I enjoy writing letters to companies (and sometimes people). A few months ago I wrote a letter to the president, in which I suggested that he put out a presidential jigsaw puzzle for the holiday season (though it probably didn’t fly because I suggested giving the proceeds toward education). I mean, I’d buy it and then give it someone. Especially if had his cute dog on it. Hell, I’d probably buy another copy and keep it for myself. Why doesn’t the government set up fun little benefits like that?
Some more months (or years?) ago I noticed that the literary “humor” magazine, Yankee Pot Roast, has a section devoted to correspondence with people or entities who are unlikely to respond. (That’s trick linking, right there.) So I submitted the one posted below. I thought it would be a definite winner, especially because I received a response. But no, it was rejected upon grounds of being “not funny”, and because the YPR folks don’t have Albertsons where they’re from. Second of all first, this letter could also be sent to Ralphs or Vons. This covers a rule that flies for many grocery stores. First of all second, it’s not supposed to be funny. It’s a real letter that I sent, and until I saw their section, I had no intention of ever making it public. With that said, it is actually funny. But my sense of humor is way off from YPR, Opium, McSweeney’s, etc. — much of which runs along the I’m-a-reasonable-guy-talking-about-crazy-weird-
stuff-in-a-straight-yet-deranged-way type of humor; it’s too easy, and not convincing — so I could be wrong.
Well, I’ll just publish the letter myself.
I’ve been listening to your commercials for, I would say, the last 14 years — so, since I was nine years old — and throughout that time I have noticed pretty much all of the commercials to possess one, possibly fundamental, consistency. The consistency is more of a detail than a governance, and I was writing to ask about the origins of it and the intentions of its inclusion in all your commercials.
All of your commercials have a woman’s voice describing the saving and deals and specials for the period at Albertsons. I am sure the source behind the voice has changed over the years — it is honestly kind of difficult to figure that out, but I am pretty sure the voice is different (and not just different because she has aged 14 years) — but I will just refer to them in the singular. And there is one remarkably entertaining (to me, because I pay attention to this) consistency in the words she uses, and more accurately, the tone she uses when saying those specific words. The words she consistently uses is “per pound” — an unremarkable pair of words in itself, especially given that they are used in the context of describing food at a grocery store, where many things are sold by the pound. The remarkable part comes from the way that she says “pound”. For at least the last 14 years she has chosen to put some bizarre emphasis on the two vowels in the word. She elongates them, stresses them, capitalizes them (pOUnd). They roll around in the back of her mouth for a bit longer than usually allowed before the “nd” gently extinguishes them.
Now, this lady…well, the significance of there being multiple practicioners of this ritual will now come into play. These ladies were all either chosen for the job because of this ability and/or tendency to pronunciate “pound” in such a way, or they were trained to do so, or they are all just really nice ladies who share a love for groceries and for an unknown reason this love provides them with the propensity to linger on their “pounds”. For the support of that last option, I would like to point out that I have noticed the same tendency in the female voices of other grocery store commercials (The red-haired woman in the Ralph’s commercials from about 11 years ago, anyone?)
I am a fan of your stores and a pretty loyal customer, and I was hoping you could provide me with some insight into this phenomena. Deliberate, or just coincidence? Origins, etc. I will be periodically checking my email in expectation.
Thank You, Ryan Gratzer
p.s. It may help to carefully listen to a few commercials in order to get a firm understanding of what I am talking about.
Dear Mr. Gratzer:
I’d like to begin by thanking you for your above-average interest in our radio commercials. It sounds as though you have a great attention to detail.
In the past 14 years we have had two or three ad agencies, an unknown number of women recording these spots, and several campaigns. There’s no single detail in there that would indicate a preference on anyone’s part to achieve the verbal tone you’ve identified.
The consistent use of the phrase “per pound” isn’t something we consciously work for; if you’re hearing a similarity in the vocalization it’s either coincidental or possibly a result of the way the words are used, i.e. after a price. Again, thanks for your interest in Albertsons.
Director, Corporate Advertising Albertsons