My email to Woolworths

Woolworths survey

People sometimes ask me whether I really send the emails I publish on Haught to the people and companies they’re addressed to. I assure them, and can assure you now (seriously, for a change), that I always do.

In the case of the email below, though, it was easier said than done.

I tried sending it using the online ‘feedback form’ – and got an error message not once, but six times. It finally struck me that the email (and my non-sarcastic original) was being rejected based on length. There’s no mention of a word restriction on the website and the error message that came up each time should be inducted into the Pantheon of Clarity and Helpfulness alongside the myki website and this peach from the United States (for an actual, accredited private university).

Woolworths error

My favourite part is the little hint that you might have more luck if you just wait a while. And the key is a nice little touch. The key into what? A cellar of frustration and missed payments?

Anyway, I finally found a way. This is what I sent:

Dear Woolworths,

Although this email will soon descend into a valley of sarcasm and smart-arsery the likes of which you’ve possibly never traversed before, the following is not a clever dick question; I genuinely want to know the answer: Do you still want my custom?

Your answer will inform what I do next. But before I tell you what my options seem to be, let me tell you the story so far.

I’ve had a Woolworths credit card since 2010. I’m not entirely sure why. It quite often doesn’t work and I find myself standing at registers sheepishly assuring sceptical shop assistants, and the line of tutting fellow customers behind me, that it was working fine this morning, like some kind of gambling addict in a community service advertisement.

But that’s not why I’m emailing.

A few months ago I noticed that the valid date on the card was coming up so I called your customer service number to check that the new card would be delivered automatically. The fellow I spoke to assured me that there was nothing to worry about: I’d receive the new one long before the old card expired.

Like a passenger anticipating the arrival of a Melbourne train, I waited and waited and waited, but nothing ever turned up.

I use the railway metaphor because until now I’d never thought any company could come close to Metro Trains in the area of feculent disregard for the customer. You, my dear duopolists, come mighty close.

When there was no sign of the card and the expiry date loomed I rang again, checking to see whether there had been some hold up. There hadn’t been. The customer service rep I talked to this time told a very different story to the happy one I’d been told the first time: because my card was linked to my wife’s and because the two cards’ expiration dates were a month different, he said, your system shat itself. Then, instead of going and throwing its undies in the bin and cleaning its trousers, it sat there wallowing in the repugnant filth of its own defectiveness, failing to even raise some kind of rudimentary signal that something might be wrong. Or words to that effect.

This was exasperating, but surely, I thought, this was such a common situation that there would be some contingency plan to fall back on.

Alas, no.

“We’ll send you a new card in five to eight days. It will probably void your wife’s card, but that doesn’t matter because your wife’s card is already void. Do you want that to happen?” he asked me.

My wife’s card wasn’t void and I didn’t want that to happen, actually. I also didn’t want to give this poor person a piece of my mind. It’s hardly his fault that he’s employed by a company whose automated systems probably need their clockwork primed every eight hours and whose processes would probably be considered flawed by the Essendon Football Club.

So I swallowed my seething anger, said thanks (referring to his wonderfully dead-pan delivery of what essentially amounted to “We’ve failed you in spectacularly embarrassing fashion and can only offer gross inadequacy as a consolation”), and went straight to your website.

Your website is about as helpful as a nail gun in a condom factory.

Once I’d located your microscopic Contact Us link, I was taken to a form into which I put my details and outlined the events above, but with fewer references to shit. I was thorough, having no inclination to waste further time clearing up details once the complaint had been submitted. Once I’d finished, I pressed Submit and got an error message telling me “An error has occurred while processing your request. Please try again later.” There was no back button and no opportunity to even start again with at least some of my details already filled out.

To rub salt and paprika and some Tabasco Sauce and a nail-gunned condom into a now festering, gangrenous wound, my second attempt to send a far less detailed message went through without any problem at all.

By this stage it was night time. (My ordeal had started at 9am.)

My favourite part of your response, some 30 hours later, aside from the obvious (“We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused”), is this:

“In regards to your below enquiry, please be advise that we can only provide general information via email due to privacy and security reasons.”

I used to do extremely well in comprehension tests at primary school and have read more than eleven books over my lifetime, but even I don’t know what the above sentence means.

Here’s some general information you can provide over email: do you want my custom?

As I said at the beginning of this email, your answer will dictate what I do from here.

If you tell me with sufficient sincerity that, yes, your customers are important to you and you regret the circumstances that have taken place, and I truly believe that you want me to change my opinion of Woolworths, I will never shop at one of your stores or use one of your credit cards again.

If your response makes it clear that you consider me a nuisance and have far better things to do with your shareholders’ precious and finite resources than try to hold on to me, just one paltry ‘consumer’, I will keep renewing my Woolworths credit card for the rest of my life, always making my repayments on time and constantly blocking your supermarket aisles with stupid returns (“These Betty Crocker DunkAroos that I bought yesterday are stale”) and patently ridiculous sale queries (“But I could have sworn the ticket said eight boxes of Weis’ ice-creams for 12 cents! Please call the manager”).

Sounds unfair, almost juvenile, doesn’t it? Sounds like you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Sounds like whichever way you turn, you’ll meet a dead end?

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Sincerely apologising for any inconvenience caused, and awaiting your Chief Executive Officer’s enormously amusing response with arse-clenched anticipation,

Jonathan Rivett

And just to prove I’m not biased, here’s my email to Coles:

Picture 7





Read more Haught emails

…or choose one that takes your fancy from the list below:

My email to Yarra Trams
My email to Metro Trains
My email to Facebook
My email to Microsoft
My (unsent) email to the Victorian Department of Transport
My email to Alan Jones
My email to Kyle Sandilands
My email to Gasp Jeans
My email to Jim Beam
My email to Ben Polis
My email to Hoo haa Bar
My email to Weis ice creams
My email to some tobacco companies
My email to Margaret Court
My email to KFC


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  1. Hullo Jonathon,

    Fabulous! Amusingly well written in real understandable sentences and accurate spelling. A joy to read.

    Oh yeah … and stick with a Visa card, enjoy the frequent flyer points and zip off overseas occasionally.

    Roslyn Collins

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