Compensation: A choice between a discount voucher or a BACS payment to the value of £971.67
Harriet Green OBEGroup Chief Executive OfficerThomas Cook Group plc3rd FloorSouth Building200 AldersgateLondon EC1A 4HD23rd July 2014Dear Ms GreenFirst 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 Stonecc. Henri Giscard d’Estaing – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Club MedAndrew Haines – Chief Executive Civil Aviation AuthorityMark Tanzer – Chief Executive ABTA
Dear Ms StoneFirstly, 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 BrandrickDirector’s Office
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?
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.
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.
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.
If the waiting staff cannot help, ask to speak to the manager. Use the bonding techniques as described.
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.
Finally – do not ever, ever complain about a meal after eating everything on your plate; that really is taking the biscuit.
Dalton Philips Esq.Chief Executive OfficerWm Morrison Supermarkets PLCHilmore HouseGain LaneBradford BD3 7DLDear Mr PhilipsI 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 sincerelyIngrid Stone
19 May 2014
Dear Ms StoneThank 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 sincerelyLorraine DickinsonCustomer Service Manager
Ingrid Stone is a seasoned complainer. She wrote her first complaint letter at the age of eight and over the years has complained about everything from can-openers that should be renamed can’t-openers to cocoa powder that tastes like bad breath.
Every letter is genuine.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Tim Rockins, who has created artwork for everyone – from Gorillaz and Kate Moss to Jake Chapman, Terry de Havilland and Agent Provocateur.