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How To Complain To The Top

18 Sep

img_0001I have always believed in the power of what I call ‘positive complaining’, a blend of polite charm, a dash of humour (if appropriate) and brute honesty. I also believe in going straight to the top.

The main reason for approaching a CEO or MD directly is that it saves time and is more often than not a sure fire way of getting the result you want. Not always, but usually. I’m not knocking customer service departments – some are truly great, but chances are that if you’ve got a problem with a product or service, so has everyone else. As a result, customer service departments are frequently inundated, making the customer feel a tad faceless and even dissatisfied with the response to their complaint. So how do you get the attention of a CEO?

When it comes to complaining, we’re slightly spoilt. There’s the I’d Like To Speak To The Manager, letter writing, email and Twitter, among others.  The problem with the 140-character Tweet is that your grievance is limited to, well, 140 characters.  I’d Like To Speak To The Manager is fine, but you’ll have no written record of the conversation, making it possibly redundant if you need to take things further.  Email can work well, but just imagine how many emails a CEO or an MD is likely to receive, unless you email them late at night.  Your email could quite easily get lost in the ether or simply fall prey to the dreaded spam folder.  

Call me old-fashioned, but my personal preference is a letter.  A typed letter saved on your computer gives you a proper record of the situation.  It also means you can enclose any photographs, paperwork and receipts to support your case.  Always be polite and for goodness sake, don’t rant; rudeness will not do and ranting is ugly.  You want the CEO or MD to judge you as an equal and empathise.  That is why I suggest using humour if it’s appropriate.  If you can humanise the situation, you can humanise an MD.  Also, first impressions count.  Create a letterhead for yourself on your computer and while the main body of your letter should be typed (so it’s legible), write the “Dear…” by hand in black ink, to give it a personal touch. Write the address on the envelope in neat, black ink to avoid it looking like an invoice and finish it off by writing “Personal” at the top so that it is delivered directly to the boss.  

You might be surprised to hear this, but if done that way, a CEO could even respond personally – Willie Walsh did when he was chairperson at British Airways and I received business class tickets to fly anywhere in Europe.  If a CEO or MD does not reply personally, at least your letter will be handed to someone with proper authority.

If all this seems long-winded, simply remember that it will save you precious time in the long run, plus there won’t be any nasty on-hold music to endure, a bonus if ever there was one.

Remember…


1) A CEO’s contact details are often hidden in the ‘Corporate’ or ‘About Us’ section of a company’s website. Seek out headings such as ‘Our Board’ or the directors’ names at the end of company annual reports. Use these names coupled with the head office address.

2) Remember that a CEO or MD’s personal assistant has power. If your favourite complaining method is via email, a company receptionist might be more likely to hand over a PA’s email address than their boss’s. Find out the name of their boss (see Point 1) and use the same email pattern as theirs. CC the PA to make sure of the email’s arrival.

3) If complaining about a faulty product, don’t be put off if it’s out of warranty. It could be that a particular version of that product has a known fault and can still be replaced free of charge.

4) Be clear about what you want. It sounds obvious, but if you want a refund, say you expect to be fully refunded; you might not be if you don’t ask!

5) Don’t forget to include your contact details when writing a letter. Creating a letterhead not only looks professional, it’s practical too.

Beware of HM Passport Office’s Fast Crap – sorry, Fast Track Service

5 May

Complaint Letter No.: 53

HM Passport Office

Mark Thomson
Director General
Her Majesty’s Passport Office

Globe House
89 Eccleston Square
London SW1V 1PN

6th May 2015

Dear Mr Thomson

First of all, let me congratulate you on being appointed the new Director General for Her Majesty’s Passport Office.

However, in the words of American songwriter Carl Sigman, where do I begin?

My recent experience with Her Majesty’s Passport Office is somewhat lengthy (hence my delay in getting through the sheer trauma of the encounter, precising the information and putting pen to paper.) I feel that the following is therefore best summarised in diarised form.

Friday, 20 March:
Appointment with Her Majesty’s Passport Office in London SW1, where I applied for my five-year-old daughter Ruby Green’s new passport in person. I handed in the completed application form, along with two photographs of Ruby – one of which was countersigned by an educationalist at the British Council. A very friendly clerk made sure that I had completed everything correctly and I paid £87 for the fast track service. I was told that Ruby’s new passport would arrive by Friday, 27th March at the latest, and more probably, sooner. The fast track service was important because Ruby and I were due to fly to the Middle East the following Sunday, 29th March.

