How Paul Curry Came to Own His Very Own Hand Dryer: A Lesson in Customer Service

Before there was internet, one of the best ways of interacting with a company was by sending them a letter. That is, getting out a piece of paper and writing by hand your concern, complaint, or compliment! Some folks still do this. Others, opt for an email or maybe even a phone call.

After sending the letters, people would often receive letters from the companies to which they sent. Some of the return letters seemed like canned responses, while others maybe actually addressed the concerns of the sender. Better yet, sometimes you would get a ‘creative’ response to your letter. Something fun or interesting that you could tell your friends about at parties or at the bar. As it happens, receiving interesting and/or funny responses is not a thing of the past. Behold!

Paul Curry sent the following letter to Warner Howard:

Hello. I am a regular user of the Airstream 5000T hand dryer. Not by choice, but by the fact it’s installed in our office building.

I’m wondering – was I very mean in a past life, or evil, in order to deserve such pathetic hand drying power in this life?

As I stand in front of the unit, desperately trying to activate the hand sensor, to have it blow asthmatically at my paws for a matter of seconds before preserving its energy, I start to wonder about the finer points of actually living. It gets a bit existential, and most of the time, a bit dark too, I admit.

Later in the day, when my hands finally are dried by the 5000T, I came to realise that I had aged. Physically, sure, no different, as we all age over time. But mentally, I was a different person.

Mostly, I had simply developed a hatred for the engineer who decided that this was enough hand drying power. I have now come to realise that it’s more of a systematic failure. An excited engineer must have demonstrated it to their line manager, exclaiming the cost vs efficacy ratio was outstanding. The line manager, rather than hurting the engineer’s feelings, said “Yes, John, it’s great. We’ll sell it as a low-energy high-value model for a customer; it’ll make them really happy.”

John went home feeling great; his model was approved for sale. But of course, it was just an exercise in managing an employee’s mental well being. And I can appreciate that, it’s important to keep engineers happy. They’re fickle beasts, and don’t like sunlight; I can’t imagine how they’d handle rejection.

I guess I accept this happened. Nothing can bring back the time spent fruitlessly trying to dry my hands with the 5000T. But it doesn’t fill the void in my life caused by this abomination of metal and plastic attached to the wall.

I also don’t know what happened to the other 4,999 models of the Airstream before the 5000 was considered the one for our wall. Presumably the 4,999 previous models had been bested by the 5000T by the time whoever purchased it came to make their decision. I don’t know; it wasn’t me. I wish it had been me; I think I could make quite an informed hand dryer purchasing decision. None of that Dyson Airblade or XLerator rubbish for me. I like a hand dryer made with experience, not fickle gimmicks. It’d have to be Warner Howard for me each time. But now, I don’t know man, you’re throwing my emotions around.

I don’t know much about hand dryers, I’ll be honest. I’m more of a web engineer, if you could call me that at all. I don’t know if something is unfairly impeding the performance of the 5000T I have come to use. I don’t know if it’s been neglected by building management, and is struggling to even provide basic services. That’d make me feel absolutely terrible… like abusing a near-death patient for failing to perform as usual. That would put the whole thing in a new light.

I don’t know what I expect from this email. But I want SOMEONE to know the sadness this hand dryer causes to my life.

I guess in conclusion, my hands are often damp thanks to the 5000T, and my heart is left soggy as a result.

It’s been emotional.


In return, Paul Curry received the following from Warner Howard:

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your email. Here at Warner Howard, we know exactly how you feel and how the frustration of using substandard, often unfit-for-purpose hand dryers can impact on a person’s whole wellbeing. The crushing realisation of the countless hours wasted hopefully hanging one’s hands in front of a product that, once it coughs gingerly to life, we are well aware will never perform the task it was affixed to the wall in order to perform. The embarrassingly wet trousers that we have no option but to use in order to finish the job. The knowing looks of those as you leave the washroom, and the nagging feeling that they may not realise the wholly innocent reason for your damp mid-region.

And that is why, here at Warner Howard we have dedicated the last 50 years in an unfaltering, single minded attempt to eradicate this desperate and distressing debacle.

We have unleashed our engineering beasts and let them out into the sunshine, where they have grown from strength to strength – and our products have grown with them. We dream of a world in which the pain you and millions of others have experienced is consigned to the annals of history. Where hands are dried efficiently, effectively, expertly, with expediency and respect for the environment.

Our task will take time, but little by little we are winning the war. Someday the war will be won, and with your enthusiasm for hand dryers and Warner Howard’s experience, we will win it together!

We would therefore like to send you your very own, brand new, top of the range Airforce….. free of charge. This is a machine that uses the finest engineering talent that the UK has to offer and will leave your hands perfectly dry before you have even had a chance to contemplate its range of impressive features. This is a dryer which, while ultra low energy at just 1.1kW (as opposed to the Airstream 5000T’s 2.4kW), emits air at a lung busting 37,000rpm – a far cry from the ‘asthmatic’ 5000T’s 5500rpm.

Simply send me your address and the Airforce’s dynamic drying power will be with you in short order. Any competent electrician will have no trouble installing this unit and I feel confident that your heart will soar at the smooth, clean lines and fast, effective drying power of our favourite product. We hope you and the Airforce will be very happy together.

Kind regards

And, as a result, Paul Curry received his very own hand dryer. By the way, certainly not cheap. There’s one currently up for auction on eBay for almost $700. Let this be a lesson: you never know what kind of response you’re going to get when you write to a company.

Published by Jeremiah Stanghini

Jeremiah's primary aim is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the "Blind Men and the Elephant," it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a 'tusk' or a 'leg.' He writes on a variety of topics: psychology, business, science, entertainment, politics, history, etc.

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