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The Secret of How to Complain Successfully
At some time in your life you are going to have to complain, even if you would prefer not to. It may be a matter of principal, or something which has pushed you over the edge, and you find yourself in a situation where it is you against the organization which sold you faulty goods or acted incompetently, or even not at all.
Some people know instinctively how to get the desired result in this situation, but if you feel a bit insecure about what is the best thing to say and do to get what you want, then here is a little help and guidance.
I'm going to give you six tips on how to complain effectively and get the results you want.
All images on this web page are by Diana Grant
But First I Want toTell You a Salutory Story
About a man who lost his temper
It often takes a long time to get served in my local Post Office. This is partly because two other post offices nearby have been closed down. English post offices are partly State-owned. They are places where people collect their pensions and other state benefits, apply for driving licences and passports, and get foreign exchange, in addition to posting letters and parcels. The queues often extend outside the building, and it's no joke having to stand in the snow or rain.
Recently I was in the queue, which was moving particularly slowly. A man standing behind me was getting visibly restless and impatient. He was dressed in a suit, so I assumed he was probably a businessman, itching to get back to his office. He started muttering about the poor service and after a few minutes, went over to the counter and loudly demanded that they bring in more counter staff to cope with the slow pace.
When he returned to the queue, I turned round and commiserated with him, saying that I had complained to my Member of Parliament about the shortage of staff a few months ago. He calmed down, sounded interested, and wanted to know more.
After a few more minutes, he suddenly exploded, and, pushing aside someone who was being served, shouted at the counter clerk, and ordered him to get the manager. The clerk, whom I know from experience to be a pleasant and helpful man, said that he was serving a customer and would get the Manager when he was free in a minute. Our man returned to the queue, but after a minute, went back to the counter, shouting obscenities, and calling the clerk parts of the anatomy which I don't need to describe, as he returned to his place in the queue.
A man in a T-shirt in front of me started squaring up to him, shouting at him to behave himself, and somehow I was involuntarily sandwiched between them. Saying nothing, I was determined to stand my ground and not step back. Business man and T-Shirt man had a loud, obscenity-laden war of words, and I suspect that only the dear old lady standing silently between them stopped an escalation into physicality.
Business man returned to the queue, and I fanned the flames by whispering to him quietly that he might get on better if he was more polite.
Then, once more, he turned his attention to the nice counter clerk, shouting and screaming at him because the Manager had not turned up. Nice clerk gently said that he had called the Manager, who would be down shortly. More abuse and foul language.
Then a smiling woman came from the interior behind the counter and said "I'm the manager and I understand you've been abusing my staff", and pointed to the notice which is posted in many public buildings stating "We will not tolerate abuse to our staff". He shouted "you're not the manager, the manager is a black man" and I could almost feel the ripple of delight run through the hall as she said "I'm the manager now - the black man has gone, and I'm the black woman and I'm not dealing with you whilst you're being abusive".
By that time, I was at the counter being served by someone else, and rolling my eyes in unison with the clerk serving me. I beckoned over the Manager, and we were both half-laughing. I told her quietly that the queue was particularly slow and we had been waiting over 20 minutes to get served. She apologized and explained sensibly and reasonably that they were particularly short staffed that day because there was a post office strike at several offices, and if her staff wanted to leave early to join the strike, she couldn't stop them, and there was no-one to cover for them, and also it just happened that a more than usual number of customers were completing passport and licence applications which were very time-consuming. I thanked her for the information, and went on my way.
Mr. Apoplexy got nowhere.
I had made my point, and got the apology and information immediately.
Have You Noticed How Your Voice Changes When You Complain?
It comes out a bit harsh and shouty, as in:
"I was going to park there!" or
"You said someone would be here between 9.00 and 1.00 o'clock to fix my boiler, and it's now 4 o'clock, what's happening, is he still coming?
......."Can't Come Till 5 o'clock?"
......."What do you mean, he's stuck on another job - couldn't he have phoned me when he knew it was going to be four hours later than you said?"
...."O-o-o-o-oh yes he could - how would you have known about it if he didn't have a damn phone?"
......"What do you mean he's not allowed to phone customers - if he told you, you could b***dy well have called me"
......"What do you mean "Not our policy?" - I had to take a whole b***dy day off work and wait in for him even though I had really important things to do at the office."
......"What do you mean you're sorry? - I'm not going to be fobbed off! Oh, and another thing, what f*****g country are you talking from, I can't even understand your accent?"
......"Oh hang on, is it a white van?........ yes he's just arrived, thank you very much, sorry if I sounded a bit upset....... I haven't been to Mumbai, but I do like curry, in fact I'm having some tonight. "
It's all a game really, isn't it?
It's not only your voice that changes, but your whole demeanour and vocabulary.
You start to indulge in self-aggrandisement to show that you're not a person to mess with, and you bully the messenger and exaggerate the consequences caused by the perceived wrongdoing. And you fake the extent of your understanding with phrases like "what do you mean?" or "I can't understand your accent".
