Dear Facebook

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

A paper letter from a disappointed customer is sent to Facebook headquarters. Will it do any good?

October 1, 2021 – El Paso, Texas, USA

One last step and Kami Gonzalez would be a Facebook advertiser.  She hesitated and reminded herself why she was doing it.  Then she typed her credit card information into the online form.  With a few more clicks of her mouse, her ad was enabled.  Kami imagined it showing up in someone’s Facebook feed on the other side of the country, but she did not expect too many people to see it.  After all, she was only spending $1 per day.

When Kami started her Facebook page, called Books at Home, she never expected to advertise it.  She expected to share it with her friends and join some groups and then let the page take off on its own.  It was dedicated to such a good cause, surely lots of people would help spread it around and donate.  She was not asking for money.  All she wanted were the used books people had laying around and were probably trying to get rid of anyway.

Kami did not think of Books at Home as a program or a cause.  It was simply her attempt at fixing a problem she saw every day as a 5th grade teacher.  Her students struggled with reading because they were not doing enough of it at home.  She was convinced that if they had a collection of their own books, not borrowed library books, reading would become part of their daily routine.  They would see their own mini-library next to their beds and actually want to read.  Their parents would see the mini-library, too, and pick up the habit of reading to their kids.

Before starting her Facebook page, Kami tried to get the school PTA to help with what she was then calling mini-libraries.  No one was interested.  She worked at a poor school.  Parents were interested in necessities like clothes for their kids.  Books were a luxury.

“Why don’t you try asking some businesses or foundations for money,” suggested Adrian, Kami’s confidant and fellow teacher.  “Books for poor kids learning English.  That sounds like something they would love.  It would give them tons of good publicity.”

“I don’t know,” replied Kami.  “I’m not looking to raise a bunch of money.  I want it to be simple.  People have books they don’t need and they give them to the kids.”

“Then I guess all you need to do is find the right people.  That’s what Facebook is for.”

Adrian had all kinds of ideas for a Facebook page and groups Kami could join.  After Kami started the page and it seemed to go nowhere, it was Adrian who first suggested the ads.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money,” Adrian assured Kami during one of their informal planning sessions.  “I’ve heard that only a few dollars can get you to the people you’re looking for.”
“You think people actually click on those ads?”

“They must or they wouldn’t exist.”

Kami found plenty of Facebook information pages about how to set up an ad.  All she really needed was a picture and a few lines of text describing what she was trying to do.  She had plenty of pictures from her classroom of happy kids reading books.  They were just the type of images that would make people want to investigate and help.

Kami was confident the ads would pull people in but she was spending her own money to get them out there.  She was financially better off than a lot of the families she was trying to help, but still, she was watching every one of her dollars.  That was why she paused for so long before entering her credit card information into the Facebook payment page.

Once the ad began running, Kami checked it constantly, watching for new Impressions and Clicks.  After four days and $4 spent, twelve people had visited her page without any results.  And then, on the fifth day, she got a message from a woman in Michigan.  She had a dozen used books from her kids’ bedroom and she was happy to send them.  All she needed was a mailing address.

The message elated Kami.  It had worked!  While it had taken a few days, the Michigan books proved the ad approach made sense.

Another two days passed without any messages.  Kami had been so sure she was on the cusp of a cascade of support, but things went quiet again.  Then she got an email message from Facebook welcoming her as a new advertiser and letting her know she could participate in a free, personalized training program with a Facebook representative.

Kami knew she needed help.  She was no advertiser.  She had created only one ad in her entire life and so far it had only resulted in one box of books.  If someone was willing to guide her towards better results, of course she was willing to listen.  The Facebook message also promised Ad Credits for those in the program.  Kami did not know what Ad Credits were, but they sounded like coupons or discounts.

Kami responded to the email message and got scheduled for an after-school phone call with someone named Olivia.

“Hello, may I verify whom I’m speaking with?  Is this Kami?” asked the voice on the Facebook call.

“Yes.  Is this Olivia?”

“Yes.  Nice to meet you.  Are you in front of your computer so we can look at your account?”

“Yes.  I’m looking at it right now.  Can I ask where you’re calling from?
“Austin, Texas.”

“Austin!  I’m in El Paso!”

“Oh cool.  I drove through there this summer.  Okay, can you tell me a little bit about your account and what you’re trying to accomplish?”

Kami explained to Olivia about the book donations and Olivia said it was a great cause and a perfect way to use Facebook advertising.  Then she looked at Kami’s ads and offered some suggestions about using multiple images and only targeting people who might have extra books at home.

“You want older people to see it,” suggested Olivia.  “People whose kids have outgrown their books and now they’re just lying around.  No use showing your ads to twenty-year-olds.”

“Yeah, that makes sense.  And what are Ad Credits?”

“Basically free advertising.  As a new customer, if you spend $75, we’ll give you $150 in Ad Credits.  So it’s like getting an extra two dollars in ads for every dollar you spend.”

Kami got off the call feeling conflicted.  She was hopeful about her ads, but she had never intended to spend as much as $75.  And yet the extra $150 in Ad Credits sounded so good.  She shared her dilemma with Adrian.

“I could go to the thrift store and probably get 150 used books for $75,” said Kami.  “Will I get that many in donations if I advertise?  I don’t know.”

“But you’ll get the extra $150, right?  That’s like having $225 ad dollars to spend.  And there’s a chance you’ll find someone who will send a whole truckload of books.  I think you should take the gamble.”

“Easy for you to say.  It’s not your money.”

“Yeah, I know.  I love playing poker with other people’s money.”

After the talk with Adrian, Kami decided to go for it.  Somehow, she would squeeze the $75 out of her monthly expenses budget.  She increased her ad spend rate to $3 per day and was determined to reach the magic $75 threshold.  With more ads getting shown, she got messages every couple of days.  More book donations were soon on the way, but nothing like the truckload Adrian had promised.

