Wednesday 30 November 2011

service with a sneer, part 2: waiting for leggo

The tragicomic play Waiting for Godot features two men engaged in an endless and unfulfilled wait for the title character. It was written by famed Irish cricketer Samuel Beckett, a man almost as proficient with the pen as he was with bat and ball.

I have recently had my own Godot moment. But unlike Beckett's narrative, it does not deal with issues of politics, power, existentialism, and human psychology. It is far more serious than that. It deals with pasta sauce.

About two months ago I wrote the following email to Leggo's (a popular manufacturer of pasta sauce), aiming to settle a minor argument that arose around the same time as the spanish onion incident:

Dear Leggos,

I recently went on a trip with a group of friends.

On the first night, we made the mistake of assigning the cooking to our brilliant yet slow-witted friend [redacted]. We sent him to the store with instructions to bring back enough ingredients for spaghetti bolognese for nine people. He returned with a packet of tomato paste, and one spanish onion.

Not to let such mistakes occur again, we gave the cook for the next night strict orders: come back with a ready-made pasta sauce. He returned with a controversial choice: Leggo’s brand ‘Spinach & Garlic Pasta Bake’.

An argument ensued: could this be heated and used as a stir-through pasta sauce? Or was it specifically for baking? Some argued that no matter what is on the label, a pasta sauce is a pasta sauce. Others said the pasta bake was specifically made thicker to allow it to be properly broken down in a roaring oven.

We ate all the sauce regardless, but decided that only Leggo’s could solve this problem. So I leave the question in your capable hands: can a pasta bake sauce be used as a stir-through?

You will note that this email is not smart-mouthed, flippant, or even funny. It is merely lighthearted, designed to inject possibly the slightest degree of joy into the day of a customer service representative, who (I can only imagine) is usually busy fielding complaints from old ladies who plant dead rats in between lasagna sheets, and then blame the sauce company.

Indeed, my email ticks all the boxes. I am (or at least appear to be) the ideal consumer. Consider that:
  1. I have purchased the product
  2. I have been talking about the product with friends
  3. I would like to know more about the product
If I were Mr/Mrs Leggo, I would be sending the author of such an email an entire crate of pasta sauces. But this did not happen. No reply whatsoever. Beckett waited for Godot; I waited for Leggo (yes, they rhyme).

So I did what any normal person would do. I invented a fictitious alter-ego that I knew would get a response.

She is in her late 30s, has three kids, shares an email address with her husband Barry, volunteers at her local school, and will not let anything (including proper grammar and sentence structure) come in the way of her cooking. Introducing: Mrs Shelley Thompson...

hi i am cooking for at a end of year school function for the kids, need to do a creamy pasta, im wondering if you can use the leggos spinach and garlic tuna bake like a pasta sauce or whether it has to be baked.

thanks shelley

Barely had my index finger lifted from the click on 'send' did THIS arrive:

Dear Mrs Thompson

We refer to you
(sic) recent email regarding Leggo’s Tuna Bake. This product can be used as a pasta sauce but it does have a thicker consistency than other sauces. Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

Consumer Information Department

Wow! Shelley not only gets an answer to her question, but is thanked for taking the time to contact Leggo's (even thought she actually took far less time than my original, well-written and cheerful email). Shelley is the real deal, and will come in handy in the future.

So, is there a moral to this story? Should one avoid being happy at times? Are all people who work in product relations wearing the cranky pants? Is Leggo's the elephant graveyard of happiness?

Come to think of it, I don't even like pasta bakes.

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