I write a letter to Amazon.

It is not a stroppy letter, it is courteous and well-thought-out. Stroppy letters don’t work, and are written by pompous arses so they can smugly claim ‘that TOLD them!’ as they bore their golf club mates with the interminable story of their washing machine problem.

I used to work in a company that occasionally received stroppy letters, so I know what I’m talking about. There is an accepted procedure in UK business for dealing with them:

– Read through, roll eyes wearily
– Pass round to co-workers for shared amusement
– Make token attempt to solve problem
– Draft reply, thanking writer for stroppy letter. Deliberately misunderstand at least one of their points, and carefully phrase to make it obvious that you think they’re a small piece of dirt, without quite ever spelling it out. Give some nice customer satisfaction statistics that run counter to what the writer and everybody else knows to be true
– Conclude with annoying non-phrase, such as ‘assuring you of our best service at all times’
– File in big blue folder, marked ‘Funny Stroppy Letters’

I never did this, I hasten to add, and disapproved heartily. I just couldn’t quite work out what British business had against sending people straightforward replies, admitting things had gone wrong, etc. Viz:

Dear Mr Blah,

I was alarmed to receive your letter, and am very sorry to hear of your explosion.

This is the first we have heard of one of our products exploding, but clearly one is too many. Please accept our sincere apologies.

A cheque for £85 is attached, to cover repairs. Agreed, it seems only fair that we should pay for them, and let’s face it – it’s a pissy, derisory amount of money to a company like us. For some reason, my boss thinks that we should try every delaying, haggling tactic in the book to try to avoid giving you any recompense whatsoever, but that would seem like a waste of all our lives.

Please let me know immediately should you have any more queries.

As it’s the first and last time you’ll ever receive a straightforward letter like this, I know you’ll go around telling everybody that you had a small problem, but received absolutely great service in sorting it out. Therefore I look forward to you being a customer again.

Best wishes,