Wednesday, August 31, 2022

An Open Letter to the Student Loan Department

Dear whomever is in charge of the student loan forgiveness program,

Son Number One is a high school senior this year, so he’ll be off to college around this time next year. We’re all very excited about your new plan to wipe out student loan debt, and we plan to take full advantage of that next year.

Originally, we were thinking he’d need to stay in our home state of California for college to avoid those high out-of-state tuitions, but your new program has really opened up the possibilities. Since money is no longer an object, I think we’ll have him try to get into some of those famous schools that always seem to produce good results, like Harvard, Cambridge, or MIT. However, I’m not sure if he really has what it takes, grade-wise, so we’d really appreciate it if you could put in a good word for him. Thanks in advance!

I’m really writing today to inquire how to get started on the forgiveness of all of our past and existing student loans. I noticed that the program was entitled “Student Loan Forgiveness” without the “College” qualifier, and that’s great for us, because we’ve had student debt for years now with the three boys.

Let’s start with the obvious one – our mortgage. We’ve been housing up to three students here for the last fourteen or fifteen years, ever since Son Number One headed off to his first day of preschool. That obviously qualifies under the “room” section of room and board.

We’ll obviously split the mortgage amount by three-fifths, since my wife and I aren’t students anymore. Just let me know where to send that sizeable bill for forgiveness. Will you work directly with the bank that holds the mortgage, or will you send us a check? Either way is great. Whatever works best for you.

Now, let’s talk food. We’ve also been feeding these young students the whole time we’ve been housing them, which falls under the “board” portion of room and board. (Interesting side note, in case you were unaware – the term “board” means food because it refers to what folks used to eat off of before plates were invented.)

Based on our current weekly grocery bill, I can get you a fairly decent estimate of the total for the last fifteen years. Again, I’d be happy to split it by three-fifths, which in this case is extremely generous on my part, because these boys eat waaaay more than we do. You’ll obviously need to send me a check directly for the past amounts, but going forward, I’m happy to have you send me a credit card that I’ll use only for the boys’ food. Just make sure it has a high credit limit. I think they plan to start dining at some pretty fancy restaurants.

Besides tuition and room and board, transportation costs to and from school are the only other thing I can think of that needs forgiving. Son Number One and Two drive separately to school because of differing schedules, and Son Number Three has to ride with whomever lost the Ro-Sham-Bo that morning. We have never had any car loans, mainly because no bank will loan us money to buy cars as crappy as ours, but also because I have an aversion to financing anything that can roll off a cliff.

That’s all going to change now that student loan forgiveness is in full swing. We’ll start shopping right away for new cars for the boys. I’m thinking we should just get three new cars now, since Son Number Three will be learning to drive in about a year. Might as well handle all the paperwork at once to make things easier on you guys. You’re welcome.

We’ll want to go mid-upper level with the new rides. I’m thinking in the BMW/Audi/Maserati arena. We both obviously want to get something reliable, but I don’t want to spoil these kids, you know? Gotta keep them grounded and teach them how the real world works out there, right?

Do we call you from the dealership to handle the loan side of things, or do you want to just send a check in advance? Again, whatever works best for you.

We just can’t thank you enough for this new program. Super helpful! Looking forward to hearing from you soon about moving forward on all this, and we’ll be back in touch again next year for the college costs.

Yours in forgiveness,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 24, 2022

An Open Letter to Lowe's

Dear Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse,

A long while ago, you built one of your stores in my town, and you built it literally right next-door to the existing Home Depot. When my wife and I bought our first house, we remodeled the entire place, floor to ceiling, from that Home Depot. We were able to do that because we didn’t have kids yet, so we had all the time and money in the world.

We were rich and carefree. We could go out to eat anywhere, at any time. We could go to the movies any day of the week – not just on Tuesdays - and buy all the popcorn we wanted, even at those movie theater prices. We played golf, both mini and regular. We could do all that while still saving for retirement and pouring tons of money into the home renovations.

We had no idea how much would change when we had kids. No one at the Home Depot warned us. You’d think they would have, since they knew damned well that once we had kids we’d have no more time or money to spend at their store. Go figure.

Anyway, when you built your Lowe’s right next to our Home Depot, I remained very loyal to them. Their employees had always been top-notch (except for the not warning us about the kids thing), and I wasn’t going to share my business with you.

However, over the period of a few months to a year I began to notice a decline in the Home Depot customer service levels. The employees seemed to be getting younger and less knowledgeable, not only about general home improvement how-to, but also about where things were actually located in their own store. Then one evening, a funny thing happened.

