a full, shriveled potato..."" /> a full, shriveled potato..."" />

Teddy Blanks | Essays

Small Potatoes

Bag of Cape Cod Potato Chips and contents: whole potato & soggy, unsalted chips, purchased 4/11/07.

Date: 4/11/07
Subject: Complaint About Bag of Chips

Dear Cape Cod Chip Company:

I am attaching a picture of the bag of your usually enjoyable "Cape Cod Potato Chips" that I bought today. The objects sitting beside the bag were its full contents. You will notice that these include a few soggy chips and a full, shriveled potato. What you cannot see is that the potato has a strange, vaguely-chemical smell, and the few chips, in addition to being soggy, are not even salted. Ultimately, the whole package was (rather) inedible.

Will you kindly send me a replacement bag of your chips? Please make sure that if the bag you send has any small potatoes in it, they are salted and odorless. Although I would prefer just the chips.

Thank you,
Teddy Blanks


Date: 4/13/07
Subject: Re: Potato Chip Complaint

Dear Teddy,
I am so sorry that there was something in your bag besides our potato chips. The information you sent us will help us to investigate the matter. I will be happy to send you some replacement chips - which I hope will not include a potato - do you have any favorites? I hope if you have any more trouble with our chips you will let us know. Again I apologize for this incident. Please let me know if I can be of any more help. Thank you.

Farrell Souza
Customer Service
Cape Cod Potato Chips



Date: 4/13/07
Subject: Do you think the potato is safe for dogs?

Dear Farrell:

Thank you for your prompt reply. Your apology about the full potato is accepted, and I am glad to hear about the investigation you will be spearheading. I have a personal interest in the findings, so I would appreciate a copy of the report.

There is a new situation I want you to be aware of. When I set up the bag of Cape Cod Potato Chips beside its contents to take the photograph I sent you in my last email, I left the whole set-up lying on the table overnight. I didn't want to throw anything away, because I thought you might ask for more proof that I found a full potato in the bag. I put a paper towel over everything so nobody would have to look at it. Despite this clever deception, Maude, the dog, happened upon the potato (and the few soggy, unsalted chips), and helped herself. Do you think she will be okay??

I did a quick Google search, "dogs and full potatoes," and clicked on the first result, a page called "Are Potatoes Okay For Dogs?." As you can see, labman writes that potatoes are, in fact, okay for dogs, which relieved me until I read the question Iabman was replying to, as posed by violet0019: "Is it safe to feed a dog 1 1/2 tsp. boiled potatoe [sic], mixed in with their food, two times per day, everyday?" And because Maude most likely ate the whole potato (and the few soggy chips) in one sitting, I am back to square one.

Can you find out for me which types of potatoes Cape Cod uses to make their chips, and whether they are okay for dogs? Maude is acting normal, but I'm worried. (Especially given the recent national pet food scare.)

I know this is not your fault,
Teddy Blanks

P.S. Instead of the chips, can you please send me the Cape Cod Pretzels? I don't want to take any more chances.



Cardboard package and contents received on 5/25: 5 bags potato chips, assorted flavors (no pretzels); 5 Cape Cod coupons for a total retail value of $16.00; and one handwritten letter of apology.


Teddy Blanks is a senior designer at Winterhouse Studio, and a
contributor to the online film magazine, Not Coming To A Theater Near You. His band, the Gaskets, has released two albums and was recently showcased at South by Southwest in Austin, TX

Comments [47]

No other Design Observer post has made me laugh so loud out loud by myself. I haven't the slightest idea what this has to do with design, and frankly I could give a damn. Those pictures of the hand-written note and the box of various chips just killed me. And Maude!
Thank you, Teddy Blanks, for making my day.
Will Mangum

Brilliant! :)

Soggy, unsalted chips are a delicacy here in the UK. We used to wrap them up in news print too. I've seen many a dog eat the left overs and live to sniff the tale(s).

I'm sure your pet will be fine and much wiser for the experience.
Gaz Shaw

Yes, but are Cape Cod Chips Bad For Design?

This is my favorite thing that has ever happened.
Lena Dunham

I used to do this a lot when i was still a kid. Leave my chips open for at least one day and then send the whole package on return with a quick note. Never ever did i receive a disappointment in the answers they gave me ;) I always received a giant box full of their latest products with nice letters full of excuses an propaganda. I kept doing it untill my dad told me to stop because it would have a negative influence on other kids' attempts. Now, how nice is that? :)

And yes, this is design! Even stronger, this is where design should be about more and more (but is it?).
vos b

Assertive design-journalism at it's best! Liz Crenshaw would be proud.
Jessica Gladstone

Reminds me of Letters from a Nut.

