When smacked in the face with inept, indifferent, or just plain bad customer service, some consumers dial up the company to complain and demand proper treatment, while others shoot off angry emails. Still others use their outrage and sense of injustice to get their creative juices flowing. They elevate their complaints to something approaching art in order to simultaneously embarrass the company or organization that did them wrong and shame customer service into rectifying the situation.
Music videos, epic poetry, publicly tattling on the CEO’s mom—these are some of the extraordinary, hilarious lengths consumers have gone to while seeking justice for poor treatment. The rest of us can’t help but chuckle and cheer them along.
Take Out a Full-Page Ad
Eugene Mirman, a comedian and the voice of one of the characters on the Fox show “Bob’s Burgers,” does not take kindly to what he sees as unwarranted parking tickets—even if the fine is a measly $15. Instead of simply paying the fine to the city of Portsmouth, N.H., and going about his life, Mirman paid for a full-page ad in a local publication protesting the “horse$&it charge,” which he received because of an obscure (and pretty darn absurd) law prohibiting cars from backing into parking spots. The amusing screed was recently posted at Reddit with the headline “Best Full Page Ad Ever.” It should be noted that Mirman is well experienced with funny complaints; he previously incorporated the viral rant he wrote to Time Warner Cable into his comedy act.
Call the CEO's Mom
Comcast’s customer service is famously cold and inept—the latest example being call-in center employees who refused to give promised senior discounts on cable because they didn’t know they existed. (This FunnyorDie provides a laugh for anyone who has ever had the thought Comcast that doesn’t care about them.) About the time that Comcast was in trouble because “customer service” agents were calling subscribers names like “A**hole” in print, a Philadelphia Daily News columnist decided to call the mother of CEO Brian Roberts and tattle on the horrible things his company was doing. The net result was that one would-be subscriber, who had previously been frustrated by 14 screwed-up Comcast appointments, wound up surrounded by Comcast trucks in a matter of hours. If only every Comcast customer had the phone number of executives’ moms on speed dial!
Make a Music Video
“United Breaks Guitars” is probably the most viral and creative complaint of all time, viewed more than 15 million times on YouTube. The song and accompanying video were created by musician Dave Carroll in 2009 after (of course) the guitar he checked as luggage on a United Airlines flight was broken. In the video, Carroll sings of the horror he felt watching airport employees toss around musical instruments on the tarmac, as well as the way United workers “showed complete indifference towards me.” He even managed to turn the experience into a book, subtitled The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media.
Publish E-mail Addresses of Company Executives
After being stymied in his attempts to get his rewards account working properly, one Best Buy customer decided to go up the food chain to get some results. He found the email addresses and, in some cases, phone numbers of several Best Buy executives. In addition to using them to get some satisfaction for himself, he sent the contact list to the consumer advocacy site Consumerist, which published it in full.
Create a Website for Visual Complaining
To literally illustrate his exasperation after his new suitcase was damaged on a flight, B.J. Schone not only wrote a complaint to Southwest Airlines, he created the website DearSWA.com. At the site, Schone rehashes his experience, only instead of simply using words, the tale is told by interlacing before-and-after photos of the bag in question with images of the Grinch and the best customer service standoff in movie history, Steve Martin at the rental car counter in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Altogether, it makes for a compelling—and quite funny—bit of visual storytelling.
Make a Music Video #2
To embarrass Bank of America, which was taking extraordinarily long to get their mortgage loan paperwork in order, Ken and Meredith Williams made a funny music video called “Close This Loan!” It’s set to the tune of a Flight of the Conchords song, with lyrics like “Why can’t a house go fast / When a buyer’s got cash / Preapproval and two cats.”
Create a Website for Video Evidence
This resource for consumer complaints is more shocking than ha-ha funny. The website DontThrowMyPackage.com consists mostly of surveillance videos showing UPS, FedEx, and USPS workers tossing and damaging the packages they’re delivering. It was inspired by the outrage-inducing viral video “FedEx Guy Throwing My Computer Monitor.”
Tweet Wittily (Helps if You're Famous)
Ordinary consumers can and do Tweet when they have a beef with a company. But when someone famous Tweets about a bad experience with a brand, and when they do so in an acerbic way, the message (and damage) can spread incredibly quickly. Such was the case when Sir Patrick Stewart (a.k.a. Professor X from the X-Men films) spent 36 frustrating hours trying—and failing—to get Time Warner Cable service set up at his home in Brooklyn. “36hrs later I’ve lost the will to live,” Stewart wrote, in appropriately dramatic fashion. Similarly, actor-writer-director Kevin Smith received tons of attention while Tweeting about his embarrassing experience being asked to get off a Southwest Airlines flight because he was too fat. After Smith got to his destination, he joked on Twitter, “Don’t worry: wall of the plane was opened & I was airlifted out while Richard Simmons supervised.”
Write a Poem
There’s bad customer service, and then there’s service so bad that it moves customers to write poetry—because regular prose just can’t do the situation justice. Such was apparently the case when Joel Walden conceived the 20-stanza “Ode to Comcast (Composed While Waiting for the Cable Guy),” with lines such as “Enraged, I call, complain, and whine, / As manly as I’m able. / But no pleas, demands, nor whimpering / Would avail me any cable.”
Pay to Promote Complaints on Social Media
Most complaints surface on Twitter or Facebook and are quickly lost in obscurity. A Chicago-based business owner named Hasan Syed wanted his complaint—about British Airways losing his father’s luggage—to have more impact and be more memorable. He achieved his goal by spending more than $1,000 to promote his messages on Twitter. The messages themselves weren’t particularly funny (“Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.”), but the fact that he went to such extraordinary lengths to vent is pretty darn hilarious.