I was walking down an aisle and overheard a customer ask one of the employees where something was located. The employee didn’t know what it was. She explained what it was, but the employee still had no idea where to find it. I stopped and told the woman exactly which aisle to find it on, how far down the aisle, and how high off the floor it was located. She thanked me and asked if I was an off-duty employee. I said no, just someone who’s shopped here a lot, as I shook my head in disgust at the pathetic excuse for a customer service representative, hanging his head in shame above his orange apron.

That night was when I decided to give you a try, Lowe’s. And our relationship was good for a long time. Your employees would drop whatever they were doing and walk me to where I could find something, even when I insisted that it was OK if they just told me. Sometimes that was uncomfortable and weird, but it was appreciated, nonetheless.

Somewhere along the way, Home Depot got the memo and stepped their customer service back up, and over these many years, you have both performed fairly well. But I wanted to give you the courtesy of a warning. You’re slipping, big time, in the stocking and returns department.

My wife and I have denied our teenage boys food and shoes just long enough to be able to afford some new lighting and mirrors for our master bath. We bought two light fixtures from you the other day, and I was more than a little upset when I unpackaged the first one back at home. It was immediately obvious that something was wrong, from the complete lack of internal packaging involved.

The only damn thing in the box was the light fixture. No protective bag. No Styrofoam end caps holding it in place, no installation instruction sheet. Also missing were the bracket that holds it to the wall, the electrical connectors, and the screws. And to cap it all off, it was visibly and obviously scratched up. Digging down to the bottom of the box I did actually find one other item – the receipt from the last time it was purchased!

I have one simple question for you: How in the actual hell did this thing end up on the shelf?

Based on my recent past experiences, combined with this incident, both purchasing and then returning this fixture (for at least the second time in its life), here’s my estimation of the current inner workings of your returns department:

1) Customer brings in a return.

2) You ask zero questions about the product’s performance, current state, reason for return, or even origin.

3) You assess whether the product is in the original packaging.

4) If it’s not, you shrug and say, “whatever.”

5) If it is in the original packaging, you will, under no circumstances whatsoever, open that packaging to inspect the item, or even verify that it’s in there at all.

6) You give the customer back whatever amount of money they ask for.

7) You turn around and throw the return into a Lowe’s shopping cart.

8) Someone rolls that shopping cart out into the store and puts whatever it is back on the shelf in the approximate location it came from.

9) Everyone in the breakroom complains about how many returns we’re getting today.

10) Repeat.

Like I said, this is not an isolated incident. It’s just the latest one, and I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. The price of gas is too high for me to make two round trips to get one item. The boys will eventually need to eat again, and the school is complaining about them being barefoot.

So, from now on I’ll be the guy bringing my own box cutter in and completely unpackaging everything right there in your store before I buy it.

And fair warning: If it’s not all there, I’m just going to leave it lying there on the floor.

Do better,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

An Open Letter to Chase bank

Dear Chase Bank Liars and Cheats,

Regarding my Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit card, I dislike you greatly. Please don’t misunderstand, I like the card itself, just not you.

I applied for this airline miles card while booking our summer vacation flights to Washington, D.C., the place where you should be tried and convicted for fraud and probably also treason.

The offer you presented me was an immediate $200 statement credit, and then 30,000 bonus miles and a companion ticket after I spent $5000 on the card in the first three months. We have three teenage boys who eat everything inside a ten-foot radius of their bodies during all waking hours, so I figured no problem on the $5K.

I clicked yes to your offer, saw my $200 credit on the first bill, and bought $5000-worth of teenager fuel on the new card well before the three-months were up.

Then a funny thing happened. No miles and no companion ticket showed up. OK, I figured, you’re waiting for the three months to expire and maybe a little longer just to make sure I don’t return anything I bought, even though that would be physically impossible. Everything I bought was gone before I could even set it on the counter or put it in the fridge. Seriously, they come out to the car and eat the groceries right out of the bags. We’re raising wolves.

Anyhoo, months past the spending deadline, I dove into my Southwest miles account only to see that you had given me 10,000 miles about a month after I opened the card, and nothing else. Hmm… That’s 20,000 less than you said I was getting, and conspicuously lacking the promised companion ticket.

Here’s where my intense dislike of you begins. I grabbed my file folder and looked at the paperwork that showed up with the card. Nothing at all regarding the deal. I looked for an email from you. Nothing. I found your phone number and called you. After about a month of sweet hold music, your first customer service agent was useless. They had access to less information that I did. It was as if I’d called my neighbor for help.

