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Rule One: Any Joke Ever Will Offend Someone

, , , , , , | Learning | January 29, 2020

In college, I was friends with someone who did articles for our campus newsletter, and at one point, they asked me if I wanted to try and do a piece. I made one entitled “The Gay Agenda,” which was basically listing of the different lists and “agendas” that I dealt with in my day-to-day life, from a shopping list, to a club meeting schedule, to my New Year’s resolutions. It was intended as a humorous piece to highlight the similarities between straight and gay students.

It was rather sad just how many people got completely furious over it; many of them obviously never read past the title. Some people accused me of trying to “trick” them into thinking they were gay, and others called me homophobic for daring to imply that homosexual people — such as myself — had an agenda. The backlash ended up getting the post removed from the newsletter’s website, but I’d still see people ranting about it or referencing it from time to time before I graduated.

So, it seems like it did unite people, just not the way I’d hoped.

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It’s My Opinion; Therefore, It’s The Only One That Counts

, , , | Right | January 13, 2020

(I work in HR for a news outlet. I’m rather amused one day when I receive an email in which a reader complains that we are writing about a certain blue or gold dress instead of “more pressing topics.” While it’s not actually my responsibility to answer it, I have a spare minute and the accusation that we’re writing about the “wrong stuff” is somewhat of a pet peeve of mine, as it is for many people working in journalism. I quickly type up an answer.)

Answer: “Dear [Reader],

Thank you for your feedback. While I understand the feeling that there are more pressing stories to write about, I can assure you that journalism is a highly specialized field with most journalists having very specific knowledge in their respective subject areas. A journalist writing about lifestyle topics would not otherwise write about politics or international affairs, like a sports reporter would not write for the economics department or about science. Furthermore, as the article you’re referencing is an online article, I can assure you that there’s no reason to worry about it taking away space necessary to report on other topics.

I promise we still report on urgent topics with the same frequency as we always have and we’ll continue to do so. If you have further feedback or questions regarding the contents of our site, I’d refer you to [Editor In Chief] at [Editor In Chief’s email address].”

(I don’t get an answer for several days, so I consider the affair settled, until I receive another email one morning from the same reader.)

Response: “Dear [My Name],

I don’t believe you, as I’m certain that there’s no journalist who would willingly write about such garbage. Let them write about something that matters, instead! Your newspaper would do significantly better, believe me.”

(Sure, it would improve the quality of our product immensely if we could only force our lifestyle department to write about the intricacies of foreign elections, lady! I’d really like to believe she was trolling with me, as nobody could be that confident in not understanding the concept and benefits of specialization. Then again, she wrote to HR to complain about our content.)

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Does She Understand Anything She Reads In The Paper?

, , , | Right | August 7, 2019

(I work at a call center for a newspaper.)

Me: “Hello. My name is [My Name]; how can I help you?”

(An old lady answers with a very whiny voice every call centre agent knows all too well.)

Caller: “I did not get my newspaper! I had it every day for fifty years; how can you not deliver it? I called yesterday and you told me it will be there today!”

Me: “Oh, I’m sorry about that. Let’s look up your account and see what we can do about it.”

(I look up her subscription and see that the delivery was canceled roughly two months ago due to three prior months of unpaid fees.)

Me: “I’m sorry, but your delivery was stopped two months ago…”

(I explain the cause, which was a payment declined by her bank due to unknown reasons.)

Caller: “That can’t be! I have had this subscription for fifty years and always pay!”

(She continues to rant while I look deeper into her customer history. It turns out that she got all the letters and reminders during the three unpaid months, was called multiple times about it, and only after we stopped delivering did she acknowledge the ignored the letters; she thought it would “go away and resolve itself.” After the deliveries stopped, she started to call twice a week. She is told every time to talk to her bank as we can’t make them pay us.)

Me: “I am happy to tell you that your bank worked it out just yesterday. As the subscription was put on hold, we need accounting to re-open it to start delivering again.”

Caller: “Nonsense; my subscription was not halted! I just did not get it yesterday and today. I want the papers credited back.”

Me: “Well, if you still got the paper since the delivery was halted, you are very lucky, as we did not charge you for that. We will restart as soon as accounting has checked it and they will send you a confirmation letter.”

(I explain that in Germany, it is the law to announce delivery after a halted subscription fourteen days prior, so people who maybe don’t want to restart can cancel in time. They, of course, can also call in and confirm they want the delivery to start immediately, but we have to send the letter first.)

Caller: “I don’t care; I just want my newspaper tomorrow and the ones I did not get credited back!”

Me: “I can’t promise you any paper tomorrow or even the rest of the week. We need to send you the letter before we can restart and with Easter this weekend, I am pretty sure accounting will not be able to confirm the balance and send the letter until Thursday.”

Caller: “But how can you leave me until next week without a paper? I had the newspaper for fifty years; you can’t stop delivery!”

Me: “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but you ignored our letter after the payment got reversed by your bank. We had no other choice but to stop delivering.”

(The call starts to go in circles with me explaining the whole thing over at least twice and the caller just coming back to, “That can’t be; how did it happen?”)

Me: “Again, I’m sorry, but I explained to you exactly how things came up to this point and that you will get delivery as soon as we are able to confirm it properly. Please stay patient; I have already asked for your case to be reviewed ASAP.”

Caller: “But you can’t just not get me a newspaper for the rest of the week! I have always paid you for fifty years!”

Me: “Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you anymore but that you are wrong about this. We have left you without a paper for two months by now and you have just paid us five months after the first bill was due. These are the facts, and I can and will not tell you anything else. Please wait for the letter. If you don’t have any other questions, I will end this call.”

Caller: “But I don’t understand; why did you cancel my delivery?”

Me: *ends the call after twenty minutes*

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The Terror Of Sports Fans

, , , , | Right | May 1, 2019

(There is a sports competition called Super Rugby, which features sides from Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, with sides travelling to face each other over a period of a few months. All the matches are televised in all the nations. It’s Saturday lunchtime at the newspaper where I work, and the phone rings.)

Me: “Good day, [Newspaper].”

Caller: *who sounds a bit grumpy* “Why wasn’t the match between the Highlanders [another NZ team] and Christchurch Crusaders on this morning?”

Me: “The NZ Rugby Union cancelled it, sir, because of the terror attack in Christchurch yesterday.”

Caller: “But they are professionals; they should have played!”

Me: “…”

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Earl-y Language

, , , , | Right | February 14, 2019

I was working for a small weekly advertising newspaper in a semi-rural area. I was mostly the computer person, but one of my duties was taking classified ads over the phone when it was busy.

A caller wanted to place an ad to sell some “Earl drums.” Since I was still cleaning up after my predecessor, whose spelling had been — how shall we say it — creative… and I know some percussion instrument manufacturers can have complicated spellings — e.g., Zildjian — I asked him to spell the name.

In disbelief, he replied, “You know: Oh. Ah. Ell. Earl!”

He was selling oil drums.

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