Wednesday, November 12, 2008

There Are Bigger Fish To Fry

Delivering a worthwhile complaint in an effective manner is an art and one we should all learn.

Because no matter who you are, having to listen and act upon complaints that are not worthwhile is a right royal pain in the arse.

I know, because my job seems to entail me being the all-welcoming receptacle of such complaints for about 90% of my working day. Now, most of the time, the complaints are what I’d call “fairly” valid – malfunctioning doors, broken urinals, electronic glitches, etc. Not world disasters by any stretch of the imagination but they need to be dealt with and all I have to do is receive them with a beatific smile and a Buddhist Monk’s composure and see that they are forwarded to the right people...

Simple.

Unfortunately, despite my very best efforts, the odds of me achieving Nirvana under the officious auspices of my benevolent employer are becoming longer and longer. My smile is beginning to slip so far off my face my toes are starting to poke through it.

I am becoming sick of complaints.

Ill. Diseased.

And not just complaints directed at me but those that are directed at other people too.

Now I’m not talking about the big complaints – world poverty, fuel prices, the frightening number of children who are being abused and killed despite social services being “aware” of them, etc. No. No. These are big worthwhile complaints which deserve to be heard and should be amplified by as many people as possible so that they can be used as iron rods to give those in a position to do something about them a hard time.

But little inconsequential complaints are beginning to irritate me greatly. Possibly because they divert people away from the biggies.

Take the Russell Brand and Jonathon Ross debacle a couple of weeks ago. It was daft. It was silly. They were punished. Did it really warrant the sheer number of complaints that hit the BBC like a tidal wave? Didn’t these people who complained have other, far more weightier grievances that they could have spent their time and money complaining about?

The war in Iraq? The crumbling NHS service? No?

And now Jeremy Clarkson is facing a barrage of media boosted complaints for his gag about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes and for apparently giving an American cop the finger in last week’s episode of Top Gear.

Oh calamity! Let’s forget about the appalling number of youngsters who are dying in our towns and cities – victims of domestic physical abuse – and complain about Jeremy Clarkson for being good humouredly provocative instead. Far more worthwhile. Far more worthy of media coverage. Hold the front page! Call an emergency session of Parliament!

Don’t get me wrong. On the whole, complaints are good things. Having the confidence and the voice to complain is a valuable asset in the modern world. We need to teach our kids to complain about injustice and wrong doing in an attempt to stamp out such things in the future.

But let’s not squander this asset on trivia. Life is just too short. And for some poor souls – like 17 month old “Baby P”, horrifically beaten to death despite 60 separate visits from UK Social Services – it’s never going to be long enough.

Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a complaint.

20 comments:

justme said...

I am totally with you on this one. My job also involves me dealing with 'complaints' and I have often felt that the people who complain most are those who have least to complain about. Those who actually DO have something to complain about, usually don't. Or at least if they do, they don't write 20 page letters about it.......
The thing about Baby P had me in tears and feeling physically sick last night. I hate that there are people like the ones who killed him in the world.

MOTHER OF MANY said...

I personally was shocked at the things that were said by Brand,Ross and Clarkson but I feel that the problem lies with the people who let the shows go out.I also feel that the amount of complaints made were silly and how many of the complainers wrote to the makers of the shows and complained about the people that let the shows go out?
My daughter Sali works in the IKEA restaurant in Cardiff and daily she comes home with things that customers have complained unnecessarily about.One punter complained about the quality of the meat in their 95p breakfast to which the manager replied
`It is processed animal meat,what do you expect for 95p!`
I worked as a waitress through university and every Christmas when my girls were growing up and the amount of whining from the punters was ridiculous.I used to waitress at the CIA and we did students Christmas parties, they were a nightmare.One party, one of my tables was particularly boisterous and after the obligatory
bread fight I had one 18-19 girl drunkenly complaining that she did not like sprouts and she wanted me to take them off her plate.If she hadn`t been so whiny and going on and on it would have been different.So I leaned over her and quietly whispered `I`m not your mother, if you don`t want them then don`t eat them`.
I definitely agree with you that people need to get some kind of perspective with their complaints.

Steve said...

Justme: I haven't been able to listen to the news reports about Baby P in full because I've found them so upsetting - which feels like an act of cowardice. Before Tom was born I would have found the act reprehensible... now, with kids of my own, I find the details of his sad, sad life so unbearably painful. It is really upsetting and I really can't fathom out how someone could do that to a defenseless child and not hate themselves for it.

Ally, how I wish I could use your "I'm not your mother" line on the punters I regularly have to deal with! It sounds like there is nothing new or unique about my position - which in a way makes me feel much better. You're also write that the fault in the case of mouthy TV celebs lies with their producers and editors rather than the stars themselves... though, of course, there is such a thing as personal responsibility.

Deirdre said...

oh.my.god.....have just read about baby p and feel sick......what hope is there for the world and the decent people in it when this abomination can occur....

Brother Tobias said...

