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Inbox 11.16.05 

Remarkable correspondence from the consistently unremarkable world of email

Overwrought customer service, in my opinion, is just icky. You know, that phony the-customer-is-always-right-even-when-the-customer-is-a-total-idiot mentality. But there are still some retailers out there who are bastions of the indie mentality: those who treat customers fair, but will stick to their guns if a customer tries to take advantage of the situation.

The following exchange is between an independent bookstore in Virginia and a dissatisfied customer. There are at least a dozen exchanges between the two parties, but for our purposes, the exchange has been distilled to two characteristic messages. If you'd like to speak to our customer service representative, please email,

--- Michael Neault

----- Original Message -----

From: Sung Yi

To: Chop Suey Books

Sent: Thursday, October 06, 2005

Subject: Re: your book is not in the promised condition


Thank you for your response.

I did not know that I need to notify you within 48 hours. And as I mentioned in my previous mail, I was waiting for the smell of your book would dissapear for days; but it still remains badly, that's why I finally decided to contact you, ok? What are you going to say/do about the smell of the book?

I look forward to hearing from you soon.



Chop Suey Books wrote:

Hello Again,

I am not sure what to do about the odor of the book, especially since it was not noticed by any of our employees before the book was shipped. In fact, I talked to the person who packed the book, and he has an amazing sense of smell due to the size of his nose. I mean, you should see this nose; definitely the largest I have seen. Anyhow, he calls his nose his "instrument," and can often tell when I am about to enter the building based only on the smell. It's amazing. He's like a bloodhound. But when I asked him about the alleged smell, he said that nothing about the book jumped out at him. Certainly not anything that would keep a person from approaching the book. He would have remembered that. So I really don't know what to do. Could this book have been "disinfected" by the USPS? What is the smell most like? Would you date this smell as older or more recent? How good is your sense of smell?

Patiently awaiting your response,



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