THRESHING THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF

Whatever happened to that old adage, ‘The customer’s
always right’? If you want insults, accusations and threats
just pay your credit card bills on-time and in-full.

Of late we have been very distressed. We had all our Montgomery
Ward bills paid up ahead of time and even a few cents overpaid.
Then, all of a sudden we began getting insults in the mail from the
big Montgomery Ward combine. The letters accused us of defaulting
in our payments. ‘Pay this overdue $14.41 debt, or we will sue
you in court,’ said several of the letters.

The fact is we had owed around $87 and some cents. But we had
promptly sent a check, weeks before, amounting to $88 an
overpayment of some thirty cents, just to be sure the entire bill
was covered. For which we got no credit.

The following week several more letters arrived, all claiming we
owed the $87 plus no credit for having paid that bill. The local
area M W Credit Department was shocked that we were being so
accused. They told us to supply our payment receipt and a
photo-stat copy of the returned bank check which we did. These they
sent to the Chicago office of N W, just to prove we were good,
paid-up customers. The credit department lady even sent along a
letter, strongly defending us and deploring the insults we were
receiving, as good customers, from their head office.

Since we were interested in buying a new mattress, on sale at
the Piqua M W store, we were assured our credit was so good that we
could go ahead and purchase said mattress, as surely all things
would soon be cleared up at the main offices.

The following week we again received the usual insults. In the
same mail arrived two letters one ordering us to ‘pay up’
right away or be sued. The other letter was from a lawyer, already
suing us for an even larger amount of over $147. Paid up customers
being accused as ‘dead-beats’ and sued before proven
guilty. We were not even given time to answer and clarify
ourselves.

We showed these to the Piqua M W credit department. The head
lady was furious. Everyone defended us as the best of customers. We
asked if it was possible to talk personally, by phone with the head
office. The lady dialed for us and gave us the phone. My wife tried
to ask questions. She kept saying, ‘Will you let me explain our
side?’ But the office wouldn’t listen. Finally my wife
said, ‘I’ll just turn you over to my husband.’

I found I was talking to a P. Coleman the writer of all our
insulting, threatening letters. But, instead of a gruff executive,
I was talking to a very feminine sounding, but frustrated
secretary. I told her, ‘We are getting very tired of receiving
all these insulting, threatening letters. Do you insult your
paid-up customers as a practice?’

The diatribe got pretty hot. Finally the voice said, ‘Will
you let me explain?’ I answered, ‘Go ahead.’

Her reply was that they had just finally received the copy of
our canceled check, that day, but, since they hadn’t received
the original check there, the Piqua store would have to pay them
that amount

Then I told her we were so insulted we felt we had better pull
out of M W altogether. And she replied, ‘Well, I think you
should have quit buying from us, too.’

‘But,’ I continued, ‘We did go ahead and purchase a
new mattress, on sale last week.’

She snapped back, ‘Why did you do that?’

‘The Piqua store told us our credit was good, and that we
were perfectly welcome to buy the mattress,’ I replied.

The secretary retorted, ‘Oh all they were interested in was
selling another mattress to make their quota.’

When I turned to our credit department lady and explained what
the gal had said, she grabbed the phone and began talking to the
Chicago office. But the Chicago secretary, our accuser, hung up on
her.

No sooner had she hung up, than the office phone rang back. It
was a ‘Miss K,’ who explained she would try and see what
could be done to straighten out the matter.

But the following week I received a registered letter from
Montgomery Ward in Chicago. I felt it might be an apology and
didn’t wish to keep our mail man waiting. I told him, as I
signed it, that I hoped it wasn’t another insult or another
notice of being sued from Wards.

He replied, ‘Are you having trouble too? We had to pull out
from Wards, here in Greenville, as they were so mixed up they never
did send anything we ordered.’

My wife said I shouldn’t have signed for the registered
letter. That we should have just refused it.

We didn’t open that letter, but we did hold it up and read
it before a light. It was not the apology we had hoped for. But
another accusation, saying, ‘We asked you in two different
letters to return your credit cards so they could be
destroyed.’

This they had never mentioned in any letter. We resolved not to
waste an 8-cent stamp trying to prove our innocence, or press our
case further. The Constitution provides that a man is ‘innocent
until proven guilty.’ But Wards pronounced us guilty and sued
us after we had proven ourselves innocent with both the photo-stats
and the backing of their own Piqua Store personnel.

Now, why does one mention such things in this column? We
don’t enjoy re-hashing the unpleasant. The mental torture of
being accused when innocent seems to be a part of our lives, these
days not only on a local scale, but a national one too. And, such
conduct, internationally, is what leads to wars while so many of
the innocent suffer.

