Legitimate vs. Entitlement Complaints

The current hot meme out there is to poke at white women of a certain age with a certain haircut (randomly named “Karen”) who act in an entitled/pushy manner and ask to see the manager. I’ve dealt with my share of “Karens” over the years, and my perception of the issue is that someone is expecting a servant rather than service. Be that as it may, I thought I’d throw out some suggestions of what constitutes a legitimate vs. an “entitlement” complaint…and this comes from someone who has been “service oriented” and handled complaints in verbal and written form. Apparently these types of primer are now necessary.

Legitimate Issues

  • Broken, damaged, or defective merchandise.
  • Product/service in poor condition: e.g., hotel room): dirty, uncleaned, beds not made, piece of scouring pad found in food, etc.
  • Rude staff: surly attitude, actual insults, ignoring customer right in front of them, etc.
  • Safety concerns: product- or service-related activities that could result in immediate harm to employees and customers.
  • Negligent service: pointing out a spill and nobody gets to it or posts a sign within an hour.
  • Negative service: employee stomps on luggage in golf cleats because they didn’t receive a proper tip, server spits in/on food/drink, etc.
  • Product/service quality: software doesn’t work/glitchy, multiple errors found in documents, obvious problems not addressed, car won’t start after servicing, etc.
  • Service timeliness: hours to answer a massive hotel room plumbing flood, taking an hour to receive the check for a meal, etc.
  • Lack of follow-up: failure to follow up the next day if told someone would call the next day.

Entitlement Issues

  • You, your offspring, or someone in your family is not moved to the front of the line or served more quickly because you’re special/you.
  • The staff did not demonstrate appropriate deference/obsequiousness toward your august person. (“Yes, your Highnessness?”)
  • Regular operations suspended due to unforeseen, uncontrollable circumstances: power outage, hurricane, earthquake, tornado, thunderstorm, tsunami pandemic, terrorism, labor dispute, riots in the streets, national emergency, etc. (Bart to an Epcot guest: “I’m sorry, ma’am, our weather satellite is broken.”)
  • Failure to smile after being yelled at for 45 minutes. (I’ve had this one.)
  • You don’t like the looks/appearance of whoever is helping you. (Not to be confused with actual grooming or bad show issues–gripes about nail polish, really?)
  • Employee speaks with a thick but understandable accent. You can always ask them to slow down or explain your difficulty–some accents, admittedly, are more difficult to understand than others. This should not warrant “escalation” to a manager.
  • An employee shows insufficient gratitude for a gratuity/tip.
  • Not being served quickly enough. This is different from service timeliness in my opinion because some folks have unreasonable expectations of a short-staffed or overcrowded restaurant. If it looks busy, ask what the wait time is. If the place is fully staffed and the employees are truly hustling in a busy environment, relax and wait your turn. Complaining about slow service is a great way to ensure that an unappreciated employee will slow down their service just for you.
  • You resent the gender/ethnicity/race/origin of the person providing service. Unacceptable. No apologies given. If you don’t like who you’re seeing, go back home.
  • Unhappy with level of service recovery. If you complained before, received compensation in some form, and appeared to accept the recovery effort at the time, going somewhere else in the organization or griping after you get home is not acceptable. The hospitality industry has very good software to track repeat complainers.

Bottom Line

Entitlement complaints are personal preference issues, often backed by nothing more than attitude or ignorance: you’re expecting businesses or service employees to suspend their actual reality to cater to your personal preferences or demands.

Legitimate complaints are based on objective problems that can and should be addressed based on the company’s line of business and customer service policies. If you’ve got an entitlement-related complaint, think twice about what you’re saying or demanding and ask yourself if you would find the complaint legitimate before voicing/writing about it.

If you’ve got a legitimate complaint, fire away, preferably based on evidence, in a polite, direct manner,  without resorting to insults, foul language or threats. And if your legitimate complaint is not handled at all or in an inappropriate manner (see the standards above), ask for a manager, even if your name is Karen.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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