Books, Books, Books: I Am a Hoarder of Books

My name is Erin Elise and I am a hoarder of books. I’ve always known this on one level or another, but I haven’t always been willing to admit it. I’m finally ready to admit it to the world!

The weather in Cleveland, much like everywhere else in the U.S., has been frigid at best and downright murderous at worst. I had to stand outside for a full minute the other day and I was ready to just give up on any hope of feeling warmth ever again and let go of my grasp on this world. It was tragic and it broke my spirit just a little bit. I have a feeling that that is not what Elsa meant when she said, “Let it go.”

While I know there are snow bunnies in this country who feel delight in this weather, I have become less like a bunny and more like a bear, a grouchy bear that is huddling deep in my cave and is angry that I am not sleeping until the world thaws. Seriously though, how long until the world thaws? Today I decided to stop being such a Grumpy Gus and make use of all of the time I am spending indoors. I started the cleaning projects that I have been putting off for too long, like cleaning my craft room, organizing my junk drawer, and finally washing those Tupperware containers in my fridge that have long forgotten what it is that they hold.

During my deep cleaning process I kept finding books all over the place, like in every single room of my house. The thing about these books though is that these are the books that I have been collecting to read “someday”. These books are from bookstores, Amazon, library book sales, and most recently, a Scholastic Warehouse Book Sale. I went to a book sale knowing that I already had plenty of books at home still to read. I can’t help it though. When I see a book sale I start to feel a panicking deep inside. I start to feel like there might be a book there that I HAVE to read, like there might be a book there that could change my life. I will think about it until I drive myself crazy and eventually just go to the damn sale. I know it’s not entirely normal. I know I have a problem.

So today I gathered all of these “someday” books and brought them into one room. I organized them into their own categories and came up with the following inventory:

Fiction – 36
Biographies, Memoirs, Personal Essays – 20
Self-Help / Personal Improvement – 19
Business, Management, Leadership – 12
Random Non-Fiction – 5
Religious – 2

That is a whopping total of 94 books!!! Ninety-four books! I know some people who don’t even have 94 books in their home, let alone 94 in their home on their “someday” shelf. To read all of those books this year I would need to read roughly eight a month, or two a week. Yikes! To make matters worse, most of the biographies are 700-1000 pages long, so that’s not getting done in a week. But, I will give it my best shot.

I, Erin Elise, endeavor to read 94 books by the end of this year. Furthermore, as I need to stop hoarding books, once I am done with them, I will pass them along to their next home. I will make an effort to review each book. This review might be a paragraph, a sentence, or perhaps even just a word. So if you see a book on my page that interests you (if I really enjoyed the book I don’t intend to give it away), let me know and I will send if your way. Be forewarned though that I highlight most of my books.

So, enough writing, I’ve got some serious reading to do!

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Papa John’s Delivers a Blind Date

(Unfortunately, this was an email submission. I was limited to 3900 characters, so I had to eliminate many of my most favorite adjectives. I still think I got my point across though. Enjoy!)

Dear Papa John,
I hope you don’t think me too forward for calling you Papa John; you seem so friendly in your commercials, I didn’t think you would mind. I am writing you about my recent experience in ordering delivery pizza from your establishment. Let me digress and tell you that I was first introduced to your company 12 years ago when I was living in Denver, CO. At the time I was a poor volunteer. We received a very modest stipend every other week, and by modest I mean that it was just about enough to cover an order of your cheesy bread. It was difficult to part with that money, but it sure was delicious when we did!

Now fast forward to 2013 where I find myself living in Cleveland, OH. I was thrilled to discover that there was a Papa John’s in my area that could deliver me a delicious trip down memory lane. I visited your website and decided to order your favorite pizza. The ordering process went smoothly, the pizza was delivered in a timely fashion, the driver was friendly, and you didn’t steal my credit card information and sell it to someone in Bangladesh to buy a new pair of shoes. All in all, I had a pretty good experience. So, you must be asking yourself, why the complaint email? I will tell you why.

As a conscientious citizen, I believe in recycling my cardboard. As a slightly lazy citizen, I don’t believe in recycling my cardboard every week; I stock pile it in the garage until I have a decent bit to take out. This evening as I was about to take the recycling to the curb, I noticed your pizza box. In two different places on the box was my address, name and (Gasp!) my phone number. To my horror, I realized that I was mere seconds away from giving this personal information over to my recycling man. I understand having my address on the box, as you are delivering the pizza to my house. Frankly, I am not concerned about the recycling man having my address, as he obviously already knows where I live. I understand having my name on the box, as you may wish to have your drivers address me by the formal, Ms. Erin when they deliver my pizza. I am also not concerned with the recycling man having my name, but my name AND my phone number? Goodness gracious! I hardly ever give out both of those things to the gentlemen who personally ask me for them after all, a young lady can never be too careful. And yet, here I was, about to hand them both over to a complete stranger.

