I REALLY DON’T KNOW WHERE TO GO FOR AN ANSWER. YOUR “SHAPE UP BARS” WAS PUT IN OUR DOLLAR TREE STORE AND THEY SOLD LIKE HOT CAKES AND NOW THEY “THE MANAGER” TELLS US THEY WILL NOT BE GETTING THEM BACK IN THE STORE. WE NEED ALL THE HELP WE CAN GET WITH OUR WEIGHT LOSE, I WENT FROM 163 TO 140 POUNDS AND THE BARS WERE A GREAT HELP, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO TO GET DOLLAR TREE TO PUT THEM IN THE STORE AGAIN. IT WAS A GREAT DEAL. FOR US NOT SO RICH THEY WERE GOING AT 3 FOR A DOLLAR, IN THE OTHER STORES THEY GO FOR $1.49 AND HIGHER SO IT WAS EASY TO STAY ON THE DIET WITH THE BARS HELP. WE REALLY MISS AND NEED THEM BACK. THANK YOU, [name withheld] FROM GRAND ISLAND, N.Y.
Shaking things up a little, here — this is not a comment from a blog, but instead from the range of email sent to Mangy Dog Productions, a comedy site based in Nashville, TN. Mangy Dog put up a widget which automatically generated platitudes like those spoken by self-help guru Dr. Phil, which a number of people seem to have mistaken for an indication that the site was Phil’s. Hence the comment above.
What resonates with me here is the suggestion that the commenter may not recognize the existence of people between him/herself and Dr. Phil who might be responsible for the marketing of the bars. (OK, it’s not totally clear whether the original letter was actually addressed to Phil himself, as the select letters posted by Mangy Dog don’t have greetings on them. Regardless, approaching a website which only vaguely seems related to Dr. Phil, not the bars, seems similarly ill-advised.) I think a lot of people, myself included, have this problem. We don’t know enough about the systems which surround us to really know how to make a change in our environments. I think back to my first few years in college, when we were angry and wanted the school to change and always pestered the college president about it — when he really didn’t have the responsibility or even the power to do so.
A lot of gumbabies suggest that people’s understanding of the world is similarly simplistic. Commenters don’t seem to give much thought to the layers of security and bureaucracy which might be standing between themselves and world-famous people. They may not be thinking about how little time or willingness famous people may have to spending time with fans online. (Well… I guess, of course, there’s always Wil Wheaton as an exception. And huh, he recently posted a few of science fiction writer John Scalzi’s thoughts about meeting celebrities.)
This particular supplicant thinks that an email to a site with a picture of Dr. Phil on it will release the dikes and flood the Dollar Tree with Shape Up! bars again. Did (s)he also think to write to Dollar Tree management? We’ll never know. Was (s)he aware that another powerful actor — the Federal Trade Commission — was more likely the party responsible for pulling Phil’s bars from the shelves, as Dr. Phil is licensed as a psychologist, not a medical doctor with authority to recommend nutritional supplements for weight loss? Probably not.
Sad coda to the Dr. Phil weight-loss-bars story: participants in a class-action lawsuit about the bars are being paid in Amway vitamins.