Complaining with courtesy

Dear readers, I may be preaching to the choir, but as a person who has lived a few different lives in a single lifetime, let me share the world of the pen and the sword. There are many common phrases that go around such as, “you can’t fight city hall,” or “you’re fighting an uphill battle.” It is key to remember no matter the challenge, the source, or the desired outcome, to handle any situation through appropriate channels. If one is unable to find satisfaction directly in person for a problem they’re dealing with, the next step could be calling or writing the district supervisor, regional supervisor, or even the corporate customer service department.

The foundation of seeking a resolution should be founded in fairness and reasonableness, in accordance with the wrong that has been committed. This can only be achieved by addressing the grievance with the right source. If you do not know who the right sources are, ask. In the meantime, write down any details, dates, time, names, facts or get receipts. In this day and age of technology, amateur videos are nice, but not as wholly effective as a factual, reasonable, and clearly written statement of events.

There are too many people now days who, given the plethora of web pages like Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Angie’s List, simply go online and complain to the public at large. There is always someone who does not want to play fair, or has their own agenda to discredit others in order to get something for free. Scams come in all forms.

As a person who has been the underdog and stood for the underdog on many and varying occasions throughout my life, I have always gone the shortest route to a solution when possible. If necessary, the path of pen and paper was next. Recently, I have had to do this on my own behalf, with an organization; but that is not the one I am writing about today.

I am writing about this topic because I have a friend who owns a family business. They received a complaint from a customer via a non-profit organization in California. To save the reader the agony of specifics the complainant wrote that the owners and their staff treat people horribly and are mean. The consumer wanted an employee of the business to allow them access to the business after hours, access which they could not authorize, nor means to do so. The consumer filed a complaint based on an illogical request that was unfounded and erroneous.

First, why would the consumer choose an organization not even within the state in which the problem occurred? The non-profit has an official sounding name, Business Consumer Alliance (BCA), yet they have no more authority than Yelp, Trip Advisor, or your newspaper delivery person.

Ultimately, because the person had not addressed the complaint when in person, the business did not know there was a problem in the first place and had not been afforded an opportunity to address the consumer’s concerns before a third party was brought in.

The complainant was also offered an opportunity within their complaint to offer a desired settlement of the issue. The complainant asked that someone else take over the business and get rid of the other people, implying the staff members. This might seem like a possible resolution if this was a corporate business and not a privately-owned business in the United States of America. Again, the consumer’s resolution was unreasonable and highly disproportionate to the reality of the complaint.

Had the consumer asked the employee during business hours to contact the owners to make arrangements for the business to be staffed beyond business hours, they might not have had to file the complaint.

As you become a consumer or an advocate for any cause, be reasonable, thoughtful and diligent in seeking a resolution if the need arises. The better solution is to start by clearly stating one’s desires at the appropriate level, be clear, make sure the request is within the scope of the business and be aware if they already have policies or rules in place to allow or deter one’s desired request.

Escalate within the business if possible, then address it with an organization that can have the most immediate and effective impact on addressing one’s concerns. Having a resolution in mind is helpful even if it is not afforded in the complaint form. Have a solution to a problem demonstrates openness and flexibility and is often received better. When in doubt, start with the local Better Business Bureau. This not only helps the consumer and the individual businesses, but helps keep them informed about the needs of the community in being able to bring appropriate businesses to the area. Always be prepared to be patient through the process, but be proactive and follow up with some regularity depending on the depth of issue.

As a person who has been an advocate for foster children, junior personnel, those in authority, animals, persons with special needs, speaking up can be stressful, nerve-racking, daunting and even intimidating. No matter the cause, no matter the concern, document them even if they begin as grain of sand; when you need the data to defend your position or ask for help you will have it and will better illustrate the need. Oftentimes it is not change that is needed. It is more likely that people or society need only be reminded of their better-self and amend their ways. We all suffer if no one speaks up!

Sabrina Lemons