Something for the Weekend: Does It Pay to Complain?

In this week’s column, Ian Morris explains the art of complaining well, and shares what happened after his recent experience of the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme caused him to complain to a local restaurant.

Does it pay to complain? 

I don’t mean just ‘squinnying’ – for those of you not of Portsmuthian heritage, the word ‘squinny’ is both a noun and a verb. It means to bleat and complain in a whingeing sort of tone, and of course, should you partake in such behaviour, then I will label you a squinny. 

What I’m talking about is the ‘this isn’t good enough’ sort of complaining. Avid readers may well be desperate to know if I ever got a reply to my complaint of a couple of weeks ago. If this matters to you, perhaps you need to get out more, but the answer is, finally, ‘Yes, I did.’

The restaurant in question explained that their IT system would only allow their till system to apply just one discount to a bill, and that was Rishi’s Eat Out offer. This sort of made sense. I did think that they should have removed the other discount offers from their website but at least (after two weeks) they came back with an answer. I  hadn’t pursued it with the ferocity of my hound menacing an empty toilet roll (it’s his favourite thing, as one gets toward the end he will lean in and tap it with his nose enquiringly), as I had realised we were only out of pocket for just over £5. In addition to their explanation, the restaurant sent me through a ‘goodwill voucher’ for £30. This is a  result, and canny on their part, as it means I will go back and probably spend double that. 

I only complain when things are wrong or unacceptably poor and when I do complain, I prefer to work with the manager of the day rather than the person on minimum wage who ultimately isn’t responsible for my malady. I know this isn’t the British way, but I feel sometimes complaining has to be done. I can’t abide folk being rude and unpleasant to people who are working hard to help them. There have been several reports of this related to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, as socially distanced kitchens have struggled to feed patrons at the speed they desire. If I  see this sort of thing and it’s really bad, I feel I have to intervene. 

By strange circumstance, I once found myself in the British Airways Concorde lounge. I was travelling with work so should have been in the business lounge but had lucked in. As I was sitting there sipping champagne and enjoying my chicken ceaser salad, I became increasingly vexed with a family of four who were berating and insulting the BA staff, all of whom were perfectly lovely. In the end I could take no more and made my way over with my white cane – as it was a long flight, I was in full travel uniform, which comprises:

  • Shorts, its always too hot on planes
  • Hiking boots, long haul you have to be able to slip them on and off, nobody goes to the bathroom in their socks
  • Hoody with Kangeroo pocket front, this holds my passport, boarding card, iPod (it was a few years ago) 

I gave the family polite but very firm feedback about treating others with respect and told them that I would consider it a personal favour if they desisted from their behaviour. 

‘Who are you?’ one of them asked.

I questioned their cultural frame of reference as they didn’t know who I was, and told the family they should read  the next day’s copy of The Times, which would make everything clear, and returned to my seat. 

When it was time to leave I  came across a group of BA staff who thanked me and told me I ‘shouldn’t have’. Then one confessed she didn’t actually know who I was. I explained I was just a nobody who hated bullies, and wished them well before heading off to my flight.

Shortly after, I finally made it to the plane.

Afternoon Sir, I understand you are travelling First Class with us today.’

‘I wish,’ I replied,  ‘but I am lucky enough to be in Business Class.’

‘No Sir, our lounge has contacted us, we couldn’t let a VIP like yourself travel anything other than First Class.’

 And boom! Boston, here I come! 

So my life lesson this week is: complain nicely. There might be a free steak dinner in it.

Complain horribly and you get to read a newspaper cover to cover and someone else gets the free steak dinner…yes there was steak and a particularly good claret in First Class.

Something for the Weekend will be back next Friday, tackling national issues from a local perspective. In the meantime, you can check out all of Ian’s writing for S&C, here, along with past editions of the Pompey Politics Podcast, which returns from its summer hiatus this weekend on 23rd August 2020. Don’t miss it!

Photo by SplitShire from Pexels.

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