Thursday, November 16, 2006

The joy of laid-back complaining

Being English, I have always struggled with complaining. I much prefer the pointed letter to the Managing Director written days after the event (usually met with the response of an apology and a generous voucher).

I have always found it very difficult to complain without getting worked up. And I don't see why I should be inconvenienced twice - once by poor service and then a second time by getting one's blood pressure heightened.

I have also tended to go with the Victor Meldrew style of complaining.

However, with the progression of age I have abandoned my inner Victor. I figure that my lifespan might be longer that way (less risk of strokes etc).

This evening, I unveiled my new weapon in the war against poor customer service - the Bored Brian school of complainant.

At a nameless motorway service station I queued for five minutes for the prospect of an awful meal of steak pie and chips. I could tell the girl at the counter was disinterested in customer service, by the way she frequently itched her armpit.

She absent-mindedly told me that the chips needed to be cooked so she would bring my meal to my table. I paid and waited at a table.

Fortunately I found plenty to interest me in today's Guardian. So I enjoyed the break from driving.

After 30 minutes waiting for the chips I decided enough was enough. I went to the till and asked for a refund in a very laid-back, almost disinterested, way. No palpitations. No high blood pressure. I continued reading my paper as a I waited for a response.

It appears I hit the customer equivalent of a nuclear button. If I had just complained about the delay, they could have quickly slapped some chips on a plate.

But by asking for a refund on a debit card transaction I sent three people scurrying around in a panic for ten minutes. The supervisor had to be called in, because he was the only person with a PIN for refunds. Then they had to work out that they couldn't give me a partial refund (I had also bought a drink which I had drunk) and then the supervisor refunded the transaction, and then hit the button inadvertently twice so that he reversed the refund. So he had to refund it again. Then he forgot to give me my card and had to run after me into the car park to call me back. Then they couldn't work out which slips they had to give me so had to reprint the refund ticket and the original receipt to give me.

Through all this I maintained an air of complete disinterest and carried on reading my Guardian.

I didn't once feel anything other than complete calm.

It was deeply satisfying. (I drove on and thoroughly enjoyed a superb meal of sausage and mash at the Little Chef just north of Oxford on the A34.)

So from now on, I will use my laid-back complaining style of Bored Brian.

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