Complaining effectively is child’s play (usually)

Well! Here’s a complaint story that’s a little different. Those of you who have bought the book know that it is dedicated in part to my son, “The Complaining Calf who appears to be a chip off the old block!” Here’s the proof!

First – My complaint
In April I took out a year’s subscription to the Beano for my seven year old son. Worked out to be about half the price of the cover price. There should have been a Gnasher and Dennis bumper car set as a free gift.

On the 1st June we had received two issues of The Beano but no free gift so I wrote to complain. I received an email on the 8th June (how bad is that? It gets worse) to say that they had run out of the free gift and were arranging for a new gift sending me a picture of the replacement. I replied immediately saying this:

“I don’t find this acceptable. 1) I took out the subscription nearly two months ago. 2) If the gift was not available it should not have been advertised as available. This is a breach of The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Misrepresentation Act 1967 3) We have actually received 3 issues and no correspondence until I emailed you 4) this would appear to be a standard email from you sent to anyone who complained that they did not receive their item because you have not even had the courtesy of addressing me by name and 5) the attached picture of the gift I assume you will be sending has no relevance to the Beano whatsoever and certainly not to Dennis the Menace and Gnasher.”

I didn’t receive a reply so on the 17th June I forwarded the correspondence to the CEO of DC Tompson contact details for whom you can find here. I didn’t receive a reply. How very very very rude.  At the end of the month we finally received the gift. This:

A new character in The Beano since your day? Nope. No relevance whatsoever. So not only was it sent late (Subscription taken out 24th April, payment taken 10th May) it was Beano character unrelated.

Meanwhile…The Complaining Calf’s complaint
While I was waiting for a response, The Complaining Calf had received three issues and he had found a problem with them all. He suggested we complained. After all we had paid for something and it wasn’t fit for purpose and nor was it fair. Why? Well I’ll let him tell you:

7 year old

So, a child had had his picture in two issues and thereby getting two gifts and then a strip was repeated in another issue. Not good huh? Now, we posted that together to the editor on the 7th June. I allowed over 3 weeks for them to respond.

The Complaining Cow steps in…
Okay, so at this point I got cross. I got really cross. (It would appear that The Beano has a record of ignoring letters from children. See story here. It’s bad enough when people are stupid enough to ignore me, (ending up in court sometimes!) but a seven year old? And MY seven year old? Nope, that aint happening sunshines. Customer services and the CEO ignore me and the editor ignores a seven year old. So I decided to try something out. Call me a menace if you like. I forwarded the unanswered emails to the CEO from my Complaining Cow account on the 2nd July. I told the CEO this:

I find this ignorance and blatant rudeness wholly unacceptable. The free gift has finally arrived but a response to either of the emails below has not.

My seven year old son wrote to the editor of the Beano regarding two matters across 3 issues of the Beano. He wrote this on the 7th June and has not received a response. It would appear that rudeness is a key quality throughout the organisation. However, it is utterly appalling that a seven year old who has taken the time to write to the Beano should be treated in such a way. I think most people would be disgusted. He of course is naturally very disappointed that no-one has bothered to reply to even thank him for his letter. In a day and age when we are trying to bring up children with manners in a growing culture of bad manners, it is sad to say that the editor, customer services and indeed the CEO can be so rude to people, particularly their target audience. You show a complete disregard for customers that is contemptible.

As author of Amazon bestseller How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results and writer of the popular blog I will be writing up this dreadful lack of customer service. My son’s unanswered letter will of course be shared on social media where I am sure it will be shared many times and as I regularly comment in the media on customer services I shall be sure to share this story.”

So who thinks this got a reply when previous emails were ignored? Yup it did.  24 hours and 13 minutes later I got this:

“I’m sincerely grateful that you’ve taken the time to get hold of me.  Since I got your mail yesterday, I’ve got to the bottom of what happened.  As I think you now know, your subscription to the Beano was taken out on 24th April but your first payment was not taken until 10th May so the free gift request to the warehouse was delayed until 2 weeks after the first payment, contributing towards the delay.  We ran out of the gift we featured and sent a replacement which we did say may happen, but the choice, quality of service & the timing of our response was way, way below what was reasonable and weve fallen very short of what you and any customer should expect.  We’ve changed handling houses which has in part caused our errors and we messed-up ourselves in our own efficiency, but that’s for me to sort out and I assure you I am.   To be tardy in responding to the complaint just further compounds our error, and I utterly own-up to us letting you, and more importantly, Oliver down.  We’ve not received the letter you say he sent and have searched high and low for it, but we’ve enough from what you’ve said to enable the Editor to give him a suitable response.  

I’ll of course ensure that the postman gets you a much more fitting wee Beano bundle to say sorry for the way we handled the issue, but much more importantly we hope that the letter from the editor – and possibly a scrawl from Dennis himself – will be a nice surprise for Oliver.

You can always reach me via this email address if there’s any further chat you want on the matter, and thank you for helping me find a gap in our standards that I will ensure is now properly filled.”

Ok – so who thinks the letter to the editor arrived and got thrown away and who thinks that it arrived? The odds are stacked against them here given that the Beano staff have previous for being ignorant…

Continues complaining…
You will have remembered of course that Oliver actually wrote on a different matter and the more observant of you will have noticed that I did say this in my email to the CEO. So I was forced to write again – I could just see them writing to Oliver about the free gift which I hadn’t told him about! So I emailed a copy of the letter and whilst I was there also added that his email hadn’t actually explained the ignorance shown by him and it did beg the question why I got an answer when writing as Helen Dewdney. I got this in reply:

“We clearly fell short on standards and are working to ensure we’ve learned from our mistakes to make sure things are a lot tighter”

So you make up your own mind as to whether you think it was the mention of bad publicity and inclusion in a blog and a book got the response or whether I would eventually have got one?

To recap on correspondence:
1st June wrote
8th June got unsatisfactory reply
8th June wrote
No response
7th June letter different matter
No response
17th June wrote to CEO
No response
2nd July The Complaining Cow writes
3rd July almost satisfactory reply

The letter and parcel
Well to be fair, although dire rude service and the need to complain as a different person was apparently needed, one little boy was pretty pleased and impressed with the letter and bundle:

Letter from The Beano

Beano goodiesBeano bag
Beano Summer Special
Beano long sleeved top
Beano joke book
Beano aeroplane kit
Beano trick pencil
Beano trick ink
Beano trick ice cube

[Tweet “7 yr old complains to #Beano and gets bundle of gifts”]

“All that just for writing a letter!” said Oliver. So I have of course explained complaining isn’t about getting freebies, it is about making people know about mistakes and faults in things which you have paid for. An alternative route for an adult would have been to quote the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 but I think he did just fine, an excellent start! The letter was also used as his homework that week so win win. “Writing for a purpose.”

As I always say when it comes to complaints, every company makes mistakes, it is how they deal with them that matters and here eventually they did come good. So you see, all you need is a little know how (see tips) and you won’t be disappointed with your purchases and if you are you will gain redress. Simples.