You have my sympathies. The best lift at work was a quick scan of the 'Accident Book'. Long sequential entries of the 'ink on trousers' variety made all one's own problems seem worthwhile. The ony thing that was better was the holiday address book (a must fill-in, enabling the council to interrupt even your annual holiday). One chap went every year to 'Sandy Balls Holiday Village' - and couldn't figure out why I found that amusing.

Steve said...

Deirdre, I wish I could comeback with a clever comment that would make everything seem alright. But I simply can't.

Brother T, if you're familiar with Spongebob Squarepants then you'll have a passing acquaintance with one of my favourite cartoon characters: Sandy Cheeks. I feel a need to locate and visit Sandy Balls.

Reluctant Blogger said...

I couldn't do the job that you do. It would send me batty. Or I would say something regrettable. I really don't like the complaints culture at all. I always advise my children to pick their battles carefully. I think if you do that, if you only complain/attack when you are really seriously aggrieved then you stand a better chance of being taken seriously.
But it is easy to jump on the bandwagon I suppose and behave like a sheep as with the Ross/Brand thing where no-one much complained initially.
I have had a bit much whisky actually so I am probably not making any sense at all.

The Sagittarian said...

Steve, my fluoresent light over the copier hasn't been working properly for 3 weeks. Can you fix that for me?

I read about Baby P here too, the poor wee mite, makes you wonder where your taxes are going doesn't it? Somedays I feel like I'm the only parent who loves theirs kids...there is (yet another) a high profile child abuse case here too, I've added the link but you might be best to rip your own Sandy Balls off with your teeth as it might be less traumatic! http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10538780

Steve said...

Gina, there's rarely such a thing as too much whisky and I always find that things make far more sense when I am approaching the "too much" stage...!

Amanda, have you tried kicking the copier? Doesn't always have a remedial effect I'll grant you but, boy, does it feel good. I shall gird myself and check out the link. Sometimes the world is far too bleak and depressing...

EmmaK said...

like you I cannot even read the details about the details of Baby P's life and Haringey Council are at fault, of course, but also his mother really needs to go to prison for life and this will not happen and I bet she will have other kids too. It just makes me so angry.

Steve said...

Emma, it's absolutely heart-breaking. There's pictures of him in the papers (with his face blocked out) reaching up to the camera - Tom does exactly the same when he wants to be picked up. It makes me physically sick to think of what was done to that poor child. Sadly, I doubt that true justice will ever be served and even if it is, it won't help Baby P one little bit.

Matthew Rudd said...

To the complainants who rang the BBC - here's an idea if you feel Clarkson is too provocative in his humour and he is capable of offending you:-

Watch something else.

Honestly, these people who sit by their radios and tellies waiting to be offended are the most lifeskill-lacking individuals ever to walk the earth.

Rol said...

...Jeremy Clarkson for being good humouredly...

There's a number of words I never expected to see in the same sentence.

Steve said...

Matthew: hear bloody hear!

Rol: almost as amazing as the words black American president...

Inchy said...

I do believe you are suffering from the most modern of maladies, Compassion Fatigue.

We're bombarded by so much negativity that after a while we just become slightly numb to it.
(wow, I sound SO New-Age!)

I remember a month or so ago getting a knock at the door. I opened it to find a very attractive young woman who proceeded to tell me about all the horrors that the Red Cross was combating across the globe when it struck me that I just didn't give a shit. We see images of fly-crusted African children on the box all the time and it's now just 'how they live' and god forbid a neighbour has a problem that they complain about.

Steve said...

Sad but true Inchy though I suspect the malady is perhaps isolated to us priveleged Westerners which of course makes it morally reprehensible. Ah. Post modernist guilt. Now that I can handle.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

The worst of it is that I am now denied the budget to do much about the majority of maintenance complaints.

Fingers crossed that your boss is more generous and doesn't have the strange idea that buildings will somehow ever be 'cheap'! He's started on getting rid of me too now as I've already bored with a length over @ mine.

Steve said...

Your boss obviously doesn't appreciate his best asset, Laura - you!

Lucy Fishwife said...

Mr Fishwife is gloomily predicting the rise of "the New Puritanism" which he reckons happens every time there's a recession - we were watching Charlie Brooker talking about the Wossy/Russy/Clarkie thing last night and he said "Bet you the next thing that happens is Charlie Brooker stops swearing" in tones of such dejection I nearly got him a stiff drink. I think the problem is that there's so much bad news (what tabloid ever got rich reporting happy stuff?) that we're in danger of reacting with as much outrage to the minor idiocies of broadcasters as we rightly should to cases like Baby P. I'm with Matthew - there are a million channels out there, they could just switch over and watch/listen to something else...

By the way - the third halogen bulb along the track over Gift Books keeps blowing, and this is the third time I've told you. Oh, and I bonked your grand-daughter.

Steve said...

Hi Lucy, that's my feeling exactly. Television, radio - neither of them are compulsory and there are plenty of alternative channels to choose from. If you're listening to something that offends you then you are doing it by choice. Turn it off or deal with it.

My granddaughter said thanks for the bonk - you were brilliant.