Scott Paton’s picture

By Scott Paton

Barack Obama is only one month into his presidency and he’s facing some serious challenges, primarily the economy. What began as a distant rumble early last year has hit like a tsunami. Banks are failing, millions of people have been laid off, GM and Chrysler are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, tens of millions of homeowners face foreclosure, and it looks like it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

It’s the kind of economy that most of us have never faced before. We’ve had recessions before, but this is getting awfully close to a depression. According to a February 9 article in The Wall Street Journal, the world’s advanced economies--the United States, Western Europe, and Japan--are already in a depression, says International Monetary Fund Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Although most of us have never lived through this before, we’ve all heard the stories of the Great Depression from our parents or grandparents. My mother tells stories of wearing flour-sack dresses that her mother sewed, tending a huge garden, canning vegetables, and watching as her mother made extra plates of beans and cornbread to feed the poor folk who showed up on the back porch.

Scott Paton’s picture

By Scott Paton

If you’re like me, you probably call the customer service department at several major companies a few times a month. Even though I have the ominous title of “Quality Curmudgeon,” I don’t really complain as much as you might expect. My calls to customer service are usually related to updating an address or fixing a minor problem. For example, Anthem Blue Cross of California simply refused to acknowledge that my daughter, Bronwyn, is a female. This caused problems when trying to get her prescriptions filled, and it required several phone calls over a period of two years.

Also if you’re like me, you’ve probably had enough of the average customer service experience. In desperation, I drafted the letter below to the customer service managers of Corporate America. Please feel free to pass it along.

Dear Customer Service Manager:
I just wanted to write you a note to tell you of my recent experience with your organization. First of all, thank you for taking the time to record my recent telephone conversation with your customer service representative. Your automated attendant assured me that my call would be “recorded for quality and training purposes.” I’m happy to know that you care enough about your customers to record all of their conversations.