Tom Stranger: Customer Service Response Panel

The camera reveals that Tom Stranger is standing behind a podium on a stage.

“Hello, I am Tom Stranger, of Stranger & Stranger Insurance. As an Interdimensional Insurance Agent I often travel across the multiverse, caring for my client’s needs, and providing quality customer service. My job takes me to many worlds, where I deal with a variety of insurance related, sometime apocalyptic crises. Many would consider this…” Tom paused to make quote marks with his fingers, “adventure. However, what unaugmented beings think of as adventure is merely a normal day here at Stranger & Stranger. I do not understand why anyone would chronicle such mundane events, but recently, I was informed that a client of mine on Earth 169-J-00561 documented one of my average work days and created an…” Tom made quotey fingers again, “audiobook. Which apparently on some realities is a book you listen to.”

“We’re number one! Whooo!” Somebody shouted from off screen. “We’re the number one audiobook in the world!”


“Correction, Jimmy. The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent, written by Larry Correia and narrated by President Adam Baldwin, is number one on one particular world. On most civilized worlds it came in a distant second to the eighth Game of Thrones novel.”

“Whatever, dude! Number one! Hear that, Mr. Chang? Number one!”

“Who is Mr. Chang?”

“My high school guidance counselor, man. He said I’d never amount to anything. Suck it, Mr. Chang! I’m in the number one audiobook in the world! Woot woot!”

“Calm your wooting, Intern.” Tom Stranger shook his head sadly at the display of wanton unprofessionalism. “Such frivolity is an example of why I arranged this Customer Service Response Panel.”

“Sorry, Mr. Stranger.”

The camera pans over to reveal that this is a panel discussion. Two humans and a manatee are already seated behind the table, ready to begin. Well, the humans were seated. The majestic manatee floated peacefully in his giant fish tank.

“Though the audiobook about my life has proven extremely popular and successful on Earth 169-J-0056, averaging four and a half stars over two thousand reviews in the last week, I always strive for perfect scores in customer service. That half a star is… troubling. So I have called upon this panel of experts so that we may address these customers’ legitimate concerns. Allow me to introduce our panelists. You have already heard from my intern, Jimmy the Intern. Also joining us is Larry Correia of Earth 169-J-0056, who authored the work in question.”

“Hi.” Larry the Author waved. There was a little bit of sporadic polite clapping from the audience.

“And last, but certainly not least, renowned expert on customer relations, Wendell T. Manatee, CFO of CorreiaTech.”

“Mehwooooo,” Wendell shook his ponderous bulk in greeting. The audience immediately went wild, cheering, and chanting his name. Wendell. Wendell. Wendell. A woman even threw her panties at Wendell’s tank.

Tom waited until the enthusiastic standing ovation for the popular manatee tapered off. “I regret that our narrator was unable to join us on the panel. He said something about filming a ship.” Tom Stranger shrugged. “Let us begin. Mr. Correia, as an accountant—it is good you have retained those skills by the way, in case this writing thing does not work out for you—do you have the statistics?”

“Yes, Tom. We currently have 1,477 five star reviews on, where The Adventures of Tom Stranger can still be downloaded for free until June 21st.”

“Of course, the people of your planet would be foolish to not download this fine product for free. But that is not why we are here. How many one star reviews are there?”

Larry the Author hung his head in shame. “There are currently 58 one star reviews.”

“Tsk, tsk. I always strive for tens on all customer satisfaction surveys. Or fives, when a world’s rating system is based upon stars, smiley faces, or stickers. We shall now address these customer complaints.”

Larry the Author had a stack of 3×5 cards with the negative reviews written on them. He began flipping through. “Okay, let’s see… I’m offended, I’m offended, I’m super offended, this was offensive… It’s about twenty five this is funny to every one I’m offended, but that guy is really offended.”

“I see… I believe I know what the problem is.” Tom nodded thoughtfully. He turned to address the camera directly. “I would like to make a formal apology to all of those who I inadvertently offended. Humor can be subjective, and what one person finds amusing, others may not. However some things are never okay to joke about. So at this time I would like to offer my sincerest apology… to dolphins.”

“Wait… What?”

“Yes, Larry. I referred to aquatic mammals as flippant. I said that dolphins were not meticulous about paying their insurance premiums or filling out their claim paperwork. That is a hurtful stereotype, and for that I am truly sorry to the dolphin people.”

“Hmmm… I kind of figured that these were mostly humans offended that I poked fun at their politics.”