We escalated to a manager, which required another few years of hold music and empty statements about service and gratitude and loyalty, only to be further disappointed. I know we’re all big on pronouns these days, but your managers are using them wrong. He kept saying “they” instead of “we” when referring to Chase Bank. I called Chase. Who the hell do you work for? Did that first guy just transfer me to his dad?

The end result was that dad put in a “formal request for investigation” to “them” (you), and I received a letter in the mail seven to ten business days later. It said the stupidest thing I’ve ever read, and keep in mind, I have proofread all my sons’ school essays since kindergarten.

We regret to inform you that the 30,000 points and Companion Pass offer has expired as of March 14, 2022 all request will be declined after that date regardless of date account was opened.  

Not only was the grammar in that sentence atrocious, but I opened the account on February 14, 2022. That’s a month before the offer expired. When I pointed out that fact to a different manager after another few decades of hold music, he was similarly powerless to change anything, even after I carefully walked him through the intricate calendar math. He was able to put in another formal request for investigation, but warned me ahead of time that “they” would probably just send me the same letter. Seven to ten business days later, he was proven right.

It was at this point that I decided to sue you. That fantastic dream was soon shredded when I Googled my situation, only to find hundreds of posts on various complaint-based sites detailing someone else’s tale of my exact experience with “them” (you).

Each story came with multiple comments of commiseration from similarly affected consumers, along with tips from trollishly helpful internet bystanders, like, “you should have taken screen shots,” and “you probably didn’t understand which offer you were actually applying for.” Whatever you’re paying those trolls, you should double it. They are exceedingly good at being the exact opposite of what “we” (us) need.

We obviously have the class, but we all know class action lawsuits are useless. You’ll pay out $100 million dollars, which you’ll just take out of your petty cash drawer, the lawyers will get $70 million, and each affected credit card holder will get $1.38.

No thanks.

I spent about three minutes Googling how to sue you in small claims court, but just reading about the process, let alone the process itself, was intolerable.   

So here I am. Mad at “them” (you). Disappointed in everyone involved. And ultimately, pissed off most by the math. I would love to take my little personal stand of decency and morality and ceremoniously shove your Rapid Rewards credit card into my shredder, but I won’t. That’s the part that makes me dislike you the most. The math works. It makes financial sense for me to keep this card, and I am ultimately, at my core, logical and practical.

I hate that.

So, I will keep using this credit card and getting Southwest milage points, but I just want you to know, I’m not happy about it. (I’m happy with the points. Just not you!)

Take that.




Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A Seventeenth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

I really have to give you some credit.

“For our photography skills?” you ask, hopefully?

Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. You’re horrible at the photography part of your photography business.

No, I have to give credit to your branding team for their self-awareness. (I’d like to think my previous sixteen letters may have guided them a bit, but there is still no actual evidence that you have read any of them.)

Son Number One just started his senior year of high school, and senior portraits for the yearbook are required to be completed by September. Your branding department obviously knew “Lifetouch” would never be able to secure the coveted senior portraits contract. You’ve done too much damage over the years.

There’s a three-mile-wide path of food-on-face, jacked-up shirt collar, torqued hair, forced smile destruction in your wake. The damage you have inflicted on the refrigerator doors of innocent parents and grandparents over the years is incalculable.

But you couldn’t just let another company – perhaps even a photography company that hires actual photographers – swoop in and steal all that business. So what did you do? You gave them a fake name, just like my wife did to me the first time I met her. Genius!

I’m sure after minutes of thought, you landed on “Prestige Photography.” Sounds legit. Sounds classy. You were probably even fairly sure ‘prestige’ was a real word, even if none of you knew what it meant.

Since you don’t hire actual photographers, you were able to severely lowball the competition and you landed the contract. Congratulations! Smart business move.

Unfortunately, however, you can only put so much lipstick on a pig, as it were. Your Prestige website to set up my appointment was just as wonky as its Lifetouch cousin, and I especially enjoyed the appointment reminder emails I received once a day literally every day for the seven days prior to the session, yet not one the morning of the actual day. Go figure.

As I have shared with you numerous times in the past, Son Number One was tragically born with CFSD (Chronic Forced Smile Disorder). His natural impulse in front of a camera is to make a face like he just caught his pinky toe on the bed frame. Because of that fact, my wife made me go with him for his senior portrait session, as comic relief, in hopes of getting a genuine smile for at least one of the pictures. “Prestige Photography” was cleverly disguised as a real studio, complete with multiple sets sporting various backgrounds that high school kids love, like gaudy Victorian living room, and yellow swirly wall.

