Thursday, 24 June 2010

Speaking up

Generally, I am pretty bad at speaking up. There are so many occasions when things happen (or don't happen), yet either go unnoticed or get swept under the carpet because it's easier to just not complain and cause discomfort. I prefer to vote with my feet and just quietly go elsewhere next time, but that's not always possible, especially in ongoing situations. I'm not sure if it's fear of retribution, fear of being blamed for causing the problem, appearing like a trivial moaner, or not wanting to upset someone, but I'm dreadful at complaining to people about a product or service.

Last year, a friend's partner treated three of us to a pampering and high tea session. Most of it was fantastic, but there were a couple of moments when things got uncomfortable. At the time, I was in the middle of ongoing treatment for a damaged disc in my back and my osteopath had given strict instructions for me to pass on to the masseuse about I'd need during the course of a massage. I passed these instructions on and they were agreed to, then promptly ignored. I wriggled and squirmed throughout my massage but couldn't let myself speak up; it was so peaceful and quiet, and maybe they were just about to turn me like they were supposed to and I'd only annoy them by pushing the situation? Nope, no change. The session finished with a copper foot bath consisting of Earl Grey tea leaves floating in extremely hot water. (It's supposed to be good for you. Hmm.) Two of us asked for some cooler water to be added to the mix as we couldn't cope with the heat. We were informed that "that temperature is correct" and effectively dismissed, leaving us to grin and bear it for fear of being told off again. So why couldn't we just insist that we were about to be scalded, instead of just keeping quiet and trying to endure it?

A South African colleague was telling about someone she knew in her homeland who was a 'serial complainer'. She had a whole room full of compensation and apology products from companies she had complained to about almost everything. It seemed to work for her. I could think of nothing more uncomfortable.

For a number of years, my band regularly played at a local cabaret. The owner was an incredibly calm and compassionate woman. She told me about how patrons would eat a full buffet meal (sometimes with second helpings), then go downstairs to complain to her about the quality of the food, or how their salt shaker was partially clogged up, therefore they couldn’t put salt evenly on their food and it ruined their entire meal. She would listen and nod sympathetically and say she understood how awful that must have been for them. Then, they would invariably ask for a free meal voucher to use on another occasion, to which she would reply sweetly, "If your meal was so awful tonight, why would you want to come back again?" Problem solved, or dissipated.

We need to fire our cleaner. We just don't know how to do it. Do we approach the cleaner in the first instance and give her yet another 'second chance'? Do we go directly to the company and complain, effectively undermining her or 'dobbing her in'? We have reluctantly paid her each fortnight (she is quick to ring up the very next day if her money hasn't come through, even if we are out too late to transfer the payment for that working day) but we’re hesitant to pay her for yesterday's dreadful job. Still, she was there for two hours 'working' in our home, even if she missed lots of things.

We've actually had a bad run of cleaners these past couple of years. Apparently we have a file with complaints about other cleaners, even though we've never actually complained to this company and regularly get asked that "if you have any problems at all, just call us" or "we can send another cleaner, if you want". Yet, we never do. Yes, we've also wondered if we're being too fussy, but paying $65 for a 'deluxe' clean that only took 40 minutes, or seeing that a cleaning brush we had left (with instructions) between the shower doors so she could use it to clean the glass hadn’t been moved, or coming home to see a biscuit the cat had found and dragged into the lounge was still on the floor after the cleaner had been there for two hours isn’t acceptable to us.

I think that my sweetie should fire her as the booking is under his name, but he thinks I should do it as I'm the one who leaves out the cleaning list for her and has spoken to her more.  Neither of us are good at rocking the boat but something needs to happen. (I'm determined it will be him.) It's all very well to say we should just be assertive and deal with the situation, but who actually find this easy to do? Does anyone actually ever feel good about complaining or speaking up?


Alli said...

I wish I could offer suggestions but alas I'm the same way as you. The only way I ever speak up is if I get angry enough. That takes a LONG time to do. But... finding a cat biscuit and the shower brush in the same position might be just enough for me. You're paying her for her service and she's not giving it. :( I'm with you, I'd push my guy to do it because he's generally better at these things. Or maybe call the company because I'd be embarrassed to do it face-to-face. Sorry, wish I could give you some assertive advice!

Anonymous said...

I am not one to "rock the boat" either so I know how you feel! Make your sweetie do the firing! :-)

donna said...

I hate complaining but sometimes it just has to be done! Tell your sweetie that the cleaner has to go! You deserve to get good service.

Sab said...

I know where you are coming from. I hate confrontation, although sometimes it needs to be done (and that was one of the things I loved about being pregnant... I didn't mind being confrontational in the least bit if it was necessary). I would definetly fire the cleaning service... they are NOT doing their job! At all! 2 hours and I can have my entire house cleaned pretty well (including dusted) and I have two young kids! There is no reason to have a cat biscuit or a shower brush that hasn't moved. None at all.

Good luck with that!

Café Chick said...

She's gone. My sweetie called the company. He got the impression they think we're just being too fussy and are complainers. Oh well. They will send someone else for us to try, but if that doesn't work out we'll just have to look elsewhere. Either way, my sweetie and I refuse to do all the cleaning on behalf of our flatmates, which is why we have a cleaner every fortnight.

BTW, she was only asked to clean a kitchen, bathroom, lounge and second toilet in two hours - no bedrooms, laundry, and only had to vacuum a teensy hallway, so it's hardly a mansion!