Tom scowled. “That makes no sense. Does your world not have Saturday Night Live, stand-up comedy, skit shows, South Park, Jon Stewart, Tina Fey, Seth Rogan, Jon Oliver, That’s My Bush, Judd Apatow movies, the rest of Comedy Central’s programming, Patton Oswalt, Bill Maher, Lewis Black, Stephen Colbert, Janeane Garofalo, or any episodes of the Simpsons featuring Lisa?”

“Flooooooo,” Wendell explained.

“So on this planet it is only acceptable to make fun of some beliefs, but the predominate belief system held within your entertainment industry is sacrosanct?” Tom thought the manatee had to be pulling his leg. “Good one, Wendell. No. It has to be dolphins. Moving on to our next complaint.”

Larry the Author read from the next card. “It was vulgar.”

“All things considered I found R. Lee Ermey to be remarkably restrained.” Tom stated.

“Fleeeeeeeeerp,” Wendell agreed. He was a huge Full Metal Jacket fan and could practically recite the opening boot camp scene from memory. The manatee showed them his War Face. “Hoooon.”

“A fantastic impersonation, Wendell. Regardless, I will pass this concern onto Secretary of Defense Ermey. Next card.”

“Some of the humor was dated, and made jokes relating to pop culture as far back in ancient history as the eighties.”

“Hope that dude never watches Family Guy,” Jimmy muttered.

“Silence, Jimmy. The customer is always right, even when they are being absurd. Also, he will want to skip Deadpool. Next card, Mr. Correia.”

“There was too much profanity. Now this one is interesting, Tom, and I’ve got the numbers here. We used no F bombs. Twice we used the word BEEP.” Larry paused, confused. “Is the panel being beeped if we use bad words now?”

“I thought it best to not cause further customer anguish,” Tom explained.

“Hang on. I gotta test this,” Jimmy interjected. “BEEP BEEP motherBEEP BEEP sheep dip! Man, that was awesome!”

Larry the author looked at his stats. “That’s going to make reading these off a challenge. Okay, we used BEEP six times, uh… That’s the naughty word for a butt.”

“What kind of lameBEEP BEEP is that?” Jimmy asked.

“We used crap eleven times… Wait, no beep? Okay, apparently crap is cool. H E double hockey sticks a whopping seventeen times, but in our defense that was an actual geographic location in the story. There you go, Tom.”

“You must explain this one, Mr. Correia. Your customer service failings are not upon my head this time.”

“As a writer, language is your art, and words are your tools. You choose the best tool based upon the impact you are trying to achieve. Sometimes bad words are funny.” There was a scattering of half-hearted applause from a couple members of the audience.


The audience laughed uproariously at Wendell’s profanity laced, George Carlin like rant. The manatee was killing it.

“There you have it. I don’t think anyone can argue with such keen observational humor. Next one star.”

“There’s accusations that you are some sort of idealized libertarian superman.”

“Obviously you are mistaken. As an insurance agent I am above petty partisan politics and only care about providing quality customer service. That customer must have been speaking about President Baldwin.”

“Yeah, that guy is pretty awesome,” Jimmy agreed.

“Fleeeeeerp,” Wendell added, because he mostly knew Adam Baldwin as Animal Mother. “Mooo.”

“You heard the manatee, Mr. Correia. Next card.”

“It is apparent that Larry Correia hates people like me.”

“Sheesh, friggin’ dolphins,” Jimmy said. “You guys need to chillax already.”

“Flooooeeeeeeerp,” Wendell said, making quote flippers when he mentioned audiobooks.

“Card us, bro!” Jimmy shouted.

“Uh, this one is a direct quote, the story lacks in every dimension.”

“Hmmm…” Tom was puzzled. “Do you think they mean that literally, or was it an attempt at humor regarding the existence of multiple dimensions? Regardless, the customer is always right. Bad writer. Bad.”

“Sorry, Tom. Up next, we have a few about what awful ego stroking it is for an author to insert himself into a story… That’s kind of a funny one Tom, as I didn’t exactly cover myself in glory back there, and I spent most of my time getting my BEEP kicked.”

“It does not matter. The customer has spoken. An author putting himself into the narrative is never okay. In the future you should strive to be more professional, like Stephen King or Clive Cussler. Is that all of the negative comment cards?”

“It appears so, Tom. I got a couple that said I must be a Trump fan, and that’s just hurtful.”

“Indeed. Well there you have it, gentlecustomers. Thank you for attending this Customer Service Response Panel. We apologize for this utter failure of customer service, and will endeavor to make up that half a star in the future.”

“Peace out,” Jimmy the Intern said.


“Until next time, you are in strange hands with Stranger & Stranger.”

