May 31, 2011

The Art of Complaining

Have you ever went over a friends house to eat and the food just ain't no good? I mean the macaroni's soggy the peas are mushed and the chicken tastes like wood.

I am sorry, I have had that song stuck in my head for a while now, but my point would be that there is definitely an art to complaining.

When I was pregnant with twins, in Florida, in June, okay stop. Let's just go over that sentence again. Pregnant with twins, yep. In the lovely steamy state of Florida, double yep. At the beginning of Summer, I think we got it. The night before I was to be induced into to labor, our air conditioning went out in our apartment. This would be a good time to call and complain, which we did, but it got us nowhere. Our air conditioning wasn't fixed until after my daughters were born and we were on our way home from the hospital.

What went wrong. I would have to say what we did wrong was to be too nice. We only called once and we made it seem like it wasn't a big deal. Just to clarify, getting a good nights sleep (as best you can being pregnant with twins) before you are to deliver babies, is a big deal. Today if that same situation should arise, I think the outcome would be different. I would have stressed the importance of getting it fixed and I probably would have made some follow up phone calls. I will never know if that would have worked, but I know being so accommodating didn't.  Don't be too nice. People have no idea what your expectations are if you don't tell them.

Our second complaining story starts off with the sailor and I going out to eat with some friends. We rarely get to go out with friends so we were excited to try out a place we had never been before. It was not a great night. To sum up our dinner was awful. The food was gross and no one ate. Not only was the food inedible, we were charged for food we ordered but never received. Once we got home, we wrote an email about our experience at the restaurant. The email was concise and to the point, without being inflaming. A few weeks went by without any response, until one day we received a $25 gift certificate in the mail.

What I would do differently. Although our complaint got us a $25 certificate, now I would do things differently. We should have complained on site. I appreciate their effort to compensate us with a certificate, but we should have gotten a full refund. None of our party ate their food, but no one wanted to complain either. I have a tendency to be non confrontational, but it cost us money to not say anything until we were safely behind our computer. Even if the restaurant had declined our request for a full or partial refund, it never hurts to ask. In the end, that $25 certificate is not worth the paper it's printed on because we are not going back to that restaurant. Don't be scared to ask for what you want.

Lastly, about two years ago, my daughter gets off the school bus, complaining about her arm. She says it really itches and hurts. She shows me her arm and she has red welts the length of her whole arm and upon further investigation, I realize she has this type of rash all over the upper half of her body. After I give her an anti-histamine, I ask why she didn't go to the nurse or call me. She said the nurse wasn't at the school, so she wasn't given the chance to call me. Before she can say another word, I am on the phone with the school asking why no one had notified me. The administration office had no idea that she had a rash, but did confirm that the nurse wasn't there that day. Apparently, my daughter's teacher did not think her allergic reaction warranted a phone call to me, even after my daughter told her how uncomfortable she was. At this point, I am angry and running through all the things that could have happened, like anaphylactic shock. I wasn't yelling, but I was more than a little irritated and to be honest I thought wanted some sort of punishment for what I believed was irresponsible behavior.

What I would have done differently. Even now, I don't think my anger was undeserved, but in reality I didn't want this teacher fired or any other disciplinary action. In my anger I wanted retribution, but once the dust had settled I realized that was not what I really wanted. I know that she wouldn't do anything intentionally to hurt my daughter. To do it over again, I would have been less "I want this teacher's head on a stake" and more "let's make sure this doesn't happen again".  When complaining, anger does more than make you look like a jerk, it clouds your judgement on what you really want. Also, people tend not to give angry asses what they are asking for anyways. Anger is truly not helpful when trying to get what you want. Being an anger ball rarely gets you anywhere.

There is undeniably an art to complaining, but I have also learned from past mistakes. These are a few of my complaining failures, but I have managed to complain with purpose to get a deal or a refund. In those instances I was clear on what I expected and confident in my request and probably most importantly was not a nincompoop.