Last updateFri, 15 Jan 2021 2pm

COMPUTER CORNER: Has customer service really changed since the 1960s?

When I was a teenager in the 1960s, like most young men I spent a lot of time working on my first car, a fixer-upper.

I mail-ordered parts from J.C. Whitney, that Chicago retailer of aftermarket automotive parts and accessories with the big catalogue.  At one point I ran into trouble communicating exactly what I needed, and that resulted in a fruitless exchange of several letters with customer service representative “D Jones.” I would have phoned, but there was no phone number in the catalogue, and back in the days before the internet, no easy way to find one.

I happened to be going to Chicago, so before leaving East Texas I threw all the correspondence in my suitcase. Then, a few days later in front of the Conrad Hilton I boarded a cab and asked to be taken to the address I had been mailing to, 1917 Archer Avenue. I swear the cab driver snickered, and that should have been my first warning.  I was dropped off in a dingy industrial district on the south side of Chicago in front of a blank wall.  There was no such address as 1917 Archer.  Around the corner, in the same building was an auto parts store named Warshawsky, but they brusquely feigned ignorance about the address that was a blank wall or where “D Jones” was.  Basically, they told me to get lost.

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