Tuesday, July 28, 2015


I was tempted to create a splashy title such as "Earn over $100 in 60 days by complaining," but I didn't feel "earn" was the appropriate word.  Yes, I've been on a bit of a complaining streak and my complaining has yielded a little over $100 in value but I pause at considering it as "earned" and while I appreciate the gift cards and credits received it is not the same as cash.  First there was the chain seafood restaurant that was experiencing substantial service issues which I would likely have overlooked... until I visited the restroom that was being renovated and found no door for the toilet... yup, if you had to do a number 2, hopefully you don't mind an audience.  Then there was the local pizza joint that repeatedly cannot get their own signature pizza correct.   On another occasion, we had a great meal at a chain restaurant but when the credit card arrived it was charged an additional buck - that wouldn't be much of a deal if it were simply a mistake, but you never really know.  Was it a mistake or is someone skimming a little off numerous customers figuring it likely won't get a reaction?  Most recently, it was a trip to the nearby grocery store where I experienced a bit of a runaround while returning empty beverage containers which had been purchased at that store.  Their response that they hired a company to handle their bottles and that they had nothing to do with it anymore didn't fly with me.

My family members tend to cringe when they see me reaching my boiling point.  In particular, the kids tend to be more sensitive.  It seems that they hit a certain age and it doesn't take too much to embarrass them.  My response - too bad.  As a father, I think it is important to be a positive role model and that includes appropriate complaining.  As Cat Stevens sang (before his conversion), "It's a Wild World."  Part of being equipped to negotiate that wild world is the ability to articulate dissatisfaction.  The meek may inherit the earth, but meanwhile there is a whole lot of living and coping that goes on.  I want my children to understand the importance of advocating for yourself and the courage that it takes to express dissatisfaction when it often would be easier to just be quiet.

Aside from the importance of self advocacy and role modeling, complaining is also vital for business.  I would venture to guess that if given a choice to either receive a complaint or have a customer who does not return most businesses would gladly receive the complaint.  How would they be able to fix the problem if they aren't aware of the problem?   Here are my tips from many years of complaining:

1.  Don't be afraid to ask for a manager.  These folks are often more empowered to make changes and/or compensate.  Moreover, they are often a bit more seasoned than that 19 year service clerk.

2.  Never swear.  This one is sometimes a challenge for me, but I exercise a lot of self control and restrain myself.  If you start swearing you cross the line from complaining and enter the realm of abusing the employee.  Swearing is particularly a bad idea if you are complaining by phone.  In a prior position where I was on the receiving end of complaints it was acceptable to provide a warning to a swearing caller and if the swearing continued to end the call.

3.  Provide specifics - be clear what your concerns are.  Expressing that something is "not good" can be too vague.  In the case of my local pizza restaurant, I explicitly identified the difference between their description of their signature pizza (a garlic based white pizza) versus what I received (a tomato sauced pizza).

4.  Actively participate in the resolution.  For example, my local grocery store felt the resolution would be that they send me back to the bottle room and call and attendant.  I expressed that this was not acceptable as I just came from the bottle room (which is outside the store) and did not want to feel like a yo-yo.  In a follow up call with the customer service manager I reiterated that the bottle room is external to the store and that there is a phone there but it isn't clear whether the phone is for customer use or for store employee use and recommended that they post a simple sign so that customers know that they can pick up the phone if there is an issue.  This manager indicated that she would follow through with this simple fix.

5.  Share your experiences - good and bad.  I am an active reviewer on Trip Advisor.  Yelp is another great option and covers a wider range of enterprises.  I have given much more positive reviews than negative.  If all your reviews are negative, they reflect more on you than a particular business and are not helpful.  If you provide consistent reviews (good and bad) you may find that you have more leverage when something does go wrong.

6.  Don't shrink from expressing a complaint, but don't let it rule your life.  Express yourself, but then find other outlets to channel tension and anger.  Be ready to forgive and / or move on... but for those hard heads that you can't do nothing about you can always start a blog and create your own Shit List.  Happy complaining everyone.

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