I really hope that you aren’t thinking that I am a bit snobbish. To be fair, I don’t even know my recycling man (thus the reason I referred to him as a complete stranger). He tends to visit my house rather early in the morning and I tend to sleep in until I am absolutely forced to greet the day, so we have not yet had an occasion to meet. He could be a fine young gentleman who is well read and has a deep devotion to the third “R” in “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. For all I know, he could be my perfect match. Oh, would you just think of it! What if he is the “Fox Books” to my “Shop Around the Corner”? What if all this time we have been missing each other and your pizza box was the one thing that would finally bring us together? He would call me and say something like, “I found your name and number on the pizza box in your recycling and I couldn’t ‘wait 24 hours before calling you and saying, Hey, how about some coffee, or you know, drinks or dinner or a movie… for as long as we both shall live?” Then he would bring me daisies (they are the friendliest flower you know) and we would live happily ever after.

Wait a minute! What am I talking about? THAT is the ending to “You’ve Got Mail” and THIS is West Cleveland. Granted, it’s not East Cleveland, but it’s still Cleveland and I would rather not give my name and number to the recycling man. So please consider revising how much of your customer’s information you put on your delivery boxes; it would be appreciated.
Sincerely,
Erin

And the Cycle Continues

I’m not a “shoe” girl.  I’m not a “purse” girl.  In fact, I’m not really the type of girl who hoards anything in particular.  I mean, if it were socially acceptable, I might hoard cats but…. well, we all know how those stories usually end up.  However, if we take a step back from the specifics, I think it would be safe to say that I hoard Target products.  It doesn’t matter what it is, I absolutely love anything from Target.  You could show me the same exact product at three different stores but I would loyally make my purchase at Target because I love the store so much!  I have no concept of their corporate policies.  I don’t know if they are “good” to their employees.  All I know is that they have the products I want, at the prices I’m looking for, and a setting which encourages me to buy things that I didn’t even know I ABSOLUTELY NEEDED before I walked in to Target.

Recently (I say that partly in jest as if I don’t wind up at Target at least once a week) I made a return to Target and it gave me ample reason to write an email to the store manager.  As someone who works for a “retail company”, my standards for other retail companies are exceptionally high, and I have no problem letting everyone know that.  However, also as someone working for a “retail company”, I know how often you can go above and beyond for a customer and how rarely they take the time to acknowledge your exceptional service.  So, as a rule of thumb, I try to celebrate good/great service every time that I experience it.  When I called my Target store and asked for the store manager’s email address he was hesitant to give it to me.  He said that they don’t usually give that information out but that I could call a 1-800 number if I wanted.  I told him that I did not want to call a 1-800 number as I wanted to send an email that could be printed out and put in the mentioned employee’s files.  He finally relented and gave me the information.

Below is the email that I sent him in it’s entirety:

R.,

(The purpose of asking for your District Managers email is to ensure that this information gets passed on to them as well.  There is nothing more frustrating than having a customer take the time to compliment your service and then to have that compliment go no where.  The following email is not just about the employees named, it is also a reflection on you and your leadership as well.  I sincerely hope that you will take the time to share this with your “higher-ups” so that they can acknowledge these employees for a job well done.)
I would like to share an experience that I had today to demonstrate to you why I am loyal Target customer.

I work in the retail industry myself.  I have the pleasure of working for a company who has, hands down, the best return policy in the industry.  However, every now and then there are certain situations that fall outside of our return policy.  As someone who has worked for this company for eight years, and has spent a good portion of my time dealing with customer returns, I know that the job can sometimes be frustrating.

There are times when a customer comes in and I have to tell them “no” to a return because it is against our return policy and it is my job as an employee to uphold our return policy.  Usually this results in a customer becoming angry and directing that anger towards me because they don’t know where else to direct their frustrations.  In these instances it becomes necessary to have a manager intervene.  I would love to tell you that every time a manger has intervened all parties involved have walked away happy.  However, in far too many instances, that is not the case.  Many times a manager will come up to the return counter, assess the situation, give the customer what they asked for in the first place, and then pander to the customer, pretending that myself, or my co-worker was wrong to uphold the return policy.  The manager walks away happy, the customer walks away happy, but the employee is left feeling chastised and embarrassed for doing exactly what the company has paid them to do.  This is not good management!

Today I made a return that fell in the gray area of your return policy.  S. did exactly what she was supposed to do and upheld the return policy as it is written, and I respect that.  I, however, was not willing to accept that as the customer, so I asked to speak with a manager.  When O. came over, he restated what S. had explained to me, but then allowed me to return my item for a similar item which I felt to be of a superior quality to the one I was returning.  At no point in time during my transaction did O. even hint to the fact that S. had done something wrong.  Instead, he understood a basic principal of customer service, “take care of the customer, or someone else will”.  He acknowledged that S. was doing her job in upholding your return policy, he acknowledged my frustrations as a customer, and he exercised his ability to make sure that I left your store as a happy customer.

I am certain that I could find the same products that I buy at Target at other retail locations.  I am sure that I could spend less money, in many situations, by shopping at other retail locations; if for no other reason than I would avoid your brilliant marketing which encourages me to spend far more money than I ever anticipated.  However, by shopping at other locations I would compromise on the type of employee that I would interact with.  And I am not willing to do that.

