Dear General Growth Properties & St Louis Galleria: Stop Harassing Customers

Good afternoon,

I’m writing to you as I have been witnessing (via Twitter) the mistreatment of two customers in one of your properties today. Specifically, these two people (users @deray and @nettaaaaaaaa on Twitter) were targeted specifically (and erroneously) for “photographing store fronts” when in fact they were simply shopping. The fact that these two are local leaders in the Ferguson peaceful protest movement adds suspicion as to why they would be arbitrarily singled out like this.

I understand that the St. Louis Galleria is private property, and thus one does not expect the US Constitution to provide the same latitude there as in a public space. However, I also understand that all Americans should have an expectation to not be harassed in a shopping mall based on things like the color of their skin or their peaceful political activities.

I expect St. Louis Galleria to apologize to them immediately. Since you’re a publicly traded company with several properties across the United States, I can also assure you that I will not be spending my money at any of your other properties (Glendale Galleria is only a short distance from me) until this matter is resolved to my satisfaction. I will also be urging as many people as possible to do the same.

Brian Haigh

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Letter to President Barack Obama: Protect Peaceful Protesters in Ferguson, MO

Dear President Obama,

I’m writing to you because of what is happening right now in St. Louis. This morning (on November 26, 2014), a group protesting peacefully on public property was broken up with pepper spray and arrests, for no reason other than expressing their constitutionally guaranteed right to speak out. Leaders of this group are also being targeted by police simply for trying to organize for change in their community.

I will be honest, your speeches on the unrest gripping this country have been lacklustre, and I fear only serve to embolden those now using force to quell dissent. Make no mistake, this is not about maintaining law and order, this is about allowing citizens of this country to protest peacefully against injustice and inequality.

I implore on you to use the power of your office, and that of the Department of Justice, to act decisively to allow the peaceful, well-organized protesters in Ferguson and elsewhere to continue their work. Since you’ve been elected, I’ve watched a lot of people in the upper echelons of American society get a free pass to commit fraud and embezzlement on the American people, while those fighting for racial and economic justice at the bottom of the scale have been subjected to aggressive intimidation and the full force of the state against them.

Knowing what I do about your own story, I have to believe this does not sit well with you. This is a pivotal moment in the American story, and I sincerely, deeply, hope that you will step up to the occasion and act decisively on the side of people fighting for a better, more just America.

Open Letter to Public Officials in Ferguson, St. Louis, the State of Missouri, and Washington, DC

I have been closely following the events in Ferguson since the shooting of Mike Brown back in August. Instead of holding a fair and transparent investigation, the St. Louis and Ferguson authorities have attempted to stifle opposition (as evidenced by the initial, heavy-handed, militarized police response to legitimate protests) and they have kept the public in the dark about what happened. The only information we have about the shooting comes from eyewitness reports, and from very selective leaks of information from the authorities (most of which charitably can be described as intended to smear the name of a dead boy).

The reason I am writing now is that with the grand jury decision approaching, I am seeing a campaign of intimidation ramping up, from the public displays of military-type vehicles being transported around St. Louis, to the media reports instilling fear over the expected non-indictment of Darren Wilson. On social media, I have seen increasing levels of violent rhetoric from supporters of Darren Wilson, and I am deeply concerned that there are factions in the law enforcement community that are welcoming a chance to “pay back” protesters for “daring” to speak out against them.

As someone who moved to the United States and became a naturalized citizen nine years ago, I’ve always admired this country’s ideal of free speech and free assembly, guaranteed in its own constitution. The constitution isn’t worth the paper it was written on if those ideals are not upheld by the people elected to follow them. It’s not a question of jurisdiction. It’s a question of human rights, and it needs to be addressed from all levels of government.

Mike Brown is only one of many black men who have been kiled by police with no public accounting for what lead to his death. The fact that the state is willing to use its power to intimidate, obfuscate, and threaten is deeply disturbing.

I implore you, from the bottom of my heart, to use the power of your office to try to defuse the situation in Ferguson, to speak out against the culture of fear and hate surrounding this issue, and to chart a new course of action. Our governments should not be using their strength to stifle dissent and to protect inequality. If you believe in the notion of public duty that brought you into politics, this is a moment to put that belief into action.

