An A-Hole, Am I

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Before publishing this blog, I ran it by my wife.

She read dutifully and came to the conclusion: “If you post this, people are going to think you’re an a-hole.”

She’s probably right; my wife is quite in tune with how people respond to stimulus. Much more so than I am. She is forever trying to explain to me that “people won’t remember what you said, or how you said it. What they’ll remember is how you made them feel.”

This is a problem I’ve bumped up against repeatedly, yet it always takes me by surprise. While I’m never interested in hurting feelings, neither do I want to walk on eggshells in fear of doing so; context and content are important to me. Especially because I understand that how you feel isn’t always what’s right. Someone else’s thought or idea might make you feel uncomfortable, sad, or angry, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thought or idea. Conversely, something that makes you happy doesn’t mean it’s good.

So, what idea of mine set my wife to worrying? The fact I’m not buying Girl Scout Cookies next year, and the reasoning behind it.

As a perennial fatty-fatty-fat-fat, I enjoy Girl Scout Cookies in abundance. I generally order multiple boxes of Thin Mints, store them in my freezer, and extend their existence for as long as possible. Which usually means days.

(Resolve, thy name is not me.)

Several weeks ago, I endorsed my desire for diabetes with a standard multi-box purchase. Unfortunately, when said cookies arrived, I opened the first box to find pallid, gray morsels awaiting me. I furrowed my brow, set the box down, and opened the second box. Another package of off-putting delectables mocked me. I tasted one, and they were not good. The cookies were old, and flaky; if you tried to snap them, they crumbled instead.

Embarrassed, I contacted the family I purchased them from and explained the situation. They were kind and remorseful, which caused me to apologize—I felt silly complaining about cookies. According to the family, the Girl Scouts had changed bakers and were having problems with the new producer. They offered to exchange the marred batch, and even gave me a box of knockoffs to hold me over. Quite kind of them, I thought.

Which is why when the next batch arrived and was as disgusting as the first, I decided not to bother them a second time. Here was a family trying to help their little girl raise funds; they didn’t need me whining at them repeatedly. Instead, I went straight to the source. I drafted up a quick, polite note, took a picture of the cookies, and sent it to the Girl Scouts. Two days later, a reply appeared in my inbox.

We’re sorry for your experience.

Hey, I’m kind of sorry to be poking at you about cookies, something that falls squarely under the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems.

We strive for the best customer service.

Always a good creed.

This isn’t our fault. Please contact the baker directly. Have a nice day.

Wait, what?

Like I said a few sentences ago, complaining about cookies falls below “I stubbed my toe” on the scale of all things awful in life. But as I read the email, I have to admit I was slightly irritated.

In essence, it said, “Yes, this is our brand, but that doesn’t mean we take responsibility for the product. Just because it bears our logo, doesn’t mean it’s our problem.” Which is confusing. Isn’t the Girl Scouts an organization that is supposed to be instilling leadership and responsibility into our daughters? Should “pass the buck” be their mantra? I don’t think it would be good of anyone to champion such a cornerstone.

I would have forgiven the issue, if things hadn’t gotten worse when I contacted the baker. In quick order, the email exchange I had went like this:

Me: Bought these cookies, they’re icky. Here’s a picture, here’s the batch number. Thanks.

Baker: OK, what’s the batch number?

I rolled my eyes and politely sent the batch number a second time.

Baker: That’s not the right number; I need the batch number.

Thinking I was probably stupid, I checked the boxes. Nope; I had sent the right number, and told them as much. The response I got was, “No. That’s not right. I need the number that begins…”

Frustrated, I took a picture of the boxes, their respective batch numbers and all, and fired it back.

Without an apology, the baker said, “Oh. OK. Got it.” They then said they would issue a refund. Which, to be honest, I wasn’t interested in. I don’t care about the money. If it were $100 or $1,000? Yeah, I’d be all up in their grill. But a couple bucks for cookies? Whatever. What I wanted, what I want, are tasty, keep-me-tubby cookies. Not money.

Overall, what bothers me is the lack of consistency, quality control, and customer service offered.

First off, why change bakers, unless it’s to save a buck or two? Always go with quality over cheap. As a rule of business, you’re supposed to offer a quality at a good price in order to succeed. If you’re a charity, or doing a fundraiser—like the Girl Scouts—you can offer a quality product at a slightly higher price, because people will pay more knowing their money is going to a good cause. But when you offer a sub-par product at a high cost? That makes no sense. Especially when delicious knockoffs—like the ones I received as holdover cookies—exist.

And for the love of Pete, own up to your product. Yes, I get that you’re licensing your name, but that doesn’t mean you get to disown all problems. It sends a horrible message to the young’uns you’re supposed to be teaching life lessons, and if more people have experiences like mine? They might become former customers, not repeat business.

Which brings us back where I started.

My wife worries people will read the above words and come away with: “What a jerk, picking on little girls like that.” I can see that happening, but in my mind, I’m calling out an institution, not individuals.

Which one of us is correct? I have no clue.

I guess we’ll see.

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