This great exchange comes from the excellent blog of the business telecoms specialists, VOOT (http://www.voot.org/blog/). Their Director, Nigel Short, penned an inspired and tongue-in-cheek complaint letter to Freemans Confectionery about a packet of Dunkables’ broken biscuits. Freeman’s reply was an absolute classic….
To: Michael Riley – Freemans Confectionery Supplies
Subject: Broken Biscuits
I today purchased a box of your ‘broken biscuits’ for a meeting at work.
The meeting was with our Bank Manager and we were hoping to negotiate some favourable terms for an overdraft facility to help us through the ‘credit crunch’.
On opening your biscuits I was horrified to discover that not all of the biscuits were in fact broken, and despite me hastily snapping as many biscuits as I could the damage had already been done. Our Bank Manager has refused our overdraft and cited our ‘biscuit extravagances’ as evidence of our poor business management, claiming that in difficult times there is no shame in serving up broken biscuits or even Wagon Wheels1 to our visitors.
This is clearly going to impact on our business heavily and I wanted to ask you to please make it more clear on your packaging of the Dunkables2 range that some of the biscuits may indeed not be broken to avoid further potential embarrassment to businesses like us, or even old ladies who may serve them up to family and friends while pleading that the old age pension3 is still insufficient to cover living costs.
And back came this amazing response. To apprecaite it to the full, I suggest you read it out loud whilst imagining that you are a Sergeant-Major in Her Majesty’s Coldstream Guards:4
To: Nigel Short, VOOT
Subject: RE: Broken Biscuits
Dear Mr Short,
Thank you for your electronic mail. Prima facie you seem to be making a serious allegation of misrepresentation. On behalf of Freemans Confectionery Supplies I would like to submit my humblest apologies for any discomfort you may have experienced from the circumstances of “the bank manager incident”. Whilst you have my sympathy no liability is admitted, no refunds will be entertained and no compensatory damages will flow.
I agree that there are few things less pleasant than having painstakingly engineered low expectations into a third party – circumstances conspire to render them pleasantly surprised by the quality (or quantity) of your offering. I am minded of similar circumstances arising out of my wedding night. I was, of course, a much younger man then, but I digress.
Short, you sound like a man of the world. Hard headed and to the point so I’ll make no bones about it. We pride ourselves here on our low standards of customer service and anyone who imperils that hard won reputation is a danger to the organisation. Accordingly, following an appropriately Stalinesque inquisition we have summarily dismissed the biscuit breaking operative responsible for this outrageous negligence and had them blackballed from any equivalent employment for life. I know one shoudn’t be hard on single mothers, especially in the current economic climate (to which you have alluded) but we take strong exception to any breach in our quality standards.
I hope this ‘no nonsense’ approach is to your liking. I know it won’t soften the bank manager’s heart but lets face it that was never going to happen. A propos the old folks – what with index linked pensions and cold weather heating allowances5 we are mollycoddling the old malingerers already. They would be better served by prudently lining their shoes with newspaper rather than spending their leisure hours frittering away their lavish state pensions on bingo6 and broken biscuits.
p.s. The giving of Wagon Wheels is now strictly proscribed under Article 12 of the Human Rights Act
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1. For our American Readers: Wagon Wheels are a snack food sold in Australia, Canada, Iran, Malta, Ireland, Russia, the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom but not in the USA. They are biscuits topped with marshmallow and covered in a chocolate flavoured coating and, basically, they are rubbish. The biscuit itself is round to represent the wheel of a wagon (hence the name). They were invented in Australia in 1948. No one knows why ↩
2. For our American readers: The name ‘Dunkables’ derives from the verb ‘to dunk’ which has nothing to do with Dunkin’ Donuts but refers instead to the peculiarly British habit of dipping – or dunking – our biscuits in our cups of tea. The skill is in leaving the biscuit immersed as long as possible without rendering it so soft that the bottom half falls off – either into the cup forming a very unpleasant sediment or, even worse, falls off half way to your mouth and splatters as an excruciatingly hot and wet paste on your trousers immediately adjacent to your genitals ↩
3. For our American Readers: The old age pension is what you would know as retirement benefit and is that part paid to you by the State simply because you’ve become old. Those Brits who failed to make additional private pension provision have to live on the old age pension alone. It is a perfectly adequate amount to live on as long you really like bread and soup and don’t like driving, or holidays, or new clothes, or heating ↩
4. For our American readers: You know. The guys with the big black hairy hats. ↩
5. For our American readers: In addition to the old age pension, old British people receive the Winter Fuel Payment under the provisions of The Social Fund (Winter Fuel Payment) Regulations 2000. Each time the local temperature is less than 0°C (32°F) for seven consecutive days between 1 November and 31 March they get an additional payment – which covers the cost of running a gas fire for roughly ten minutes ↩
6. For our American readers: In the UK, we play bingo using a card with three rows of five numbers whereas in the USA, I believe you have five rows of five numbers. You just have to do everything bigger don’t you? ↩