Transatlantic Redeye: 18-month-old In-Tel throws tantrum when forced to sit for takeoff, gets so worked up that he pukes on his dad, The Indoorsman, as they’re cleared to fly. Hysterical flight attendant aborts takeoff and calls police and paramedics onboard to pressure In-Tel’s family into disembarking. Cop is like, “Lady, this is Newark. We have actual crime.” Paramedics engage the hysterical flight attendant on the difference between spitup and vomit. Eventually, the Indoorsman, his wife, Tel-Aviv, In-Tel, and the rest of the passengers proceed, late.
I wasn’t on the flight, but I can imagine how loved The Indoorsman and Tel Aviv, not to mention their very cute and probably, after many hours in vomit, very stinky, baby, were on that flight. If people like Amnesty resent traveling babies for being loud or kicking chairs, imagine the reaction to babies that cause panic in, seriously delay, and foul the air of a very long trip. Not so good.
So what did The Indoorsman do upon arriving on the other side of the world, smelly, exhausted, and probably riddled with holes burned into him by his fellow passengers‘ eyes?
Well, nothing. After all, he reasoned, the flight attendant had a better chance of getting him banned from flying on her airline than he had of getting her canned.
This, my friends, and my dear Indoorsman, is what my mother would call a goyishe kop (being married to a Yiddishe Mama, Indoorsman, does not necessarily convert you).
Now, I’ve told you a bit about my mother. She was a great teacher. But she was and is, above all else, the queen of the “shocked and appalled” letters. My mother, after every unsatisfactory experience in her life (and believe you me, there were many), sat down and proceeded to write to the manager, cc’ing, as applicable, the Better Business Bureau, the local newspaper, and any other potentially interested party. Thus far, she has received free flights, free meals, free cruises, free hotels, and many, many, many other freebies.
“Dear X,” she writes. “I am shocked and appalled by your treatment of me on my recent visit to your establishment.” Blah blah blah . . . ” And boom! Just because there was some broken glass in her bowl of pasta, a fire on her ship, or perhaps something a little less dramatic–an hour’s wait for a rental car, say, or a dirty look from a cruiseship waiter when she asked for a third entrée–she is suddenly the beneficiary of a generous gift certificate made out in her name.
Ha! And students think that because they’re not going to be academics or journalists, there’s no need for them to learn to write effectively! The art of persuasion is highly remunerative!
It is important to be upfront about what you want. And be firm but not rude. Try: “I am writing to request compensation for . . .” instead of “You bastards owe me.” For the record, realistic requests (“I would like you to compensate me for the cost of the meal which had a live rat in it”) are more likely to render positive results than unrealistic ones (“Please send me $1,000,000 in unmarked bills.”). Here is a sample letter to an airline. It’s one of mine, and surely inferior to one of my mother’s, but, after all, I am still only a princess.
Good luck with your epistolary endeavors! And remember, you, too, can get a stack of cases of Pepsi arrive (gratis!) at your door if you complain to Pepsi Co. that one of the cans that came in your purchased 24-pack was flat. You, too, can ski the slopes of Jasper or Aspen free after you let them know that on your last visit, your chairlift was stuck for 35 minutes while you hung out (quite literally) in -100 degrees (well, that would be just Jasper, wouldn’t it?).
This isn’t the stuff of Michael Moore, but for you poor princes and princesses out there, it’s good advice, methinks.
Your very disappointed customer,