Tuesday, 24 March. Evening:
I rang your customer care team to see how Ruby’s passport application was progressing. Neither the countersignature person nor myself had heard anything from Her Majesty’s Passport Office, so I presumed that everything was going ahead. How wrong I was. The voice at the other end of the telephone said there was a “problem” with my daughter’s application because at Ruby’s current age of five-and-a-half, she looked “very different to how she did as a baby.”

Apparently a letter had been sent to the countersignature person to confirm Ruby’s identity. So I called the countersignature person, who had not received such a letter. I rang your customer care team again. “Oh,” they said, “most of our correspondence is sent out second class.” (You might recall here that I paid £87 for Her Majesty’s Passport Office’s “fast track service”.)

The customer care team was unable to help me further and the woman I spoke to did not seem to give two hoots when I told her about travelling to the Middle East in five days’ time. I asked if the identity questions to the countersignature person could be emailed so that the countersignature person might fax or email them to Her Majesty’s Passport Office by return, but the woman in your customer care department said everything had to be done by letter. I asked her if Her Majesty’s Passport Office in London could be made aware of the urgency of the situation (I was more than happy to telephone the passport office myself,) but she said that the only available contact for the passport office was an email address.

Needless to say, I felt utterly helpless after this conversation with your customer care department (who I discovered are based in Bristol) and so anxious was I, that I redialled the number, praying that someone a tad more helpful would pick up the phone. I was lucky and got to speak to a very nice woman who was concerned about the situation. I was so relieved by her more kindly attitude that I confess I actually cried. She said the only thing that could be done in the circumstances was her emailing the London passport office and in that email, stressing the need to get everything resolved because of the flight on Sunday. However, she warned that this email address was a general one and the only address given out. She said that because of the volume of emails sent to it, I “shouldn’t panic but (you) might not get a response from them until Thursday evening.” It goes without saying that this did little to salvage my confidence.

And then, what appeared to be a breakthrough. The customer care department rang back saying they could provide me with the questions that had been sent out by letter to the countersignature person. They said the countersignature person’s answers could be faxed to Her Majesty’s Passport Office.

Wednesday 25 March:
The countersignature person’s completed questions, signature and contact information were duly faxed to the name (a ‘T’ Ventriglia) and number (020 7901 2231) supplied by Her Majesty’s Passport Office. The fax went through successfully according to the receipt, but I did not want to take any chances with my flight in four days’ time – and as no one at the passport office contacted me to say whether or not they had received the fax, I emailed that one-and-only-provided general email address, F.A.O-ing ‘T’ Ventriglia and marking the email as urgent, to request confirmation of the fax’s arrival.

From: Ingrid Stone
Date: 25 March 2015 11:55:36 GMT
To: London@ukpa.gov.uk

Subject: FAO: T Ventriglia / Urgent

Dear Mr Ventriglia

Following on from recent correspondence, please would you confirm that you received the fax from the counter-signature person (cc’d on this email) for passport applicant reference number XXXXXXX. The counter-signature person’s answers to your questions were faxed to you this morning on British Council letterhead paper at 10:52.

If there are any problems or queries, please call me as soon as possible on xxxx xxx xxxx. If you need to contact the countersignature person, she can be contacted on xxxxxx xxx xxx or xxxx.xxxxxxxx@britishcouncil.org

My little girl Ruby Nell Leah Green and myself are due to fly to the Middle East this Sunday, 29th March at 13:00.

Many thanks.

With best regards
Ingrid Maya Stone

As there was still no response, I rang the customer care department to see if there was any way they could confirm the fax had been received. “There’s no way of telling,” they told me – after I had to re-tell the story of my little girl’s passport to yet another entirely different person, “we don’t have a contact number for the London passport office. You can always re-send the fax to make sure.”

Thursday 26 March. Morning:
So I re-faxed ‘T’ Ventriglia at the London passport office on 020 7901 2231 to make sure. Twice. Just to make doubly, triple-y sure.

Thursday 26 March. Afternoon:
Finally, a response from Her Majesty’s Passport Office. An email, but not the email I was hoping for – rather an email typed by someone (no contact name given, not even the mysterious ‘T’ of ‘T’ Ventriglia) who somewhat hysterically, did the bureaucratic equivalent of Monopoly’s ‘Go Back to Old Kent Road’ and said a letter had been sent to the countersignature person and they were waiting for a response…

From: hmpo@reply.co.uk
Date: 26 March 2015 13:18:22 GMT
To: Ingrid Stone 

Subject: Our Ref: XXXXXXXXX – RE: Track_XXXXXXXXXX

Dear Miss Green

Thank you for your enquiry.

