Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

June 7th, 2004

The Valued Customer
By Dave Micus

This is a story about loyalty and betrayal; about longing and denial. It is the story about how corporate America can take the soul of the individual and grind it away until only the pulp remains. This is the story about my dealings with a famous manufacturer of fly fishing equipment.

It would be impossible to catalog just how much I've purchased from this particular corporation--rods and reels, vests and vises, fur and feathers, waders and whatnot, gizmos and gadgets. My credit card even bares their logo. Suffice it to say that the cost has been in the thousands. And while the quality of the merchandise is undeniable, the degradation I've been forced to endure has made me wonder if I would have been better off choosing a less famous manufacturer.

But I get ahead of myself.

It began when I attended a shopping spree at their flagship store as a birthday present from my wife. A non-fishing friend came along for an outing in the country. While there, my friend purchased a $20 sign for his beach house from the company store. I spent hundreds on flies and fly boxes and zingers.

That was during the winter. During the following summer I decided to try a two-handed salmon rod to fish for stripers, and bought a complete outfit from the same company. Soon I realized I needed more equipment for this new type of fishing, and I began the expensive endeavor of purchasing a stripping basket, bigger hooks, larger feathers, more colorful bucktail. The costs kept escalating.

Last Christmas my friend received a beautiful Christmas card from the company, explaining that the holidays are a time to thank "valued customers." There was a $10 gift certificate enclosed. He called me, assuming that I had received one too, and offered me his certificate. Knowing that my card and certificate should be arriving shortly, I accepted his kind offer and anxiously watched the mail. It seems like every time I set foot in this store I spend at least $50; this time I could buy an extra $20 worth of fluff and fur, compliments of the company.

But my card never came.

I told my friend, and we both had a good laugh. Then I made the mistake of thinking too much about it. Soon I was dwelling on it. How could he be a valued customer when he only spent $20, while I was not a valued customer, having spent over a thousand in the past year alone? I needed answers.

I wrote the director of marketing, explaining that there was something wrong with his valued customer list. I succeeded, I think, in making it not sound like whining; at least not too much. I said I was about to purchase a new 4 weight from this company, which was true. I secretly hoped that I'd get a certificate for a free reel upgrade, or something of the sort. At the very least I would get 'valued customer' status. I mailed the letter.

They never bothered to respond.

I swallowed my pride and bought the new rod. I purchased a reel also. And a new line, and backing and leader material. I decided to just forget about the Christmas incident.

Shortly after that my friend called up to tell me he had received another "dear valued customer" letter with another $10 gift certificate! I couldn't believe it! He spent a total of $20 at the store and received $20 in gift certificates! I spent thousands and didn't get a thing! What was the logic? Wasn't it counter-intuitive to bestow 'valued customer' status on someone who spends less? I was beginning to feel like the good child, longing for my parents' attention, while my evil sibling effortlessly got all the affection.

I must admit that, using the logic of demographers, he is a much better consumer candidate then I am: he drives a new Jeep Cherokee, I drive a five year old Geo; he is single, I am married; he has no children, at least that he'll admit to, I have two. But I have purchased nearly every fly-fishing gadget that has been invented from this company, while he only bought a stupid, $20 sign. How can he be a valued customer?

It's been a few months since the last 'valued customer' incident, but I know they'll strike again. In the meantime, I'm thinking of purchasing a two-weight fresh and a seven-weight salt-water rod. Or maybe one of their new line of rods that features the same technology used on nuclear submarines.

I'm co-dependent.

Admitting it is the first step toward recovery. Every chance I get I share this sad tale with other fly fishers, looking for a bond. So far none have been able to relate, but all I need is two or three to form a support group. ~ Dave

About Dave:

Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor. He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats) and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.

Previous Dave Micus Columns

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