just like Nana. I send them electronically. I drink tea, rather than coffee. I’ve never smoked. But sitting in my kitchen at my computer, I might just as well be my grandmother.

Our dryer is broken, and it’s been broken for two weeks. It’s likely to remain broken for some time, since the company which sold it to us for a lot of money LESS THAN TWO YEARS AGO is refusing to make any exception to the warranty, meaning that they expect me to pay for repairs. The dryer’s been repaired once already (again, less than two years old), and I’m quite firmly determined that it should be repaired at the company’s expense (no names. But it rhymes with Hurlpool). I have a family of four, and I don’t do laundry any more frequently than any other mother of two children. I don’t throw tennis shoes or wet hamsters in there. So strangely enough, I actually think that it should still work. Unnamed company disagrees, and during a 30 minute phone conversation, they politely reiterated their utter indifference to the fact that their $700 machine has ceased to operate. That impasse unresolved, I found the address of the company CEO and wrote a letter. Yes. I did. I also wrote a letter to the National Association of Manufacturers (they’ve been on my list for quite some time, actually). I haven’t heard back yet. Weird, right?

Right now, my laundry room contains a $700 dryer, along with a couple of drying racks covered with wet clothes. I’m going to try to break these people down one more time. If that doesn’t work, maybe I can get my grandmother to send a letter for me.


Anonymous said...

You go nana...oops I meant girl! I wrote to the salesman all the way up to the CEO of a certain car company when they wouldn't honor my warranty. It worked!

FranIAm said...

Time for the lined tablet - call Nana now!

themom said...

I'm a firm beliver in letter writing, email campaigns and phone calls. For the most part, this eprsistance has always paid off. Good luck, don't cave.

3carnations said...

I think you should change Hurlpool to the real company name. I've heard of some companies monitoring google hits for their company name. If a higher-up gets wind of this, you might see results.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Damn them! I'll join your crusade if you like.

Sauntering Soul said...

You may remember I've been in a 14-month-long (and still counting) dispute with the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management over a $500 bill when I had a leak and it took them over 3 months to come fix it. I sent them a very long letter on Jan. 27th. On Feb. 3rd I received a final demand for payment and a threat to turn my water off. Apparently, my letter writing skills suck. Would it be possible for me to hire you or your Nana?

P.S. My word verification is "sweat". I think Hurlpool best be starting to do a little bit of that. And also, ew gross. Why is my word verification "sweat"?

CDP said...

Suze--Good for you! If the CEO doesn't respond to my letter, I'm writing to individual board members. Seriously.

Fran--I wish I could find those tablets; the paper is nice to write on.

themom--I probably will eventually cave so I can get the dryer fixed, but I'll keep writing until I get a refund.

3carn--You're probably right. I might change it (but "hurl" is so funny!)

Dr. M--I can always count on you to help me rise up against the oppressors!

SS--Uh oh. Is that a warning from the City of Atlanta? "Pay your bill, or you'll miss that daily shower..."

WendyB said...

"One time I did, and she told me to go right to hell." -- ha! Same happened with me.

Meanwhile, my grandmother recently called a relative a "bag of shit" ... to HIS FACE! And, yes, she's in her right mind.

Anonymous said...

Appliances cost so damn much these days and always seem to last about the same time the warranty does and no more. It's crazy. My mom used to have machines that lasted 20 years! She's still using a 1990 washing machine and it's going strong. I guess nowadays they just want you to part with more money more regularly. Cheap idiots.

I used to know a couple of top execs at your company too, as we did their PR back in the day. Neither are still with the company though, sadly.

Debbie said...

Keep at those dryer people. I've been fairly successful when I don't back down.

MichaƩle said...

I have always had exceptional success when filing a complaint with the Attorney General's office of my state (Washington). I'm not sure if your State AG's office has a website, but ours does and there is a very quick, efficient consumer complaint form there that you can fill out and wa-la, they send the company a letter stating that you mean business. Recently, I got over $600 back from the Chrysler dealership who sold us a car last June "forgetting" to tell us the air conditioner compressor was tits up and that "we should have known." Even the Carfax report didn't pick up on that it had been in a small collision before we bought it. Anyway, enough of the "me time," it worked and I have used the AG's services free of charge for other things as well.

Good luck. Keep us posted.

pistols at dawn said...

I would just drink the troubles away, which is an admittedly short-term solution, albeit a more delicious one.

enc said...

Do you think your grandmother would write to the Worst Company in the World (no names, rhymes with Jest Cry) for me? My tv (still under warranty) has been broken for six weeks, and I can't get the muppets at Jest Cry to stand behind their stupid product.

Good luck with your dryer.

Uncanny: my word verification is "barac"!

pidomon said...

must be a grandma type of nite as this is the second post ive read and i wrote one about my Grandma.

good luck with your letter quest.

susan said...

I had a Nanna and so did my son. Both ladies were very firm in their beliefs that greedy, lazy, inefficient service was completely unacceptable. I'd say go for the letter to the AG's office and meanwhile, seek out a laundromat if things get a little too damp.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I gave you an award.

CDP said...

Wendy--I can easily picture my grandmother calling someone a "bag of shit". She's not squeamish with the profanity.

Veggie--too bad, I might have tried to get you to use some insider influence!

Debbie--Thanks, I will!

Michaele--EXCELLENT idea! Thanks!

Pistols--note from my Nana--drinking and letter writing are not mutually exclusive pursuits. Take it from an old lady who knows.

ENC--Jest Cry! Ha! How do they suck? Let me count the ways. It so happens that we bought the damn dryer from them.

pidomon--it must be internet telepathy

Susan--I think I will write to the AG. Meanwhile, sheets and towels are the only things I really miss the dryer for...everything else does just fine on drying racks.

Dr. Monkey--thank you! I'll be right there!

Lisa said...

My word verification is abicting.

Toss that into your next letter. THAT will get their attention.

We've had rotten luck with washers and dryers since we moved to Georgia. Brand new ones didn't last more than a couple of years or three. The dryer at our old house in IL came with the house, was already many years old (it had a crank on the side) and never needed to be replaced.

I feel your pain.

Now get writing. And thank you for the tip on the wet hamsters. Maybe that's where my "bad luck" comes from......

CDP said...

Lisa--the washer and dryer we had before we bought the Whirlpool crap was original to our house, which was built in 1969...the dryer finally died in 2007. I'm OK with replacing a major appliance after 10 or 15 or 38 years, but less than two? Yes, the letter-writing campaign is underway!

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