I've got a story in Galactic Games from Baen
The JP Cazador MHI rifle is in Guns & Ammo

66 thoughts on “Tom Stranger: Customer Service Response Panel”

  1. How can anything lack in every dimension? Don’t we exist across infinite dimensions infinitely? Maybe we should get a physicist in here to help explain that comment.

    1. Nope!

      This one I understand.

      If you’ve ever read E. A. Abbot’s classic “Flatland”, you may recall the incident when the sphere introduced A. Square to Pointland, where all that existed was a single point. The point was aware, but only of itself and how great it was to be and to be itself.

      If ever there was a metaphor for liberals, that’s the one.

  2. I played the book to my husband as we drove back and forth on Home Depot trips this weekend. He loved it. He about lost it on the reference to the pineapple.

  3. As soon as I heard that there were complaints about writing yourself into the story, I was going to bring up Clive Cussler and Stephen King… But then I didn’t have to. Great minds, etc., etc.

  4. Please tell me it is possible to add this as an author’s note on Audible.

    My Battalion Commander just asked me why I was laughing so hard.

  5. I think Wendell should host an awards show. Something prestigious, but not hoity toity. Hmmm.

  6. I think the one star reviews would disappear if Audible disallowed commenting by non-sentients like Meat Popsicles running Eliza programs, specifically those misnamed SJWs.

  7. It was the perfect choice for my drive to Annual Training, although, being afflicted at this point of my career with a terminal case of staffofficeritis, the opening scene did hit a little too close to home. Thank you for a badly needed hearty laugh on a long, otherwise irritating day.

    1. Mister Correia, I’m here to hook up the Naughty Language Filter Mark 8. We have a more finely tuned masking system in this version. Please allow me to demonstrate.

      A-hem. Message follows:

      Having checked the one-star reviews thoroughly, I would like to suggest that these HONKing , one-BZZZed, BANG-gargling WHOOPWHOOPstains should blow their AWOOGAH-HUHWONK opinions out their BEEPes. They can HONK the FREEOWL out of the {vuvuzela-solo} of a dead NYUKNYUKNYUK’s BEEP, for all I care, except I’d pity the poor WOOF that has to clean that WHOOPWHOOP out of the ceiling tiles.

      Message Ends.

      HUHWONK straight.

  8. “you are in strange hands with Stranger & Stranger.”

    Obviously a reference to rampant rape cultureand unwanted groping ..savages. -11 stars!

  9. This is one of the cleverest blog posts/commentaries/rebuttals I’ve ever read. Kudos. 🙂

  10. Larry, I DEMAND another Stranger & Stranger audio tale immediately! Pissing off and /or offending 1 in25. Is a horrible percentage. If you just put in a little more effort, I am sure you can up that to 1 in 5 offended… Personally, I was offended that Obama wasn’t a victim of scrotum harvesting! See if you can’t rectify that in your next offensive tale, please.

  11. It was cruel to remind us on this particular Earth, that there was a Libertarian Space Cowboy Revolution, but not here.

      1. That Earth does not exist. In this particular Earth, where there are eight GoT novels, Martin died just before finishing A Dance With Dragons, and passed it on to Brandon Sanderson, who fixed everything.
        Rumors that this last was only done at the behest of mercenary SPs hired by GoT fans to read the entirety of Castalia House’s output to GRRM while he laid helplessly in a hospital bed are roundly denied by all parties involved.

        1. ‘Most civilized worlds’. We had the freak chance of Obama being elected happen here. In other worlds, Martin was unable to sustain himself on the suffering of the American people, and passed away quietly in his sleep.

          Depending, a variety of authors successfully continued the series. In some of the Alucard ’08 worlds, the undead Martin was able to do a satisfactory job.

          The one Spillane edited was the punchiest. Brackett’s is preferred by seven out of ten Jeffros. Tolkein’s version is the one Confucius likes the most. The Clemons collaboration is the funniest. The Miyashita has the most misogyny without being actively pornographic. The Akumatsu has the most pornography without being actively misogynist. The Beale version is arguably truest to the original vision of the Stark undead legions putting the south to fire and Ice.

  12. Loved what you and Adam did there. But I’d like it better if I could pay for it. You two need to collaborate on something big. Why do those studios waste our time with reboots of batman and superman when Agent Franks hasn’t even been done once on the big screen.

  13. Well, bleep. Color me not bleeping surprised. Also: this blog entry is like a golden bonus chapter/appendix. Take that, Scalzi.

    1. That depends entirely on how this one does, because I have to squeeze projects like this in between the big books I make my living off of.

