I was extremely reluctant to spend $152 for a pen, even a fountain pen with a beautifully flexible nib. I’ve dreamed of a pen like that for years, but $152 seemed nuts. I carry several favorite pens with me every day and their price in total doesn’t come near $100. Which is not to say I don’t value each of my favorite pens greatly, I do. A good pen is like a true musical instrument, one that stays in tune and is a pleasure to play. You can’t make music without a true instrument, nor love the marks you make on a piece of paper without a pen that feels good leaving its mark.
Still, $152 for a pen struck me as ridiculous, even in a store that sells $4,000 pens. It was a beautiful pen, with a wonderfully flexible nib. I tried it for a long time in the store and sighed when I handed the pen back to the salesman. The salesman took the pen back when I told him I couldn’t spend that much for a fountain pen. He smiled and said “you’ll come back for it.”
A few days later I did. It quickly became my favorite pen. The salesman had assured me that the soft, delicate, flexible nib was under warranty for three years. That was reassuring, especially since, from the beginning the pen was temperamental, finicky. It was a challenge to get it to write sometimes. I learned a few tricks to gently help get the ink flowing. I cleaned it with cool distilled water periodically. I learned I had to use it every single day to keep it flowing. My cheaper pens never hesitate, this little prima dona rarely wrote as soon as you picked her up. I began carrying a little pill bottle filled with distilled water to clean the nib, on subways and wherever else I drew.
Over the course of seven months I had worn the nib down, mostly from trying to get it to write when it didn’t feel like writing, and, eventually, found myself trying to write with the dreaded “sprung nib”. This means the nib no longer flexes since it cannot return to its thin state, the tines being now permanently separated. Picture two fingers splayed apart. The pen is ruined. I hesitated for a long time, dreading the likeliest outcome, and finally brought it back to the “Fountain Pen Hospital” where I had purchased the fine writing instrument. Sekhnet met me there for moral support.
The kid at the counter was sympathetic when I told him how much I loved this pen and that the patient was in bad shape and needed a fountain pen hospital. He recommended a place I could send it where they could fix the nib for about a hundred dollars. I reminded him of the three year Namiki warranty. The older man at the desk chimed in to tell me there was no warranty for the nib. He told me he’d been doing this for sixty years and that nobody gives a warranty for a nib. I told him what his salesman had told me. He said it was impossible, Paul had worked for him for twenty-five years, he could not have told me the nib was under warranty. Paul himself passed by a few times. I was clearly a desperate man, lying, and Paul was cool as a cucumber, his boss had his back.
I somehow left the store without expressing any anger and walked away feeling a little bit kicked in the balls, but there was little I could do but call the number the kid had given me and plead my case to Namiki/Pilot. I’m not optimistic there either, but it’s worth a shot. Japanese companies still seem to take a pride in their products that American corporations have long ago realized is for losers.
Our next stop was the Samsung store in the ultra-trendy Meat Packing District of New York City. The guy who sets up the repair appointments admitted that the oversensitive moisture sensor of the Galaxy S-8 that prevents charging with a cable was a design defect. They had fixed the defect in subsequent models, Jose said, examining my phone. In high humidity the sensor goes off, and even though the phone is advertised as surviving immersion in water… but hold on. My screen was cracked, my warranty was voided and I’d have to pay $249.99 for Samsung to correct the design defect that prevents me from charging the expensive phone with a cable. Here is my cracked screen:
I snarled and stalked away from the guy to cool off, as Sekhnet continued to talk to Jose. A large security guard, hearing my curses before I walked away from Jose, came over to stand guard nearby. I calmed myself, looking into the distance, breathing slowly. After a minute I went over to the guard, who had been watching me. I explained why I’d gotten angry and showed him the phone. He agreed that the tiny scratch voiding the warranty was bullshit. He agreed that corporations regularly fuck customers, it’s just part of their business plan. Profit making means breaking a few balls here and there, no big deal for a “person” who only has one job, maximizing profit. The security guard was a lovely guy. I told him about “The Corporation” available to watch on youtube, and he told me he’d definitely check it out. My friendly chat with him helped calm me the rest of the way down.
