Sunday, June 21, 2009

Double Speak: Would you buy a used car from this company?

Normally I don't bother you with crap letters I receive in the mail. And a lot of other things, too. In fact, you probably have no real idea of how little I really bother you. But I could.

I got a letter yesterday (I was going to say "in the mail", but I resisted) from General Motors. If you live in the USA, you will already know that, after 100 years of mismanagement and arrogance, General Motors finally went belly up and declared bankruptcy, stiffed their creditors, and got taken over by the government. Which is to say you (if you are an American) are now the proud owner of 60% of this loser (I almost said "once proud" but they were never proud, only arrogant) company.

If you happen to be a non-American reading this, meh. Well, actually, you probably have heard of General Motors too, and may even be aware that they have recently been "bailed out" with several billion 'bama bucks but declared bankruptcy anyway, after spending the money. At any rate, this will be funny for you too if you are an English speaker.

The letter was sent to all their ex-customers to assure them that despite what they may have heard on the news and from President Obama, everything down at RenCen on the Detroit River is still just hunky dory. I, by the way, am worse than an ex-customer: I am both a past owner of a GM product and a present owner of a GM product. I only got one letter, though, so apparently the new cost-cutting features are already phasing in.

The beauty and excellence of the incredible spin contained in this letter goes FAR beyond the expertise of a corporate lawyer. Even beyond the ability of a master politician. No, the author of this spin letter deserves some sort of Pulizer Prize in advertising fiction.

Remember, this is a company which is bankrupt. Mismanaged. Humiliated. Run into the ground. Corrupt. Inept. Lost more money for their stockholders than Enron. Taken over by the government. Second only to Chrysler. How in the world can you put a good face on something as slimy and hopeless as that? How can you expect to keep your customers and ask them to spend more money with you? How indeed. Just read these paragraphs from their letter:

"Dear ______

First off, I'd like to thank you for being a GM customer. Your current and future business means a lot to us. Given all of the recent media coverage about GM, I am writing you today to address some questions you may have, and to assure you that we are here to stay [vomit stain here] and ready to serve you.

As you may know, GM is using an expedited, court-supervised process to accelerate the reinvention of our company. ..."

So. It is not bankruptcy, then, as we were told? It is an "expedited, court-supervised process"?

The government did not fire your CEO and step in and start barking orders? Instead, it is a "reinvention" of your unbelievably inept and wasteful company?

Later on in the letter, they even bragged that their new vehicles would now be covered by a "special U.S. Government-backed comprehensive... limited warranty." [More retching sounds from Relax Max here.]

JesusJosephandMary, people. Have these losers no pride?

And now I see that the courts have cleared the way to form a new car company called "Chrysler-Fiat." Isn't that special? All the reliability of a Fiat coupled with the fine design that made your grandfather think Chrysler was keen.

Walter Chrysler and Billy Durant are spinning too. In their graves.

God help us all if this is what corporate America has come to.


  1. Stephanie is very succinct isn't she? I have a hard time with the whole bailout bullshit, from GM to the greedy bastards in every state that wants a piece of the Obama pie. The Obama pie is not meant for us but every greedy politician with their hands out. We just keep bending over and taking it. We are taking it so hard our great Grandchildren are feeling it.

  2. Any copywriter who can say that something is both limited and comprehensive is quite adept. And able to keep a straight face. And that GM's general credibility and intelligence is comprehensively limited.

    And I am certainly aware of how little you bother your readers (I aim for that myself, in a comprehensive and not really so limited way). But you do make us think and I appreciate that.

  3. The last sentence in first paragraph does not follow from the first part. I am aware of this. But it is very late and that is my excuse. I just wanted you to know I was aware of it! :)

  4. I'm expecting we're in for some interesting times this side of the Atlantic. Gordon Brown has hired the spin doctor who reputedly improved the image of the Royal family after Diana's death. Good choice. I await results with interest.

    And then there's the power company who wants to build a coal fired power station, presenting it as green by adding a few solar panels to the roof "to help heat and light the admin building". To help, mind you.

    Do they really think people don't notice what they're doing? Do they think we are so stupid we won't understand?

  5. @Stephanie - Me neither anymore. Too shifty, that letter. Am I to believe they wouldn't be shifty in other areas?

    @Ettarose - Stephanie is very a lot of things. But she tells it like it is. I like the way you call it the Obama Pie. Like it was his money that bought the ingredients. His bailout idea had little rationale to begin with and is totally off into outer space now. (To use a metaphor Stephanie can identify with. In more ways than one.)

    Notice how I bury shit in the comments that she will never see?

    @Lidian - Yes, they actually did say their warranty was both comprehensive and limited, although I doubt they had a straight face. Or a straight anything else. Very crooked, these people. But never accountable (that's why I showed a picture of their ivory tower) so what do they care?

    And thank you for the Obama (back door) compliment. :) I appreciate it.

    As God is my witness I will never offer any Chicago Style Manual advice to you again. I hope your book gets published word for word the way you write it.

    Sometimes you drive me crazy. :)

    @Sheila - I know. Don't I know. It's rampant.

    A hundred and fifty-odd years ago we had a president named Abraham Lincoln who said a lot of homey things. (Although he was a slick politician). One of those things went (something) like this:

    "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can never fool all of the people all of the time."

    But they keep trying, don't they?



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