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Would you abandon a brand over a bad experience?

Angry customer

I think most of us probably accept that we will experience discontentment with a service or product at some point. But just how many of us are happy to forgive and forget?

It will come as no surprise to many that it was the retail sector which received the biggest share of complaints in the latest multi-sector Consumer Action Monitor survey by Ombudsman Services.

According to the report, retail sector complaints had a 24% share of the total complaints and the cost of poor service to the sector weighed in at a significant £10.05 billion last year.

The report found most consumers are often happy to forgive and forget as long as their complaint is resolved satisfactorily. But, if a complaint is handled poorly many aren’t afraid to retract their custom, with 19% taking their business elsewhere and 15% making a conscious decision to spend less with a brand.

Poor service

A bad experience can be disheartening, stressful and inconvenient. The company is already facing the weight of an unhappy customer, so the complaints and resolution process should be vital to turning things around.

But sometimes even this won’t be enough.

I had a negative experience with a large retailer in the weeks running up to Christmas the year before last, which has since permanently damaged my relationship with them.

I ordered two sets of four champagne glasses, which were to be a present for my parents. Ordered and confirmed in early December and with a delivery date selected for December 22nd. I was shocked when half of the order was cancelled on the same day I was due to pick it up. That’s right, the same day!

This left me feeling dejected, let down and – above all – incredibly stressed running around physical stores trying to see if there were still any on display. We are a family of eight at Christmas and special occasions, so four flutes instead of eight just didn’t quite cut the mustard!

I was refunded the full amount for the missing part of the order as was proper, and sent a £10 e-gift card as an apology for them being unable to fulfil my order at the eleventh hour.

At the time, I didn’t actually feel the need to complain further; the retailer had refunded me as they were in breach of contract and extended the added olive branch of a gift card. But the experience left me distrustful.

Complaints handling

I still shop with the retailer, but will never again do this online around Christmas for fear of being let down in the same way.

How a company manages its complaints and decides to resolve the issue might impact whether the consumer chooses to remain loyal, spends less or takes their business elsewhere.

If your complaint was handled well, would you think more highly of the business? Would you continue spending money with the company in the same way? What if your complaint was handled poorly – would you take your business elsewhere?

Which of these statements best describes how you would react if your complaint wasn't dealt with well:

I would take my business elsewhere – they let me down (81%, 1,356 Votes)

I would make a conscious decision to spend less with the business – I can’t rely on them in the same way (17%, 277 Votes)

I would forgive and forget – everyone makes mistakes from time to time (2%, 36 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,669

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I make no bones about it if I am caused trouble by a retailer then I take my business elsewhere, what we are getting now is commercial arrogance –not right madam ? – doesn’t taste good sir ? -tough ! You havec only to look at the web-pages of Which to see the massive complaints pouring in . I have watched food products go from tasty down to terrible and watery in supermarkets , one well know soup manufacturer of higher quality produce kept on upping the price till people stopped buying , what did they do ? lower the amount contained in the products and reduced the price when people tasted them they didn’t buy more -result – cans are reduced to 50p/tin to improve trade . There is now little power in the hands of the consumer but ONE frightens the manufacturers still- Boycott that works and always will . This should be applied with a vengeance to companies that arrogantly say- buy our products you “lucky ” people and then refuse to help when a customer has a problem or fends them off , not our problem see -xyz for “help ” . Still -server error.


I have avoided Currys/PC World for years for various reasons, but mainly over their reluctance to face up to their responsibilities under the Sale of Goods Act.

I don’t use Amazon for much more than the occasional map or guide book. I have discovered that they do not take responsibility for goods sold by their Marketplace traders, even if there are safety issues. People who would be cautious about buying goods from a street market or an unheard of company trading online are happy to order online from Amazon and have an unheard of company fulfil the order. It’s a simple and elegant con, in my view.

I have given up on Marks & Spencer, having shopped there since my mum used to take me to buy clothes. They carried on selling clothing made in the UK for longer than other shops and although the prices were high the quality was generally good. Nowadays it’s imported goods, like other shops, and what they sell either no longer appeals or is considerably overpriced. The only time I have ordered online, they were very unhelpful over delivery.


Complaints are handled by individuals and, human nature being what it is, some (most) do it much better than others. So if a retailer sells a product I want and am happy with generally, I would look objectively at a problem and give the business whatever chances I feel it deserves. I have been with the AA for years and always negotiate my annual renewal. This year I spoke to an unhelpful and abrupt individual who refused (as is his prerogative) to reduce my premium to what I regarded as a satisfactory figure. Because of the attitude I did not conclude my renewal, but rang the AA a week later, spoke to another person who was very pleasant and we concluded a deal that was better then i was working towards.

We must be careful if we take out business elsewhere on principle, and lose out in the process, simply to make a point. I don’t see cutting off your nose to spite your face as a good strategy.


