A complaint is a gift

September 2 2008 by Ellen Roseman

That’s the title of a book I just picked up. The message is music to my ears.

The authors, both management consultants, say that customer complaints are not annoyances to be dodged, denied or buried. Instead, they are valuable pieces of feedback that can be used to improve an organization’s products and services.

The book is dedicated to Confucius, who wisely pointed out, “A person who commits a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake.”

I love it when companies take mistakes to heart. They’re happy to get the complaints I send and rush to correct not just the individual’s problem, but the systemic problem.

Future Shop, for example, welcomes complaints from the media, as you can see from the comment below. But the ordinary shopper doesn’t get the same warm reception.

What happens when you complain? Do you get treated as an annoyance or a pain in the butt?

On the other hand, do you ever feel you were appreciated as a messenger telling the company what is going wrong and can be corrected?


  1. Joanna Alpajaro

    Sep 2 2008

    I was writing yet another email to Sears when I came across this article.

    In this latest email, I was complaining not just about the top-of-the-line Sears Kenmore Elite stainless steel tall-tub dishwasher that’s broken 9 times in the first 3 years of its life, or the Sears stove that was misdiagnosed during the time it was covered under warranty and now requires an expensive fix that is off warranty, but about the lousy customer service that basically placates me with insistences that “we are committed to customer satisfaction” but then no action to confirm such.

    Such a good article, Ellen – I sent it to them!!

  2. Grampa Ken

    Sep 3 2008

    I get fluff!

    “… the advertisement you refer to meets all legal requirements.”
    ” … subject to the ethical standards generally accepted by the industry.”
    ” … our intent has never been to mislead and I believe our practices will bear me out.”
    ” … the new TV program listing channel is an industry accepted format.”

    But if we don’t complain verbally, by letter or email, things will only get worse.

  3. Jamie

    Sep 3 2008

    If you want indifference to complaints, contact Loblaws with one. In my previously posted complaint, I was treated worse then I ever imagined would be possible in a retail store. The latest development came when I emailed to ask if there was someone I could write to, like a district manager, since there was no response to my letter to the president (they’ve done something to block emails sent to execs formatted in the way the staff emails are).

    They wrote back wanting a phone number, which I immediately provided. Why, I’m not sure, as they’ve never used it.

    Their email asking for a phone number included the statement, “our store manager, who had addressed your concerns during a telephone conversation and had requested to address this further in person,” must have been referring to someone else’s complaint, since the brief conversation I had when I phoned the manager included no such request or anything close, and gave every indication the manager had very little interest.

    Apparently, Loblaws must be doing much better than recent press reports have indicated. They have preferred to throw away a lifetime of business instead of having someone take a minute to provide a proper response to an extremely serious complaint about their staff conduct.

  4. Cynthia

    Sep 11 2008

    Back in December 2007, I wrote a complaint to Greyhound Canada about the sardine-like conditions those of us travelling to Ottawa from Sudbury experienced. Meanwhile, those travelling to Toronto had a more comfortable (more legroom) bus. The trip from Sudbury was 7.5 hours to Ottawa, 3.5 hours to Toronto.

    I have never heard a word from them. Big surprise.

    This past weekend, I submitted my feedback on a meal delivered from Swiss Chalet. Not only was the food not hot or tasty, but I ended up with food poisoning.

    I sent my email on Saturday evening and today is Thursday afternoon. No email, no phone call.

    Perhaps a call to the health unit is needed, in regards to the food poisoning.

  5. Cynthia

    Sep 22 2008

    After the latest incident, another stabbing on a Greyhound bus yesterday (Sunday).

    Wonder if Greyhound will act more quickly and respond to customer compalints or just be another massive shell of a company.

    It should be noted that the Greyhound employees’ contract is up for a renewal. This is just fuel for their fire, since employees are looking for better working conditions and pension.

  6. Cynthia

    Oct 10 2008

    A copy of the email I sent off to Future Shop about their crappy customer service:

    Just wanted to write to say I went into the Sudbury store today to purchase a TIVO. The DVD clerks were busy and a TV clerk who attempted to help was clueless. I couldn’t find out if there was a TIVO in stock.

