Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Blue Comes Through

A few years ago I wrote a post about my first employers and their products (or, rather, one of them; I omitted to mention another of our best sellers, an ointment for piles: blind, bleeding, itching, ulcerated or protruding).

And we sold all round the world other equally effective remedies for a variety of distressing maladies. Our advertising, though perfectly honest, was colourful and convincing; inevitably, it evoked a great number of enquiries and it was one of my duties as Export Manager to respond to them.

Many were from West Africa. In those days none of them were of the kind which asked for my bank details so as to facilitate the transfer to me of huge sums of money; some were heartwarming expressions of gratitude for having relieved the writer's discomfort or worry and others asked for advice or a free sample. Most included lurid details of the writer's symptoms, and some of these had to be kept out of the sight of the junior office staff, for these were prudish times; nowadays, of course, they would be pinned up so that everyone could have a giggle.

In reply I used a number of different standard letters, all of them ethically impeccable, giving sound advice where this could do no harm and always recommending consulting a doctor. Sometimes I would add a non-committal sentence of comfort or re-assurance.

I still have a file of the most entertaining letters that I received. It was all rather a waste of time, really. It would have been easier, and perhaps kinder, to have had a few hundred standard replies ready-printed for use in most cases, simply saying:

Dear Sir
You have the pox.
Yours faithfully....

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