A few days on another convo I wrote:
Having just looked at the latest copy of Which? magazine, I was appalled to see that 77 sub-brands of estate agents were owned by just 5 groups and after declaring we wouldn’t touch one of them with a bargepole discovered we used another agent in the same group. Had we realised, we would not have used them either.
You can read the rest of my rant here if you are interested:

If I have a bad experience with a company but the company works hard to put the problem right, then I would probably use them again. It would rather depend on the problem, and if it was one of quality, then they probably wouldn’t get my custom again.

But my mega-gripe is not knowing who I am dealing with as companies buy out other companies but continue to trade under the original brand name when the products might have little resemblance to their original specifications especially in quality.

To bring back real competition, I want to see parent companies names in front of their sub-brands so we can make an informed decision whether we want to trade with that company again or not. e.g. Countrywide-Mann, Countrywide-Miller, Electrolux-AEG, Electrolux-Zanussi.


I think the number of reputable UK brands that have been sold out to foreign companies with manufacture off-shored and quality impaired would astonish you, Alfa. Some time ago I realised that this had happened with Pringle knitwear. It had been sold to the Fang’s of Hong Kong. It’s worth taking a look on Wikipedia at “Pringle of Scotland” to see how it has changed, both for the better and the worse, over the years as it struggled to make money while remaining a luxury goods manufacturer. Needless to say, nothing is made in Scotland anymore – just a bit of finishing work so they can still sew on a ‘Made in Scotland’ label.


From the companies’ point of view it does not matter if Pringle’s knitwear is imported or they are able to sell goods under reincarnated brand names that disappeared decades ago. I do not see any easy way that the consumer can easily keep track of what is happening. In addition to the usual ways of finding out about products and customer service I suggest speaking to neighbours, friends and family for up to date information rather than relying on pleasant or unpleasant experience in the past.


This is a list of companies I found posted on the internet a few months ago and these are only associated with the EU so there are plenty more:

Cadbury moved factory to Poland 2011 with EU grant.
Ford Transit moved to Turkey 2013 with EU grant.
Jaguar Land Rover has recently agreed to build a new plant in Slovakia with EU grant, owned by Tata, the same company who have trashed our steel works and emptied the workers’ pension funds.
Peugeot closed its Ryton (was Rootes Group) plant and moved production to Slovakia with EU grant.
British Army’s new Ajax fighting vehicles to be built in SPAIN using SWEDISH steel at the request of the EU to support jobs in Spain with EU grant, rather than Wales.
Dyson gone to Malaysia, with an EU loan.
Crown Closures, Bournemouth (Was METAL BOX), gone to Poland with EU grant, once employed 1,200.
M&S manufacturing gone to Far East with EU loan.
Hornby models gone. In fact all toys and models now gone from UK along with the patents all with EU grants.
Gillette gone to Eastern Europe with EU grant.
Texas Instruments Greenock gone to Germany with EU grant.
Indesit at Bodelwyddan Wales gone with EU grant.
Sekisui Alveo said production at its Merthyr Tydfil Industrial Park foam plant will relocate production to Roermond in the Netherlands, with EU funding.
Hoover Merthyr factory moved out of UK to Czech Republic and the Far East by Italian company Candy with EU backing.
ICI integration into Holland’s AkzoNobel with EU bank loan and within days of the merger, several factories in the UK, were closed, eliminating 3,500 jobs.
Boots sold to Italians Stefano Pessina who have based their HQ in Switzerland to avoid tax to the tune of £80 million a year, using an EU loan for the purchase.
JDS Uniphase run by two Dutch men, bought up companies in the UK with £20 million in EU ‘regeneration’ grants, created a pollution nightmare and just closed it all down leaving 1,200 out of work and an environmental clean-up paid for by the UK tax-payer. They also raided the pension fund and drained it dry.
UK airports are owned by a Spanish company.
Scottish Power is owned by a Spanish company.
Most London buses are run by Spanish and German companies.
The Hinkley Point C nuclear power station to be built by French company EDF, part owned by the French government, using cheap Chinese steel that has catastrophically failed in other nuclear installations. Now EDF say the costs will be double or more and it will be very late even if it does come online.
Swindon was once our producer of rail locomotives and rolling stock. Not any more, it’s Bombardier in Derby and due to their losses in the aviation market, that could see the end of the British railways manufacturing altogether even though Bombardier had EU grants to keep Derby going which they diverted to their loss-making aviation side in Canada.
39% of British invention patents have been passed to foreign companies, many of them in the EU.
The Mini cars that David Cameron stood in front of as an example of British engineering, are built by BMW mostly in Holland and Austria. His campaign bus was made in Germany even though we have Plaxton, Optare,
Bluebird, Dennis etc., in the UK.
The bicycle for the Greens was made in the Far East, not by Raleigh UK but then they are probably going to move to the Netherlands too as they have said recently.