Best Complaint Letter Ever
This one is a personal favourite.
Important background to put this in context:
In Australia complaints aren’t viewed anywhere near as seriously as they are in the UK. There, just one complaint can result in a hefty fine and a genuine threat to the station license if not addressed swiftly and to the satisfaction of the authorities. So when one comes along you take it seriously.
As a rough guide, the severity of punishment follows the seriousness of the complaint, and how intensely that person is fuming. And, at the risk of mild racial stereotyping, people from England could easily win the Gold medal for Olympic-grade fuming*. (If you’re English, I bet you just went slightly rigid – see below).
Short-fused people of more amateurish national cultures will go from simmering Defcon 5 to nuclear Defcon 1 in no time at all – erupting from mildly irritated to an explosive tirade of fiery, venom spitting, fury before quickly farming the cluck down. It’s short-lived, but still disconcerting when it’s coming from the boot of your car.
So, to put the following, distinctly English, complaint letter in context, it’s important to understand what sets the world-beating English fumer apart from us amateur lane-eighters in the rest of the world. Instead of instantly going off like Mt Krakatoa, the English fumer takes a more measured approach – pacing themselves through distinct stages of escalating fury.
First, catatonic paralysis – they literally snap rigid. Next, full body quivering – even their eyes vibrate. And then, unleashing a torrent of unmitigated ferocity that will shred your skin clean off and melt your eyeballs out like you just ripped the lid off the Arc of the Covenant … they ‘tut’.
Just loud enough so that they definitely know that you definitely know that they definitely know that you definitely heard it.
But if an English fumer’s moderately projected, vaguely pointed tutting doesn’t make their unrestrained message of apocalyptic outrage clear enough (e.g., you still won’t let them out of the boot), they will be left with no choice but to escalate their fury all the way to Defcon 1: Fire the Nuclear Missiles!**
i.e., they will Write A Letter.
In Australian radio when the PD receives a hand-written envelope it means just one thing. What’s inside will be several pages of barely legible scrawl written by someone who has escaped custody and thought you might like to see his collection of photos of himself wearing nothing but a bikini and a Deliverance smile – while standing ominously in the background at every station event that the only station jock worth sticking on a billboard has ever hosted. It means stalker.
In England when you receive a hand-written letter it is much more serious. Before you even open the envelope you know what the unspoken message is. And it is exactly the same as waking up in bed with a dead horse head.
Whatever the specific details, the letter goes something like this:
“Dear Sir and/or Madam,
I am extremely and furiously disgruntled by you and your radio station. And neither phoning, nor emailing, nor even moderately loud tutting would have adequately expressed the severity with which I am feeling a bit miffed.
I am now livid.
All the very best, and cheerio.
Your Worst Nightmare.”
Which is why, as Program Director of Capital Radio London, I was feeling a bit nauseous when opening this envelope – addressed, as it was, in the shaky hand-writing of someone whose ‘tut’ has been ignored and, in silent fury, has had simply no other choice but to sit down and Write A Letter.
Instead, I was pleasantly perplexed. And, yes, this is a real complaint letter – I couldn’t make this up.
- Boots is a chain of pharmacies that also sells, amongst other things, sandwiches. By all accounts Boots’ sandwiches have received nothing but praise, and these same survivor accounts also indicate that at the time of purchase all Boots sandwiches were of a relatively recent vintage.
- Soho is an area of central London. The Who sang about waking up in it, and many people have slept face down in it.
As a loyal listener of Capital Radio I have always regarded your radio station as having an impeccable and consistent sense of judgment when it comes to playing music that complements my mood. In fact, I have converted many a Radio 1 listener who has been swayed by my tireless praise for a Radio Station who has introduced me to many of my favourite acts. The Snow Patrol and The Mika spring immediately to mind.
(note from Scott: his line about The Snow Patrol and The Mika may have been sarcasm. It’s hard to tell. Unlike American sitcoms, in England sarcasm doesn’t come with a canned laugh track to let you know when someone has done it at you)
Imagine my surprise upon discovering that the palate from which you present your coveted ‘Capital Radio’s Best Sandwich in London’ accolade is not as finely tuned as the musical palate from which you construct your play lists. I am of course referring to a sandwich recklessly served by (unnamed-takeaway-restaurant) in Soho, who announce said menu item with such a flourish that one cannot help being drawn towards it. You are fully aware that I’m talking about the glorified kebab that flaunts itself as ‘The Soho Special’, Capital Radio’s Best Sandwich in London.
To be honest, I have never experienced such a sandwich low. As a patron of Boots, whose sandwiches are seldom rivaled, I was keen to explore this ‘taste sensation’ so heartily endorsed by my favourite radio station. ‘The Soho Special’, Capital Radio’s Best Sandwich in London was indeed a taste sensation, but for all of the wrong reasons. If you’re looking for a purveyor of sandwiches who strive towards sandwich perfection then please look no further than Boots. Certainly a brand to look out for when Capital Radio are organising future sandwich award ceremonies – Boots’ innovative ‘fusion wrap’, a 3 Bean Salad in a low carb tortilla, certainly has conventional sandwich designers quaking in their loafers (no pun intended).
Let me reign myself in… Boots can only be described as visionaries, whereas (unnamed-takeaway-restaurant) embraces sandwich buyers with a contempt rivaled only by the British Rail buffet cart in the early 80’s. Those days thankfully have long gone. However, one sole bastion of awful sandwich making seems to remain: (unnamed-takeaway-restaurant) – responsible for creating Capital Radio’s Best Sandwich in London. And I mean awful, in every sense of the word. Awful in that a sandwich can be ‘freshly made’ yet still arrive at your table before you’ve even paid for it, awful in that every bite of ‘prime meat’ tastes like cheap lard, and awful in that every visit you make to the toilet for the next 24 hours will leave a crime scene reminiscent of the The Worst Toilet In Scotland that Renton dives into in ‘Train Spotting’…
So, in short, I demand one of two outcomes. Whoever is responsible (and I have my suspicions) for exercising such poor judgment by endorsing this “sandwich travesty”, please stand up and apologise – or that Capital Radio immediately and publicly disassociate themselves with a product so bland, so tasteless and so gut wrenchingly bad that anyone can see that it bears no passing resemblance to Capital Radio’s image and the cutting edge music it so earnestly champions.
Mr Name Withheld
* Disclaimer: in defense of using this appallingly inaccurate English stereotype, it is:
(a) not meant to be taken in any way seriously, especially by my wife, who is
(b) English, and who the stereotype resembles in no way whatsoever, Dearest, and who
(c) read through this with minimal tutting. Though any day now I am expecting a hand-written letter of complaint.
** Probably at Wales. Two reasons. It’s too close to miss. And it’s too close to England.
Scott Muller is Director of MBOS Consulting Group, a media management and consulting firm.