This weekend, I tweeted Wandsworth Council to complain about the organisation of the Battersea Park fireworks display.
I’d like to pretend that it was an uncharacteristic move, borne out of sleep-deprivation, frustration at having to collect pre-booked tickets from the park before noon on the day of the fireworks, and perhaps a touch of over-excitement because frankly, I love fireworks more than most things in life.
I could pretend that, but I know in my heart (and also my brain) that the weekend before, I tweeted Natwest to complain about their shoddy customer service. While I was still in Natwest. I once tweeted Eat to complain that staff had forgotten the puff pastry top to my chicken soup, then discovered it sodden inside the pot. And complained some more.
I never used to be a complainer, mind. I’ve been an enthusiastic tutter and sigher for years, but it’s only recently that I’ve started channeling my dissatisfaction into something more productive. They say it’s never to late to take up a new hobby, and I’m happy to have found a pastime that is both calorie-burning and committed to the greater good.
The problem, of course, is that official complaining is so much quicker and easier than it used to be. Twenty years ago, doing a complaint also involved finding a pen, or dialing a number, possibly referring to a Filofax or angrily operating a Photostat machine, by the end of which your anger had probably melted away into just feeling slightly peckish, and all would be calm again.
Now, social media has opened up super express highways for complaining. We can eat an unsatisfactory croissant, receive bad customer service and whinge about it on Twitter before we’ve even wiped the sleep from our eyes. What’s more, we can do it publicly, like ringing a great big bell in the town square and yelling “Hear ye, hear ye! I only got three prawns in my sandwich and M&S are doing DIDDLY SQUAT about it.”
The good thing about all this digital disgruntledness, of course, is that it gives brands the chance to be brilliant back. The brilliant Bodyform video response to a snarky male Facebook commenter, for example, or o2 getting down wiv da kids when replying to ragey messages.
Wandsworth Council, by the way, never replied. But it must be said the fireworks were grand.
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