Dear Messrs. Joseph and Lyman Bloomingdale,

It is with deep regret that I am writing you now; however, I feel you must know: The store that you founded in 1872 on New York's Lower East Side and saw through a great expansion into midtown Manhattan, the store that a century after its launch had become a destination for royalty and a trendsetter in the retail world, has failed to live up to its "legacy and promise," to use the words of your website. (That's a 21st-century form of catalog.)

The disturbing details are as follows: My wife and I purchased a rather expensive coffeemaker from you. We made our selection after significant research into what would suit our needs and offer the best "bang for our buck" -- a modern expression that simply means the best value. The machine we chose was a DeLonghi Prima Donna Exclusive ESAM6900. It retails for $3,500, which may be hard for you to comprehend, but inflation and other factors have greatly affected a dollar's buying power since you departed this mortal coil. I include the price only to reinforce the point that our expectations were justifiably high for the machine. However, for the purposes of this correspondence, it could just as well have been a Mr. Coffee Café Barista for $74.99.

We decided to purchase from the company you founded rather than other retailers, because we have been loyal Bloomingdale's customers for years, and you offered it at a significant discount. We chose the particular coffeemaker because our previous machine was made by DeLonghi and had never given us any trouble. After a lifetime of closely monitoring every penny, my wife and I decided to splurge on something that would -- or should -- allow us to look forward to years of daily coffee and hot chocolate.

All was fine and our hopes high, until the package arrived at our front door. (Flying machines and horseless carriages have made significant advances.) We brought it inside, thinking the box seemed a little flimsy for something of such high caliber. Should it rattle, we wondered? When we opened it, however, we could not believe what we saw: The coffeemaker we'd been sent was not only used, but badly used. Beans were in the hopper, the milk container was dirty, ground coffee was all over the broken packaging, and parts were held in place with blue painter's tape. Items were also missing from a separate, in this case ironically named "welcome box." Our immediate thoughts were "WTF?!," another modern expression, conveying both disbelief and outrage. (Only later did we realize that it wasn't even the machine we ordered but a model that retails for a third the price.)

But it was at this point, Messrs. Bloomingdale, that the most egregious behavior on the part of your once-proud empire commenced. Not only did we receive only a brief and ungrammatical apology, with no follow-up from the store manager, as we were led to hope would happen (and probably expected, based on how we would have handled the situation, if, Gott zol ophiten, something similar happened with us). But perhaps worst of all, someone in charge of your website deleted my wife's description of our unsettling experience (websites are interactive), and later deleted all customer reviews of the machine. Reading other comments on the site, though, it's clear ours was not the first instance of a poorly handled shipment.

I ask you, Messrs. Bloomingdale: Is this any way to run a business?

I think we all know the answer to that.

As the founder of a company that makes and sells quality products myself, I don't want any complaints swept under the carpet. I want to hear about problems, so I can make sure they're handled in a way that makes our customers stay customers for life. Otherwise, they have no reason not to shop at Macy's next time. (Out of respect for your current condition, I'll spare you the details.)

To end on a more positive note, we did get our replacement promptly, and there wasn't a coffee ground or scrap of painter's tape in sight. Hopefully, a few soothing cups of hot cocoa will help calm these rattled consumers' nerves.

Respectfully yours in business,