Pen a complaint. It works.


By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer

Janice Lindsay reflects on when she penned a complaint.
Janice Lindsay

A colorful Work of Art sat on my desk, a piece I created myself, that turned out to be quite effective.

I had just bought a package of five ballpoint pens with purple, green, red, blue, and black inks. They had covers, not push-buttons. 

Confession: I’m a pen freak. I love writing by hand. I’m always on the lookout for a new pen experience. I’ve been engaged in a lifelong pursuit of the perfect pen. 

I was about to enjoy a new pen experience. These pens were narrow and comfortable in my smallish hand. They would make my daily journal writing interesting and fun.

I wasn’t surprised that I had to scribble a bit to jumpstart the ink flow. That’s common with new ballpoints. I began with purple, scribbling on the back of an old business card. Scribbled. And scribbled. Harder and faster, faster and harder. Produced only a weak occasional line, an embossed business card, and a purple pen begging me to leave it alone and let it die. Red, green, and blue were equally comatose. I rubbed and rubbed, ran out of room, moved to the front of the business card. Only black was fully alive.

What to do? On the package, the pen company said if I wasn’t satisfied, I should return the pens. Was it worth the postage to make a fuss over pens that weren’t that expensive in the first place? Heck, yes! For a pen freak, who was now a frustrated consumer.

I wrote a letter to the pen company by hand, using the offending pens, which is why the letter was a colorful Work of Art. I began in purple saying I bought the pens the day before. Purple ink ran out. Continued in green saying I had hoped these would write. Green ran out. Explained in red that I was enclosing the business card with my scribblings trying to start the ink flow. (That card was a second Work of Art, with vigorous lines and circles crisscrossing.) I wrote, “It’s a good thing that I have strong arms! But I didn’t think strong muscles would be required for writing with a ballpoint pen.”

I continued in black, asking them to please send me some pens that were capable of writing. 

I signed my name with a blue ballpoint which wrote perfectly and which, I explained, I had received at my bank for free.

I added a PS in very faint purple then sharp black. “Also, the covers fall off.”

I mailed my letter and the pens to the pen company with a copy of the sales slip. I didn’t expect much, but I felt righteous, striking a blow on behalf of innocent disappointed consumers everywhere.

Pen company responded! A Consumer Affairs Associate sent me a gracious letter, with a package of new pens. She thanked me for taking the time to write; they’re concerned when a product causes a complaint; she forwarded my letter and pens to the Quality Assurance Team; because of my help they can identify quality and distribution problems in a timely manner. I was a hero.

The replacement pens were “from current production” so they were fresh off the assembly line. Apparently pens need an expiration date.

The new pens were acceptable, if a bit boring. They were not, and would never be, the perfect pens I long for. And the covers still fell off.

But I had learned that it pays to complain.

And I will always have the copy of my Work of Art letter for inspiration.





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