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Brits have got a reputation (rightly or wrongly) for being polite, and also habitually apologising for things that are no fault of our own.  We are also, in my opinion, notoriously bad at complaining.  Yes, we can MOAN really well – about the weather, politicians…well, most things, really….BUT when it comes to assertively making a legitimate complaint about faulty goods, services, bad service, or bad food we would rather politely skulk off to moan about it later to whomever will listen and, hopefully, join in with some gratuitous moaning of their own.

So are we actually doing ourselves any favours at all by staying silent?   I would argue that we are not and that we, as a nation, should learn to complain in an assertive and non-aggressive manner and we should do it more often.  Why?

  1.  Raise your Expectations One of the things I hear most often is how much better customer service is in other countries.  It is one of the major areas of praise you will hear from the mouths of British travellers.  The reason our customer service is so bad compared to other countries?  Oh, we say it is because people here just ‘can’t be bothered’ when in reality people in other countries have a higher expectation of good service and when they don’t get it what do they do?  That’s right.  They complain.
  2. Raise Your Standards.  If you go to a restaurant expecting a good meal and you don’t get one how is keeping silent going to actually help?  On the one hand you risk ‘spoiling the evening’ but on the other the evening is already spoiled by the fact that you will have eaten and had to pay for a bad meal.  Most people baulk at the idea of sending a meal back, and I have forced down food in the past that was essentially inedible.  Now I send it back.  This not only gives you the opportunity of ordering something else, or if they get really stroppy, moving on to another venue, but it also gives important feedback to the restaurant.  They don’t want to deal with complaints, loss of custom and revenue, so they will have to up their game.
  3. Don’t Accept Shoddy Goods.  Key to this is learning your consumer rights.  Make sure you know the law because most people don’t and they believe anything a seller tells them.  If they sold it to you, THEY have to sort it.  They have to return it to the manufacturer and not you.  If it is not fit for purpose they have to offer a refund.  You are not obligated to accept a credit note or a replacement and are free to take your money and shop elsewhere.  On the other hand, if you just bought the wrong thing by mistake then that is pretty much tough luck unless the seller is feeling happily disposed.  Know where you stand and be prepared to quote the relevant law.
  4. Only pay for quality foodstuffs  If you get a bad egg in a box, take the box back.  This will not only get you a refund, but also in my experience a valuable money off voucher for more food.  It also means that the store can look into it.  Maybe a whole batch of bad eggs slipped through but how will they know if no one complains?  Luckily my husband is an expert complainer, he returns anything he needs to, and has recently been thanked by a store by highlighting a flaw in their processes which caused a whole batch of foodstuffs to be potentially ruined.

Complaining is a two way street. Done properly,without aggression and in the full knowledge that ‘these things do happen’ with a non-blaming approach it is beneficial for both the organisation and you the consumer. You get what you pay for, you enjoy what you have spent your hard-earned cash on, and you don’t feel constantly resentful of bad service or bad quality products.  The company has a chance to make things right, leave the customer with a good feeling, and sort out potential issues and prevent it happening again.  They will also work hard on their customer service which will benefit all of us.

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