Friday, 30 July 2010

The Honour Complaint

Rejoining the service sector has given me the opportunity to observe a uniquely fascinating psychological phenomenon, perhaps exclusive to this area of human activity: the Honour Complaint. Here's an example:

CUSTOMER (looking sheepish): I'm really sorry, but I have to complain. We were waiting ages for our food, and when it arrived it was cold. Sorry.

SERVER: I'm sorry about that, sir. I can get the manager for you if you'd like.

CUSTOMER: Yes, please. (Suddenly embarrassed by own patheticness) I mean, it really was bad. In fact...I think it was the worst meal I've ever eaten. I was nearly sick. Twice. My child developed an eating disorder before my eyes. You're lucky I'm not pressing charges.

SERVER: Of course, sir. Thank you for your heroic forbearance. Please accept this complimentary chocolate brownie as a token of our profound gratitude.

CUSTOMER (relieved): Thanks. That was all I wanted.

The person who delivers an Honour Complaint is rarely a seasoned complainer. He would rather keep quiet, but for some reason he feels obliged to make a stand. Perhaps he's having lunch with his boss, and doesn't want to appear spineless. Perhaps he's compensating for the recent removal of one or more of his testacles. The reason is not always clear. But because he's anxious about the process, he's liable to behave erratically, apologising one moment then making outrageous accusations the next. If he makes an ultimatum, it will be delivered in the style of a librarian facing down a gang of chain-wielding youths: "Look, you better just do as I say, or I'm liable to get very cross." His lips say "Have at you, you ruffians!" but his eyes say "Please don't humiliate me in front of my children. I'm this close to convincing them that I'm a man."

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