I can confirm that we have received your application at our London 20th of March

The office has sent a letter to your countersignature’s work address on the 20th of March to confirm the details given in the application. This is a standard check and once we have their reply we will be able to continue to process your application.

Thank you
Customer service e-mail team

From: Ingrid Stone
Date: 26 March 2015 13:30:00 GMT
To: hmpo@reply.co.uk
Cc: London@ukpa.gov.uk

Subject: Re: Our Ref: XXXXXXXXX – RE: Track_XXXXXXXXXX

Dear Sir or Madam

Many thanks for your email.

The countersignature person never received the letter so she faxed through her answers and confirmation to T Ventriglia on 020 7901 2231 at your London office yesterday, 25th March at 10:52am. There was no acknowledgment of the fax’s arrival, and as there isn’t a telephone number, the fax was re-sent twice this morning. Ruby Nell Leah Green is my five-year-old daughter, and we are due to fly to the Middle East this Sunday, 29th March at 13:00 (as stated in numerous telephone calls and correspondence.) I would be most grateful if you could confirm that everything is in order as soon as possible. I did pay £87 for a fast track service!

The passport application reference number is XXXXXXXXX.

Please email or call me urgently with confirmation on XXXXX XXX XXX.

Many thanks, and best regards
Ingrid Maya Stone (Ruby Nell Leah Green’s mother)

With only three days before Sunday’s flight, I made another call to the customer care department in Bristol, who said they could only email the London passport office (the same Christmas cracker joke of an email address as the one I had been trying to contact). They said there was still a chance that my daughter’s passport would arrive on Friday.

Friday 27 March:
No passport and no answer, confirmation, yay-or-nay from Her Majesty’s Passport Office. Feeling desperate, I spoke to the customer care department in Bristol once more. I even tried emailing a couple of the countersignature person’s contacts at the British Council, because no one at Her Majesty’s Passport Office had the decency to tell me what was going on. To add insult to injury, I received the following email response to my reply from the previous day.

From: hmpo@reply.co.uk
Date: 27 March 2015 11:30:01 GMT
To: Ingrid Stone 

Subject: Our Ref: XXXXXXXXX – RE: Track_XXXXXXXXXX

Dear Miss Stone



Thank you for your enquiry. I have passed your email on to the Passport Office for a reply. They will contact you within 3 working days.

Thank you
Customer service e-mail team

So they would contact me by Monday. Let us not forget that my flight to the Middle East was in two days’ time on Sunday. I had made this clear to your customer care team and to the enigmatic ‘T’ Ventriglia on numerous occasions.

You can only imagine how powerless I felt. Having had little or no sleep for three nights due to the stress of the situation, perhaps a more appropriate word is ‘defeated’. I emailed my family in the Middle East to tell them that Ruby and I would quite probably need to cancel our holiday.

I made one final telephone call to the customer care team in Bristol and spoke to Greg Rose, the supervisor, who was enormously sympathetic, despite not knowing how to get my five-year-old’s passport in time. I’m afraid that I broke down in tears on the telephone with the sheer exhaustion of it all. The only thing the supervisor could suggest was returning to the London passport office and showing them the fax with the countersignature person’s Q & A’s in person. My daughter was finishing school early that day for the Easter holidays, and queuing at the passport office with an overtired child was not a welcome prospect (plus there was no guarantee of receiving her new passport) but there was no other choice.

Then, the supervisor called me back and said I had been given the wrong fax number for Her Majesty’s Passport Office (which would explain why there had been no confirmation of receiving the countersignature person’s fax.) The supervisor said he had been provided with an updated fax number, which was 0120 7901 xxxx.

How could that be? I asked him. The first fax number, albeit wrong, went through and made sense with its ‘020 7’ London prefix. This new number was similar, but how could it work with the ‘1’ after the ‘0’? Surely, I said, it should be 020 7901 xxxx? The supervisor apologised and said that was the number he had been given by Her Majesty’s Passport Office. So I rushed to my local post office and faxed the countersignature person’s Q & A’s using the 01207 prefix. Of course it did not work. Then I re-faxed it minus the ‘1’ and – you’ve guessed it, the fax went through.