Kami kept telling herself that the big score of books was right around the corner, but as soon as she reached $75 she turned off her ads.  She expected an Ad Credit code to show up any minute by email and she knew exactly where to enter the code in order to claim her $150 and start up her ads again.  She kept checking her messages, but nothing arrived.

The next day, she emailed Olivia explaining that she was expecting to see her Ad Credits.

“I’ll check,” Olivia wrote back.  “And I’ll start a ticket with tech support so they can help you.”

Kami’s first message from tech support asked her to explain her problem.  When Kami described the missing Ad Credits, the tech support person asked for a screenshot showing the written communication promising the Ad Credits.  Kami explained that the offer had been made on the phone.  She was passed to several other tech support people before they decided there was nothing they could do.

The next day, Olivia responded with, “I checked and found out your account does not qualify for the Ad Credits.”

“I was counting on them.  What am I supposed to do?” Kami wrote back.

“Watch for future offers and ways you can save on advertising,” replied Olivia.

Kami asked if there was a supervisor she could speak with.  Olivia stopped responding.  Then Kami dug into the Facebook website looking for an email address or phone number for customer support.  She found plenty of pages displaying answers to frequently asked questions and links to chat with robots, but there were no listings for real people.

Kami searched online for possible contact information people outside of Facebook had posted.  She found several articles explaining how difficult it was to contact the company.  At the bottom of one of the articles was Facebook’s physical address.  The author of the article suggested writing a letter as a last resort.

Kami’s 5th grade class had practiced writing persuasive letters.  She had preached to them that it was a little old fashioned but it could be an effective way to make your point.  Maybe someone at headquarters would find a letter convincing.  What did she have to lose besides the cost of a stamp?  If anything, it would make her feel better.  She began typing on her computer.

October 30, 2021

Facebook Headquarters

1 Hacker Way

Menlo Park, CA 94025

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing in an attempt to resolve an issue involving Facebook Ad Credits.

I recently started a Facebook page to help me collect books for children at my school.  I realize that writing a physical letter may be a bit old-fashioned but I’m hoping it will find its way to someone willing to help me.  I would really like to continue my work for my students with the help of the Ad Credits.

The rest of the letter described the promise made by Olivia and then how she and tech support had abandoned Kami.  She appealed for help and included all her relevant account and contact information.  Then she signed the printed letter and put in in the mail.

The mere act of writing the letter did make her feel better, but Kami hoped for much more.  She watched for an email message and waited for a phone call from a California area code.  She also checked the mailbox outside her door in case the company sent a reply letter.

“You actually think they’ll respond?” asked Adrian, when Kami explained her letter.

“I think something good will happen to make it right.”

“So maybe Mark Zuckerberg himself is going to call you up and say he’s sorry.  And to make it up to you he’ll personally add the credits to your account?”

“I don’t know.  But I want to believe it’s going to turn out alright.  Somebody will be on my side.”

“I’ll bet that letter went right into the garbage.”

“Maybe, maybe not.  But I don’t want to accept that I’ve just been wasting my time.”

“So how many books have you got?”

“A hundred and sixty.”

“So that’s pretty good.  I say give them away to your class and call it a success.”

“That comes out to only six books per kid.”

“Better than nothing.”

“I know.  But I keep hoping for more.  And we’ve got three other classes in the 5th grade.  And what about the 4th and 6th graders?  I keep hoping for that truckload of books.”

“That was always a gamble.  Most gambles don’t pay off.”

Despite what Adrian said about the letter being thrown away, Kami kept hoping she would get a response.  She optimistically checked her email inbox and her physical mailbox.  She considered writing another letter, just in case, but then decided she would cling to her faith in the first letter.  With each passing day, her hope faded until it transformed into bitterness.  Her anger grew so strong that it erased the memories of when she had excitedly opened boxes of books from strangers.

By December, Kami was talking about Facebook as an evil company which took advantage of the poor and disadvantaged.  She described her letter to anyone who would listen, including all the teachers at her school.  One of the teachers responded to Kami’s story by saying, “I’ve got a brother who works at Facebook.  Maybe he can help.”

The teacher contacted her brother, Glen, and soon he and Kami were exchanging email messages.  Glen did not know anything about the advertising incentive Kami had been promised, but he agreed it was unfair.  He did not think Kami’s letter would be read by anyone important.

“But you know what, as an employee, I get $250 worth of Ad Credits to spend every month.  I can do whatever I want with them but I’ve never tried to use them for anything.  You can have them if you want.”

Kami almost fell out of her chair when she read Glen’s message.  Of course she would love to use the Ad Credits!  Within a matter of hours, she and Glen created an ad together and set a spend rate of $10 per day.  It showed up in Facebook feeds all over the country, just in time for the Christmas season.

By February, Kami could no longer park in her garage because of all the boxes full of books she was storing.  She tried to give them away as fast as they arrived, but she needed the garage as kind of a distribution warehouse.  A big part of her collection came from a truck sent by a publishing company which was clearing out their inventory of out-of-print children’s books. The company thought Books at Home made more sense than sending the books to a landfill.

The 5500 books which passed through Kami’s garage between December and February went to 430 students in 3rd through 6th grades.  That worked out to about 13 books per child.  Kami considered it a pretty good start for their personal libraries.

While they were handing out books to Adrian’s 3rd grade class, Adrian asked Kami if she still considered Facebook evil.

Kami stared at the book boxes at her feet and thought about the question for almost a minute.  “That’s too complicated of a question for me,” she finally replied.  “I’m only a teacher giving away books.”


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Submitted: February 19, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Aaron Hawkins. All rights reserved.

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