I’m an enthusiastic complainer. Only one peanut in a bag of Cracker Jacks? I call the 800 number on the package, talk to the sympathetic customer service representative, and receive her thanks for letting them know so they can tell the assembly line supervisor.
A Butter Ball turkey breast that tasted like cardboard? Thank you so much, that shouldn’t happen, and please look for our $5 certificate in the mail toward your next turkey.
An eyebrow pencil whose point broke off as I removed the cover? Rite Aid is happy to exchange it for another.
A bottle of liquid foundation that shot out of the bottle and stained a favorite shirt when I pried off the cap? No problem; again Rite Aid to the rescue so long as I brought in the wrapping and receipt.
Recently we endured several weeks of aggravation with our favorite channel, Valley Public Television, or PBS. Our guide on our AT&T U-verse server had incorrect listings for our favorite PBS programs, so we either missed them at the time they were supposed to be on, or couldn’t find them to tape.
Exploring various options, I found that “Death in Paradise” turned out to be the second part of “Midsomer Murders”. There were two consecutive episodes of “As Time Goes By”; the first one turned out to be “Still Open All Hours,” my favorite British sitcom.
It is a very silly half-hour about a small-town grocer and his son and I was disappointed at missing it because we all need to be able to laugh these days. The second episode was actually the first part of “ Midsomer Murders.” You had to be clairvoyant to figure this out; my insight came too late to satisfy our taping needs.
When I called PBS locally, it appeared that I was the first and only person to complain about this. I was told that PBS didn’t even run U-verse in their Fresno studio, so they would have to find someone from AT&T who could handle this. They explained the problem as an apparent lack of updating the listings in the guide, which is not their responsibility. Eventually the problem was corrected.
A couple of months ago, I received a letter from Blue Cross saying they would no longer pay for my prescription eye drops. I could have just knuckled under and changed prescriptions but had bad reactions previously with other preparations.
I called my optometrist, and she wrote a “medically necessary” letter for me. In a few weeks, I received a letter from Blue Cross denying the claim and insisting that this particular medication was not medically necessary.
The optometrist appealed the denial. Within a few weeks, I had a letter from Blue Cross saying that it had now accepted the claim and would continue to pay for my usual eye drops, at least for another year.
One of the reasons I complain is to get something done to right a wrong. I don’t like to accept carelessness or incompetence, even on a small scale. Obviously the things I described above aren’t great social injustices. I try to do something about those larger issues in my volunteer work for various organizations in the community. But then it is called “advocacy.”
The other reason I complain is because it feels good. I believe it truly helps my mental health. It gets irritants off my chest that I can actually do something about, whereas world peace and the opioid epidemic are a little beyond my reach, at least by myself. According to the magazine Psychology Today, self-expression, which includes complaining, can be a matter of self-respect and sanity.
Various people have had their say about complaining, and not all of it sympathetic to my point of view. Here are a few varied comments.
▪ “It's not bad to cough. But cover your mouth when coughing. It's not bad to complain. But cover your mouth when complaining, else you'll spread infections of complaints on us!” ― Israelmore Ayivor, inspirational writer
▪ “I know it's important to do more than just complain when there's something you don't like. You need to try to do something about it, or you're nothing but a whiner.” ― Jean Ferris, author
▪ “A good conversation always involves a certain amount of complaining. I like to bond over mutual hatreds and petty grievances.” ― Lisa Kleypas, author
▪ “Never tell your problems to anyone...20 percent don't care and the other 80 percent are glad you have them.” ― Lou Holtz, former football player, coach and analyst