There continued to be a distinct lack of communication from Her Majesty’s Passport Office so I collected my daughter from school and whisked her off to the passport office in Victoria, together with her birth certificate, my passport, the “fast track service” receipt and the fax with the countersignature person’s Q & A’s – along with every possible contact number, email and detail one could ever possibly want for both me and the countersignature person. The countersignature person was even prepared to join me and my little girl at the passport office, that is how fraught we were.

At the London passport office, Ruby and I waited patiently so that we might speak to someone face-to-face. It was not a particularly pleasant hour. And then my mobile rang. ‘T’ Ventriglia herself, ringing to say that my fax had been received.

It needs to be said here that ‘T’ Ventriglia was not especially apologetic for the week that had been endured. ‘T’ did deign to reveal her first name during this piece of human contact, but such a mistress of disguise she had been, I shall forever think of her as ‘T’. The excuse she gave for not contacting the countersignature person or myself on either email or mobile to highlight the initial problem of my five-year-old not looking as she did as a baby (and thus holding up the issue of Ruby’s new passport,) was that “people don’t always pick up their mobile when you call them.”

I can only say that her remark was an exceedingly red rag to a particularly irate bull. a) If the countersignature person or myself failed to “pick up”, ‘T’ could have left a voicemail message and we would have returned her call. b) ‘T’ could have emailed either the countersignature person or myself c) I had paid £87 for your “fast track service” and had enclosed every possible contact number and email for both the countersignature person and myself. I had also done everything in person during my first, seemingly successful interview at Her Majesty’s Passport Office. d) Note the irony of ‘T’’s comment: “people don’t always pick up their mobile”. See point c) i.e. Her Majesty’s Passport Office is provided with every bloody contact point when we civilians, poor sods are we, are not given a single effective contact number or email to approach Her Majesty’s Passport Office. Worse still, why do we bother going to the trouble of providing our details in black ink and being ultra-careful not to let our signatures run over the signature box by even a millimetre, when Her Majesty’s Passport Office cannot be arsed to get in touch?

‘T’ said that Ruby’s passport would be issued during the next hour. Actually it was two hours, but even so, the relief was immense.

The only pleasure I derive from any of this is that I was informed all telephone calls to your customer care department are recorded. I certainly hope so. I spent so much time speaking to the customer care team in Bristol that I have lost track of exactly how many calls I made. But if my calls were recorded, then perhaps you might enjoy listening to the unabridged version of this shambles.

On a final – and practical, note, if a child of five looking different to how they were as a baby really presents a problem, then perhaps Her Majesty’s Passport Office should alter the expiry date of children’s passports? Might I suggest one – or at the most, two years’ expiry after a baby’s first passport?

In the meantime, I have created an image to illustrate how Ruby would look at five-and-a-half if she continued to have the same features as she did as a baby.

Passport

I have enclosed my original receipt for £87 for using your “fast track service” and I expect a full refund – along with three days’ compensation for lost earnings and the vast (and unnecessary) amount of stress caused by this outrageously Kafkaesque nightmare.

I should think Her Majesty would be appalled if she got wind of the way her passport office is being run. I am therefore sending her a copy of this letter, along with The Rt Hon Theresa May and Glenda Jackson MP.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely
Ingrid Stone

cc. Her Majesty The Queen, The Rt Hon Theresa May 

And The Response… (N.B. The Queen Of Complaints has refrained from amending any typos to preserve the authenticity of the reply from HM Passport Office.)

29th May 2015

Dear Miss Stone

Thank you for your letter of 6 May about your daughters passport application.

Our records show that your daughter’s application was submitted on 20 March and her passport was issued on 27 March.

All applications received, regardless of service type, are subject to mandatory checks which can take time to resolve. The specific nature and extent of these checks can vary from case to case, but form an important part of the role of HM Passport Office in confirming identity and eligibility to hold a British passport.

Although we seek to complete the application process with the minimum inconvenience to our customers, the checks are necessary to maintain the high level of security in the process and enhance the trust and confidence in the British passport by passport holders and international border agencies. We advise customers not to book any travel until their passport has been issued.

I am sorry you have been given incorrect advise when contacting Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HM Passport Office).  I have completed an investigation into the advice that you were given and write to advise you that the recording of your calls have been assessed by our call Centre Manager, who has confirmed that you were advised correctly.

