The Cratchit Hall of Fame commences

The first plaudit for our Bob Cratchit Hall of Fame

A couple of weeks ago, I put out a call for stories of things that went well for you so that we could post them as a holiday gift for the companies we usually gripe about here. Boy, did I get some great letters.

I have to admit that these stories brought a little tear to my eye and helped get me in the mood for the holidays. So I'm going to start sharing them today in the hope that they will help you go into the holiday season ready to fight the crowds, capable of rising to the challenge of an extended family dinner, and ready to tackle all those post-gift-day tech support hassles. It's somehow heartening to know that sometimes you may expect, at best, a boring -- though, more likely, highly irritating -- technical support or customer service experience and instead encounter real concern, competence, and even excellence.

Cal wrote with an example from, of all places, the IRS. "Last year I had occasion to call the IRS helpline for an interpretation of how to report an honorarium I had received. A friend suggested a way to claim the income that lowered the tax I would owe. The IRS staffer I spoke with gave me the less favorable interpretation, and I thanked him and hung up. Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

"Forty-five minutes later he actually called me back and said that he had discussed it with his colleagues in the office, and my friend was correct. He then told me on just which line of my 1040 to enter the amount, and what item of tax law to cite in support of my claim! He didn't really have to do that..."

Got a gripe or a contribution to the Bob Cratchit Hall of Fame? Send it to

p.s. My book is in stores, and it's the perfect gift for all the women in your life who call to ask technical questions and then complain about the answers: "How to Be a Geek Goddess" from No Starch Press.