    The website prior to my visit indicates there is stock at the Sudbury store, Yet he could not see one and didn’t bother to use the computer to check. He said the other clerk would help me, that he was almost done with his current purchaser.

    I waited 5 minutes after the last customer left, but the clerk never came to help. So I left the Sudbury store without my TIVO.

    Horrible service, yet this store has managed to win a customer service award. Give me a break, Your other stores must be in the toilet fot service if the Sudbury one is deemed excellent.

  7. Kalaya Karringten

    Aug 31 2009

    February 20 – that’s the date that I cannot ever forget and I doubt I will be able to. On that day, I was about to go meet a new friend in Victoria. Problem? I have severe deafness and relied on notepad and pen to be able to communicate. I thought that bringing the laptop over with me would be a great idea. Guess again.

    Within a few minutes of a Greyhound bus narrowly missing a pole at the bus station in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, I found myself staring at my backpack in the bus wheel, trapped.

    To make the long story short, the laptop was destroyed, leaving me with a $1,000 price and no laptop to show for it. We have tried so many times to make a complaint.

    Out of five claims, four ended up being swept under the rug and the last? Greyhound denied that claim and changed my story around to make it sound as if it was my fault.

    Just one question to the Greyhound company – how on the world am I supposed to get on the moving bus and yet still fit my backpack in to the luggage department?

    Greybound had gone much more than just charged me $46 for one way trip (my friend paid for the return trip). They took the only mean of communication away from me. Now from that moment on, how on the world am I going to forget that? I now avoid Greyhound and still hope to one day own a laptop.

  8. mike krugger

    Jan 6 2010

    futureshop ceo cell phone number is 604 763 7853
    i had a complaint and called him

  9. sometimes ppl lie

    Mar 20 2011

    sometimes though ppl lie when they complain there are some ppl in this world who will lie and make things up,ive seen it happen,ppl who are unhappy because the store doesnt have what they want or someone is unable to do something for them or they feel ENOUGH WASNT DONE FOR THEM,some ppl feel like they are better then the person helping them and they act like it,the ppl working in these stores sometimes put up with being treated like lesser human beings,the customers can be worse sometimes,rude demanding and they act like the person helping them doesnt deserve as much respect as they do,this is wrong,these ppl working in these stores are human and noone deserves to be treated like they are not.the managers probably know thier employees and believe me they also know the customer.

  10. Noman Siddiqui

    Jan 9 2012

    I would like to inform you about the actions by Future Shop employees without any regard for customer respect and satisfaction.

    I bought a LG 42” LED TV from Heartland Town Centre (Mississauga) on Dec. 20, 2010. I also bought an Extended Warranty as well for the product.

    When the Extended Warranty was sold to me, I was informed that within my extended Warranty Period, if due to any issue the TV does not work, a replacement will be provided by any Future Shop Location.

    My TV stopped working on Jan. 5, 2012. I took the TV to the same location where I purchased it. Upon my request, they agreed to replace the machine; however, the same model was out of stock at the store.

    I was asked to go to another location (2975 Argentia Rd, Mississauga), where my TV would be easily replaced, so I drove all the way to the other location. The agent in customer service for exchanges asked me to take the printed receipt, get a replacement TV and bring it back to her.

    As advised, I selected the same model for replacement and brought it to her. She then asked me the reason for replacement and I informed her that it was not working.

    At this, the Manager came and told me to go back to the same store where I bough it and ask for an exchange, as it was not purchased from her location.

    I told her that I already did so and was sent to her store, but she refused to assist me. When I asked to speak to someone else who can resolve this, she called a Sales Manager, who gave me the same response.

    When I said this is not a solution and there should be an alternate solution provided, as I was sold an Extended Warranty by giving misinformation, he told me that he is just wasting his time. If I do not leave the store, he will slap me and throw me and my spouse out of the store. And if I approach anyone else they shall not help me as well.

    Being a valued and regular customer of Future Shop, I am enraged and insulted by the actions of the staff. I have paid a good amount of money for both the TV and the extended warranty and I do not see this as good customer service.

    All I was looking for was someone to assist me. I never expected this rude behaviour from the staff.

    Such actions have forced me to inform you about the worst kind of service received from the staff of Future Shop, where a customer is threatened and insulted by an employee.

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