Dear Mr & Ms Keranique,
You have requested an explanation for my decision to return your hair care products. It is an explanation that I am happy to provide, but in order to do so, I must take you back in time several weeks to an early morning in late April.
It is Autumn in south-eastern Australia – a magical time of year. The heat of summer has passed, the currawongs have come down from the mountain and their melodic chorus fills the air. The curtain rises on the lounge room-cum-study of a modest home in a small country town. A personal computer sits on a small table. Presently a rumpled man, coincidentally in the Autumn of his years, takes his seat opposite the screen. That would be me, your hapless correspondent. I open my emails and see something that appears to be from Telstra. They are Australia’s major provider of telephone and internet service. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them reputable, because they are, after all, a telco, but on the other hand, I know where they live. I am reassured. I open the email. I can’t remember if I open an attachment. Surely I can’t have been that stupid! But I have been known to do stupid things, so the possibility cannot be ruled out. Almost immediately I am confronted by what I’m told is referred to as a pop-up. It has popped up to request that I complete a brief questionnaire and offers the reward of a free gift. I am not so easily bought and request that it pop off. It demurs. I ask again, emphasising with a click of my mouse and still it remains on my screen, insistent in its, I think it’s fair to say now, demand. I reason that if I submit to this demand it will go away. So I do. Submit, that is. But it does not go away. It insists on giving me my reward. I am offered a choice of free gifts. In a pathetic attempt to ingratiate myself with my wife, I choose the hair care products. And now I am offered an add-on. For only around $3.50. So my free gift bestowed in exchange for my free time is no longer free. All right, why not? Looks like good value…
…Imagine now really creepy background music, for it is here, that an audience, witnessing this scene, would gasp and shout a warning. But alas, there is no audience. I am alone, with no one to counsel caution. So, like the gormless idiot in the B-Grade horror movie, stepping into the darkened room where the serial killer awaits, I provide my credit card details…and…I am lost. The fine print of your terms and conditions flash across my screen at warp speed. I fancy, in that brief nanosecond, I see an offer on your part, to relieve my credit account of, not to put too fine a point on it, money, on a regular and ongoing basis. This is a very attractive offer and I consider it, also in that brief nanosecond, before deciding that your generosity is more than I can accept.
I consult my son. He stares at me in disbelief and shakes his head, more in sorrow than in anger. He has long suspected that he has been raised by an idiot and his worst fears are now confirmed. DON’T DO THAT! DON’T EVER DO THAT AGAIN, he says. Somehow, while I wasn’t paying attention, our roles have been reversed. Only yesterday, it seems, I was warning him to beware of strangers and now it’s him cautioning me against skimmers and cyber thieves. On the one hand I’m thrilled and relieved to learn that he’s already smarter than I am. On the other hand I’m depressed to learn that he’s already smarter than I am.
At this point, I am unsure exactly where I stand. Had I managed to decline your generous offer or not? I check my credit card on line and note a debit of $5.25 together with a 16c fee for an international transaction. Sadder, though none the wiser, I accept $5.41 as the cost of naiveté and adopt a ‘wait and see’ policy. Several days later I receive a phone call from a very nice young Filipino man. He is offering me his congratulations and compliments me on my intelligence, so naturally I become alarmed. I attempt several times to elicit an intelligible response to my question “is this going to cost me any more money?” only to find myself swept along in a torrent of words falling faster than I can catch them. Finally I interrupt him to explain to him that I have no intention of allowing any further deductions to my credit card. At this point, I sense a change in his tone. Up until then I had felt that, given time and the right circumstances, we might become friends. But now, with my reluctance to enter into any pecuniary relationship, his attitude spins, as you Americans might say, on a dime. He becomes snippy, even surly and informs me that I will need to telephone you – in the US. Disillusioned, for it has become apparent to me that he only wants me for my money, I hang up and seek the advice of my local bank. They are kind enough to cancel my credit card and re-issue me with another. There are no valid automatic deduction arrangements on this card. I put the matter out of my mind until several days later, when a parcel arrives on my front door step. Excitedly, I open the parcel, thinking it might be a couple of books I ordered from Canada about six weeks ago and that haven’t turned up yet. Incidentally, my research has revealed that Canada is quite handy to the US, so perhaps you could pop over and look into that for me. Anyway, the books I hoped for have not arrived and I find instead your handsomely packaged hair care products. And so begins our email correspondence, during the course of which, you seek the feedback that I now provide:
I have pondered the situation and it occurs to me that there may be a business opportunity for you here in Australia. I have after all just paid out $A5.41 and received precisely nothing in return. You on the other hand have received $US3.50. I know it’s not a lot, but consider the possibilities for expansion. Australia has a population of around 24 million. I’ve noticed that not all of us have hair, and it’s fair to say baldness does not have the stigma it once had. The comb-over is in decline as the hirsutely-challenged own their baldness and proudly reclaim their heads. Although, as an aside, I note, in this one area, your own Mr Trump remains a traditionalist. But I digress and returning to my point, would suggest that, despite the alarming rise of Bald-Chic, your potential market exceeds 20 million, if we include children, and why wouldn’t you?
In conclusion, I would urge you to expand this business model. It’s true that some punters will object to being stiffed for five bucks, but most will just say, what the hell, it’s only a cup of coffee. Nobody’s going to be bothered taking legal action. One or two smartarses (that’s smartasses, to you) might write a sarcastic email, but’s that’s probably about the extent of the pushback. I’d give it a go if I were you. Oh and by the way, if you have any luck tracking down those two books, give me a bell.
All the best,