OPINION: There are benefits to being the Customer From Hell

THIS may come as no surprise to those of you who regularly read this column, but I am a serial writer of letters of complaint to companies I feel have been derelict in their duties in some (any) way.

It will certainly come as no surprise to work colleagues who have endured my anti-telco/bank/internet provider tirades with stoicism.

I am the only person I know who has received a letter of apology, a refund and compensation for stress from a bank after one of their employees managed to lose the title deed to a house I was selling, causing a 10-day delay in settlement and a bridging loan fiasco that cost me thousands.

The bank employee in question was outraged when my solicitor told me what had happened - she insisted the title wasn't lost, they just didn't know where it was.

When I ring my telco now, the call centre staff put me on hold and play soothing music while they race off to find a supervisor for hints on how to handle the customer from Hell who just rang in with yet another complaint.

They take the call using hushed tones and speaking very, very calmly in order not to inflame me further.

All that said, I am never rude to the poor unfortunate who has just ruined their day by answering my call, and I am always careful to say "this company" rather than "you" when reciting the latest outrage as it is rarely - if ever - that particular person's fault that I am cross.

I've returned the faulty squeeze bottle of tomato paste that disgorged its contents all over the interior of my refrigerator (cash voucher refund), sent back the toothpaste tube whose lid snapped off (six new tubes of toothpaste) and whinged about the flavour of a packet soup that my partner carries on his yacht for a quick snack - "classic chicken flavour" it proclaimed, but there was no chicken in the ingredients list. It tasted like salty milk (voucher for more soup, never redeemed).

There's an art to having a good whine.

Don't make it personal, work out before you start what achievable outcome you are aiming for, and be gracious and polite (unless all else fails - then let 'em have it).

So I recently flexed fingers and prepared to type a letter of complaint to the cosmetics company that makes the only skin care products I can use.

The label type had been reduced to the point where I could no longer read it, thus making it impossible to distinguish between products.

A friend happened to drop by, and checked a jar against an old one holding rubber bands in the bathroom; she pointed out that the type was exactly the same and that I just needed glasses.

Phooey.



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