In closing, thank you.  Thank you for hiring employees like S. and O. Thank you for promoting an employee like O.  I have no clue what O. may have said to S. when I left, but I respect the integrity he demonstrated while dealing with myself and with S.  If all of your managers treat customers the way that O. does, you guys are on the right track.

Sincerely,

EE

 

As someone who has sent many a letter to many a company in the past, I was beyond pleased to see a response in my Inbox from R. later that same day.  His response was as follows:

Erin,

Thank you very much for your kind words and more importantly intelligent understanding of the business. These are exactly the types of situations I embrace with my team and most certainly with my leadership team. When I had the opportunity to lead this store two years ago these are the types of principles I wanted to establish. 1) Take care of the guest 2) Take care of the team member and 3) Make a good business decision all within the same situation. It makes me extremely happy to receive this feedback and you can rest assured that I will share it with all parties.  Thank you again for taking the time to e-mail me and share your story. I am very happy to have you as a guest at Target and my store. Thanks again and see you soon! R

So what, exactly did all of this accomplish?

1. I got what I wanted, which was to return my product for a better one.

2. Two employees received acknowledgements for a job well done.

3.  A manager received reassurance that he is doing a good job with his employees.

4.  A complete stranger was able to recognize my supreme intelligence.

5.  It was determined that flattery does get you everywhere, as I returned to Target today to spend even more money.

And the cycle continues!

Even a Potato Chip Can Hurt You

Below is an actual letter that I sent to Frito Lay and their subsequent response:

Dear Frito-Lay,

For many years I have been on a quest, a quest to find a potato chip whose flavor is true to its name. For many years now, I have been severely disappointed. However, today as I was shopping at my local Giant Eagle, I was careless as I allowed my hopes to soar to a new height. There in the potato chip aisle before my eyes was a bag of Molten Hot Wings Flavored Ruffles! I clutched the bag in my hands as I thought, ‘This might be it! This might be the bag of chips I have been searching for!’ I threw the chips into my cart and raced for the checkout counter. I still had other items to purchase but my heart was beating with such vigorous excitement that I simply had to fulfill its desire.

As I thrust open the door to my house, I flung the groceries on the table and reached for what, I had hoped was, the Holy Grail of the potato chip world. I opened the bag with a tenderness which I have not shown in years. I allowed the aroma of the chips to waft over me. As the smell penetrated my nose I began to feel like Pavlov’s Dog. Every gland in my mouth began to salivate with the expectations of a dream come true. As I raised the delicacy to my mouth, I began to picture C.E. Doolin and Herman W. Lay (the founders of Frito Lay) standing over my shoulder looking on approvingly. This was their vision. This was the dream of two entrepreneurs.

I found your chips to be, quite possibly, the largest disappointment in my life.  The description on the bag and the description in my mouth were at direct odds with one another.  Molten Hot?  Not even close.  I would say lukewarm, at best.  You encouraged me to imagine “Wings, dripping with sauce and ready to wash down with your favorite beverage.”  The taste of your chip encouraged me to imagine wings that wouldn’t know hot sauce if they took a bath in it.

I tried to improve the situation by placing the chips on a plate with celery and carrot sticks.  All this did was cause me to feel an even deeper disappointment than I already felt. Now, not only did the chips pale in comparison to the real thing, but my heart also paled in comparison to the hopeful heart which I had felt only moments before.

Please do not be so careless in the future to encourage your customers to “Dream big” when you know that their hopes will be severely dashed.  As a corporation in these fine United States of America, you have a moral obligation to be honest to the American consumer.

Please consider revising either your recipe or your packaging before your web of deceit takes you, and your company, the way of Enron.

Sincerely,

Erin Elise

I mailed this letter to the CEO of the company a few months back and received no reply, how upsetting. Last week I decided to send it again, via the “Comment” section of their website.  Within two days I received the following reply:

Hi Erin,

Thank you for contacting Frito-Lay with your feedback about Ruffles Molten Hot Wings.

We’re sorry this snack was not what you expected–and your comments will be shared with our Marketing and Product Development teams. We’re also sending a coupon to you that should arrive in about a week.

Your satisfaction is the key to our success and we thank you for choosing a Frito-Lay snack.

We hope all of your future purchases are completely satisfying and great-tasting.

Best regards,
Natalia Frito-Lay Consumer Relations

To be fair, I don’t know Natalia.  This may be me profiling but I picture her as a tall, unimaginably sexy Russian woman whose wardrobe consists entirely of all black clothes that appear to make love to her body as she wears them.  I imagine her reading my email and thinking, ‘Ha!  Stoopid little pudgy American girl.  She is upset because her after school snack is not tasty treat she hoped for.  In Russia, ve get bread and ve get vodka and ve are happy for it!  I vill send her coupon for more potato chips to make her even more pudgy and less attractive to Russian men!”

I mean, it’s not like I expected a hand written apology letter.  It would have been nice though if Natalia had invested even a fraction of the time in her response that I put into my complaint.  I understand though.  She is probably too busy being sexy and smacking a riding crop against her palm to intimidate the middle aged men in her office.  So I will simply accept my coupon graciously and begin planning a Potato Chip Party, sponsored by Frito Lay.