Businesses Don’t Write Letters Like This Any More

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I can’t decide whether this is courage or not.

If you click the link, you’ll find an exchange unlike any you’ll find today, at least between a business and a customer: a fan–a season ticket holder, no less–wrote a letter to the Cleveland Browns organization in 1974 complaining, of all things, about people throwing paper airplanes in the stadium. The Browns’ response, to their credit, is dismissive of the complaint, but crosses the line to insulting; it’s the sort of thing we see today on Internet message boards between people who don’t know each other and have no business relationship.

The courageous part is to dismiss a ridiculous complaint by a season ticket holder as exactly what it is. Too many businesses these days would try to reassure the complainer with pretty words, maybe going as far as to make promises they have no intention of keeping, or lack the power to deliver on. The Browns understood in 1974 that sometimes you have to be willing to fire a lousy customer.

But just like you wouldn’t abuse an employee when you fire him, you shouldn’t abuse a customer when you fire him. That’s the part that puts me off what, with slightly better wording, could be a truly inspired letter.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.