How to Complain in a Polite Fashion
There is a world of difference between complaining and whinging. Complaining is about effective communication. It is about engaging in a dialogue with a view to reaching a satisfactory conclusion. Whinging is more akin to moaning and is more aimless than complaining. It is often accompanied by invective that has much more to do with letting off steam than with obtaining satisfaction.
- There is a huge temptation when you are angry to launch into abuse mode. The smart complainer knows that swearing is fruitless and that it should be avoided at all costs. Whether you complain on the spot or in writing (I strongly advocate the latter) expletives should always be avoided. Pointless abuse is indulged in by witless whingers whose brawn tends to far outstrip the capacity of their brains. It is quite wrong to assume that an employee of Marks & Spencer or Boots will respond better just because the account of your grievance has been embroidered with colourful references to the human anatomy. A stream of invective will generally produce the very opposite of a positive reply. The cunning complainer prefers to express his or her complaint by using plain but essentially polite language.
- Being revolting on the telephone or in person is totally unacceptable but what is equally unacceptable is to do the same in correspondence. Many years ago I had reason to complain about the food on a well known airline – the bread roll tasted like rubber and the “fresh” salad looked like it had been sitting on my plate for a week beforehand. To make my point, I wrote a very abuse letter enclosing a copy of the airline’s sick bag. Admittedly the sick bag was empty but it rather set the tone for the entire letter. Needless to say the airline was not impressed and responded to my complaint with a dismissive two-line letter. My tactic had failed. A charm offensive would have been much better – I should had flattered the airline saying that this was doubtless an unusual departure from their normal high standards. They would then have tried to win me back as a loyal customer.
- Incidentally, do not send noxious items through the post like cockroaches or used nappies however strongly you feel. That is not just offensive but is a criminal offence.