I understand that you may be disappointed by my response, but hope I have been able to clarify the policy and position of Her Majesty’s Passport Office on this matter.

Yours sincerely

Mr R Edwards

Customer Contact Officer

There’s The i-Player. And Then There Is The i-Complaint Player

17 Sep

The Queen Of Complaints is delighted to unveil her all-new i-Complaint Player.

Click on the telly if you dare…

 

i-Complaint Player

 

Thomas Cock Up Airlines

27 Jul

Complaint Letter No. 52

Compensation: A choice between a discount voucher or a BACS payment to the value of £971.67

Thomas Cook Airlines
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Harriet Green OBE
Group Chief Executive Officer
Thomas Cook Group plc
3rd Floor
South Building
200 Aldersgate
London EC1A 4HD
 
23rd July 2014
 
 
Dear Ms Green
 
First of all, congratulations on being nominated Leader of the Year in the National Business Awards 2013.
 
My husband, little girl and I have just returned from a wonderful week with Club Med in Palmiye, Turkey. There was quite a group of us – nineteen in all, including a couple of friends and their daughter and some family members of mine that live abroad.
 
Club Med was truly fantastic in every way and we are eager to return as soon as possible. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of our experience with Thomas Cook Airlines (via Club Med), who flew us from London Gatwick to Antalya.
 
I apologise in advance for the length of this letter, but our encounter with Thomas Cook Airlines proved to be somewhat epic in its proportions.
 
 
Thomas Cook Airlines Part I (or The Outward Journey – 6th July, Flight Number TCX1908)
 
An initial three-hour delay due to an Operational Issue and we were informed that Thomas Cook Airlines required a replacement aircraft for the flight. Something of a blow (this meant we would lose one night of our seven nights’ holiday) – however, comparatively minor to what followed. It should be mentioned here that none of your staff could shed any light on what this so-called “operational issue” was – hardly reassuring when embarking on a voyage at 30,000 feet.
 
There persisted a stubborn absence of gate number on the departures board as the new take-off time drew nearer. I approached the airline desk for information and was promptly met with a couldn’t-give-a-shit (and rude) attitude – which quite frankly, I rather resented given the lack of information by Thomas Cook Airlines. It was made plain by your staff that customers should be pathetically grateful for the appalling service they were getting.
 
After a further thirty minutes’ delay, we were eventually provided with a gate number, only to be advised at the gate that a “Thomas Cook representative would be addressing” us shortly. It did not bode well. As feared, it was not good news – apparently the baggage loading team had “gone home” because of the delay and there would be an additional wait for “new staff”. This meant another half-hour’s wait – so in total, a four hour delay. Not much fun with a four-and-a-half year old child, I can tell you. What made the situation worse was that no refreshment was offered and we had to fork out for two meals (lunch and dinner). Needless to say, we missed out completely on our first evening in Palmiye. Instead of settling in and enjoying dinner with the rest of our group, we arrived exhausted at our destination at around 1am.
 
Thomas Cook Airlines Part II (or The Return Journey – 13th July, Flight Number TCX1909)
 
It goes without saying that after our shoddy outward journey with Thomas Cook Airlines, we were not optimistic about the return. Sure enough, fifteen minutes prior to our airport transfer from the Club Med resort, there was a notice regarding our flight on the reception desk advising passengers that the 19:20 departure from Antalya had been delayed to 00:45. Luckily, the resort had made provision for everyone on the delayed flight and its staff were helpful and charming.
 
Communication with Thomas Cook Airlines was a different story altogether. I checked your website for flight updates – and interestingly, there was no mention of the delay whatsoever. I remain intrigued as to what the ‘Flight Status’ page is actually used for – and naturally, at Antalya Airport, there was more bad news of yet another delay. The plane would not be taking off until 1.30am. Like the outward journey, your staff were unclear as to the reason for this latest delay – and passengers were handed a bit of paper with the pitifully poor excuse of “disruption within our flying program”, which could mean absolutely anything.
 
This new delay was painful to say the least – and below are some photographs to illustrate the situation, including one of my little girl, who was so utterly desperate to sleep that she was forced to rest on a seat at one of the airport’s fast food joints. Furthermore, the gate at 1am was akin to a refugee camp – children crying, the elderly, a disabled person in a wheelchair – not to mention the overcrowding.
 