It looked so professional in fact, that I was almost lulled into a false sense of security. That was until the costume lady put him in a tuxedo jacket that was roughly six or seven sizes too small and said, “Great.” It honestly looked like she might have been going for a “look how much I’ve grown since the fifth grade” thing.

I got the jacket issue fixed only to discover the tuxedo shirt was a complete fake. It was just the front of the shirt with fake buttons, held in place by a Velcro collar. Typical. And don’t even get me started on the graduation “gown.” It only went down to his waist!

I lost my focus again after the pictures had started, mainly due to a vexing Wordle situation, but I was snapped back to reality when I heard a concerning statement from the lady holding the camera. (I cannot in good conscience refer to your employees as “photographers”). She said, “I love these smiles.” I was off to the side without a very clear view, but I immediately knew his CFSD was flaring up. I have enough experience with your company to know what you consider to be a great smile.

I think I cracked off enough one-liners and stupid comments to get a real smile out of him. The only problem was my jokes were really landing with the lady holding the camera. She was laughing the whole time, so I’ve got my fingers crossed she managed to hold the camera steady.

Probably not, though. I have no way to tell, since you haven’t yet taken the very simple and obvious step of projecting the pictures to a monitor somewhere in the room so that parents can approve them on the go.

I mean, I know that kind of logical idea is well out of reach for Lifetouch, but I expected just a little more from a company called “Prestige.”

Can’t wait to see the proofs!

Yours always,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

An Open Letter to Josh Wardle

Dear Mr. Wardle,

Damn you. Also, thank you. Let me explain.

In October of last year, you gave us Wordle. I genuinely want to thank you for that. Not only does your simple little word guessing game bring me joy personally, but it also united us as a nation.

You see, it’s hard to brag about things these days, because everyone is so sensitive about everything. The new cancel culture makes it almost impossible to toot your own horn.

Cooked a beautiful steak? Here comes PETA to tell you why you’re evil. Proud of your ballpark diagonals in your front lawn? Don’t you care that we’re in a drought? Got that sweet ’65 Mustang running again? Why do you hate mother earth? Evaded the cops by doing 120 mph on the freeway after robbing the 7-Eleven? Wow, you’re so “reckless” and “criminally negligent.”

Invariably, some jealous internet troll will cry foul and shut you down with the help of their basement-dwelling minions.

Thankfully, however, bragging about our Wordle scores is still seen as socially acceptable. For now, anyway. Thank you for that. On a side note, Mr. Wardle, I’m happy to report that I remain undefeated by your game. My record as of this morning stands at 181-0. Again, just a small side note. No big deal. Just undefeated in Wordle after 181 games.

Here’s the thing, though. Your fun little game spawned a snakes’ nest of spin-offs. Spin-offs that I’m equally as drawn to. That is presenting a problem.

I don’t know who the lair-dwelling Swiss supervillain was who created Dordle, but in early 2022 this psycho took your beautifully simple game and created the offshoot where we play two Wordles at once, side-by-side, with seven guesses instead of six.

Who even thinks of something that weird and wordishly sadistic? It’s crazy. I was immediately hooked.

Things got out of hand fairly quickly after that. After Dordle came Quordle, with four. Then Octordle, with eight, etc.

Many other game developers abandoned words, but kept your once-a-day, everyone playing against each other theme that we fell in love with. Soon we had a song guessing game called Heardle, and a map guessing game called Worldle. Movies, shapes, Nerdle for numbers. Anything was on the table.

As the non-word-based games ramped up, the word-based developers kept adding on more and more simultaneous puzzles, while also working on the “opposite” of your Wordle. Eventually The Evil Wordle and Absurdle sprang to life. Semantle, a ridiculously impossible one for semantically similar words showed up. Popular series fan-based games emerged like Lordle of the Rings, Hogwartle, and SWordle for Star Wars.

Basically, chaos ensued, and I’m hanging on by a thread. I used to be a simple man. I had my crossword puzzles and I was happy. But you changed all that. Now, among many other things, my day involves the Duotrigordle. Thirty-two Wordles at once.

I don’t want to live like this. Please help me.

You created this mess. Now please create an online support group of some kind where we can get help.

Maybe the support group could also have games of some kind for us to play while we wait for the meetings to start. Perhaps word-based guessing games?

Just please make sure the games keep stats so we can brag. Did I mention I’m 181-0 in Wordle?

Yours in word nerdiness,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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