      1. Well, that’s because you actually get books out the door. When you take 6 or 7 years to release the next book, you can spend 6 months putting together a short story for an anthology and no one notices the delay.

      2. So what you’re saying is that, if we buy more of your books, you’ll have the free time to do more of these?

        Challenge Accepted.

  14. “Tom Strange customer service, this is Bapti, how can I help you?”
    “I’m having trouble with this audiobook! I’m not enjoying it!”
    “All right, sir or madam, and forgive me if I’m wrong either way. First we will start by rebooting your literacy. Then we must defrag your sense of understanding storytelling…”

  15. NO, Tom. The customer is NOT always right

    The sooner you figure that out the sooner you can fire the bad ones and provide more benefit to the good ones.

    1. Seen in a bar somewhere in St Paul, Mn: “The customer is always right. The bartender gets to choose who is a customer.”

  16. Well, you can count me as someone who rated the story relatively low (2 stars) compared to the overall. It wasn’t that I was offended, it was just that, for me, some of the humor fell flat. I enjoyed parts of it, and liked Adam Baldwin’s narration just fine.

    To me, the shots at liberals, Obama, gender studies and so on seemed kind of obvious and not very original. I realize that a two-hour narrative may not lend itself to a lot of subtlety, but knowing the author’s capacity for humor I would have expected something a bit wittier.

    I do identify closer to the political left of the spectrum than most commenters on this site, but I have always been a fan of the author’s books regardless.

    So, for me, this was OK, not great. A decent way to pass two hours. I expect I will just have to wait for the next novel.

    1. Liberals are obvious and unoriginal. They’ve been repeating the same dumbass mistakes under different names since the French Revolution.

    2. “this was OK, not great”

      . . . and you gave it two stars? You give that rating to books that you despise but were not totally worthless. Tell us how you really feel.

      1. Rating can be a little subjective. I personally use a scale that maps all sane responses to 3. 2 means that the author is so horrible that I was totally justified in killing them. 4 means I’m such a fan that I stalk the author, and read everything they put on the public internet. 5 stars means I start a publishing company, and attempt set up a deal to publish all their ephemeral trolling posts.

        Mein Kampf got a 1 star, but it was a high one star, almost a 2 star, which is why the German language isn’t dead.

        Grins, ducks and runs away.

      2. I guess my rating standard is different from yours, then. For me, five stars is exceptional — I find maybe one or two books a year that I give five stars to. Books I despise get one star.

        1. Well, let’s see, words like “okay” and “decent” (both word you used) are synonymous with “average” if you use a thesaurus. Average = 3 stars. Bumping it down to 2 sure indicates there are other reasons, like a grudge, in play here.

          Semantics aside, a 2 star review is a death sentence/book killing rating on most any website. Using it on a book you thought was “OK, not great” seems a little extreme. Disagreeing with the meaning of a rating doesn’t change it. Of course, you can always shout, “I’ve got principles!,” disregard effective communication, and keep on being *that guy* who thinks the world should bow to their judgment and standards, not vice versa.

          Just keep in mind: there’s a reason people don’t like *that guy*.

          1. I don’t generally consider my book ratings to carry much weight with anyone, let alone act as a death sentence. That said, if you do a mouseover on the ratings on Goodreads (my book rating site of choice), you will see that three stars is ‘good’ and two stars is ‘it was ok’. So I think I’m actually communicating what I intend to be communicating.

            Nobody is obliged to agree with either my opinion of the book or my decision to express my opinion of the book as a two-star rating, though. You’re even free to decide that I gave it that rating because I have a grudge against…what?

          2. @ Josh B

            Exactly. Goodreads ratings say what they mean, and two stars is “okay” (which I do not consider to be synonymous with “average”, and anyway “average” doesn’t convey liking or disliking of a book but would seem to be judging the book’s objective quality, which is not really what most people rate books on).

            Since the rating system is different on Amazon, with it stating that 3 stars is “okay” and 4 is “liked it”, I’ll reconsider my rating if I post an Amazon review. Sometimes, it was a low 3 stars anyway and so it stays 3 stars, which means Amazon’s system works less in the book’s favor (as far as I’m concerned) than Goodreads’s.

          3. “Semantics aside, a 2 star review is a death sentence/book killing rating on most any website.”

            If true, I think you can blame our “give everyone a trophy” society that thinks that anything less than glowing praise is a condemnation. That doesn’t make it right, or the way it should be, or what people should be forced to conform to. Thinking that way, pretty soon all reviews will be a single star, which you either mark or don’t, and it will mean “this book is an utter piece of trash” or “this book is amazing and perfect” with no room between those. At which point there will be no use at all in any rating system and people will have to *gasp* read the actual reviews.

