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Wednesday, 24 July 2019


Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 
Published CV available on request. & @JoeCushnan

Nowadays, whenever we do any kind of transaction or have any interaction with a business, there is the inevitable request from them for 'feedback'. Sometimes the request comes with a polite 'please' and other times an incentive of gift cards or discounts is added.  Mostly I ignore these requests but occasionally if I have a point to make, I'll respond.

One of my pet hates in shops is the loud music blaring out of the ceiling. This music is selected by someone who is either hard of hearing or wearing ear plugs. This someone is a huge fan of screeching divas, mostly female, who relish the challenge in any song to hit a lung-busting note. These shrillers must rattle and weaken the shop's foundations, for they certainly rattle mine. I have used the feedback form at least 10 times to make my point about the same shop. Only on one occasion have I had a response - 'sorry about that....we'll sort it out'. Is it ever sorted out? No. So, on that flimsy point alone times 10, what is the point of feedback if nothing actually happens?

Companies must have bulging data banks of customer comments, so why is service, particularly supermarket service still so erratic. I'm going back nearly forty years man and boy as a retail manager. I know how hard it is to offer consistently high standards of service because of staff absenteeism, some lazy employees and the unpredictable nature of shoppers' habits. On the flip side, I have been a customer for decades, so I have witnessed service in all of its good, bad and ugly forms. Not much has changed and requests for feedback have not improved things one iota.

On feedback forms, I have made my feelings known about service charges and tipping to restaurants and hotels. I despise expected and pressurised tipping. It is and always has been a horrible practice. I am not talking about tipping that is entirely voluntary, where a customer makes up his or her mind to add a personal token of appreciation. That is fine by me. But, take America. I love the thought of going to America but the excitement is dulled by the thought of the rabid, nasty tipping culture. Go Stateside and budget 20% more spending money or else risk incurring the wrath of Jekyll & Hyde waiting staff. I once had a growl from a Chinese guy in a self-service - self-service! - restaurant for not leaving a tip. The response from hotels and restaurants to my feedback over the years? Mostly, zip. It is no surprise that there are news stories exposing wicked hospitality employers for pocketing tips. There was a story some time ago about a customer in Northern Ireland leaving a £1,000 tip. That’s great and generous – too generous? – but for me, the key point is the gesture was entirely voluntary.

I often get the feeling that business, as well as government, internet companies, the secret service and gangsters know more about us than we do ourselves. I'm fed up being asked for feedback and I have made a flexible resolution not to respond to any more requests. As I type that, I am reminded of a car company, after servicing my vehicle, phoning me the same afternoon to advise that someone from their service centre would be in touch and would I mind giving 10 out of 10 for all the service questions. Eh?

Not long back from London, within 24-hours, emails from the hotel, the restaurant, the train company and the booking service, all mad keen to know about my experience. All emails, of course, deleted.

The f-word "feedback", in my parlance, is always linked to the other f-word, followed by "off".

Let me know what you think! Ha, ha.

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