I went back over to Jose and Sekhnet to confirm my appointment for the following day and Jose said he hadn’t made the appointment since I’d walked away from him. I told him he would have walked away too. He admitted he probably would have. “I can’t lie,” he said, as likable a response as you could hope for in that circumstance. I’ll be going over there in a couple of hours to have the phone ‘s design defect repaired, the battery replaced with an improved one, the screen replaced. All for only $249.99 plus tax. Minus the 15% goodwill discount Jose said he’ll give me, which brought the actual price down to a mere $230.43.
Minor interaction in an art supply store we went to next left me feeling no better. The manager was confused and defensive regarding a refund for a bunch of piss-poor nibs I’d bought in another store of their chain. She told me she couldn’t refund anything without the original packaging (they came out of boxes behind the counter, there was no original packaging), and that to her knowledge they didn’t make the 3B mechanical pencil leads I was looking for (I held up my pencil with the 3B lead in it– another branch a few blocks away, I learned later, had it in stock)… etc. I started getting pissed off and left my credit card with Sekhnet to take care of the business while I sat outside, calming myself, reading off my “cracked screen”. A few minutes later Sekhnet handed me the receipt and I saw that, for whatever reason, $2.18 had been not refunded. Well worth the price of not walking back into the store.
Then I remembered Sekhnet pays for insurance for the two phones, about $25 a month. Almost 40 minutes on the phone with T-Mobile (the first 25 or so on hold, with a syphilitic robot periodically coming on to tell me to please continue to hold, we don’t value you pieces of shit enough to hire enough representatives, all of whom are busy helping other customers) eventually connected me to the third party that Sekhnet pays to insure both of our fancy phones.
I could send my phone in, they’d send me a temporary replacement phone, and they’d do the repairs for only a $175 deductible (about $60 less than Jose’s place which will do everything within 3 hours today). I asked her what the deductible is if the phone is lost or stolen. $175 she said.
“So your company’s policy incentivizes fraud,” I said, “I’d be better off just tossing the phone into the nearest sewer, or selling it to a crackhead for $20 and reporting it stolen.”
“Well, that’s why our rates and deductibles have to be high, because people take advantage of insurance companies, that’s why it’s so important for us to be watchful for fraud,” she said pleasantly.
“No,” I told her, ” that’s insurance industry b.s.. Your rates and ‘deductibles’ are high because insurance companies are in business to pay out as little as possible. It’s a fabulous scheme as far as your profits go, even if a bit sleazy, though nothing personal, you sound like a very nice person.”
I managed again, for a third time in a few hours, not to get unreasonably angry. One’s asshole eventually gets used to the uninvited probes, I suppose.
If the corporation was actually a person it would be someone like Donald Trump. They owe nothing to anybody. They are incapable of real conversation, of any kind of mutuality, really. They control the terms of every interaction. They refuse to lose, or even compromise, no matter what the price. They can never admit wrongdoing, nor can they apologize. They do what they do because the law allows it, or at least does not explicitly proscribe it. If it comes to it, they’ll change the law to make their latest profit-increasing scam legal. They have an army of lawyers, on salary, just waiting around to make their boss’s day. Ever been sued by a billionaire? Nothing like it, boys and girls.
Capitalism, its defenders always say, is the most accurate reflection of human nature. It is an expression of human freedom that incentivizes creativity and innovation, rewards the entrepreneurial spirit, maximizes liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone. These defenders are always at least moderately wealthy. Those who do not fare as well under the Darwinian law of the jungle may be excused for seeing the out of control greed-driven psychopathic form of capitalism that is currently energetically destroying our habitat as a reflection of only a certain facet of human nature: the insanely greed-driven psychopath.
A powerful church that rapes children and protects the rapists is… we may as well just say it, even if the Pope can’t … evil in the eyes of Jesus, and of every dispassionate child you can ask. An economic system that makes obscene wealth possible for a very few and a decent lifestyle possible for another 10% or so, while creating health-destroying insecurity or inescapable poverty for many times that number… and unspeakably brutal poverty for billions more worldwide, the unseen collateral damage of the global “free market”, well, you do the math.
And have a blessed day…