Warning! Listen to Radio 5 at Your Own Risk!!

So, Watchdog called. They wanted me to talk about the Tesco court case but the date was too late for filming, The One Show called researching whether social media would take over how we complain. I said it wouldn’t, because anything more complicated than “This item in my delivery was rubbish” or “Why is the train late?” can’t be listed in a 140 character tweet! Then there are the companies which delete posts on their Facebook pages! I believe there is a place for embarrassing poor companies and certainly I use Twitter to spread a message (I think over a 100 rt’s on Tesco case shows that!) but as for actual resolution it will always have to be more than social media although it is a tool. They showed a piece on complaining but really it was a lean towards obtaining information (such as why is the train late – that doesn’t get you money back from complaining!) and/or having to use another tool as well. The researcher was nice though, she emailed me to say thank you for my time and sorry they couldn’t feature The Complaining Cow this time. That level of politeness is more than I get from some people who shall remain nameless, for the time being…

Then… then Radio 5 emailed me…… I spoke to Charlotte the producer. What a nice woman, liked her, could have chatted for hours! Would have got her more redress than she got for a complaint she had recently! Anyway, I digress… asked me to go on their midnight show… not as a guest to waffle a bit. NO!!! As an EXPERT!!! Paid work! Like a proper job! Does that make me a professional complainer?! Oh the knives will come out now won’t they?! Yeah well watch out for the next post, it’s not about complaining for the sake of it, it’s about the principle of the thing and your legal rights!

So, not been on telly, not been on a radio, never been called an expert in anything… except idiocy perhaps, or talking for England maybe. The email came in on my ‘phone just five minutes before I met my good friend Sue for lunch. Now, Sue is lovely. Sue is wise, Sue is calm, Sue was CEO of a regional charity for 25 years, Sue knows stuff, Sue was my mentor in my last full time job, Sue always put my work emails into tactful language (a favourite phrase of mine was “Yes Helen, you are right but if you ever want to work in Essex again I suggest you rephrase it like this…”) Sue is sensible, Sue has been on the radio lots. So a perfect person to chat with when I got the email.

Me: I’m worried that I could do some damage!
Sue: What damage could you do?
Me: Say something really stupid!
Sue: Like what?
Me: Call people fools or say that people at Tesco were idiotic and get sued or something!
Sue: (Thinks) No, I think it’s okay if you do that
Me: Lots of “In my opinion!” But you know me I am a loose cannon!
Sue: (Thinks hard, serious face) No, (pause) no, I think you will be all right. I don’t think you can do any damage.

Then we got into gossip about ex colleagues and some of that I certainly won’t write down!!

So, Radio 5 23rd October midnight. Call in and get some free advice or listen in and be there when the station blows up or all the sound goes off when I’ve pressed the wrong button or spill tea over everything or I have a major argument with someone or I forget how to speak and become speechless for the first time in my life!

Wish me luck?!

The Monty Python School of Complaining!

It’s the principle of the thing! Don’t complain just for the sake of it. Don’t make up complaints to get freebies, that’s not what I do. (As an aside I obviously do complain about things that don’t get redress that aren’t anything to do with consumer Law too!) I do however take exception when a company is in breach of the Law and/or wastes my time. I may occasionally exaggerate my annoyance, but my complaints aren’t without good reason.

What type of complainer are you?

And yes actually sometimes I do compliment companies on their service!

But anyway, an opportunity just to play this sketch really!

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How Your Customer Service CAN Win Over The Complaining Cow (Yes, it CAN be done!)

Last month I went to Clarice House for a spa day with my mate The Calmer Cat. We love going there, always a good day not least because we get their excellent half price offers!

When we went back in May, we had one of those spa days where you have all the works, facial, massage, nails and all that. Anyway, at the end of the day I went into my nail treatment and she went into hers. Or so I thought. When I came out she hadn’t had her treatment. They had messed up and someone else had taken her place! She didn’t have to complain too much, the duty manager was very good (and frankly looked far too young to be a manager of such a place or she is another advert for the place!) and offered 3 nail varnishes the cost had the treatment been separate.

We duly booked another day. We went a few weeks ago and were called in for our body massages. I was told that I had a bloke. Now, some women may well ask for him and some women may well think he is very good. However, I just don’t like it. Fussy? Who knows? But, more seriously some women may have gone through any level of abuse or recent bad experience with a male. Not to check if a woman is happy with a male masseur in this day and age is, frankly inappropriate and unacceptable. So call it being fussy or making a point, whatever, I refused. There was no problem and my masseur was changed to a female. I went into my treatment when I came out The Calmer Cat came out of her treatment. She had been given James! So they had gone to reception to explain and someone with the same name had taken her treatment. The second time! You’d think they would learn wouldn’t you? D’oh use surnames and completely alleviate this, what would appear frequent problem! She was offered a massage at the end of the day (hour long when everything else had finished!) or a voucher. When she came out of the treatment the manager was waiting with a “body massage” voucher.

Over a cup of tea I pointed out that this wasn’t great. She wasn’t going to come back, over an hour’s travel just for an hour long massage. We couldn’t use it for another day because we always get the packages! So suggested that she ask for the value of it off the spa package next time! Maybe it was the superb relaxing treatments I received, maybe it was The Calmer Cat approach (we will never know what we would have got had I complained later, there were breaches of the Law there after all…..!) but she got it without any help from me! So next time our day will be another half price spa day plus £10 each off with the voucher for buying that day plus £50. Good eh?

