Diddums, four times over.
To the Sydney woman whose expensive Uber trip home cost $720 rather than under $100 because of Uber’s well-known practice of hiking the price when demand outstrips supply, as it does on New Year’s Eve. "We'd had a few drinks and there might have popped up a notice about a surcharge," Skye Shanahan cried to the Herald. "But I had no idea it could be anywhere near that.”
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Find out why WIN television reporter Jodi Lee lashed out at Jetstar on its Facebook page.
To Russell Crowe, who took his kids on a plane and moaned to the Twitterverse that Virgin wouldn’t take his wee petals’ hoverboards in the hold, given the worries about spontaneous combustion of some types of lithium batteries. Then he moaned again. He was still moaning three days later.
To those who whinged about wayward advertising leaflets left in a Sydney street, including irate resident Pippa Dubb who took on the food delivery outfit, Suppertime on Facebook, calling out its promotional puffery that it had “just” delivered food to neighbours as “a blatant lie”. Advertisers exaggerating! Fancy that.
To the injured TV reporter who asked for a business class upgrade given a holiday injury, only to take it to Jetstar on its Facebook page when she didn’t get one.
None of them deserve sympathy. Any we might have felt with their dreadful plights was extinguished by their entitled public whingeing. It served only to increase sympathy for the complained against, and it takes some doing to evoke sympathy for Jetstar.
Every Uber user knows the deal at peak times. There’s a clear surge-price warning before booking. If you don’t like the system, don’t use it.
Airlines declining to carry potentially explosive hoverboards in the hold for a Hollywood star should be praised, not subject to petty public complaints directed to thousands of Twitter users.
Presumably, Crowe has both the ability to read, in which case he could have seen Virgin’s ban on carrying “lithium battery operated small recreational vehicles“ before he got to the airport, and the means to drive to Coffs Harbour if he didn’t like the deal. If I were to whinge about the emotional harm caused by the worst of his films in inverse proportion to the inconvenience caused to him by Virgin, I’d still be banging on about Les Misérables, and it was released in 2012.
And as for the leaflets, the traditional method to sooth the irritation they cause to one’s tender soul is to put them in the bin.
Most complaints inflicted on other users of social media should be in the bin too, including the rivers of electronic tears shed over an expensive harbourside party on New Year’s Eve, where the queues were long and the toilets substandard.
Complain to the company if you want to, tell the authorities if you must. But sharing with the world your intense frustration at a mild inconvenience makes you a whinger, and if there's one Australian cultural tradition that could do with a re-invigoration it's the prohibition on whingeing.
(I immediately accept that a columnist whingeing about whingeing is deeply hypocritical, and that in silly summer season the media trades on whingeing, but on this, hypocrisy must yield to a more important battle cry against the increasing din of public moaning about insignificant irritations.)
It is now far too easy to complain loudly about little and be taken seriously. One small example. We are staying in New York later this year and I am madly excited about the trip. While booking a few nights in a fancy hotel way above my station, I saw this one-star assessment on TripAdvisor: “I used my free night certificate to use at the Conrad. Horrible sums it up. No one to help with luggage.”
Other gripes about her free night in a nice hotel included that the welcome letter came late and that ice had to be ordered from room service. Please, cry her a river. Management posted an offer to make amends, but what she deserved to be given was a reality check.
Many online reviews are fantastically useful, but the downside is the prominence given to such ridiculous pettiness that in earlier times would have been restricted to word-of-bad-mouth. When the complaint is minor, unjustified or rude, whingers are far more likely to make a tool of themselves than to bring opprobrium to those they bemoan.
In some ways, that has always been so. Take the director of New York’s Bronx Zoo, William Hornaday, who complained to the mayor in 1906 that The New York Times had criticised his decision to display a pygmy tribesman - a “very interesting little African” - in a cage. Were it not for his letter of unfounded complaint, he would not today be mocked in the New York City Museum of Complaint long after his death.
If you must complain, do it privately. If you can’t, at least do it politely. And make sure you have cause for complaint in the first place.
Tim Dick is a Sydney lawyer. Twitter: @dick_tim