Good stuff either way. Ha!

Joe Moran

you can't be serious. pretzels over potato chips????
debbie millman

I'm with you Debbie, I'd rather take my chances.
Andrew Twigg


yes cape cod chips have rounded corners so i think they're bad for design. or bad for dogs? can someone ask thomas?
j doo dah

When I went to high school - in the Indian Himalayan Mountains, we had a standard 'scam' we'd pull on the makers of Quality Street Toffees.

They had a proof of purchase/guarantee paper inside each tin. After consuming the contents, we'd send the guarantee paper back to them with a handwritten note saying we'd eaten their toffees and got a stomach ache, or we'd opened the tin and found the contents covered in mould, or whatever...

Then we'd sit back and wait for the inevitable LARGE sized tin to arrive as compensation.

Even as kids, we knew that they knew they were being scammed, but loved them for indulging us.

To this day, I have a fondness for that brand, and find myself smiling and reaching for my wallet every time I see Quality Street for sale.
Andy Malhan

Arnott's Barbeque Shapes are a snack food 'delicacy' in Australia - but they can be a tad confusing. (Play the video at bottom).
Andrew Haig

Ha! I love it. That is absolutely hilarious.
Jennifer Hanley

I am a native Cape Coddah. We take much pride in our local potato chip company - they have been a positive influence in our community in many respects - and truly their chips are some of the best. So in their defense I would advise giving their chips another chance... You certainly could have found many worse mishaps in a bag of potato chips. In these days one should be happy to find an actual potato - despite its lack of final preparation.

And in its own way, the letter you received in the box gives me a sense of satisfaction, in both its tone and form.
Christian Palino

any word on the dog? i hope he is ok!

Well, this is at least a good case of service design.
Jonas Feiring

This is the hyper-best post ever!! And I think this is probably what design is all about: humble communication.

ps- regards to Maude.

That was quite random but also quite amusing, reminds me of that book written a few years ago when the author asks really stupid questions (on purpose) and keeps replying to his replies until the company gives up.

The best example I can remember is when he wrote to Ikea and said that he had a great new design for a desk which he wanted to show to them, they said sure send it over so he sent a drawing of a desk with about two holes in it and they wrote back and said thanks but no thanks.

I really want to remember the name of that book...
Tony Goff

"Letters from a Nut"

Very funny book.


A friend's mother worked at a Large Chip Manufacturer, Likely The Largest (rhymes with Burrito Fray), in Idaho (the irony!), I believe. One of the quality control gambits they believed to be effective was to build a rogue's gallery of returned items from customers in the hallway leading to the plant floor. On display were the obvious, and less so: teeth, hair, and wedding rings.

miss representation

For those of you who have expressed concern about Maude's health, she is doing fine, despite a recent non-potato-related trip to the vet.

And to Christian:

Since the overwhelmingly positive customer service experience I had with Cape Cod, I have become a devoted customer. In addition to having consumed a full bag of their white cheddar popcorn (a freebie) in one sitting on Friday, I still get the small bag of chips with my sandwich each day at a local bakery.

In fact, I am largely thankful for the entire experience. It was strangely reassuring, and I wonder how many snack companies actually work with full potatoes at any point in the chip-making process. The term "All Natural," printed on every Cape Cod bag, has an entirely new meaning to me.
Teddy Blanks

teddy blanks, you paint quite a picture. this is wonderful.

Reminds me of The Lazlo Letters by comedian Don Novello (a.k.a. Father Guido Sarducci)!
Rob Henning

teddy, you made my day..

Inane. Not the circumstance, but the interest in it. This is "where design should be about"? I'll become a plumber.

The only thing that could quite possibly rival the sheer ridiculousness of that shrivelled potato is the fact that Farrell hand-signed the letter "Farrell -- Farrell Souza Customer Service."
emily tu

wait a minute! this is the best example of customer service I have ever seen! a hand written apology!?!? who cares if it is a design issue? I will never eat another brand of potato chip as long as I live... Hooray Cape Cod Chips!

This was even better than the chips themselves! I once wrote, unhilariously, to the Jiffy company when I found several moths in their corn muffin mix (they take cocoons very seriously over there) a let's just say they kept me in brownies for years. Nice.

You're making someone's life more difficult. She's trying to do her job (and doing it well, I might add). Don't be a dick.

dear teddy

you didn't receive the replacement chips until 25th of may?! that's a long time to wait for yummy chips.

btw can you please teach me how you travelled forward in time to take the picture. k thx

Thank you for making my Thursday!


