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
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
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
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.
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
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.