Brian Haigh

Letter to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon

Dear Governor,

I am writing not as a resident of Missouri, but as a citizen of the United States. I have been following the events unfolding in and around Ferguson these past few months, and I am appalled.

A democracy only works when it has the support and the confidence of all it serves. By moving the Michael Brown investigation into a secret grand jury, then only leaking out selective news bites to serve a particular narrative, you are undermining your own state’s justice system. You are turning one of the cornerstones of American democracy into a system of crowd control, and it disgusts me as an American citizen to witness.

You have one chance left to change course. Instead of following institutional special interests, follow the good of the people you lead. Enough with the grand jury and trying to hide truth in darkness. If you believe in your own country and the strength of its institutions, end the grand jury and let this case go to trial. Let the facts come out in an open forum, and let justice be served for all.

Ferguson, your state, and this country deserve better than the leadership you are showing now. I sincerely hope you are capable of something more.

Brian Haigh

Lowe’s – a Case Study in Lousy Corporate Customer Service

Let me just come right out and say it, I’m absolutely sick of these massive, faceless corporations treating their customers like cattle.

And the worst of the worst is trying to get any kind of customer support from these behemoths. You know the drill, you dial a number, wade through a convoluted phone tree, only to wind up in some unnamed country halfway around the world talking to someone who is only empowered to read from a script, and not actually offer you any real assistance.

Lousy corporate customer service is one of those things I truly despise, but it’s taken a hideous experience with Lowe’s to really push me over the edge. We recently bought a new washer and dryer. We wanted something reliable, efficient, affordable, and as a bonus, made in the USA. So we chose Whirlpool.

The units were installed in early January, and at first they were great. But about three weeks in, we discovered the washer had a slow leak under one of the corners. It was under warranty and it looked like such a minor issue, so we figured getting it fixed would be a piece of cake. Here’s a quick rundown of what happened next:

  1. Call Lowe’s to schedule service appointment. First service appointment is a no-show.
  2. Call Lowe’s to schedule another service appointment, hopefully with a company that will actually show up. Someone comes out this time, determines the rubber seal around the door is the source of leak, orders replacement.
  3. Same person comes back, replaces seal, discovers leak is actually coming from somewhere else and will require another visit. After he leaves we discover the washer door no longer closes easily AND the washer now makes a rhythmic banging sound when it’s spinning. Whatever this guy did, we can’t use the washer now without fear of causing some REAL damage.
  4. Call Lowe’s again, complain about the lousy “repair” job and ask for a replacement. According to the ironclad terms dictated by Whirlpool, they can only authorize that after one more service visit.
  5. The new company is a no-show.

We are now waiting for Whirlpool to “review” this case to determine if it “qualifies” for a replacement machine. Which of course takes 48 hours.

We’ve gone so far off the rails in this country that this completely normal way for a corporation to treat its customers. The bottom line and Wall Street are the only things that matter.

While dealing with Lowe’s, at no point did I ever feel like I was speaking to someone who had any kind of authority to make anything right. They were stuck running through a script that had a single plot. And because the corporation doesn’t empower anyone to actually do anything not in that script, they have no way to handle a machine that was rendered inoperable by one of their own authorized technicians. They don’t have a way to handle service appointments that are no-shows (nor do they seem to have a procedure for booking appointments only with companies committed to showing up).

I’d like to see any of us individuals try and keep a track record like this. Showing up half the time, breaking stuff the other half. We’d all be out of work. 

Contrast this with a company like Nordstrom. They are one of the few major corporations out there that really understands customer service. I once had a problem with an online order, and within minutes of calling to complain about it I was transferred to their corporate office in Seattle. There were no phone trees, no condescending hold messages trying to sell me on how great they are, no jumping through pointless hoops with a customer service robot because of a stupid script. Nordstrom gets it.

Lowe’s doesn’t get it. Whirlpool doesn’t get it. And almost every other corporation out there doesn’t get it either.

PS. after ranting on twitter, the Lowe’s twitter account reached out to me, which I appreciate. But after emailing them with this story, they never bothered to even acknowledge receiving it. This makes their Twitter customer support seem like as big a sham as their regular support channels. Hideous.

