What Is It Like to Have Won an Unlimited Supply of Something?

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Answer by Jann Griffith Hoke, attorney and writer:

When I was in second grade, my mother cut her thumb rather badly on the inside edge of a can of Hershey’s cocoa powder. The can looked as it does now, the opening at the top was round and the metal lid had to be pried off each time you wanted to use the product. There was no plastic lid back then. Mother had to have five stitches.

So she wrote a letter to the Hershey company, telling them about the mishap and pointing out that since cocoa was a “dipping product,” it did not make sense to her that the design of the can did not lend itself to placing one’s hand holding a short measuring spoon inside (because of the sharp metal edge). Mother asked that the company consider changing the design of the can.

Thus began a seven-year relationship between my letter-writing mother and the customer relations office at Hershey’s. Her first letter was answered with a letter of apology for her injury, a case of cocoa (12 cans), and a large assortment of other Hershey products. The letter assured her that Hershey was working on a new can design.

Later that spring, on a rainy day, another large box arrived. It was leaking cocoa, which smeared all over Mother’s good rain coat. Inside the box were five prototype cans of cocoa. Of course these good-faith efforts did not make the grade because the lids had fallen off in transit. Another letter, demanding payment for dry cleaning the raincoat, and chiding Hershey for its inability to dream up an adequate cocoa can. Two weeks later, a check for the dry cleaning and another huge box of chocolates arrived.

We never ran short of Hershey products at my house. Every two months or so, more cases of cocoa, more complimentary chocolates, more prototype cans. My mother was a wonderful baker, and we were eating chocolate everything: cakes, brownies, cookies, puddings, ice cream sauces, and fudge pies. We never had to purchase candy to give out on Halloween, and our Christmas stockings were always bulging with Hershey bars and Hershey kisses.

But Hershey never did change its can design. When I was in middle school, my mother wrote her last letter to Pennsylvania. She told Hershey that she appreciated their efforts, but that her original complaint was never addressed and that she was switching to Baker’s cocoa.

As far as I know, she never heard from Hershey’s again.

Answer by John L.:

So my grandfather ate Corn Flakes every single day of his life after he got back from WWII. He was a man of routine.

Every. Single. Day. If he was on vacation, he’d bring it with him in the mini-packs.

Late in his life, he decided to write a letter to Kellogg’s telling them just how much he loved their cereal and how appreciative he was to have enjoyed it his whole life. In return, they sent him (effectively) a lifetime supply: four to five pallets in semi-regular increments. This was maybe 25 years ago? And at the rate of one bowl per day, he was all set. He probably got about a year and a half out of each of the pallets given expiration dates, so I’m not really sure how it worked out, maybe they sent them more often, but as far as he was concerned, it was Christmas.

I suppose that’s exactly it … his life didn’t change at all. He just didn’t have to buy it anymore.

(He did the same thing with Beefeater gin, again not requesting anything, just a thank you for their product, and they sent him several liters of their product as well. Loyalty means a lot to companies.)

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