You think that's genuine? You can always test yourself by imagining your opponent whispering in a strange accent "I'll give you a million zillion pounds". If you manage to catch that, there's nothing wrong with your ears or comprehension.
You didn't actually have to take a day off at all because your partner was in the house anyway, and you used the morning gainfully to stay in bed, fornicate and network with the office as usual on Thursdays. Oh, and the bloke on the phone was a graduate and enunciated his words with perfect diction and only a faint trace of call-centre-ese to give the game away.
My Six Tips on How to Make a Successful Complaint:
How to Get What You Want When You Complain!
1. Complain to the Right Person
This would normally be the shop manager or person in charge of the business. Don't be fobbed off with someone who is not a decision-maker, and if you are told that the appropriate person is not available, make an appointment to see them later. If you are writing, try to find out the name or title of the person in authority who would deal with such matters, and address them personally
2. Be Polite
Rudeness has no place in negotiations - remember you are seeking a good outcome, so don't antagonize the person you are speaking to if you are looking for their co-operation
3. Be Firm
Don't show any sign of uncertainty or weakness - be business-like
4. State What You Want
Decide beforehand what it is you now require - a refund, a replacement, a repair, a credit note, and apology, or further service - if you are hazy about this, it will give others the chance to be slippery.
5. Produce the Receipt or Contract
To prove when and where you bought the product or agreed or paid for the service
6. Know Your Legal Rights
So that you can argue from a position of strength
So if you suffer from tension and high blood pressure:
Calm Down and Stay out of the Fray
Otherwise it's your own fault and you have only yourself to blame!
But if you embrace controversy and enjoy the fray for its own sake,complaining can be fun, and any good result is merely a bonus.
How to Complain for Fun and Profit - A guide to writing letters of complaint
Link to an Article About Someone Whose Complaint Had Terrible Consequences
See if you recognize the sentiment (if not the actual event) in the link below:
- Daily Mail 10 June 2014: Nurse found guilty of killing mother of two in front of her family in parki
My son knows the husband of the woman who was killed, and told me about this when we parked outside the pub in the very place which gave rise to this mad fight. The effects of losing your temper can have very far-reaching and unintended consequenc
About Complaining and Anger - Here are Some YouTube Videos
Follow These Links for Advice on Complaining - With Practice You Could Become an Inveterate Complainer
There's nothing like a spot of righteous indignation - it even beats road rage and computer rage. So here is some advice on how to write the perfect letter.
- How to Write a Letter of Complaint
Very useful tips for precisely what information you need to put in your letter. There is even a sample letter with various alternatives. You should get very useful results after this!
- The Art of Being Annoying - A How-To Guide for the Annoyingly Impaired
In Annoyingly Impaired 101, you will learn to become one with your annoying self. Think of it as an annoying Zen-like experience. You will learn to embrace it and then use it to your best advantage
Some of my Humorous Designs on Zazzle
On Zazzle you can choose a ready-made product, or design something yourself - it's fun
An Angry Man T-Shirt:T-Shirt - Shouting Man: I Feel a Bit Cross
Same Man, Different Words:
You can see more of my designs at my Zazzle Shop: Glorious Confusion
Have You Got Any Gripes? What Makes You Angry? - Put Your Complaints Here In My Guestbook - Get them off your chest and tell us all what you hate the most
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 23, 2014:
@BrianRS: Yes, instead of nipping it in the bud at an early stage, they wait until they are at their wits' end and then explode!
Brian Stephens from France on June 23, 2014:
Very good direction here on the correct way to complain, losing your temper never helps. The British always seem to struggle to complain and often when they do it is when their patience has already snapped. Far better to complain when your emotions are under control.
goldenrulecomics from New Jersey on December 25, 2013:
Lots of good advice here. My wife and I tend to play good cop-bad cop a lot of times. That seems to help.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 10, 2013:
@Lady Lorelei: Yes, you're right
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on May 10, 2013:
There definitely is a right way, and a wrong way to complain, and most of it all comes down to knowing assertiveness skills. A lot of people deal with the issue in anger because they really do not know another method of getting the results they desire. I wish that assertiveness training was taught in elementary school. It is a class that everyone should take.
Elizabeth Sheppard from Bowling Green, Kentucky on October 17, 2012:
I think this is such a funny and yes, useful lens. Thanks for sharing!
bossypants on October 17, 2012:
And, yes! We should try not to take ourselves so awfully seriously when we complain. Choose your battles. And laugh more!
poutine on October 17, 2012:
It is true that our voices change when complaining.
Mario Fazekas from johannesburg South Africa on September 02, 2012:
Thank you for a much needed lens as most people do not know how to complain or feel too shy to complain.
pinkrenegade lm on June 17, 2012:
Lisa Auch from Scotland on May 21, 2011:
As I used to be a Restaurant manager i am sympathetic to the busy waitors and waitresses, however, If I recive rude service then there is NO excuse, and i will complain, but I am a "nice" complainer" and I will state my case. And i have had much success at complaining nicely, not shouting and ranting like my hubby does!
Sniff It Out on October 14, 2010:
Nice lens :-) ... and lensrolled to my how to complain lens