Dear Paul Harvey,
For many years now you've been a regular fixture of my AM radio
listening. I remember hearing you in the car as my Grandpa Wally drove
around West Boylston, I remember having you as one of the only radio
constants on my cross-country road trip, and your "Rest of the Story"
segments have always aired on WBZ-AM 1030 just in time for me to commute
home from many a 9-to-5 job. Currently you are on the dial at the time my
clock-radio alarm goes off, so I have the fortune of hearing your daily
"news and comment" from Page Two onwards.
However, today's little newscast, from your home studio compound
somewhere in the American Southwest, caused me to take a little umbrage
with you and your bastion of American broadcasting. Now I'm not going to
mention our differences in political opinion, which I've pretty much to
come to expect from the "...and comment" portion of your program, and I'm
not going to bring up the fact that you often like to blindly report
uncorroborated urban legends as fact, which is as irresponsible as
a journalist can get. Today, Mr. Harvey, you crossed the line and
besmirched my line of work, and all in the name of Wal-Mart.
I refer, of course, to your thinly-veiled ad for the corporate
conglomerate in the form of a feel-good anecdote featuring a Good
Samaritan employee stepping in when a driver's roadside assistance service
failed her. Now I work a day job for a company that provides roadside
assistance to many vehicle manufacturers (no, not AAA) and I'd like to
think the people I work with are effective and helpful and, for the most
part, decently-managed. This is why I was especially irked by the way
your Wal-Mart shill was set up. Let's go over it line by line here,
with your ad copy in italics and my responses in, er, regular. The names
of those involved are not the same names as you read on the air as I don't
remember them, but the names are inconsequential in the grand scheme of
When Harriet Rutherford in Slimy Falls, Wisconsin found herself
stranded on the highway on the flat tire, and, with her cellphone running
low, and she was stuck on hold for over ten minutes with her roadside
assistance service... ten minutes!...
All right, Mr. Harvey, I'll grant you that sometimes a caller to
any service will be placed on hold. And I admit that at this point
I sat up straight in bed and thought "I sure hope that wasn't us."
And then when I woke up a bit further, shaking off the shackles of
purple-wrap't Morphean slumber, I said "No... it sure as hell
wasn't us." We regularly staff our call center with more people than
necessary so that if a crush does unexpectedly show up, we're able to
handle most of it. But things do happen. I also know that if we put our
customers on hold, that'll be the #1 thing they complain about even before
you get a call greeting out. Haven't heard a complaint since the August
...and then, Mrs. Rutherford writes, a truck stopped for her. Wal-Mart
employee Ernest Stroganoff had seen her stranded on the side of the road,
and stopped to help. Ernest explained that Wal-Mart encourages its
employees to help people in need if it doesn't appear that they are in
Well, ain't that just fine and dandy. I mean, good Samaritans happen all
over, that's pretty cool. But, Mr. Harvey, are you really insinuating
that Mr. Stroganoff here only stopped because Wal-Mart encouraged it?
Does he not have an ounce of natural goodness in his heart? If he had
worked at, say, that heathen Target, would he have callously passed her by
in his red-and-white truck, laughing maliciously all the way?
And speaking of "in danger"... if a Wal-Mart employee saw someone in
danger, the least they can do is call for police or emergency
services. That's what we do if the caller indicates that no, they are not
in a safe location right now. But anyway.
And that's not the only thing. Mr. Stroganoff was headed the other
way on the road and he turned around to help her!
Wowwwwwwwww. Maybe he even made an illegal U-turn to boot. Maybe for
SUPER ACTION TIME he did a bootlegger's turn across the median and then
jumped across a river while his custom horn played Dixie.
Now, Page 2.
He fixed her tire so quickly, that by the time Mrs. Rutherford's
roadside assistance service answered her call, she could tell them to
Wait -- so her cellphone was dying, she was waiting in a call queue,
and when someone came to change her tire she still stayed on hold?
Now, Mr Harvey, I know most of these "customer testimonials" are made up
since not everybody in America can write perfect ad copy in their letters.
Even so, this detail seems real fishy. Most people I know would hang up
when help arrived. Nobody I have ever talked to has said "Don't worry,
What an ambassador for Wal-Mart! What! An! Ambassador! For
Why not "What a nice guy" or "What a helpful human being?" Again, I
maintain it wasn't Wal-Mart that shoved the kindness gene into Mr.
Stroganoff. And wouldn't it be ironic if Mrs. Rutherford ran a small
business in town?
However, the real problem I have with its ad is the initial setup. In
writing this story, Mr. Harvey, you could have just as easily said "With
her cellphone batteries dead and miles from the nearest exit..." But
instead you chose to make the original roadside assistance provider the
bad guys. They put her on hoooooooold. They're unreliable. But random
passing Wal-Mart employees are superheroes! And it's all because of
All I ask, Mr. Harvey, is the next time you need to make Wal-Mart look
like the good guys, you don't make someone else's occupation look like the
bad guys. Someone else who is a hard-working American blah blah woof
woof. And all that rhetoric which usually accompanies a letter of
Oh, and if you do decide to shuffle off this mortal coil, could you at
least wait til 2006, so I can include you in my Dead Pool then and make a