Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Being the change

There's some discussion on a few blogs about the lack of women in UK politics. I added a comment that there seemed to be a lot of standing around waiting for some other gal to step up, and inserted one of my fave quotes, which London City Mum reminded me, was by Ghandi.

"Be the change you want to see in the world".

Isn't that brilliant?  In other words, get off your arse and do something about it yourself. I know I do a lot of ranting, but I like to think I take action when and where I can. Not that I'm at all interested in any kind of "office". Heck, two years as President of the Board of my kids' nursery school (a rather large job in the US) was enough to put me off any kind of title for the rest of my life. At their current school, which also requires a lot of parental "volunteering", I have turned down many requests to be on this committee and that committee, instead being co-in charge of the world's largest garage/jumble sale, which incidentally is this weekend.  Every Tuesday morning for the entire school year, we role our sleeves up, rummage through people's donations, sort them into boxes, take the occasional "gem" home for a wash, and never have to sit around a table staring at an agenda. I love it.

Anyway, back to being the change and all that. The other ways I do this are firing off letters about shoddy service.  Having once worked briefly in the retail business, I know that bad news travels a lot faster than good news; if anyone is irate enough to "write in", they are usually really pissed off and your worst kind of advert. So whenever something really bad happens in that department (and despite the US being known for its fab customer service, there's still quite a lot of crap around), I "write in".  Part of my intention is to get back at the pissy little waiter, clerk or sales assistant in question, but the other ten percent is to inform the business owner or the higher echelons of management about what's really going on in their organisation. Half the time they have no idea and are genuinely grateful to be told. And - the best bit - you get quite a lot of freebies if you take the right tone.

In my day I have had $300 knocked off the closing fees when we bought our first house; (our banker went off on holiday in the middle of the crucial part, leaving us high and dry. When we finally got someone else to pick up our file, we were told that he was "doing us a favo(u)r". Bloody cheek!) A certain video rental company gave me $100 of credit on my club card to compensate for one of their sales assistants going off on me because of some error they had made with my details. (I have to admit to being a bit scared of a brick coming through my window after hearing that she was fired.) I was also given a $30 coupon to a rather large chain of Home Improvement stores to make amends for the fact that I waited over three weeks for a call back on a rather large purchase I was planning. (Needless to say I went elsewhere. Heck, I'm not going to work that hard to give someone my money.)

Last summer we had a spate of street robberies, primarily due to the fact there is zero police presence in our 'hood. (It being a "nice" area, where it's assumed we don't need it.) I fired off e-mail after e-mail to our local politicians and police people asking where my tax money was going if we couldn't even get a beat police officer to show up now and again. I won't take credit for the meetings that followed but I know I joined the throng in getting something done about it, and I felt good knowing that I hadn't left it to everyone else.

I'm not quite sure it's what Ghandi had in mind, but it gives me a lot of satisfaction knowing that I'm not just sitting around waiting for someone else to take the lead. Now where's that complaint form?.....



  1. A Lady of Letters?!
    My career(!)eons ago was in retailing and you're right, a letter addressed to the Managing Director or the Chairman got us all dancing about like fools trying to put it right. If people have just cause then it's a great way to get things done. In fact I preferred dealing with customer complaints in this format as the customer usually had taken the time to get their facts sorted and as a company could look into it properly. Far better than an irate phone call which causes stress on both sides!

  2. I have been known to write complaining letters or emails, and also some general feedback ones, but in general tbh I can't really be bothered to do much. So now I feel a bit guilty, though not guilty enough to do anything about it.

    I used to be a lot more proactive, but now... well, I'm more interested in an easy life. Which I guess does prove your point that if someone can be arsed to write in about something, they really do think it's an issue. You do tend to get fobbed off a lot more in Britain though, I think.

    I don't think I've ever helped at the school with anything at all. Now that I do feel guilty about. Luckily I'm fairly thick skinned, and it takes a lot of guilt to get me to actually do anything!

    Still, if I think about what change I'd like to see in life, well, I'd like everyone to slow down a bit, chill and generally get a bit more Caribbean about things. So I'm just leading by example in that area...

  3. being an estate agent in my day job, we put up with a lot of rude,irate customers who seem to think that if we are unable to sell their horrible, messy, overpriced house we should offer a totally free service(clearly from the public sector) but that's another rant in the offing and I was going to comment that it's true that those who make the loudest noise often get to the top of the 'to do' pile! Human nature!

  4. well, yes, i agree. but how far are people able or willing or equipped or imaginative or brave or foolish enough to change their lifestyles to be the change they want to see?

    i want to see education as a genuine exchange of ideas; i want to see schools open as life-long community resources; i want places where we can all choose courses in all disciplines from astronomy to woodwork; i want to see education in the community; i want children and parents offered genuine educational choices; i want to see an end to coercion in education. yes, we changed our lifestyle to be the change we want to see.

    i cannot say it earns us much respect or reward. but maybe if we wanted those we should've chosen something easier to change.

    so my advice is, pick something easy, and financially rewarding.

  5. In my own defence Diney, I make sure I'm not just being a squeaky wheel, although there are a lot of people who operate on that basis. I usually have a very reasoned argument and I write the letter in a way that would make management believe I'm doing them a favour by bringing the peoblem to their attention. What's that saying - "You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar." Or something like that.

  6. Funny, the one complaint I made which should have elicited a letter from the bloody CEO was to British Airways about some shocking treatment on a long haul flight plus two lost pieces of baby equipment. I never heard from a single minion never mind a bog shot. Bloody typical.

  7. Ok - you are apparently all the arsenal I am going to need moving forward, aren't you? Why didn't it occur to me before? If discussions with Ex go tits up tonight maybe you could draft me the first 'letter of complaint' and I will sit with baited breath in anticipation of immediate action!

  8. Grit - I think you epitomise someone who is being the change she wants to be and I applaud you.

    Nic - Oooh, I don't think a letter to me from him would be all that "balanced". Just leave the two of us in a small cell, I mean room, for an hour and I'm sure he'll come round!

  9. I don't often complain but I did once write an incensed letter to BA and got an upgrade (to premium economy - not great but better than nothing). Mind you, I did threaten to write all about their terrible customer service in the magazine I was working for.

    I think being in America makes you more assertive actually - they have no qualms about complaining, or taking things back. My sister in law, who was brought up here, even takes back books to Waterstones if she doesn't like them!

  10. yo! go sister. Be afraid, very afraid of Pissed Off Middle Aged Woman or POMAW as it, er, isn't known at all.
    Great post - Tesco here sort of submits complaints on your behalf and I was sent a corkscrew (not quite $300 and, like I need a corkscrew!) because I'd taken back a horrid bottle of wine. I felt rather embarrassed. Am such a wuss I tend to praise, instead, hoping to get an extra portion of something free or the biggest slice of cake, imagining them thinking, "aw, isn't she nice?" Doesn't happen. Talk about a waste of time!

  11. Yes..... its up to us as individuals to complain & get things moving! Good for you!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  12. How to fight your corner;

    An old aged pensionerhusband wheel chair bound needing dual control being told it will take three weeks to fix.

    Wow my Geordie heckles came to the fore -who is the one to help -I chose the Lord Mayor....I sent an e.mail within TWO DAYS it is fixed ready to move.

    Ahha what happens when I need wheelchair Dept to fix again Watch this space xxx

  13. Gandhi please! not ghandi!
    pronounced like it's spelt.


The more the merrier....

Blog Archive