Time was when a farmer could purchase a steam traction engine
and threshing rig with nothing more than a promise by way of a
hand-shake or a word. The spoken word was a man’s honor. His
signature was not required in triplicate. There were no vast files
revealing the personal credit risks of every individual in the
United States and/or the rest of the world. Today the unerring
computer is supposed to ‘know everything, do everything’
without ever making a mistake. But let some office ‘cutie’
happen to press the wrong button, while lighting up her Virginia
Slim, and you’ve had it. Though you may be paid up and innocent
as Mary’s Little Lamb, you will soon be receiving a barrage of
computer-stamped letters from the head office, making you out a
‘dead-beat’ and getting sued by some far-off city legal
beagle both arriving in the same day’s mail. Don’t worry if
their ‘facts ‘n figures’ don’t tally for the right
hand never knows what the left hand doeth. And you might as well
save your breath and your postage trying to clear your fine record
by answering back. Your name and mine doesn’t mean anything. We
are only a number, stacked somewhere in the dark confines of some
impersonal, computerized office. The Bible long ago said, ‘In
that day each man will carry a number on his head.’

The ‘office sweetie’ may call you all kinds of names and
accuse you of being the dead-beat, ‘between draws on her
‘Little Winchester’ ‘. And it doesn’t matter a
tinker if your feel innocent and have proof of being
‘paid-up’. That doesn’t call off the wolves. You’ll
still be called a ‘dirty character’.

We’re living in a day when paying by cash is considered
almost a sin. I remember the story told by Sam Schnurr, one of
Spark Plugs. ‘My old Willys stopped along the road,’ said
Sam. ‘I realized she had come to the end of her days, so I just
coasted off the highway and parked it.’

‘I saw a Ford dealer up the road, so I just walked up and
looked over his cars,’ chuckled Sam. ‘I told the salesman
I’d take the little Falcon station wagon. When I began peeling
out twenty $100-bills, I thought that salesman was going to faint,
he shook so at seeing all that cash.’

And did you hear the one where the lady said, ‘I’ll pay
cash,’ and the gal at the shopping center cash register
answered, ‘Do you have an credit references?’

Or how about Gene Williams who makes the doll furniture at the
midwest threshing reunions? Says Gene, ‘I went to a Ford dealer
in Delphos, Ohio, to buy a truck chassis to build a trailer on for
going to the shows. But when the dealer found out I was going to
pay cash for it, he replied, ‘Sorry, I can’t sell for cash.
Only credit. I had to hunt a dealer who would take cash.’ So,
if they don’t want your cash, but insist you buy on credit, we
think it’s high time the credit department gives ‘credit
where credit is due’.

And one point more. We feel that credit department personnel
should all be required to take courses in Human Relations with
special stress on such subjects as ‘How NOT To Insult Our
Paid-Up Customers.’

All of which reminds us that some of the old-fashioned methods
of buying ‘n selling weren’t so outdated after all. The
country store clerk was always glad to see you come to his door.
And he always told you to ‘Come back’. Besides, the old
vinegar barrel smelled mighty good, the fresh-ground coffee you
couldn’t resist, and you always had to back up to the red-hot
pot-bellied stove to warm your backside long enough to hear the
latest gossip. ‘Bout how so-and-so did such-and-such. ‘I
swear it’s the Gospel Truth,’ was the
seal-of-honest-reporting in that day. But nowadays you can get your
character and soul blasted over international Telstar just by the
say-so of ‘some reliable source’.

Though the proverbial neighborhood gossip may have a sharp and
ruthless tongue in his or her head, one usually could get some
friends to listen to his own defense. Not so today when they grind
your character through an endless maze of computerized numbers, or
pulverize you by way of international T.V.

The Bible calls it a sin to malign a person behind his back. Go
first to a brother who has wronged you. And if he listens and asks
forgiveness, then forgive him.

‘Behold, if a man wrongs you seventy and seven times, and
asks thy forgiveness, forgive him,’ said Jesus. ‘For, if
you do not forgive others, your Father in Heaven will not forgive
you.’

If you recall, The Lord’s Prayer states very firmly,. ..
‘And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against
us.’

One version translates it, ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we
forgive those who trespass against us.’ (King James Version.)
But the Presbyterians prefer, ‘Forgive us our debts as we
forgive our debtors.’

I think, in the latter the Scotch could teach Montgomery Ward a
thing or two. Maybe they could sell them a Presbyterian Bible, but
they’d have to pay CASH!

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