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Why You Should Not Write a Complaint Post

Last month my family went on a one week vacation to Walt Disney World. We had fabulous service at parks, restaurants, and our hotel, enjoyed countless rides and entertainment, and even found something exciting to do during two days of rain. On our final day, we waited patiently for the Magical Express to pick us up at our hotel and take us back to the airport for our flight home. What followed can only be summed up as one hour of misery. As I sat on that bus on the way to the airport, I mentally wrote a blog post about the experience. I noted the date, the time, the driver’s name (which I still remember…it was that bad) as well as every detail of what transpired.

But then I let it go.
I could have done what many in the blogosphere do and written all of the details of this terrible experience. As a writer I am fluent in the language of hyperbole, and the picture I could have painted for you of our trip to the airport would have been vivid, detailed, and memorable.
It would have been memorable.
When bloggers sit down to write a negative post lambasting a company, a former friend, the PR industry (their child’s school, the weather, an estranged relative…really, this could go on forever) they almost never weigh the impact that might have both on them and on the object of their wrath. They also almost never paint the whole picture – it is simply impossible to do so within the constraints of a blog post. For most the traffic such a post brings to their blog or the release they receive from venting are enough to make it worthwhile, but I believe that bloggers should take a moment before hitting “publish post” and reconsider publishing complaint blogging.
Reviews
Let me clarify that I am not suggesting that bloggers should write only positive product reviews. Most of my reviews include a “this is not for you if…” caveat, and I believe that it is important to always be truthful when writing a review. Overly joyful review posts that sound more like infomercials are part of why bloggers are seen in a negative light, after all. However, if the toy you are reviewing is so loud that you need to cover the speaker with tape to diminish the sound, rather than flamboyantly declaring that Company A is out to damage the hearing of all children worldwide you can state the simple truth: like many children’s toys, you found the sound to be a bit much, and therefore you covered the speaker with tape. You let the company know of your displeasure, and your child continues to play with the very fun and otherwise safe toy. Truth in advertising is a multi-faceted concept, and just as you should disclose your relationship with companies and report your actual findings, you should also be evenhanded when writing about any negatives you find.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Reviews aside, why shouldn’t you write a complaint post? Negativity has a life of its own and will quickly get legs. It is simply impossible for me to even begin to write about all of the wonderful experiences my family has had at Walt Disney World. To properly show the weight that a negative post about Disney should have in comparison to my positive experiences, I would have to literally write thousands of posts. In the absence of those posts, a negative complaint fest would have stood out, an emotional tirade beaming far brighter than my less affecting posts about a good meal at Nine Dragons or a nice evening at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. While my bad experience was just one small blip on a radar screen otherwise filled with cherished, happy memories, a post about that bad experience would have stood out, a uniquely critical rant about a beloved company. When you choose to post the good, the bad, and the ugly, the ugly will always get more traffic and feedback.
Who Does This Affect?
- The Company – For a company like Walt Disney World who does not, by the way, even own the shuttle service with which I had problems, negative feedback cannot damage a long history of a proud and stellar reputation for customer service. In fact, as I’ve written before, customer service is one of the most magical aspects of a Disney World vacation for the parents who choose to spend their precious time and money in the World. But imagine that you are a company whose reputation is still forming, especially online. One scathing post – fair and balanced or not – will stand out as a conversation piece in the very market you are trying to reach.
- The Blogger – Lately nasty charges have been thrown around about bloggers blindly shilling for companies. While no one wants to appear to be a thoughtless mouthpiece, you also do not want to be known as a person who courts blog traffic on the backs of bad situations. Just as a company’s reputation can be made or broken by the hateful words on a blog, so can a bloggers’ reputation. If you hope to use your blog someday as a jumping off point for freelance or full time work, carefully consider what you post today and the impression that will make on future employers. Will others see your writing as honest and fair or one-sided?
- The Community – Open and honest discussion is an important part of any functional community. As bloggers it is important for us to find ways and opportunities to share our frustrations not only to feel as though we are not alone in our experiences, but also to move forward and create change. But at the same time, blogs and the comments that follow are a very public forum, visited by those outside of the blogging community. If you choose to rant in a post and draw your readers into your anger, that negative spotlight will shine on everyone around you. Think long and hard about if there’s any constructive with the criticism, and whether or not the picture you are painting is fair and accurate, or indulgent and divisive.
Your blog is the world’s window into who you are. What is yours saying about you?

Comments

  1. 1

    While I completely agree with you about your post, I do feel a letter to Walt Disney World would have made a lot of sense in your case. I do hope you did write them a letter so they could fix the problems you encountered so others don’t have to experience the same thing.

    But you are right – a Walt Disney World blast may not have hurt them but it wouldn’t make you yourself look so good.
    Maggie @ Tethered Mommy recently posted..Bypass the ice cream man and buy 6 at one time!

  2. 2

    I think this is wonderfully expressed and I totally understand. Using your advice, I believe that within a post about your Disney experience could have been a rational mention of the one unpleasantness without bashing. That is if you were writing a review. As far as I can remember, which normally isn’t far LOL, I haven’t bashed any companies. My complaints are kept to the strict constraints of my everyday life. No, kidding again… a little. Seriously: Great post and advice. Well done.
    Petula recently posted..Use your gifts- follow your heart- share your experiences

  3. 3
    geekbabe
    Follow on Twitter: geekbabe
    says:

    I’d been meaning to come back here & let you know that this post has helped me tremendously. Giving readers the info they need to have about a product or service without openly bashing a company is truly an art, one you’ve mastered quite effectively. I view you as a role model
    in this area!
    geekbabe recently posted..Windows Live Essentials Beta test update

  4. 4
    Annie @ PhD in Parenting
    Follow on Twitter: phdinparenting
    says:

    I just came across this through your re-post of it this month.