My Kindle Singles Year

This Indie Author’s Experience Getting Accepted into the Amazon Kindle Singles Store

Lately I’ve been reading a few articles posted on the web from people questioning just how committed the Amazon Kindle Singles store is to independent authors. True, if you look at the list of best sellers, it’s dominated by some very heavy hitters. But, they also keep an eye out for new voices, and I’m testament to that. A little over a year ago, my first-ever ebook, Awaken Your Perfect Self: How to Become Better Than Everybody Else, was selected to be a part of the Kindle Singles store.

It was May 2012, and I had just completed my first short book and published it to At the same time, I decided to try to submit it to the Kindle Singles store, knowing that the odds of being selected were mathematically very slim. However, about three days later, I received an email telling me that they wanted to add it, and sure enough, by the end of that week it was live. At the time, David Blum, the editor of the Kindle Singles store, told me that it would be a big deal, a life-changing kind of thing, and he was right on the money about that. The book ended up selling over 10,000 copies, and peaked just inside the Top 100 bestseller list for Kindle ebooks. For a first-time published author, it could not have been a better experience. I had to pinch myself more times than I could count (especially when it surpassed Stephen King on the best-seller list!) in the months after it was published.

Let me just say, getting into the Kindle Singles store is hard, not just for an independent author, but for any author, and as it has grown in popularity it’s only getting harder. My followup book, The Road to Hell is Paved with Kitty Litter, wasn’t accepted this time around. And granted, they may even be growing so fast that they’re now struggling to keep up with submissions.

After submitting The Road to Hell is Paved with Kitty Litter, I followed up with an email that referenced my first book (the one that’s in the Kindle Singles store and has sold over 10,000 copies!) only to get a form rejection letter a few weeks later for that book – so it’s true they must be having trouble keeping up with the growth curve.

Nonetheless, any independent writer out there should consider the Amazon Kindle Singles store. It’s tough to get accepted (and getting tougher all the time), but they’re definitely looking for new voices.

Introducing my new book…The Road to Hell is Paved with Kitty Litter

I’m really thrilled to be announcing that my new ebook The Road to Hell is Paved with Kitty Litter is now for sale on Amazon. I wrote this novella with summer in mind – a short, breezy, fun read and I hope you all enjoy it.

The-Road-to-Hell_225-360The followup to Awaken Your Perfect Self: How to Become Better than Everybody Else teams the recently-paroled narrator from the first book with ace cat detective Sam Touba as they hunt high and low for the elusive self-perfection “guru” Jim Hoenfhmfjn. Part road trip, part detective send-up, The Road to Hell is Paved with Kitty Litter is an absurdist journey that begins behind a dumpster in a seedy Los Angeles parking lot and finds its way to Las Vegas, with several cats and Hoenfhmfjn “life lessons” sprinkled in between.



Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

I’ve been waiting for the right inspiration to begin updating this site again, and found it in this video from Rebuild the Dream:

Let me start of by saying that I spent my teen years in Fort McMurray, where all this tar sand comes from, and I can vouch for just how dirty the oil extraction process is. Removing oil from the ground requires a lot of energy and resources. It pollutes the air and creates ponds of highly toxic water, and the final product requires yet more processing to become fuel.

Does this mean we should shut down the tar sands? It would be hypocritical to say we should. Our world revolves around oil – not just to power our cars – and until we change that, we are going to need more sources of it. And given the options, it makes sense to get our oil from a stable source like Canada.

But, we need to treat this source of oil with extra caution, and because of that I see no reason at all why it makes any sense to build the Keystone XL pipeline:

Energy independence for the US? No – this pipeline sends the tar sand oil to a processing/shipping port. In other words, it’s for other markets in other countries. The communities with this pipeline in their back yard will shoulder the risk so that multinational companies can make profits selling this stuff to other countries.

Jobs and money for American workers and companies? As this video points out, the number of jobs this produces is negligible and pales in comparison to the environmental risks involved in having this massively long pipeline crossing the country.

If this oil were going to be used to help the United States wean itself off overseas oil, I would be more inclined to support it. If it were going to improve the economy in the United States, I would be more inclined to support it. But to take on the risk of an oil spill in one of several states this thing will go through? To support the bottomline of some multinational megacorp?

Look at the track record in recent history, along the Gulf Coast, in Arkansas, and in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Terrible spills compounded by inept corporate responses, designed to try to cover up the issue with PR and news blackouts more than to actually clean the mess they caused. We’ve had enough oil disasters. No to Keystone XL.