Thursday, June 17, 2010


I'm no saint. I complain about things as much as anyone. In fact, I think complaining is part of human nature. It's in-built for us to feel dissatisfied with things and to tell other people about that dissatisfaction. But I am constantly amazed at the things some people complain about.

Last night I had a big function at work. It was the launch of the programme for the upcoming film festival and 300 or so film people, media, sponsors and other guests were invited. We had three wines on offer, a chardonnay, a pinot gris and pinot noir. There was also beer and sparkling water available. We gave out goody bags as people arrived and each goody bag had a bottle of juice or fizzy soft drink in it. A pretty good selection of drinks, right?


As soon as people started coming to the bar to get drinks, the complaints started.
"What? No bubbly?" asked at least three people.
"You haven't got a sav? You always have to have a sav." I heard.
And, the one that really got my goat, was a man who asked for a soft drink. I handed him a sparkling water and he just looked at it. "Is this all you have?" he asked.
"Well, there's a soft drink in your goody bag too," I told him.
"It's not good enough,"he replied, beginning to look grumpy. "An event like this, it should be better."

Should be better? The drinks are free! It's not like we're asking you to pay for anything. If this was an event where you'd paid money to get in, maybe then you have a right to complain about the drinks being served, but this was an invitation-only event. The drinks are a bonus and what we have to offer is based on what sponsors give us.

So that got me thinking about complaints in general. I've worked in customer service throughout my career, so complaints are something I've dealt with a lot. Sometimes the complaint is genuine and justified; other times I feel like the person is trying to get something for nothing.

I had a regular customer at the first cinema I managed who came in every Thursday when the new films came out. Every Thursday, without fail, she wold complain about something. As a new manager, this upset me and I worked my butt off to make sure everything was perfect the next time she came. But every time, there was something she complained about. Eventually I realized that for this person, complaining was a part of her experience, and if she didn't find something to complain about, then she wasn't going to enjoy herself. Once I figured that out, I relaxed, and I made sure to give her a latte when she asked for a flat white, or send her to Cinema 2 when her film was on in Cinema 3.

She complained, but she always left with a smile on her face.

Because I hear so many complaints, I am far more conscious of how complaining makes people feel, and I find that I don't complain about things I possibly should complain about. The service at a restaurant has to be pretty terrible before I comment on it, and more than once I've eaten the wrong meal just because I didn't want to complain. And that is probably no good thing. If things are wrong, the staff need to know, or they will keep on doing the wrong thing.

But there is a limit. And complaining about the free drinks at a function is, in my opinion, beyond that limit.


  1. Sometimes if things are free people don't respect what they've been given. The money didn't come out of their pockets...

    I can see why you were annoyed. I'm sure it took a lot of sweat and man hours to organise the event, and the last thing you wanted or needed was people complaining.

  2. I'm like you, Kate. A meal would have to be horrible for me to complain or mention anything. And I would certainly NOT complain about something that's free! What were they thinking?