    I would never write a complaint post based on a bad customer service experience that I had. I recognize that could be a one off situation and is best handled by talking with the company directly to get it resolved. If no one will listen (i.e. calls, e-mails, etc. go unanswered), I might take it to twitter to see if I can get a response, but not to lambaste the company.

    However…and this is a BIG however, there are lots of companies out there that have systemic unethical business practices and I would, and have, written complaint posts about them. If a company is doing something that is dangerous or abusive to a large number of people, I’m not particularly worried about the consequences for that company. As for the consequences for me, some people may not like to hear it, but overall I think that calling out these types of things does a great service to a large number of readers and I hope it puts pressure on companies to change. That is more important to me than what people think of me.
    Annie @ PhD in Parenting recently posted..Quotable- Religious and secular co-existence

    • 5
      Amy
      Follow on Twitter: ResourcefulMom
      says:

      Annie, thank you for posting this comment because you bring up two great points. The first is that there are certainly some companies, products, practices, government organizations, people, etc. etc. etc. about whom the world should be complaining and in many cases, bloggers lead that charge. I was remiss in not making that point in my original post. Likewise, there are some blogs and bloggers where this sort of post is simply part of the conversation and tone of the blog, and where it is a service not a complaint. My concern was more with the bloggers who day in, day out, blog about products they recommend, babies first steps, fun educational tips….and then out of the blue have a bad experience with a PR company, a travel agency, a local store, etc. and they write a scathing complaint post. It’s almost a theme across the blogosphere to do that on occasional, and I believe that writers should use caution. Always happy for your thoughtful feedback :)

  5. 6
    Mary Matheson says:

    That’s a great post. But aren’t you a “Disney” blogger. As in, aren’t you going for free on the new cruise ship as guests of Disney? Does that relationship have anything to do with you reluctance to write that “complaint” post?

    • 7
      Amy
      Follow on Twitter: ResourcefulMom
      says:

      Wow, Mary, I’m sorry. You must be confused! As you can see, I wrote that post a year ago in response to an incident that happened during my family vacation with my husband, children, and my mother. While I’m THRILLED to have been invited to be a guest of Walt Disney World on the Christening Cruise of the Disney Dream, that will be my very first trip to Walt Disney World as a blogger guest of Disney. I was invited one other time when there was a last minute opening and my friend Kelby recommended me, but I wasn’t able to go. I blogged about that a bit here: http://resourcefulmommy.com/589/disneys-kim-possible-world-showcase-adventure/. I am sorry for the confusion. I am not a “Disney Blogger” – although have met one gentleman who is and think that must be an awesome job!! – but am instead a blogger who sometimes writes about Disney. Most of my Disney related posts provide resources to stay with the overall theme of my blog. My Disney journey began in 1981 when I traveled to Walt Disney World with my family. I recently posted pictures of that trip here: http://resourcefulmommy.com/4495/wordless_wednesday_linky/ The truth is that I pay for my family’s Disney vacations with money that I earn in marketing and as a freelance writer. I usually put together fabulous deals and have helped dozens of others find the cheapest way to visit Disney. This past weekend I paid full price for everything – very rare with the amazing deals that are usually available at WaltDisneyWorld.com.

      But more about not writing a “complaint post.” Regardless of the fact that I am a Disneyphile, not writing a complaint post has more to do with the fact that they overshadow every other post on a person’s blog and paint a picture in all one color. I hope that you found that point in there! Thanks for reading!

  6. 8

    Very well written! I totally agree with the points you brought up and I think bloggers should definitely consider these points before publishing a rant post.
    Diana – Teacher Mom recently posted..Dr Oetker Saves the Day! – Product Review and Giveaway

  7. 9
    Julie Davis
    Follow on Twitter: finntannermom
    says:

    Good post! I agree completely. Rarely read or comment on blogs but felt this one deserved it.

    Julie

  8. 10

    Thanks for re-posting this article — it’s an important one!

    I think some bloggers view their blogs (and Twitter channels for that matter) as personal space where they can share their honest uncensored remarks. While they obviously CAN do that, I think your article is a good reminder that they really shouldn’t.

    Just because the online space offers you editorial freedom, doesn’t mean you should take advantage of it. As you said, ask yourself if you feedback is constructive and also ask yourself if what you’re about to publish is going to come back and bite you in the butt :)

    Thanks again for the great post!
    Jennifer recently posted..jennko- @AudreyMcClellan- haha- did that work

  9. 11
    Wendy
    Follow on Twitter: ChoosingLoveAZ
    says:

    Blogs that rant are ones I avoid. Sure I could rant on my blog about the injustices of the world, but I choose not to go down that road. I just recently shared a really bad experience with Santa and was the first post of its kind on my blog but it was not a rant. I was very careful, never mentioned the company’s name, and edited it heavily.
    Wendy recently posted..Favorite Posts of 2011

  10. 12
    Jane m
    Follow on Twitter: Janeeric03
    says:

    Never thought of it that way, it makes perfect sense though. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom

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  1. [...] year and a half ago I wrote about why bloggers should never write a complaint post.  I’ve re-posted it a couple of times since then and have talked about it while speaking at [...]

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