A good reason to complain

Matt’s bout of food poisoning has prompted an email discussion on whether he should complain to the store that sold him the offending item. He is of the opinion that a certain percentage of products are always going to be bad and he was just unlucky, so why bother complaining. I think he’s ignoring the other half of the equation: the vendor wants people to complain.

It is true that a certain percentage of products will end up being bad. As a vendor I face a trade-off between production costs and production quality. The number of bad products is an important measure of my product quality, so I’m going to be very interested in how many poison my customers. If customers don’t complain then I have no information beyond my own internal testing. To remedy the information problem I offer freebies to people who complain as a payment for taking the time to provide me with information on the quality of my product. So freebies may be a way to make complainers go away, but they may also be a way for companies to gather better information about the quality of products reaching their customers.

If people have a problem complaining because they’re worried about companies thinking that they’re just out to get a freebie then I have a solution. I’m willing to provide a service whereby I take and deal with all freebies given out by companies. They can deliver the freebie straight to me to absolve the complainant of any guilt that they may feel. I think that solution might even be a Pareto improvement! Matt, you know how to get in touch 😉

  • Complain, Matt!

    There’s even a good rationale for doing so in terms of public benefit. Suppose there is a “normal” rate of bad goods of 2%. What if there are complaints that amount to 5%? Not only does this tell the supplier something about the process but it might also be indicative of a serious contamination problem. The supplier may not do anything if they are in it for a quick buck and exits but if they are there for the long haul (a) they know there’s a problem that needs to fixed and (b) if it very serious (like salmonella), addressing the problem saves others going through the agony.

    Matt as a single consumer is unlikely to know of other cases and the obvious point where that information can be easily collected is the seller.

  • I thought the fact you would get a voucher for some free food is good enough reason to complain, we aren’t talking about taking them to court here or anything:)

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