Monday, August 13, 2012

Atomic Flashback: Fighting Corporate America

As part of our 20 year celebration, we'll be reprinting articles from Atomic Books Catalogs from the 1990s. 

by Rod Lott

Corporations are often perceived - and rightfully so - as cold and uncaring entities of pure, unadulterated evil, preying upon the lifeblood of collective America. While this has merit, it is a little known secret that in their book, in terms of importance, image comes in at a close second to profits.

Which is why, provided you assume the identity of a slightly senile senior citizen (which may be redundant) and take pen in hand, you can have a little fun with them, and get payback! If a mega-company feels in any way, shape or form that its crystal-clear image has been tarnished or threatened, they'll try to smooth things over with you via a kind form letter and a bribe here and there.

Since Oct. 5, 1991, I've been periodically digging out my withered Smith-Corona and banged out some perfectly strange correspondence to CEOs all across this fine land of ours. My pseudonym: a not-all-there grandpa by the name of Robert C. Clipson.

But it's best just to show you some examples.

When Baskin-Robbins introduced a special flavor to promote the feel-good baseball flick A League Of Their Own, Mr. Clipson had this to ask the ice-cream company's president: "I know the ice cream has a dominant chocolate taste to it, but I am very perplexed and disturbed by something I was told by the boy at the theater, so here goes: does it taste like Geena Davis?

"I asked your employee who made my cone and she said she didn't know. This scares me, to think that an ice cream flavor was designed to taste like a Hollywood celebrity. I know this may sound like a strange question, but as a long-faithful customer, I must know the truth. Plus, with all these new diseases running around, it's better to be safe than sorry."

Their reply? "It was disturbing to hear that an employee made a misleading comment about our promotional flavor. Baskin-Robbins would never purport to create a flavor that tastes like any human being. Not only would it be an impossible feat, it would be in very poor taste to even make such a claim."

In this case, the fact that they sent an explanation was overshadowed by what came tucked within said reply: a coupon for a free two-scoop sundae, which leads me to believe the company was thinking that if they dangled a frozen treat under Mr. Clipson's nose, he would not spread such a dastardly rumor.

Back in 1994, Mr. Clipson had this request to ask of the Kellogg's corporation: "My granddaughter Mary will be turning 5 soon. Her favorite cartoon character is Tony the Tiger because Frosted Flakes  is her favorite cereal. I am planning to throw her one humdinger of a birthday party with her and all her little friends and I know she would be thrilled if Tony the Tiger could be there, too. Is he available for private parties? I could give you $50. The party will be at my home around 2.

"Her favorite Tony the Tiger commercial is where he rides down the street on a skateboard. She just laughs and laughs. I have to admit it is a silly premise - tigers can't skate, can they? - but one well executed. In fact, I was hoping he could duplicate this stunt at the party. We have a steep driveway so this shouldn't be a problem. I will even position myself at the curb to watch for cars as I do when Mary rides her Big Wheel."

Tony never showed, of course, but he did send a nice, full-color autographed picture (if a paw print indeed counts as an autograph) of himself, as well as this reply: "How lucky can a tiger be? I just found out you are a fan of mine and it makes me feel just GR-R-EAT!"

Feeling creative, Mr. Clipson drafted a book proposal to the publishing giant of Bantam/Doubleday/Dell. He wished to write a "true-to-life account of my friendship with a squirrel I first noticed in my backyard some 4 years ago. I knew he was my friend and here to stay, so I named him 'Nutty', partly because he likes to eat nuts and partly because he is just plum nutty!

"The book would detail our many adventures together. It all began when I was sitting on the back porch in a lawn chair with a lemonade. Darned if I didn't look away but for a second and Nutty was drinking my lemonade! Another time I remember fondly is when he nearly bit me because I was teasing him with cashews."

The folks at Bantam said "no", of course, but it's nice just to know that Bob's letter most likely had them all scratching their heads for weeks.

Bob's other run-in with a squirrel resulted in this post-Grand Canyon trip letter to M&M/Mars: "One day Mary forgot to close the tent all the way shut. While we were out walking, some squirrels (I don't know exactly how many there were) got into our tent and took away my Snickers Munch bar I had bought for me to enjoy in my chair that afternoon. Actually, they left the wrapper and just took the bar! Don't ask me how they did it, I don't know. All I know is that squirrels are crafty and they took my candy bar!

"I don't know if your policy covers thievery by God's little creatures, but if so I am returning the wrapper (minus the unused portion, which was taken by squirrels) in hopes that I might receive a replacement."

For this ingenious ploy, Bob received coupons for three damn candy bars, even though only one was stolen by that pack of squirrels.

My - er, Mr. Clipson's - coup de grace thus far involved the fine Tex-Mex flavorings of the El Chico restaurant chain. After a meal there, I picked up a kids' coloring book and, with a slight modification, fired off this missive:

"Imagine my horror when our waiter brought young Mary her sheet to color! It was the donkey one, she had colored this so many times before but this time someone on your staff had added offensive and naughty parts to the donkey and then brought it to our granddaughter."

The near-instant result? An extremely apologetic and embarrassed letter ... oh, and three free dinners. That's about $25 bucks worth of food for five minutes' work of creative genius.

Of course, not every letter received acknowledgment. My favorite unnoticed mail came in the form of an invitation to Mary Kate and Ashely Olson, those impish (but Satanic) twins from Full House. (Although they are not technically a corporation, those pug-nosed bitches reap millions, so I'm including them here anyway.)

Bob invited the snot-nosed pair to his granddaughter's party, much like he had Tony the Tiger: "I will furnish all the party refreshments but I would ask that you bring your own bedrolls, as this affair will be a sleepover. We will eat cake, drink punch or red pop (I have not yet decided which) and play pin the tail on the donkey. I might even tell some knock-knock jokes.

"I am willing to pay you $50 but only half that if only one of you can come. It doesn't matter which since you look exactly alike. Either way we would like you to sing a song and perform a dance for me.

"I am sorry to hear your program has been canceled. I think it is Bob Saget's fault. He is to blame for your job being taken away and tell him that I will beat the living daylights out of him if I am ever to meet him in public."

Not a word from them. For this slight, I vow to beat the living daylights out of both of them if I am ever to meet them in public.

No matter, though. Bob's had quite a successful ratio, many of which have come with freebies. My take thus far? Aside from the aforementioned goodies, a half-gallon of ice cream, 15 cents, loads of autographed pictures, a stack of nutritional pamphlets, a recipe book from Peter Pan (including some entree called "Pork Sate") and a color snapshot of Socks the White House cat.

And to think that Bob had asked for one of Chelsea.

ROD LOTT was responsible for the long-running zine HITCH and now writes for Bookgasm.

As printed in Atomic Books Catalog 2, Spring 1996.

1 comment:

Kelly Robinson said...

Awesome. I look forward to seeing more of the old stuff.