Dear Mr. Reynolds,

I hope this letter finds you well. It’s been cold this winter, hasn’t it? I hope you are able to keep your office nice and warm so you can focus on work.

I’m with you, Mr. President, Chairman, and CEO, I like to be warm too, which is why I am writing.

But before we go further, Mr. Reynolds, I’d like to give you a simple quiz. It’s regarding SOVIET-STYLE CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Since we are both patriots, Mr. Reynolds, I am sure you will do just as well as I did when taking this test.

So, without further ado, because I know you are a busy man, let’s get started.

In the following two scenarios, which one took place in Moscow and which one took place in Seattle?

Scenario #1:

At approximately 11 AM, a traveler staying at a hotel that caters to international tourists wishes to make an international phone call from a hotel room and is unable to make the connection.

The traveler then goes to the front desk of the hotel for assistance, where he/she is informed that hotel guests must pre-pay to make international calls from the hotel.

The traveler requests that the prepayment be added to the room bill. He/she is informed that the hotel cannot add phone charges to the room and directs the traveler to a small cage-like office sitting next to the front desk. This is the international phone office. It strikes the traveler as odd that international phone calls would require an office.

The traveler then attempts to arrange an international phone call with the bored-looking phone employee, who tells the traveler to get a voucher for help from the front desk…which is six feet away from the phone call office.

The traveler returns to the front desk, stands in line for 15 minutes, obtains the needed voucher, and returns to the phone desk. The international phone employee then asks for an insane prepayment amount, the equivalent of $100US, in the local currency.

The traveler asks to move the charges to the room. No, not possible.

The traveler asks to use a credit card. No, not possible.

The traveler then returns to the hotel desk , stands in line for 15 minutes, presents a travelers check and asks to change money into the local currency. No, not possible. Yes, the hotel does currency exchange but only for cash, not for travelers checks.

The traveler asks where he/she can exchange a travelers check for the local currency, only to be told that the hotel is not aware of any such location near the hotel.

The traveler asks if she can use the hotel’s email to send a messsage to her family to ask them to call the hotel. No, not possible. Really? Isn’t this computer sitting right here on the desk connected to the internet? Can’t we send a single, free, one line message on behalf of a hotel guest? No, not possible.

Can he/she bring her notebook computer downstairs and try and use the hotel’s internet to send a message? No, not possible.

Can we send a fax and do a room charge? No, faxes also must be prepaid. So, not possible.

At this point, the traveler has spent more than an hour trying to arrange an international phone call and gives up.

Scenerio #2:

A family is constructing a home in an apartment building. There is no gas going to the unit so the family decides to run a new gas line to the apartment.

The contractors who are working on the project do extensive research to determine feasibility, including extensive consultation with the gas utility that provides the gas.

It is determined that a new gas line can be run to the apartment, and the utility company agrees to the location of the new gas meter. The family spends thousands of dollars on a large gas line to the apartment.

Afterward, the family invests heavily in gas appliances, including a gas range, wall oven, heating system, gas fireplaces, and hot water heaters.

Six month later, the family is ready to move into the almost-completed apartment and requests that the gas service be started. No, not possible.

The utility explains that the gas meter may not be in the right place, despite the fact that they signed off on the location of the gas meter six months earlier.

The family requests to know where it should be. Unknown, says the utility.

When can we know if the gas meter is in the right place? Unknown, says the utility.

After multiple phone calls, the utility announces that a meeting will be held within a week to determine if the gas can be turned on for the apartment. The contractors ask if they can attend the meeting. No, not possible.

The family waits for the results of the meeting. The day comes and goes. No contact from the utility.

After many, many phone calls, a utility point-of-contact announces that the only way to know if the gas meter is in the correct place is to wait and see if the order to turn on the gas shows up on the work schedule.

The family asks if they can call the scheduler to see if it is on the upcoming schedule. No, not possible.

Mr. Reynolds, I can see why you are the President, Chairman, and CEO. You, sir, are a clever man.

You recognized that BOTH these scenarios are SOVIET-STYLE CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Mr. Reynolds, we are a country that prides itself on efficiency, on cutting through red-tape, on being the hardest-working and most advanced economy in the world. We are early adopters.

What I’m really saying, Mr. Reynolds, is that this situation with your company is positively anti-American.

So, from one patriot to another, turn on my gas, Mr. Reynolds. Please. With sugar on top.