Premier online humor site “The Onion” today announced a bold strategic initiative that will transition it into a second-rate purveyor of shoddy goods via the internet. While this move surprised some analysts, Senior VP of Change Management Luis Abregado said, “We’ve gone about as far as we can go with humor. Face it, how many times can you write cuttingly sarcastic articles about mundane things while working in the term ‘douche bag’? We need to provide more shareholder value, and there’s a growing opportunity in pushing snarky t-shirts and following the sales up with shitty service.”

Abregado pointed to a recent apparel order as an example. Long-time reader Bill McCurry ordered a women’s cream-colored “Kitten Thinks of Nothing But Murder All Day” t-shirt for his wife, placing the order on August 31. The Onion team determined that the shirt was out of stock and immediately did not a single god damn thing. Fulfillment Clerk Clem Smith personally handled the fucking around and doing nothing. “I figured maybe somebody had made a mistake,” he explained, “so I didn’t want to, like, make another one. I just waited to see what would happen. Hell, maybe the whole thing would go away by itself, you know?”

The Onion encourages all its customers to order fine products like this one from The Onion Store.

When Mr. McCurry inquired online about his order on September 23, The Onion Customer Service team jumped in and responded after sitting on their asses for three days. Service Rep Larry Sim said, “If you answer right away then the customer starts to expect that kind of behavior. It’s bad business. You’re better off setting the expectation right away that they’ll be treated like crotch fungus.” The Onion sent an email including the sentences, “Thank you for contacting us!” and, “I apologize that we did not contact you sooner!” following Customer Service best practice that vapid and pleasant exclamations entirely make up for behaving like a willfully incompetent slice of ass-crust. Sim offered to fulfill his valued customer’s order with a white shirt rather than a cream-colored shirt, and Mr. McCurry agreed.

In many slip-shod retail operations the process might then break down, and an order could be shipped to the customer. But The Onion is aiming to become a world class fucked-up online store. Using a proprietary “double-redundancy” process, The Onion staff drew secret lots to determine who would hide the customer’s order in a random location, almost guaranteeing that no one would think about the “Kitten Thinks of Nothing But Murder All Day” t-shirt unless someone started screaming about it. “This process enables us to get on with the critical business of ignoring all the other dumb motherfuckers’ orders,” Sim said. “One advantage is that when Mr. McCurry inquired about his order again on October 10, we could just wait a few days and tell him, ‘Hey dude, it’s being fulfilled and shipped today!’ even though we had no idea where it was or really even what the fuck he ordered. We’re writing a paper on this process to present at the Kick Your Customers Hard in the Balls Conference next spring.”

While The Onion hasn’t ironed out every wrinkle in its new initiative, it has made an impressive show of moving from a creative, witty, highly-cherished institution to a completely pedestrian shit-box merchant. Abregado said, “The real beauty is that even though this moron emailed us again on October 26 whining about his order, we can just ignore him forever if we want. We charged his credit card on August 31, so we’ve already got his fucking money.”

I realized this week that three desktop computers, three laptops, a smart phone, a cell phone, a digital camera, and two iPods are not enough information technology in my home. I have enough digital storage to hold every major film made in the last 15 years, yet my household cries out for more. So, I bought my wife an iPad.

Actually, she’s mentioned a couple of times that the thinks an iPad would be convenient for her. But I knew she wouldn’t buy one for herself until our kids were out of college. Considering that we have no children and don’t plan to have any, my wife’s iPad would be moping around, lonely on its shelf at Best Buy, for a long time. So I stalked an iPad, slapped down some cash, and brought it home to her.

My wife seemed thrilled. She read every word of the online manual before she plugged in her iPad, because that’s the kind of gal she is. Then she fired it up, hooked it to her Windows computer, and played with it. A few hours later she realized some things. (1) She wanted an iPad cover that wouldn’t attract cat hair. (2) She got an error every time she tried to register her iPad. (3) She got an error every time she tried to use iTunes—although iTunes still worked fine.

I realized that a trip to the Apple Store awaited us.

We arrived at the Apple Store at 2 PM on Saturday. It was like one of those photos of penguin hatching grounds, except that everyone had an iPhone grafted to his hand. Nice people helped my wife with a few questions, and she found an iPad cover in a classy shade of camel. Then we went to technical support.

Mike helped us. Some of the other Apple Store employees had told us that Mike was the best tech around, so I’ll admit I had high expectations. I expected strong Apple loyalty from Mike, and some serious proselytizing. That’s just doing a good job. But most of his explanations for the technical problems revolved around the complete inferiority of Windows. The rest involved the absolute inadequacy of Dell laptops. But he attacked the problems with fervor, and I maintained faith in him.

Mike’s fervor consisted of telling us to uninstall every Apple software component, restart the laptop, and wait for him to come back. This we did. After a while Mike came back and pronounced our work good. He paused to complain about the inferior knowledge and ability of his coworkers. Then he started to download iTunes, but he stopped to ask my wife, “Is this a 32-bit or 64-bit machine?”

My wife said, “I don’t know.”

“I don’t know either. It’s your computer. I’ll just install the 32-bit version, and if it’s wrong we’ll find out when it won’t run.” Mike clicked download.

I said, “Wait,” as Mike walked away. Mike did not wait. So I checked the laptop, downloaded the right iTunes version, and installed it. As I did so, I imagined my upcoming conversation with Mike when he returned.

“Hey Mike. Do you like Apple?” I would say.


“So do you want to sell iPods and iPads and such only to the 12% of computer users who own Macs?”

“Heck no!”

“That means that Apple products need to work with Windows computers then, right?” I’d say.

“Well… I guess so…”

“So as the big tech brain around here, you ought to learn how to check the system properties on a Windows computer before you do something as fucking stupid as randomly loading a version of software without checking to see if it’s the right version, ya think? In fact, be honest—you knew perfectly well how to check it, you just wanted to walk away like a willfully incompetent motherfucker, right?”

“Yes, sir…” Mike would say while looking at his shoes.

About this time I realized that my wife was staring at me with concern. She might have noticed the sound of my teeth grinding—I’m not sure. She asked if I needed to leave the store in order to not disembowel Mike, who after all was probably a fairly nice guy if you got to know him over a beer. I said that I’d be good.

Mike returned. The reinstallation of iTunes had resolved none of my wife’s technical problems. Mike took a jaunty couple of steps backward and said, “That’s a Windows reinstallation problem! That’s what that is! A Windows reinstallation problem!” Then Mike gave us the toll free number for customer service.

I crushed a brand new camel colored iPad cover in my left hand as we packed up my wife’s unregistered iPad and whiny, error-spouting laptop. We walked out of the store and through the mall Food Court, past Panda Express, and into the parking lot. I discussed my thoughts with her. I might have cursed a few times. I’m certain that flecks of spit were flying.

Out in the crushing summer heat I said, “I was thinking about, maybe, buying a new iPhone while I was there. I’m sure as hell not going to now.”

“But what about the two people who were nice to us? That’s two out of three.”

“I don’t care,” I said. “I may get a Droid.” I wiped a little foam off my lips.

“Just because of Mike? This one guy?” she asked.

I paused, teeth grinding again. “I’m vengeful…”

She squeezed my hand. “Yes, you are.”