The Plastic Hippo

October 9, 2013

I wish to register a complaint

Filed under: Media,Politics,Rights,Society — theplastichippo @ 2:01 am
Image via boycotted

Image via boycotted

A friend of mine who in earlier times earned a crust by “advising” a large American corporation on something called customer care once told me that there are only two ways to handle a complaint; the traditional British way or the more modern American way.

There is, of course, a nuanced gradation and considerable trans-Atlantic crossover between the two responses and only the most experienced of complainants will be aware of which strategy is being employed to make the aggrieved consumer of goods and services shut up and go away. The American way is obsequious apology coupled with a constant repetition of the name of the wronged party as if the customer actually mattered. It goes like this:
“Oh John, I`m so sorry that your burger contained ground glass and weapons grade plutonium, John. John, what can I say, John? John, please accept this $500 and sign here telling us you will not sue, John. Thank you John. Have a nice day John.”

The British approach to complaints is rather different and instead of apology, reflected annoyance and withering sarcasm in the style of Basil Fawlty seems to be the accepted strategy:
“Hello…yes…what? Not good enough for you is it? I see, it seems the very finest is wasted on a puerile, pathetic piece of excrement like you. Very well, very well, here`s your money back that I have had to work my fingers to the bone for. I hope you spend it wisely, you inconsiderate moronic bastard.”

The two diametrically opposed positions have over recent years merged and melded into something that is neither one nor the other. An apology now has become meaningless due to the fear of litigation. When some service provider states; “We are sorry if any offence or distress was caused”, the key words are “if” and “any” and “was”. This throws the burden of proof back in the faces of the complainants. “If” suggests that it didn`t take place, “any” means it wasn`t intentional and “was” means that it is now history and it is time to learn lessons, draw a line and move on. The art of apology is as complex as the art of complaint.

Forgetting for the moment the late or cancelled train, the uncollected bin, the wait at A and E, the young person in the street threatening you by wearing a hoodie, the aged neighbour scrounging by living beyond the age of 70, the noisy infant next door crying because it`s hungry, the end of education or foreign people coming over here and taking our jobs, who the bloody hell can we complain at? Erm…the answer is nobody. Accountability is dead. Bereft of life it has joined the choir invisible.

The strategies employed to ward off irritating complaints might now include complete denial of any “issue” or a refusal to acknowledge the existence of the complaint even as it is being made but it is heartening to see that the traditional British way is alive and well. The richness of this tradition is enhanced by the perception in Britain that anyone making a complaint is either a troublesome busy-body or a shyster attempting to blag something for nothing. In both cases, the complainant is usually considered to be, well, a little bit odd. Opening the letters page of any provincial or national newspaper or listening to a radio phone-in gives some credence to this incorrect assumption.

Consider the current spat between Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail. When the boy complained that his dead father`s name and reputation had been sullied, the full might of Dacre`s and Rothermere`s bigotry exploded worthy of the final, unwritten episode of Fawlty Towers where Basil eventually succumbs to complete emotional and sociopathic melt-down. Miliband, according to the Mail, is a “bully” and is dragging the memory of his dead father through the mud simply to further his own political career and muzzle a “free and fair” press. Hello…yes…what? You inconsiderate, moronic bastard.

Consider also, the pronouncement from serial liar and constant embarrassment to humanity, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. This specimen said that a previous Health Secretary “covered-up” evidence of failings in the NHS. Andy Burnham complained and threatened legal action for defamation. Hunt responded by saying he did not “suggest” that Burnham had covered-up failings in the NHS. We can only assume that Jeremy was tired after a long squawk and was probably pining for fjords. “If”…”and”…”was”.

The BBC, an organisation experienced in handling complaints, found its integrity questioned over scant coverage of a demonstration outside the Tory Party conference. Unusually, the state broadcaster funded by a compulsory license fee, took a bullish approach along the lines of; “we reported it on all our platforms including main news bulletins…you inconsiderate, moronic bastards.” It seems that coverage was a 30 second piece to camera reporting that 50,000 NHS workers and members of the public were shouting “Tory scum” at a BBC journalist. Those that were there might be studying the bit about “balance” in the BBC Charter. By inexplicable coincidence, that shining example of balance and fairness Rupert Murdoch popped up to expose the dreadful left-wing bias at the BBC thus giving Chris Patten the chance to say: “Oh we get accused of all sorts of things. Calm down and watch Eastenders.”

Indignant at misrepresentation, people who believe that the NHS is actually a rather successful and a good idea, quickly set up a petition and, in a move that will undoubtedly shake the very foundations of Broadcasting House, suggested a boycott of the BBC. So, with revolutionary zeal and a determination to cry out for free speech, I did not listen to the Archers on Monday evening. Instead, I listened to the Archers just after Monday lunch. That`ll show `em.

However worthy the sentiment, boycotting the BBC for six hours is about as much use as a Liberal Democrat. Instead, if you so wish, you can complain to the BBC here. There is a telephone number and everything. By chance, there is also a statutory consultation on the way the BBC delivers News and Current Affairs where your opinions will be recorded and then ignored. “Dear BBC, why oh why oh why? In a recent historical drama, Mr Darcy was seen arriving in a Ford Capri. Come on BBC.”

The American and British ways of complaint handling do at least share the outcome that nothing is actually going to change. Thank goodness we are civilised enough not to resort to the actions employed by the citizens of other more uncouth rogue states where consultation with the populous can result in the use of Kalashnikovs and the purveyor of a dead Norwegian Blue can expect to be introduced to some piano wire and a lamp post.

This, my lad, is an ex-government.


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