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WASHINGTON -- Today is the newest installment of my Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the plight of the beleaguered customer service representative.

S.O.S steel wool pads

Me: Do I need to clean off the food scraps from a used S.O.S pad before my dog eats it?

Ingrid: Yes, be sure to rinse it well.

Me: Good. I see it as a good source of fiber. She loves them.

Ingrid: Wait, you're talking about rinsing the bowl, right?

Me: No, the S.O.S pad. She eats the S.O.S pad.

Ingrid: I do apologize! No, the product is not meant for a pet to consume! Don't feed it to the dog.

Me: Oh, I don't.

Ingrid: Good.

Me: The cat does. The dog can't get into the sink, but the cat can. He knocks the pad down onto the floor, where the dog eats it.

Ingrid: That's not a good thing.

Me: Omigod. Do you think the cat is trying to murder the dog?


Me: I wouldn't put it past him.

Bush's reduced-sodium garbanzo beans

Me: What exactly do reduced-sodium garbanzo beans taste like? My buddy Walter says raw tofu, but I say they're even blander, like congealed tap water, or that little wax bottle from Nik-L-Nip sugar-water candies. My wife says they're like licking the outside of a hard-boiled egg.

Kathleen: They don't taste much different than regular garbanzos; the only difference is less salt.

Me: Well, that's my point! It's crazy to try to improve garbanzo beans by removing the only thing that has some taste. It would be like trying to improve the Jimi Hendrix Experience by getting rid of Jimi, and leaving just the Experience. What do garbanzo beans taste like to you?

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Kathleen: Like gritty dirt.

Me: Ha-ha!

Kathleen: I am not a garbanzo fan.

Me: Let's just leave it right here.

Stonyfield Organic 100% grass-fed yogurt

Me: I love your product, but I have a suggestion for improving your packaging. You know how, in the interest of transparency, your containers have the scientific names of the "live active cultures inside"? Now, I am sure they are very nice, pretty and well-behaved bacteria, but their names do not inspire confidence in the wholesome wonderfulness of your yogurt.

Ruth: I know! The scientific names are a little off-putting!

Me: "Bifidus" sounds like a dreadful birth disorder. "Bulgaricus" combines "vulgar" and "bulge," which is disgusting. "Rhamnosus" sounds like a fight to the death between two rhinoceroses, and "thermophilus" sounds like an ancient Greek battle famous for bravery, betrayal and the annihilation of 22,000 men from eating bad yogurt.


Me: OK, I made up the last part, but you get my point. How about losing those names?

Ruth: I believe we're required by law to list them.

Me: Fine. Then bribe the scientific community and get them to change the names of your bacteria to Bunnynose, WhoopsieDaisy, Squeaky, the Dancing Ladybug and Toonces the Bacterium.

Ruth: I'll certainly pass it along, sir.

These interviews have been edited and condensed. "Kathleen" is a pseudonym we decided to use on account of "gritty dirt."


Gene Weingarten can be reached at Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group



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