Opinion | Biff America: Open borders and consumer remorse
“Let the buyer beware.” “Squeaky wheel gets greased.” Those two adages, pretty much, sum up my philosophy when it comes to gear and clothing.
I’m one of those who believe that a products reliability and durability should be commensurate with the cost. Usually a free market system tends to weed out the distributors of poorly made stuff. But with each new line, there is often a learning curve where “research and development” has yet to intersect practical application. It is up to consumers to keep the manufactures honest. “Silence gives consent.”
If something purchased does not perform up to reasonable expectations, for the good of all consumers, we should speak out.
This is a copy of a letter I sent to a maker of men’s wear.
Dear Sirs & Madams,
Enclosed you’ll find three pairs of your men’s 95% Bamboo 5% rayon viscose, active odor control boxer briefs, with comfort flex elasticity, and concave crotch, size medium. Two pairs of the undies have never been worn; the third were, worn once, laundered and, knowing they might be handled, were microwaved for 2 ½ minutes (the same as pop-corn).
I’m writing to inform you your product is defective. Normally, I would not bother to mail back imperfect underwear; partly because I dread the inevitable question asked at the U.S. Post Office, “Does your package contain flammable or hazardous items?”
I hope you believe me when I tell you my motivation is not monetary. I don’t want any replacement or refund, rather, I want you to know that your product is poorly designed.
A little about myself. I am generally a low end, catalogue or department store boxer brief consumer. I buy what is on sale, or inexpensive, and launder them regularly, and when they show wear I repurpose them as rags to clean my bicycle chains (or more recently use them as COVID-19 masks).
Unfortunately, on a recent trip to Boston’s Beacon Hill, I discovered that I had neglected to pack any undies other than what I wore on the plane. Given the fact that department stores on the ‘Hill’ are as rare as a conscience on a lobbyist, I bought three of your high-priced, smart-fabric undies that I found in a high-end boutique.
Though admittedly your underwear was soft and attractive (I loved the zebra stripes and was tempted to wear then over my pants) it didn’t take long for me to realize that your product was poorly designed. I cannot believe that any of the males on your staff had taken them for a test drive.
My complaint — in a nutshell — is that your underwear’s fly lacks the structural integrity a man requires.
You can imagine my embarrassment that, while cruising image conscious Newberry Street — I was picking at myself like an amorous monkey. I’ve seen dog doors that provided tighter security.
Lest you think I’m bragging, let me assure you, I’m average in all respects; if you require verification, feel free to contact my wife.
Since every other pair of underwear I’ve owned in the past possessed more than enough weight-bearing properties to meet my needs, I can only assume that yours is either poorly designed, lacks the tinsel strength or both. I realize, at this late date, an underwear recall is akin to closing the barn door after the horse has already escaped. But I would humbly suggest you take any yet unsold bamboo boxer briefs off the shelves, suggest they be worn backwards, or relabel them as a woman only product.
This is the dispatch I received back:
Dear Mr. Bergeron,
Thank you for your letter.
There are three of us in customer service whose job it is to answer mail and, hopefully, satisfy complaints. I won the coin toss, allowing me to reply. Though you stated that you did not want a refund or replacement, please except this $50 gift certificate for any item of our clothing line. May I suggest one of our fine socks or tee shirts? I would recommend forgoing any of our many choices of tights, briefs or boxers; we would not want to be responsible for any injuries. Please give our best to your wife.
If you are not happy with a product, service at a resort or restaurant — or the fit of your drawers — speak your mind with emphatic kindness.
Communicate face to face, write a letter or call. A well-run business will thank you. Maybe nothing will change, maybe everything will. Together we can create a more sensitive and secure world one bad brief at a time.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stoplights. Contact him at email@example.com.
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