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AMY SCOTT: It’s been 15 years since Stella Liebeck spilled a cup of McDonald’s coffee in the drivers seat of her Ford Probe. Liebeck sued McDonald’s for gross negligence. She suffered serious burns. A jury awarded Liebeck $2.9 million, though a judge ultimately cut that number to $640,000. The case inspired an episode of Seinfeld and a Weird Al Yankovic song. It also inspired Commentator Karl Meyer.
KARL MEYER: One minute I’m enjoying the simplest of quick-lunch pleasures, the next I’m hurtling down a path toward oblivion, a twig-like object wedged between my teeth. The culprit was a can of chunk white albacore. I plunged my hand into the mess and clamped on the menacing stick. Pulling back, I experienced the same rush cardiologists must feel when the paddles bring a heartbeat back to life. “I’m rich!”
The tuna bone glistened. My eyes darted to the can. Yes! I’d hooked into one of the Big Three! Instead of my life ending in premature asphyxiation, I’m suddenly contemplating ascension to the ruling class.
Shaking, I washed the bone. I contacted the tuna company’s website, stating facts: I have the bone; I have the can in a photo with a dated newspaper. I didn’t mention lawsuit, or involuntary manslaughter. We’re all professionals. This could be handled neatly. I’d await their generous offer. I started pricing houses and hybrid cars.
The letter arrived a week later, standard mail. “A bone the size you reported is not typical of our efforts to produce the highest quality canned tuna on the market.” A settlement of sorts was enclosed: four free cans of albacore with hopes that this would restore my consumer confidence. They requested the bone back, and included two coupons for 25 cents off. Big Tuna, showing me the love.
So this was customer care? Double coupons? My loyal silence secured for the price of stinking mackerel? Well not so fast Chunk Lite! Even a fish knows fishy when he smells it. No deal, Bottom Feeder! Try starting with roses next time, maybe a little sushi. For now, I’m securing your little tuna terror-bone in a tiny evidence bag. Have your people get in touch with mine. We’ll talk turkey, brand-loyalty, hybrid cars …
SCOTT: Karl Meyer lives in Greenfield, Mass. His book, “Wild Animals of North America” won a 2008 Teachers’ Choice Award for Children’s Books.
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