And then – just when we thought matters could not become any worse, we were stuck on the plane for a further half-an-hour on the tarmac at Gatwick because of a “broken” aircraft bridge. While I appreciate that is not your responsibility, it was most certainly the final straw. The knock-on effect of the return journey also meant waiting thirty minutes for a train to Victoria at 4:30 in the morning. When we eventually made it home at 6.30am, my husband, four-year-old daughter and I felt utterly shell-shocked – not only that, my husband and I lost an entire day’s worth of work.
 
Travelling with your airline was a wholly traumatic event. In fact, with two bouts of horrific delays in a mere week (along with Thomas Cook Airline’s amateurish staff), Thomas Cook Airlines should not be operating in its current capacity. Moreover, ambiguous reasons for delays make passengers nervous – and at worst, distrust your safety record.
 
It is worth noting that with such an shockingly-run organisation (over twelve hours’ worth of delays), Club Med’s clients might be reluctant to book Club Med holidays as a result of their poor experience with Thomas Cook Airlines. Believe me, there were passengers in the check-in queue at Antalya who said such things. As for me and my family, we long to return to Club Med Palmiye, but are loath to go through another ordeal with Thomas Cook Airlines, which is why I am sending a copy of this letter to Henri Giscard d’Estaing, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Club Med – in addition to Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Authority and Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA. I feel that they should be made aware of the incompetencies of Thomas Cook Airlines. If you will excuse my language, perhaps Thomas Cook Airlines should be renamed Thomas C*ck Up Airlines.
 
In the meantime, I expect to be fully reimbursed for the cost of our flights.
 
I look forward to hearing from you.
 
Yours sincerely 
Ingrid Stone
 
cc. Henri Giscard d’Estaing – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Club Med
Andrew Haines – Chief Executive Civil Aviation Authority
Mark Tanzer – Chief Executive ABTA
 
 
IMG_2009    IMG_2012    IMG_2019
 

 The Response:

 
Dear Ms Stone
 
Firstly, I would like to apologise for the lengthy delay you had on your recent flights with Thomas Cook. I do appreciate how upsetting and tiring this must have been for you and your family. The circumstances surrounding the delay were most unfortunate and certainly the length of the delay was considerably longer than we had expected.
 
We work really hard to make sure nothing goes wrong for you, we want you to have a comfortable flight, in a good aircraft with pleasant and helpful cabin crew. Your comfort and safety are high on our list of priorities. However even with all the careful checks and procedures we have in place, problems do arise, often caused by factors completely outside our control.
 
As soon as we were notified of the problem, investigations were made into the possible options to ensure the delay and the inconvenience to our customers was kept to a minimum. It is usual for several different courses of action to be considered to try and secure the most efficient and timely solution.
 
We know how upsetting delays can be, which is why we do our best to look after our customers and provide up to date information. However, the amount of information and support we can provide depends on the reason for the delay and the facilities and services available at the airport. Time-scales can sometimes slip although at all times we would be working towards as early departure as possible.
 
However, I am very concerned that you are so unhappy with our airport staff due to the lack of information given during the delays. The problems you describe are clearly unacceptable and not typical of our normal standards. We aim to provide our customers the best possible customer service, both overseas and in the UK. Please accept our sincere apologies for any disappointment we have caused. I cannot explain why you seem to have experienced such a poor service. I appreciate that it may not be much consolation at this stage, but I have passed the details on to the UK and Overseas Customer Service Manager for action.
 
A full investigation has been carried out to find out what the cause of the delays was and compensation is payable. I would like to offer you a discount voucher or a BAC’s payment to the value of £971.67, which I hope you will accept with my compliments.
 
Your comments have been taken very seriously and will be useful as we are always looking for better ways to handle delays.
 
Once again I must apologise for any inconvenience and upset caused. 
 
 
Kind Regards,
 
Jon Brandrick
Director’s Office
 

Restaurant Complaining – Should You Eat Your Words?

23 May

I was interviewed by BBC West Midlands radio the other week and one of the questions that came up was about complaining in restaurants. Now, if complaining is a big deal generally, then complaining in restaurants is the daddy of them all.

There’s a wonderful, albeit soup-spilling chapter in celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential called From Our Kitchen To Your Table, which describes some of the more dubious tricks of the culinary trade that certain (I’m not saying all) eating establishments employ – and then there was the TV series Restaurants From Hell, where complaining customers were served up somewhat unsavoury plates of revenge. Luckily, we have the Food Standards Agency, but the possibility, no matter how remote – of having our bavette wiped on someone’s bottom continues to haunt us.

