Monday, August 11, 2008

The bear candle

I’ll be mostly away from the computer for about a week, but here’s a story to tide you over... Last September, in their “All-Gear Issue”, Field & Stream ran a Bill Heavey article (“Always on Call”) about his visit to the Cabela’s call centers in Kearney and Grand Island. It included a few stories from phone reps; the best were the guy who wanted a refund on a broken fishing rod (he had been fishing for alligators) and the customer who kept ordering and then returning cuckoo clocks (his complaint was with the packaging: "Everybody knows that if you pack cuckoo clocks in cardboard, it makes the cuckoo louder"). I do some part-time work for Cabela’s, and the following is a transcript, as accurate as memory allows, of one of my favorite calls:

“Do y’all carry bear candles?”

“Excuse me?”

“You know, bear candles: they repel bears?”

“Uh, mosquitoes, yes. Bears, not so much.”

“Could you double-check?”

Pause. “Okay...” I should mention that I did not know at the time, and still don’t know, if my leg was being pulled. But if this was a joke, the caller deserves some kind of award for his acting skills. He played it very straight. In any case, I couldn’t imagine what kind of scent might repel bears. They are very serious about omnivory: they will eat almost anything, including plain candle wax. My search, predictably, came up empty, and I told the caller so.

“Okay, then, how about a spray?”

“Now there I can help you. We carry several...” I proceeded to tell him about what I considered the best option. “It’s basically a very heavy-duty pepper spray.”

“How far will that spray?”

“About thirty feet, maybe thirty-five.”

“Yeah, that sounds good. Now, if that gets in the kids’ eyes...will it hurt?”

I thought about saying, Well, that depends, sir. How tough are your kids? I mean, we’re talking about pepper spray here, enough to deter a bear. I settled for:

“Yes. A lot.”

Brief hesitation. “Okay, then, thank you very much.” And he rang off.


Matt Mullenix said...

Sounds like someone is contemplating a real bear of a parenting chore.

Mark Churchill said...

That was terrible...and my dad will love it.