Eclectic Autodidact: Online rants best when kept to self


I've been working in the customer service field for about two and a half years now. While it has made me appreciate just how the customer may not always be right, it's also made it difficult for me to place myself on the other side of the equation.

For all the customers I have had to deal with who were entitled, grasping, wheedling sticklers, belligerently ignorant, foul-mouthed misanthropes or helpless baby birds utterly incapable of performing simplest task, I know there are situations where the reverse is true and there are countless careless, lazy, rude or just downright incompetent employees making life more difficult for everyone else.

Last week I went to dinner. Though the food was good our server was so across-the-board incompetent that I questioned if I would ever return.

This leaves me wondering if I should complain to the restaurant or just stop going? Some would say you should always complain because otherwise nothing will change. However, I have seen many a complaint that, while it may be a legitimate issue, is so couched in entitlement or bad grammar that I find it difficult to take them seriously. I pass them on to the appropriate recipients, but I think the appropriate recipients will feel the same.

So here are some general guidelines to bear in mind before you dash off an angry rant from your iPhone:

n If a complaint is valid, the situation should be able to stand on its own without pages of text describing how mad you are. The more you talk about how angry you are, the more it looks like you have anger issues.

n If there's something you feel you need to receive because of the situation, you should clearly ask for it. There's a 90 percent chance your request is wholly ridiculous, but hey, at least you came out and asked for it instead of saying "What are you going to do for me?"

n Don't make threats. Obviously you shouldn't make actual violent threats, but also don't make stupid threats like how you will say horrible things about the company on your Twitter account. It's one of those threats that's likely to blow up in your face. Now instead of a jaded customer service rep reading your diatribe, all your friends will read it, and judge you. In addition, it's particularly tacky, especially if you mention your number of followers as though that were additional leverage.

n Avoid reminding the business what a loyal customer you are. Despite what you may think, you are probably not actually one of their best customers. Second, you're not really that loyal if your threatening to libel them on your blog which you claim gets 100,000 hits a day. Also, your blog doesn't get that many hits. It's not that hard to track that. Stop lying.

n Finally, or perhaps firstly, ask yourself if you really need to be making this complaint. We're all human and we all have bad days, and I'm sure that if people took that into account most disputes would never be lodged. The few cases that are a problem will often take care of themselves as people simply stop patronizing businesses with unforgivably bad service.

For me, I'm just going to let this go. There are plenty of other restaurants in the area, and I know they'll make this right. And if not, I'll write nasty things about them in my column, which has one million readers a week.


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