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To Whom It May Concern
About the Author: Kathleen Gerard's short fiction has been widely published, anthologized and awarded/nominated for Best New American Voices, The Mark Twain House Humor Prize, The Saturday Evening Post "Great American Fiction" Prize and Short Story America. Kathleen's novel IN TRANSIT (Five Star/Gale Cengage) was awarded "Best Romantic Suspense Fiction" at The New York Book Festival.


T .W.I.M.C. To Whom It May Concern. That’s the best place to start because there’s power in those five words. More power than you probably realize.

You see, I’m a professional, a paid professional, and I take pride in my work. For close to 22 years, I have been a Client Intimacy Expert for a Customer Service Consulting Bureau in the United States. What that means is that I have spent 40 hours a week—sometimes more—serving as a mediator to satisfy and appease both Corporate America and you—the educated, yet often, complainant consumer. The bureau I worked for was hired by big companies to fill the potholes of consumer discontent with words, rebates, comps, coupons, replacements and perks.

Now before I go any further, let me set the record straight—my job is something I take very seriously, and my career has become my life. But you must understand, that while I’ve gotten by comfortably, I haven’t made a fortune. What I mean is that I’ve never had to hire an armored car to take me to the bank with my paycheck, if that’s what you’re thinking. But that’s not to say that my salary didn’t put an occasional Omaha Steak on the dinner table, nor did it prevent me from purchasing the liter size of Stolichnaya Gold Vodka every now and then; nor was I unable to dollar-cost-average my mutual funds and contribute to my 401k on a regular basis.

As a modern man of letters, I have learned about people, products and the world of consumer affairs. But I think I’ve learned the most about myself, Boris Tchaikovski, and all my God-given talents. That’s Tchaikovski like the Russian musical composer of The Nutcracker fame—except I spell my name with an ‘i’ instead of a ‘y.’ And while I do consider myself a gifted composer in my own right, instead of focusing on scales and G-clefs, I concentrate on individual notes and letters—and dollar signs.

After all my years in the trenches, the reality is this: It’s a tough world out there, and nine out of ten times, you’ll find yourself pitted against some sort of big corporate establishment. However, if you know the proper protocol to inform corporate giants of your dissatisfaction with a product, or how you feel you did not get the level of quality or service to which you are entitled, well, you’ll not only just get by, but perhaps, like me, you’ll even prosper.

In my years of experience, I’ve learned there are two kinds of consumers in the world: those who pay homage to Ma Bell and those who still respect the printed word—you know, the old fashioned, stone-age way of putting a pen to paper. But in this day and age of Insty-Prints, Speed Dial, text messaging and Rapid I.R.S. Refunds, well, most folks don’t have the time or patience for the art of composing real letters. Most of you would just as soon pick up the phone and punch in 1-800-WHATEVA and call the itty-bitty number buried on the back of a package, warranty card or tucked away on the last page of an instruction manual and voice your grievances. Or better yet, you’d simply hammer out a quick email to—or chat online with—some inexperienced and overburdened dot-com address. But let’s face it, vocal utterances are unreliable. And e-mail and on-line chat sessions are mere ephemera. Tsk-tsk. No better. Your spoken or electronic words can easily get lost in the system. They can fly through the airwaves and then poof! magically disappear. Or, even worse, they can be changed or doctored and used against you. So in the end, it’s just your word against that of a minimum wage Customer Service Representative, probably one working for something like 75 cents an hour in India, who is beholden to an impersonal Customer Service Bureau to which he or she is completely and utterly dispensable.

What it all comes down to is spending a little money in order to make a little money. You take a pen, invest in a sheet of paper and write your John Hancock. Then you get an envelope, a Certified-Return-Receipt-Requested-Card, produce some saliva and put your faith in the Almighty (yet economically struggling) Post Office. All of these efforts in the hope that your white mail letter will slip into a nearby mailbox and reach someone as altruistic as myself, Boris Tchaikovski. That’s Tchaikovski with an ‘i’ not a ‘y.’



This story appears in our NOV 2019 Issue
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