Today has been one of those days that I’m not supposed to mention on this blog. My new shoes rubbed holes in my feet on the way to work. Then my train ticket stopped working, so I got stuck waiting for a staff member to let me through the barriers at the station. Then I nearly got run over by an old man bombing down the middle of the pavement in an electric scooter, as people dived out of his way (actually, that was pretty funny, I have to admit). And so it went on all day – nothing major, but lots of little irritations that had me feeling the whole world was against me.
So what did I do about it? Well, obviously I didn’t say anything to the people who were annoying me – partly because I’m British and they were mostly strangers, partly because I just assumed I was being unreasonable, and mainly because I just don’t do that. (And, in the case of the old man, because he was gone too quickly.)
I’ve no problem complaining bitterly to friends and family after the fact, but in the moment, I’d rather keep my head down and say nothing, even when I’d probably be quite justified in having a rant. On the rare occasion that I do lose my temper, it surprises me just as much as it does anyone else, and usually ends with me bursting into tears of rage, which is incredibly frustrating and generally makes me cry more. But, on the other hand, it does tend to mean I win the argument, because nobody knows what to do.
My inability to complain is particularly pronounced when it comes to dealing with companies. I think it stems from the fact that I’ve worked in customer service roles, and I know what it feels like to have someone shout at you when there’s literally nothing you can do to help them, however much you might want to. It’s amazing how personal some people can make things, and I don’t like that. My train company, for instance, are a complete disaster area, but I see some of the abuse their staff get on Twitter, and it makes me really angry. Yes, it’s frustrating when your last train home’s cancelled, but that poor person working the night shift isn’t responsible for it, and is probably having a miserable night dealing with the chaos.
So I always go out of my way to be nice, even if someone’s not being particularly helpful to me. The other day I was on the phone with a company who had really let me down – a delivery didn’t turn up; I called three times and they never got back to me, then on the fourth call, they announced they’d cancelled my order and said they’d left me a voicemail, when they hadn’t, and then tried to charge me for the redelivery. And I still felt I had to make a point of saying sorry and assuring the rep that I didn’t blame her personally. (I also apologised for shouting, even though my sister, who was listening to my end of the conversation, told me afterwards I hadn’t even raised my voice.)
I am getting a little bit better at making complaints, though, and I mostly have the internet to thank for that. A couple of months back, I tweeted a company to let them know one of their vans had nearly squished my sister and me on a roundabout, and we ended up with a voucher for free tea and cake the next time we’re in their store. Result!
And the other day I wrote a long email to the train company after a catalogue of disasters on my journey home. There were bullet points and everything, it was quite the essay – but I still started the message by apologising for complaining. And ended it by personally thanking the Twitter rep who’d made me repeat three times where I was travelling to, then looked at his computer and informed me that the train was cancelled. Which I’d figured out for myself, funnily enough, since I wasn’t on it.
Whether I’ll ever progress to complaining to a real live person, face to face, is doubtful. But one step at a time is better than nothing, right?
Does anyone else have trouble complaining? Or do you have any tips for a doormat like me?