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when you suffer at the hands of a bad person, service or product…

By November 12, 2008How To, The Business

It’s happened to us all. We buy a flashlight that doesn’t work, purchase a conferencing service that doesn’t record when it’s supposed to (true story, still bitter) or we work with a person who turns out to, well, suck.

And what do you do about it? Do you write a letter, an email, make a phone call? Or do you make no direct move? With social media, you could take to your blog, tell everyone on Twitter, put a picture of the offensive thing with a big X over it on Flickr. Or not.

What are the repercussions of voicing your dissatisfaction? You could get a new flashlight, a reimbursement, a door in the face, the ‘bad person’ could be so slimey that they retaliate…or nothing at all could happen.

And if you don’t say anything? Well, you won’t get a comped replacement, there will be no reimbursement. But, there also won’t be an uncomfortable confrontation.

Let me tell you a little story…

I do not come from a line of practical jokers, but my wife does. I’ve seen her dump a bucket of cold water on someone who was enjoying a warm shower (me), I’ve seen her glue a handset to it’s phone base (her co-workers), I’ve seen her cover an entire car in duct tape (a friend). But her shining moment was when she got every member of my family (5 in total) soaking wet, one after the other.

You know the spray hose thingy on your sink? Well, she secured its lever to the on position with a rubber band, aimed it forward and systematically watched as every single one of us turned on the water and got blasted. This was during our summer vacation and we were all sharing a house – so her plan was contingent on those of us who had already been sprayed keeping quiet. We did, we maliciously let those around us go down in flames drips.

And, as I ponder this dilemma – to speak out or not to speak out – I can’t help but look back at the water spray incident above and think that it is important to speak out about a bad situation. Because if you don’t, everyone that comes after you will get sopping wet in one way or another.

Now, I know that every situation is unique, but all in all, dear readers, do you have an opinion? How do you handle these situations and why? And, yes, something has happened and I’m having a very heated internal debate about how to handle it – and, yes, it was someone on the internet and, no, I don’t want anyone else to get ‘sprayed’ by him.

FYI, this article was partially inspired by the fabulous Ann Hadley, over at Annarchy, who wrote an inspired post yesterday about family camaraderie and practical jokes.

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • I’m thinking back to seeing ‘The Happening’. It was so bad I spent about a week or two telling everyone not to see it.

  • websinthe says:

    My brothers used to pull pranks on me all the time. It usually involved calling me into a room and then turning the lights off on me. Until the age of 13 that used to kill me. I screamed like a girl. It was traumatic.

    I went to Sumo Salad with my girlfriend and even though the salad was great, the girl working the front counter was so unfriendly and vile that we’ll never go there again.

  • Anne says:

    You have inspired me. I have a problem with a water bottle that I bought my daughter and I am going to leave here and write a note of complaint.

    Thank you,

  • Andi says:

    I guess I’m thinking about how real change seems to happen … BY SPEAKING UP!!!!
    You have the power!!
    I laughed out loud when reading what Patti did…hyterical…she’s so soft spoken who would’ve known she could be so sneaky. wink wink.
    There is this toy at my Grandma’s house and it has been there for YEARS. It’s this plastic thing that looks like a toy slot machine but when you pull the lever, water squirts out..usually directly into your face!! Everyone…i mean everyone falls for it, thinking they would just test their luck to see if they could get “JACKPOT”… of course we would never spill the beans on that one cuz it’s FUNNY!

  • Ann Handley says:

    Great post, Julie. Practical jokes are one thing. But you know in your gut when it’s truly time to speak up.

    BTW — the rubber-band-over-the-sink-hose thingy is a favorite around our house…’s CLASSIC. ; )

  • Sandra Foyt says:

    Oh, you must see the Five Monkeys video! It perfectly captures what happens when no one speaks up. See

  • Ron Miller says:

    Wow, Julie. I guess I will be really careful with the sinks (and my car) if I ever go to your house. :)

    But I had a very bad experience over the last two days trying to upgrade a key piece of software and I intend to take it to my blog and complain. I’ve been whining all day on Twitter. I’m sure my followers must be quite sick of it (although I’ve gained quite a few today, so maybe people like hearing about my misery). I wonder if the company was listening.

    I had a bad experience a couple of weeks ago at the AT&T store and I wrote a blog entry about it (and at the same time contrasted the bad experience I had with a good one at Comcast).

    It’s very empowering to have an outlet like this to complain. I’m not sure it has any significant impact (although it’s entirely possible if enough people read it, it will), but the point is having a publishing platform from which to register these complaints empowers me.

    And maybe at the end of the day, that’s good enough. It’s better to me at least than taping a car. LOL.


  • Tawnya says:

    The story about your wife pranking the entire family is hilarious! I tend to go back and forth between telling people and not telling people when I have a bad experience.

    If it’s a restaurant, I just don’t go back. If it’s Countrywide (long story from a long time ago) I tell everyone I know.

    On the flip side, it’s just as good to spread the word when something positive happens. Great service, high quality products deserve that pat on the back.

  • Anne Mayhew says:

    What a great post. I love the comparisons. I think you should speak up. It doesn’t sound like you not to. It is very empowering to be able to speak you mind on your blog!

  • Comeuppance is a good thing, and when karma’s running a little behind schedule, I’m all for helping out. Life works so much better when those who deserve a beatdown get it. ;)

  • Hey Julie ~ I’m in battle with a company right now … and one day I’m just thinking let it go … and the next I’m thinking take them to court … and then … publically humiliate them … hmmmmm … people suck sometimes ~ plain and simple. *SmiLes* Suzanne

  • Kitrona says:

    I have a bad product that broke after 2 months of use, and I just emailed the company about it. If they don’t respond, or respond in a way that isn’t satisfactory, I’ll have to tell people not to buy this product, which is a shame because I love it. I hope they fix the problem!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Ah! You are all leaving such inspired comments, and I’m buried with work – and wanting to respond to each one!

    I totally agree that when you’re dealing with a company or company product, it makes much sense to speak your mind…and I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. But when it’s just one person, or they are the company, I think it gets more complicated.

    For instance, in the Countrywide example that Tawnya gave, or the AT&T example that Ron gave – I doubt either of those companies would come after you for speaking up. They would either ignore you or fix the problem.

    And you are all right – it’s not like me to stay quiet!!!

    Thanks so much for contributing to this conversation!

  • My 9 year old daughter came home from school last week with a new sticker on her clarinet case from the Bullying Awareness program. It read: “In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King Jr.

    Silence/non-action are clearly not working for you (or the dialogue would not be raging!) Reach for relief is my advice!

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