Let’s face it, cooking food for another person is an emotional exchange so it’s little wonder people feel awkward about complaining in restaurants. Oh horror, that simple act of giving and receiving is psychologically akin to having sex. To put it bluntly, if you complain about your food, you are not only shunning the chef, you are indirectly telling them that they are bad in bed.

Gastroporn aside, associations between food and sex are centuries old and well-worn, so how do you go about complaining when the tasting menu isn’t quite up to scratch?

  1. To quote James Brown – get on the good foot. Restaurant people work hard, so begin by establishing a positive relationship with the waiting staff. Flatter them by asking what they like to eat, what wine they recommend. Showing that you care tells the staff that you not only value their opinion, it also matters what is on your plate.

  1. Be nice – and it’s an obvious one, but make eye contact and smile. It is surprising how many customers abandon all common decency when their head is buried in a menu. Heck, you might even be rewarded with a digestif on the house for your efforts.

  1. Now that you have created a basic rapport with the staff, you will not be considered a nuisance figure should you need to voice any concerns (politely of course) about your meal. Done respectfully, the restaurant might even welcome your feedback. It gives them the opportunity to make things better – not only for you, but for their other customers.

  1. If the waiting staff cannot help, ask to speak to the manager. Use the bonding techniques as described.

  1. If the above approach is ineffective i.e. the restaurant/bar/café doesn’t give a monkey’s, you are fully permitted to share your annoyance to the max. The entire viral world is your oyster, so to speak. Tweet about your bad experience and post photographs of your sloppy meal, leave damning reviews on Trip Advisor, Square Meal, Time Out et al – or if you are feeling especially creative, sing a song about the restaurant and post it on YouTube.

  1. Finally – do not ever, ever complain about a meal after eating everything on your plate; that really is taking the biscuit.

Bon appétit.

 

Fly

Morrison Supermarkets PLC.

13 May

Complaint Letter No. 51

Compensation: £5 shopping voucher

Morrison Supermarkets

 

 

 

 

Dalton Philips Esq.
Chief Executive Officer
Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC
Hilmore House
Gain Lane
Bradford   BD3 7DL
 
 
Dear Mr Philips
 
I hope you do not mind me contacting you directly.
 
I write on behalf of a friend, who purchased Morrison’s own brand “Hot Pink” Piping Icing for a fun afternoon’s biscuit-making session with her children. There is a reason for the quotation marks. If the colour of this icing is your idea of hot pink, then I positively dread to think what Morrison’s interpretation of ‘lukewarm’ – or even ‘tepid’ is.
 
At the end of this letter is a photograph to illustrate the contrast of the hot pink of the packet to the actual Percy Pig pink of the piping icing in question, which is the culinary equivalent of a floppy handshake – or worse.
 
If you require the original “Hot Pink” Piping Icing tube, do let me know. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from you.
 
 
Yours sincerely
 
Ingrid Stone
 
 
Morrisons Hot Pink Piping Icing
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Response:

 

 19 May 2014

 
Dear Ms Stone
 
Thank you for writing to our Chief Executive, Dalton Philips, who has asked me to respond to you on his behalf.
 
I am very sorry to learn of your friend’s disappointment with some Morrisons Hot Pink Piping Icing that she recently purchased from us. Please accept my sincere apologies for this.
 
Our aim at Morrisons is to only offer for sale safe, wholesome, quality food products at affordable prices. Please be assured that this product is purchased from a supplier who has been subject to intense scrutiny to ensure that they are able to meet with our exacting Food Safety requirements prior to their supplying us with their products.
 
You can be assured that your feedback is very valuable to us and this product will now be closely monitored to ensure that we continue to maintain the highest possible standards that our customers expect.
 
In the meantime, in light of your concerns, please accept the enclosed shopping voucher on behalf of your friend, as a gesture of goodwill and in recognition of any inconvenience caused in pursuing the matter with us.
 
I have no hesitation in reiterating my apologies to you both and assure you of our continuing commitment in providing top quality products that please our customers.  I do sincerely hope that it will not deter you from shopping with us again and trust that all your future purchases will be entirely satisfactory.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Lorraine Dickinson
Customer Service Manager
 

The Art Of Complaining: A Podcast for Which? Consumer Rights

12 Mar

The Dissatisfied Woman was delighted to have been invited as a special guest on a podcast to celebrate Which? Consumer Rights website’s first birthday.  You can have a listen here

Which?