In 1992 I purchased a very expensive spectrum analyser from a reputable company, which arrived non-functional. After returning it for repair, it worked for a week, and quit again. Eventually it did work reliably but not before another trip for servicing. About four months after all this, a survey showed up in the mail asking how I liked my instrument, and promising a free penlight upon return of the completed questionnaire. I duly mailed in the form and, after another month, received a small package in the mail. I opened it up, put in the batteries, and turned it on... guess what. This was the occasion of the following letter, which I never got around to sending...

Feb 10, 1993

Dear Sir or Madam:

It is with great regret that I must inform you of the shortcomings of the penlight of which I am recently in receipt, after completing as requested the user response card with all the unhappy details regarding the delivery of my analyser dead on arrival, and the two subsequent trips required to repair it. Notwithstanding the disappointing condition in which my analyzer had arrived, I maintained great faith in BIG_CORP as a company dedicated to the manufacture of only the finest equipment, and considered myself a happier man upon the rising of each new sun, reducing as it did by one the toll of days which separated me from posession of the penlight. I fondly imagined this product to be a shining beacon of quality in a vast sea of shoddy imitation; indubitably the design of this article would be of the most subtle and exquisite possible, and its craftsmanship beyond reproach: surely its lambent rays could not but illume the Stygian darkness in which so many lesser corporate entities now wander.

Imagine now the anticipation with which I seized upon the package in my mailbox, the joy of the unwrapping, yes, the bliss that was mine upon possesion of this artifact, such as reason can scarcely comprehend, and beyond the compass of mere words to describe. It was at just this transcendent moment that sudden disaster smote unlooked-for, as the most unthinkable tragedy befell your humble correspondent: when only the dimmest of rays, indeed, the most transient of flickers had escaped its bulb, the light vanished utterly, never to return! How much more brief than mortal breath was this expiration, I cannot say with exactitude, though the glow was surely gone before the tenth part of a heartbeat had passed. This cruel fate was not for lack of charge in the cells, as subsequent tests have shown. No buttons pushed or rings screwed in have ressurected any spark; the epitaph, it seems, is writ, and not all our piety or wit suffice to unwrite a single word of it.

It is left now but for those who remain to toll the bell slowly in memory, as for the desert rose untimely bloom'd, that the wanderer finds only a pale echo of sweetness before the shrivelled leaves yield to an uncaring wind, and all past glories are returned to dust. It is in this somber spirit that your unhappy correspondent has absented himself from felicity awhile, to tell this story.

With great sadness but eternal hope I remain,

a BIG_CORP customer