Why The British “Stiff Upper Lip” Might Be Costing You Money

The cliché of the British stiff upper lip might actually be costing you money - do you complain, or do you bite your tongue?

Why the British “stiff upper lip” might be costing you money:

Like most British people, I enjoy a good whinge from time to time, but like most British people I don’t broadcast my complaints too far afield, for the sake of a quiet life.

However, thinking that you “mustn’t grumble” could be keeping you out of pocket. If you’ve got a valid complaint, you ought to be able to express that complaint in a forthright and reasonable way, especially when you are entitled to a refund of money that you’ve spent.

When and how to complain

Pretending that everything is fine because you’re too embarrassed to make a complaint is going to get you nowhere (but possibly only poorer), but conversely, flying off the handle and venting your rage will not help you either.

Stick up for yourself to the appropriate extent, and try to know what you’re talking about.

I know a guy who went out for a meal with his family and started berating the waiter over his wine, which he strongly insisted was corked. The thing is, he thought that was the term for a few bits of cork floating in his glass.

Complain if you’ve got a right to, of course. And I don’t mean, be a whingey git and embarrass yourself and everyone around you; I mean, assert your rights to good service and fair treatment to a reasonable extent. Don’t be the cork guy.

Now, I think that’s quite fair… The point of complaining is getting some fair resolution to a problem, not in being a jerk for the sake of it.

For a comprehensive guide to complaining, check out the Complaining Cow, and for a helping hand with claims have a look at Resolver.

Five times I complained… and won

1 – A bad pepper

Once we bought a packet of sweet peppers from the supermarket, one of which was discovered to be mouldy on the inside. As this was the second time this had happened, we took it back for a refund – we hadn’t bothered before, but I wish we had, as we were refunded the value of the product as well as having it replaced, thanks to Asda’s “Try Me, Love Me” policy.

Value of compensation: £1.98

The funniest thing is, this has happened to me about four times now, and the last time was only last week. I posted a picture of the offending pepper to Instagram, and let’s just say that not everyone thought I was right to whinge.


Still… one refund out of four instances? Yeah, I feel fine about complaining.

2- Current account switching

Lord Balders switched a current account to first direct, and one of the associated direct debits failed to switch. As I had to set up a new one (you know he was never going to sort it himself), I crowed especially loudly (via him) about the lost time and effort.

The bank responded by blaming the direct debit originator, which I knew to be wrong, since I kept an exceptionally beady eye on the entire process (and the current account switch guarantee), but I was soundly shut-up by the two fine bottles of wine they sent to Lord Balders by way of apology.

Lord Balders doesn’t like wine… But I sure do.

Value of compensation: between £15-25 (I suppose)

3 – The bank kept on calling me by my ex-husband’s name

The Lloyds Banking Group back-end systems had a major malfunction when I opened up a Halifax account for the first time ever, and started to get many letters addressed to “Mrs Socks” – my ex-husband’s name.

Needless to say, I hadn’t been a “Sock” for six years and had gone to great lengths to make sure that Lloyds Bank, of whom I had previously been a customer, had removed that name from my records. It might seem like a small thing, but for someone who had been through financial hardship as a result of a fraught divorce, and had only recently gotten married to somebody else, and was also facing down an odd Sock in family court… well, that was way too much.

The customer service rep who responded to my complaint was trying his best, but even he got tongue-tied and kept going between Mrs Balders and Mrs Socks whilst apologising for calling me by the wrong name.

Value of compensation: £76

4 – The bank gave me £100k of someone else’s money

My easy-come, easy-go riches experience when £100,000 was put into my bank account in error in 2014 made me get on my high horse in an email to Lloyds, which resulted in a phone call from a rep promising me £4 for my mobile phone call, and £35 for my general discomfiture.

Value of compensation: £39

5 – Our car insurance company took us for a ride

This one is interesting as it started off due to an incident that was my husband’s fault.

Our car was written off and of course, we knew that our insurance premium would rise the next year… but we were horrified to find that, not only were we offered a ridiculously low sum to replace our car, but we were later told to pay a large amount up front for the premium to continue.

This time, I didn’t have a lot of fight in me (being in a car crash, even if it is minor, is bad enough) and I didn’t think we could get very far. My husband, on the other hand, was so incensed at the way in which we were treated that he took his complaint to the Financial Ombudsman.

The result? Two separate payments, one of £150 for the initial complaint, and another at the end of the month for £75 when they tried to hike the premium.

Value of compensation: £225

When is it worth complaining, and when is it not worth it?

When it comes to something like my dodgy peppers, it’s usually too much hassle to find that receipt and go all the way back to the store for a refund.

You might not want to bother making an extra trip into/out of town and paying for the petrol that would take, just for the 99p you were swindled out of… but it might be worth it if you were going in that direction anyway.

When it comes to financial services, however, I have no compunctions regarding raising the roof when my hackles are raised.

In short, I always complain, unless the process will result in a net loss.

Over to you…

What do you think about complaining?

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  1. Sounds like you’ve had some great results from complaining! I have contacted companies in the past if something went wrong, and got the odd voucher in compensation. Noyhing too major has happened yet though – touch wood! Thanks for joining #MondayMoney.

  2. I didn’t complain as such however wanted to buy a table. They or supplier couldn’t match the order?. I got a £50 voucher and didn’t get a side table…

  3. Wow, great results from complaining. I’m not above complaining and have even had a Tesco row over £1 hummus! We work hard for our money so it makes sense that we’d want to protect every penny of it.

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