Just this morning I listened to a Discovery Channel podcast about 'Made in America' which was about Cape Cod potato chips! Prior to that I'd never heard of them - being that I live in the UK - but they do sound great. Apparently they have all the potatoes they're going to use delivered on the day they use them, and a fresh delivery the very next day for that day's production. I'm sure 99% of other chip factories don't even see a potato in its natural form!

I agree with Mike.
You are coming off like an ass to customer service. Sending that email about your dog was a dick move. It is not their fault you can't clean up after yourself or train your dog not to grab food off the table.
Also how can you notice the sogginess of something in a picture. As far as I am concerned those chips look crisp to me.
Lose the attitude, I could understand this type of response if several requests were ignored but they fixed the situation on the first go.

interesting...what made you decide to write the company rather than just going back to the store?


its funny how brands can be like mothers some times and be like devils at most times. we cant live without them, yet we want to! whats the way out? who was in charge when the industrial revolution and other mass production ideologies were being taken to the next level? did we think we should stop a bit? i am just not a fan of how the commercial sensibilities have shaped our worlds lately. It has changed everything into things complex.
nitin budhiraja

Anyone above who is either 1) angry at my man Teddy Blanks; 2) dissatisfied with the Cape Cod Chips folks for ANY reason relating to this correspondence or 3) unable to see the ingenuous humor of the situation -- needs to get his or her nose out of the air and lighten WAYYY he heck up! Don'tcha think that Teddy and Farrell both made each other's day and that Farrell was not inconvenienced one whit by the situation?

I will guarantee you that Farrell Souza is a good soul with a good heart and wouldn't be surprised if this kind of positive, personal, customer-friendly attitude prevails throughout the Cape Cod Chips company, from the top down.
Jay Tee

awesome. best design of snacks

http://www.advertolog.com - new site about creative advertising, with big prints archive

Some 35 years ago, when I was a collegiate smart-ass, I responded to a money-back guarantee statement on a box of (I believe) Cocoa Puffs by sending a short note to the manufacturer stating: "This cereal tastes like shit." They sent me two quarters in an envelope, along with a form letter apology that was about a tenth generation Xerox copy. I don't remember what the actual price of a box of cereal was in those days, I'll assume $0.50 was about right, and I'm not complaining as the cereal didn't actually taste like shit, and of course I'd eaten all of the box, but I must admit I'd never expected any reply (other than perhaps a lecture on using such language in the mail).
M. Bouffant

Wow, interesting... a hand written note is hilarious.
A local woman found a Kleenex in her Hawkins Cheezies over yonder and she not only wrote a note to the company, but a very detailed letter to the local newspaper. That did nothing but turn me off cheezies for like ever.... I still don't know what she squeezed out of Hawkins ( a lawsuit perhaps, but civil cases have a "cap" up here in Canada)
Public vs private beef... very intriguing.
Enjoyable post...

I had a similar experience with Keetle Chips. I had a wad of something that was not a chip in my bag. I actually wasn't looking while I was eating and put it in my mouth and it was harder than a rock.

I sent a letter and the object to Kettle chips. I got a call back offering an appology and an offer for free chips. I got about 4 bags in a similar box. At least the rest of the chips in the original bag I had were good.

We were taken out to Nauset Beach many times as a kid (and this is a multi-hundred-mile trip from Central Ohio, where I grew up), so the image of Nauset Light is an important one in my life. Imagine how I felt when I saw rows of potato chip bags emblazoned with that icon in my Atlanta grocery store!

Well, I felt a craving for salty snacks, is how I felt.

I love chips.
Robert Festino

Teddy talks about this story here. (from uncensoredinterview.com)

It's pretty funny.

i like the design on the bag. it looks classic.

Dear Cape Cod Chips:

On Wednesday the 6th of August I purchase a bag of you new flavor chips "sea salt & cracked pepper). I love Cape Cod Chips and have been eating them my whole life. (12 1/2 years) I was looking forward to your new flavor, but when I opened the bag all the chips were only plain chips nothing on them and no flavor. The bag #20685 17150 and I got them in Warren, Ma. I was wondering if there was some kind of defect in that shipment or just my bag.

I am a very big fan of your product and am always telling people how great they are. I love your different flavors. Would it be possible to replace my bag with another?

Your Biggest Fan,
Freddie Sierra
P.O. Box 1344, 266 Bemis Rd, Warren, Ma. 01083-1344
Frederick Sierra

Jobs | June 19