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Teen tweets need for toilet paper on train, gets it

Technically Incorrect: A 16-year-old discovers, a little too late, that there's no toilet paper on a Virgin train. So he tweets Richard Branson's company for help.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

It just takes a tweet to get what you want. At least sometimes. Adam Greenwood/Twitter screenshot by Chris Matysczyk/CNET

I made a TV spot about this once.

A businessman is on the toilet. There is no toilet paper. What does he do?

In the businessman's case, he had a newspaper with him, but he decided to accept the path of least resistance. In the case of 16-year-old Adam Greenwood, he did what any self-respecting teen would do: He made an appeal on Twitter.

As the UK's Lancaster Guardian reports, Greenwood last month was caught on a train with his trousers down and his wits near their end.

Then his brain waved. From his toilet seat, he tweeted: "I've just had a reasonably large poo and there is no toilet roll left on the @virgintrains 19.30 train from Euston to Glasgow pls send help."

Virgin Trains, which is more used to tweeting about obstructions on the line rather than shortages in the toilet, leaped into action. It tweeted back, asking for his coach number. (Yes, of course he had to get up to find out.)

Then the company sent a man in a suit, help in hand.

Greenwood is something of a presence on Twitter. I know this because he has more than 16,000 followers. More importantly, however, my colleague Bridget Carey is one of those followers.

He claims he wasn't flexing his muscle to force Virgin to get to the bottom of his problem. Instead, he told the Guardian: "I didn't expect them to bring me a toilet roll. I only did it for a joke to make people laugh."

There is something, though, blessedly instructive about how social media -- and especially Twitter -- can remove so much of the annoyance from customer service.

It's instant and, if the company has alert social media staff, it can deliver every emotion from satisfaction to relief to simple explanation.

This beats sitting on the phone for endless hours, while muzak drones into your ears, until someone finally answers your call and tells you they can't help.