So, just goes to show that you can complain at the time if you can be calm! That’s important. I get stroppy which gets one nowhere, I also forget to say lots of things that I would put in a letter! However, I don’t think even I would have got stroppy here. Why? Isn’t it obvious? The customer care and apologies for the service were good. Any company can make mistakes, it’s how you apologise and make amends that is important.

The old saying about the customer who has a good experience tells one person the one who has a bad experience tells 10 may now be well out of date with the rise of the Internet. But just as there is room for telling hundreds of more people about your bad experience(s) (at point of writing this there have been nearly 28,000 views of my site in just the first year of operation demonstrating just that!)  so there is too for telling people about good service when things go wrong. I have been known even when getting redress there and then to complain again at a later stage, but here there was no need. THAT Tesco and others is how you do customer service. Oh and not forgetting that the treatments are just lovely, the therapists are excellent! Oh and the irony? Calmer Cat wants James to do the massage when we next go…..

Customer Service 10 out of 10
Prize £50 voucher plus the all important genuine apologies


How to Get the Cream (Without Being a Clot!)

Here is a lesson in why you should always complain. A few months ago my mother and I were in Dunelm and ordered and paid for 2 cream teas. It was a little after 1.30pm. Our money was taken and the assistant made the tea and then told us that there were no scones. We were told that there had been a rush on. I know, a rush at lunchtimes for cream tea, hilarious! It might have been  in the lovely West Country but Dunelm is hardly the cream tea mecca of the world!

The assistant then had to go and ask someone to do the refund. Eventually someone came and then took a ridiculous length of time to work out how to do the refund! In this time my mother had actually drunk her tea and my son eaten his biscuit! My tea had gone cold. Now, depriving me of my tea is not good. In fact it’s just a little bit short of very very very silly ‘cos it doesn’t go down well….

So guess what I did? No, no, actually I didn’t complain.

Oh of course I did, what do you take me for?! Just not there and then! Always dubious about complaining in eateries, you never know what someone may do! But as I always say in my tips anyway, complaining in writing is nearly always better.

Cream tea deprived
Cream tea deprived

I wrote to the manager and told him that although the assistant was polite, I did not see how there can have been a rush of cream teas over the start of the lunchtime period or how she could not have known that the last one had been served! It is also poor staff management for staff not to know how to issue refunds! (note management fault NOT the member of staff – unless they have been shown of course..) While I was there complaining I also pointed out that in the ladies toilets neither cubicle had any toilet paper. Added the usual won’t use your services again and would be interested in feedback and waited.

Few days later I got a very nice letter back. The Manager was very apologetic. Someone hadn’t undertaken the ordering properly, training was being undertaken etc etc. Here’s a tenner to spend on the next visit. So sent the letter to my mother and she took her friend there one day. My mother being my mother and being a nice person, (I know, some of my genes are unique and not “very unique” as those XFactor fools will keep saying. You can’t be VERY unique, FOOLs, (albeit rich fools which is just unfair!) anyway I digress) tentatively gave over the letter and then got chatting with the Manager for who knows how long! He apologised again explained that someone had been sacked (look, don’t have a go at me, I don’t think someone got sacked just because they didn’t order enough scones and cream!!! I was a firm but fair manager and even I would need much more than that! That’s not to say that at other times I’ve probably been instrumental in disciplinary procedures… oh get off your high horse, think what would happen if people never got into trouble for not doing their job properly! I told someone the other day that I didn’t do subtlety, don’t understand it, I take things at face value and don’t understand hidden agendas and politics with that small “t”. “Oooooh doesn’t that get you into trouble at work?” she said. Yup, yup it does! Anyway I digress… again) and then found out all about the latest shop developments to happen in the area! So she was very happy!

I love the complaints that only take five minutes and you get a good return. Also to be fair let me point out that the redress was good from Dunelm. Not like Tesco eh?! So it just goes to show you that you should always complain! Done properly you always gain something and so actually does the company and they are getting some praise here too! It’s not about gaining freebies. I didn’t anyway! I gave it to my Mum like a good dutiful daughter! Yes I know if you were my mother you’d want more than £10 as compensation but hey ho, thems the breaks. My time was wasted and I wanted redress for that. In addition, they annoyed my mother and given what happens to people who annoy my mother I think they got off lightly don’t you?! It’s rare that you actually end up having to go to court!!

So, what quick win wins have you undertaken?

Victory in latest Complaining Cow V Tesco Battle

At the risk of this blog becoming wholly “Have a go at Tesco” I can’t not tell you the result about the latest battle regarding the cola bottles and milk bottles. I won! They were very gracious though! I received a nicely handwritten letter saying:

“Hi Helen

 Congratulations on your recent victory, as promised we’ve sent you some sweets.

 We trust that this will be the start of a new blossoming friendship.

 Should you ever have a complaint we’ll be happy to help.

 I hope you enjoy the sweeties.

The @UKTesco Team”

 Aw that was lovely wasn’t it? Start of a blossoming friendship?? Who thinks that then? Anyone?? Oh look they’ll be happy to help with any complaint. Right, deliver for free please. Sainsbury’s do.

Beautifully dressed up cola bottles?!?!
Beautifully dressed up cola bottles!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is the parcel I received. Yes, I did win with “milk bottles”!!! But my son enjoyed the cola bottles, hence why one packet is open!

Thanks Tesco, I’ll give you a rest for a bit, got to complain to the Post Office now because look what they did to your gift! Least you know they are in trouble!!! (…and it’s not you this time!)

This should be easy to claim for, at least they have already admitted fault!
This should be easy to claim for, at least they have already admitted fault!