            BTW, individual readers who leave their own personal ratings about how much they liked a book are not beholden to you, Sean. It’s perfectly reasonable to consider 2 stars “okay” (Goodreads explicitly labels it as such). Your disagreement really doesn’t force them to change anything, nor should it. We’re given five stars to work with. I for one am going to keep using all of them.

          4. Shawna,

            What I blame is the general ability of most, if not all, review-based websites to sort their materials by review score making it so that two star-reviewed products do not see the light of day. Accordingly, IMO (and only IMO), you give that rating to stories that you don’t want to see the light of day, stories that you could not really recommend to anyone at all but aren’t complete and utter garbage. Those are given 1 star reviews, meaning that they are so bad someone should have to pay *you* to read them, not vice versa.

            All that being said, yes, it’s a free society, and, yes, everyone can do as they please, but actions have consequences. Those consequences should be one of the primary consideration regarding which actions are taken, but, yes, principles and other factors come into play as well.

            Just please keep in mind that you are weighing your “principles” against someone else’s livelihood.

          5. Sean,
            One might infer that you’re suggesting that concern for someone else’s livelihood should influence me when deciding how to rate a book. I’m not really sure how you expect that to work.

            “Well, Mr. Correia needs his cut of the $0.00 from the sale of this audiobook, so I’d better bump my rating up to ***!”

            What consequence is there of my rating this book two stars? So far, it seems to be limited to some downvotes on this forum, and that only because I bothered to share my opinion here.

            Were I a professional critic, you might have more cause for concern that my rating would somehow influence readership and prevent more people from listening to this book. As it is, my sphere of influence is limited to being one voice in a multitude (out of over 450 so far), with somewhat more influence over the much smaller subset of Goodreads who I call my friends.

            Those folks will hopefully be steered towards the books that I enjoyed reading and would enthusiastically recommend, having garnered four and five-star ratings from me. (Which, incidentally, includes most of the other Larry Correia books I have read so far. )

            Which I’d call a desired result.

    3. Wait, the jokes about leftists are so readily apparent to you that you feel bored by them, yet you are at the same time a leftist and offended enough to come here and complain.

      I’m stupid but I’m not that stupid.

      Saying that the primaries have selected a couple of lyin’ thievin’ Russki lovin’ psychotically unpresidential Democrats who are fundamentally unsound on foreign policy will only sound true enough to be funny to a right wing audience. Moderates and leftists would get exposure to it later, if ever, and are more likely to see it as propaganda than humor. Jokes about both Trump and Clinton’s essential unfitness and leftism will lose their humor for the right before they lose humor for the left, because it will be a long time before the left sees them as funny in the first place.

      1. I didn’t say I was offended (in fact, said I wasn’t). I gave my opinion of the story and some of the reasons why I didn’t find it as fun as I might otherwise have. I follow this site regularly, even if I don’t comment all the time.

        People seem to want to portray all the reactions to the liberal jokes as SJW pearl-clutching. I thought I’d try to offer an alternative viewpoint. Do with it what you will.

        1. Sure you weren’t.

          A regular who isn’t familiar enough with the checklist to recognize what regulars will see as signs of concern trolling. A regular who isn’t familiar enough with the Tom Stranger source bits this was cobbled from to recognize the limits of the material and the process.

          Would you bitch about a Christmas noun movie released for free on YouTube?

          1. I was not familiar with the Tom Stranger source bits (with a few exceptions). I will confess that I don’t read every post — I also (gasp) skip over the Christmas Noun posts. Others also.

            So, would I bitch about a Christmas Noun movie released for free on YouTube? Dunno, but I imagine that, were I to watch such a thing, I would endeavor to give it an honest rating and say why I liked or didn’t like it.

            As for being a ‘concern troll’, what makes me one? The fact that I say I usually enjoy Correia’s writing but didn’t care for this one? I certainly won’t pretend to agree with his politics, but I kind of thought that the point was to respect and appreciate good writing regardless of the politics of the writer.

  17. I loved the story, Adam Baldwin was perfect, the characters all had real personality brought forth in his performance.

    Larry I’m hoping you’ll give us a full length book and audio version. How do you select the readers for the audio versions of your books? I thought the very different styles and voices all fit the material strongly.

      1. Is it possible to get the Audible version in Japan? Amazon Japan doesn’t offer it, and Amazon US has blocked foreign email addresses again

  18. Off topic but I remember a blog post or comment where Larry discussed the reasons for arguing on the Internet and I can’t remember what those reasons were. Google has failed me. Do any of you remember those reasons?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *