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Gene Weingarten: Putting customer service reps through the paces

WASHINGTON — Today is the latest installment of my continuing, Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the plight of the beleaguered customer service rep.

Colgate-Palmolive Lavender and Chamomile liquid hand soap

Me: I have an emergency.

Kim: How can I help you?

Me: My wife insists on putting your product in our little bathroom, which she also insists on calling a "powder room." The stuff makes your hands smell like the botanical gardens threw up on them.

Kim: What is your emergency?

Me: I accidentally used some.

Kim: Okay, and . . . ?

Me: Am I going to become gay?

Kim: No. It is just a fragrance. It is not going to cause you to become gay.

Me: Good. I mean, being gay is fine. But I am already married.

Kim: I understand. What soap product do you usually use?

Me: I make it myself from rendered pig fat, chicken gristle and sand.

Comet disinfectant cleanser

Me: I was reading the label of your product and couldn't help noticing that it said: "Active ingredient: Sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione dihydrate: 1.2 percent. Other ingredients: 98.8 percent."

Anna: Yes?

Me: Well, isn't that a lot of unspecified ingredients? They could be anything.

Anna: The inactive ingredients are proprietary. We do not reveal them.

Me: Exactly. So here is what I want to know: Might one of the unnamed ingredients be rat lips?

Anna: That is giving me the creeps.

Me: Me, too. Can you assure me that one of the unnamed ingredients is not rat lips?

Anna: Let me put you on hold.

(Two minutes pass.)

Anna: Okay, there are also alkalis, buffers, complex sodium phosphates, surfactants. . . .

Me: But there are still a lot of ingredients you do not know. Right?

Anna: Yes. Their identity is proprietary.

Me: So we are agreed that they could include rat lips.

Heinz Ketchup

Me: I am an actor, and I am shooting a film where I need to have ketchup splattered all over my shirt. But I am allergic to ketchup, so I am wondering, would human blood work okay instead?

Mark: Well, I think there is a gel-like chemical that they use to simulate blood in movies.

Me: Yeah, but I need to simulate ketchup.

Mark: I would go in the direction of the gel. To find it, you could Google "fake blood."

Me: But I need fake ketchup.

Mark: You could Google "simulated ketchup."

Häagen-Dazs ice cream

Me: Close your eyes so you cannot see any product around, and spell Häagen-Dazs.

Desiree: H-ä-a-g-e-n D-a-z-s.

Me: Wrong. You forgot the hyphen and the umlaut over the first "a."

Desiree: The what?

Me: My point exactly. If you can't spell it, no one can. And it's all nuts, because Häagen-Dazs isn't even foreign. It originated in the Bronx. Anyway, I am here to propose a new jingle for your company, to help the consumer out. You can have it for free.

Here's our ice cream: Taste it, smell it,

Just don't ever try to spell it.

We paired two a's, then, just for fun,

We put a silly hat on one!

Then we really stuck the knife in —

There is no space. We use a hyphen.

And at the end? (No way to guess.)

We put a z before an s.

Let's make it simple as can be:

Häagen-Dazs spells F-A-T.

Gene Weingarten can be reached at [email protected] You can chat with him online at noon Tuesdays at

Gene Weingarten: Putting customer service reps through the paces 08/08/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 8, 2009 4:30am]
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