Tuesday, August 20, 2013

take a letter, Maria

My wife has been selling on eBay, the top online auction website, for years. Many years, as a matter of fact. In addition to regular auctions, she maintains an eBay "store" with an inventory of several thousand items. She makes trips to our local post office several times a week. Basically, she sells a lot of stuff.

For the most part, Mrs. P specializes in pop culture collectibles. That's a fairly broad term for a category that encompasses advertising memorabilia, sports team logo items, rock and roll merchandise and TV and movie related items. Various items emblazoned with logos representing Coca-Cola, McDonald's, M&Ms and other internationally-recognized companies are especially popular and particularly consistent sellers. A lot of these items in her eBay store and those offered for auction, had limited availability in their original distribution. Most were only available to company employees for a short time, either through brief distribution or from an employee-only store or catalog. Small promotional items — such as pens, t-shirts, mugs or figural likenesses of a company mascot — are highly sought-after by collectors of a particular company's memorabilia.

Last week, she sold and closed a sale for a promotional notepad from the headquarters of Pep Boys, the national chain of auto parts stores. Pep Boys, with their familiar mascots of Manny, Moe and Jack, produces a lot of promotional tchotchkes for their employees. Their aim is to boost employee morale and to maintain the company's branding. They have created and circulated key rings in the shape of cars and various automotive tools. Employees were treated to coffee mugs promoting a variety of company goodwill policies. Logoed pens and notepads were a staple throughout the company's Philadelphia-based main operations facility. (I should note that I worked in the Marketing Department of Pep Boys for four years and I managed to acquire more than my fair share of promo items.) The notepad that Mrs. P sold for $4.99 plus shipping was used to promote a specific employee initiative in the late 1990s. The top of each page displayed the smiling visages of Manny and his pals along with some sort of cheerful motivational slogan. The rest of each page was left blank to allow for the quick jot of a phone number as it sat by your desk phone at the ready. The very fact that most of these note pads were completely used or most likely trashed over the course of nearly twenty years, makes the one my wife sold a pretty rare commodity and a great find for a collector.

A few days after Mrs. P sent the Pep Boys notepad to the buyer (in a batch of a hundred or so other packaged shipments that went out that day), she received an email of a decidedly disappointed nature. The notepad had arrived and the buyer was not at all pleased. My wife prides herself on customer satisfaction and does her very best to ensure that her customers are content and that all wrongs are righted quickly. The email, angry and accusing in tone, proclaimed this as "the worst transaction in her history with eBay." The buyer dismissed her purchase as "not worth 49 cents let alone four-ninety-nine!" She demanded a refund. Calmly, my wife composed her standard "I'm sorry you are not happy with your purchase" email and inquired about her dismay. Mrs. P explained that this notepad was a limited-run, company-only item, out-of-print for nearly twenty years and then available only to employees in the main office.

A day or so later came the reply. The buyer said that she didn't really care what was printed on the individual pages, she merely needed a notepad.

My wife and I scratched our heads and tried to fully understand the "fucked-up-ness" of the situation.

This particular buyer lives in Sweetwater, Texas, the county seat of Nolan County. It boasts a population of a little over 11,000 people and sits approximately 35 miles west of Abilene, the 25th most populous city in the United States. Sweetwater is home to many independent drug stores, as well as outlets of national chains like CVS. I've been to a fair amount of drug stores in my life and I believe that most have a small section devoted to household items like light bulbs, adhesive tape and, um, notepads. In addition, right there on Interstate 20 (locally known as Georgia Avenue), there is a K-Mart (with convenient hours of operation; most evenings until 9 PM) and, less than a mile away, is a WalMart SuperCenter that is open TWENTY-FOUR-FUCKING-HOURS-A-FUCKING-DAY! You're telling me that this numbskull, in search of any ol' notepad to write a goddamn message to whatever other inbred moron to whom she needs to impart precious documented information, can't get up off her lazy, cheap beer-swillin', barbecue-munchin' ass and get on down t' th' WalMart to purchase a notepad for half-a-buck? No! Her first thought to obtain a notepad was to turn to eBay, search "notepads," and click "Buy It Now" on a listing for a notepad for four dollars and ninety-nine cents plus the cost of shipping it to her double-wide trailer. (By the way, in case she is doing some travelling, there are two more WalMart SuperCenters just up the road a piece in Abilene, as well as a Staples and an Office Depot. I'm fairly certain that they sell a variety of notepads. Many priced well below $4.99 with no collectible value whatsoever.)

Texas leads the nation in state-sanctioned executions, but obviously they are not working fast enough.


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