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Saturday, 26 November 2011

True Britannia

The queue for the Customer Disservice desk,
takes me by unsurprise:
“Would you mind completing a customer satisfaction survey,
while you wait to be dissatisfied?”

Silently practicing a complaints speech
so dynamic
it could make the shop assistant,
take a soul-searching sabbatical to Tibet –
Seven months training in Basic Human Interaction,
a further two months in Common Courtesy,
and one week in How to use a biro,
without getting ink all over your hands

This is the complaints speech to end all complaints speeches
A  ‘perfect pauses,
SHOUTS in all the right places,
righteous riot act’ of a speech.
A  ‘left to my own devices
and with the benefit of hindsight,
I might have had a dream’  kind of speech.

But then the hypnotic voice of British sensibilities kicks in:

“3, 2, 1 and you’re under...
As the queue diminishes, so will your resolve.
You will accept the shop assistant’s feeble excuses
and a voucher that does not represent
value for money, or time that you’ll never get back
and you will thank her for the privilege.
If you attempt to go against your ingrained,
 ‘mustn’t cause a fuss’  Britishness,
I will make you buy an onion from the Food Court
and eat it, thinking it’s an apple.

Now, leave quietly
and don’t forget to smile”

© Dave Viney

British comedy and terrible customer service, a match made in heaven
Dave Viney, Mancunian performance poet has performed for BBC Manchester, currently performing in Amateur Thematics / Lowry Theatre and can be contacted at Vineypoet@hotmail.co.uk ,
while his website is being shiny-fied.


  1. Oh, it's not exclusive to Britain! (Mind you, I do live in a country that is still a member of the British Empire.)

    I was with you the whole way through. What really gets me is when you can go through at a checkout line without having a single word exchanged with the surly, self-involved, studded student on the other side of the counter.

    Perhaps I do a disservice. It's not every single one, just the majority.

  2. Thanks Kat, glad it struck a chord. I actually experienced a weird flip-side the other day - I was in London and the guy serving me, made a point of telling me I was by far the most polite customer he'd had all day - Manners did seem to be a bit lacking in the centre of London if I'm honest, but I didn't think it was THAT bad. All the best, Dave Viney

  3. It's a lovely poem, Dave. Nicely subversive. I have a real internal struggle to make myself complain but it is generally worth it. I will remember the onion/apple example!

  4. Last summer I got on a (late) train on the Norwich to London line to be welcomed by this announcement by the guard over the PA:

    "National Express apologises for the late departure of this service. This is due to the number of passengers boarding the train."

    I could scarcely believe my ears. Did I really just hear the company have the audacity to out-and-out blame its customers for the poor service it was providing? Do not those clever people in the timetabling department budget for people actually getting on and off their trains?

    Give me strength.