Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Life...in general => Topic started by: Last_Dance on November 06, 2012, 03:35:12 PM

Title: Complaining about free events
Post by: Last_Dance on November 06, 2012, 03:35:12 PM
Every year the company my BF works for organizes a Christmas concert for clients and potential clients: everyone in his office must personally issue invitations to his or her own clients. Bringing friends and family is encouraged as long as we are told in advance how many seats they'll require: the company usually rents a theater and there are only so many seats available (and that's without getting into safety issues).

This year we had two international artists playing an opera* recital - not to everybody's taste, I'll admit it, but it was specified in the invitation. It's entirely possible some people had never heard a single opera aria* in their life, but still they would have known it was opera and not, say, waltz or rock'n'roll.

Well, after the concert a few people walked up to their contact and complained about the show. Not that there were any problems with the performance, they just didn't like the music.
Maybe I'm being too sensitive, but I found that pretty rude.

Yes, the concert is, in the end, a marketing ploy. The audience might not have paid for a ticket but did, in a sense, pay for the concert by making business with the company. But the company doesn't have to organize the Christmas concert: it's just an added bonus.

If they didn't think they would enjoy it (again, the invitation said it was opera*), they didn't have to come. And if they thought they'd enjoy it but then didn't, I can't understand why they'd go and complain, especially because those who issue invitations are not the ones who organize the concert. 

* = it wasn't actually opera, just trying to disguise the event in question.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: NyaChan on November 06, 2012, 03:46:25 PM
Well, I would keep in mind that some of those people may not have realized that they didn't like that genre until they saw the show.  I would also note that their comments could be helpful - I mean, the whole point of the Christmas show is to provide entertainment to clients to make them happy and want to work with the company right?  If they leave the show unhappy, the whole purpose of putting it on has been ruined.  Now you guys know that X number of people don't like this sort of thing and that the Christmas show will be more successful with a change in genre. 

Now the way they expressed their dislike may have been rude of course, but I don't think it is rude in general to express in a polite way that a show was not to one's taste.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: dawbs on November 06, 2012, 03:57:48 PM
I think this gets a bit trickier when it's a work relationship.

I'll own that I get annoyed when my employer and other business that work with my employer spend booku bucks on something I detest--because said-employer is telling me that they don't have money for raises and is citing the cost of these other businesses as part of the reason.

There's also the problem that 'not going' isn't ALWAYS really an option for anything work related.
In *theory*, it's voluntary.  In practice, a vendor's boss may not find it voluntary, a boss may not find it voluntary, etc.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: WillyNilly on November 06, 2012, 04:02:52 PM
Hmmm, was it the style or the content they objected to.  For example opera might be not everyone's cup of tea but bearable.  But overtly religious opera (I don't even know if that's a thing, but since we aren't really talking about opera, follow me  ;) ) could be significantly more annoying.  For example is the show billed as "Christmas" or as "Holiday"?  If something is billed as holiday but then only focus' on Christmas or is overly religious (many people consider Christmas to be a secular holiday at this point), I could see how a person would be annoyed by that and then the minor annoyance of the style of music would be amplified; alone the style would have been bearable.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: bloo on November 06, 2012, 04:12:32 PM
I like NyaChan's point about feedback and what Dawbs said about the trickier aspects of work relationships.

In general, it's rude to dismiss something provided for you with "I didn't like that..." or whatever. Whomever had to be on the receiving end of it can, at least, use that as feedback for next year.

I remember going to a religious meeting (a bible study) and once a month we had a 'goodie night'. I decided to make a monstrous amount of sushi. Why I don't know, but another group crashed our bible study (perfectly fine for this to happen) on that night so it worked out great that we had extra food.

One of my friends said later, "Oh you made the sushi? I didn't like it."

Me:  :o then ;D and, "Sorry you didn't like it!"

It didn't matter because he left more for everyone else and it was the first item gone from our little potluck. I kinda thought it was pointless for him to tell me that but on the upside, when we had his family over for dinner, I knew not to serve sushi.

I am not a fan of country music or any other offshoot of the genre. If I accepted an invitation knowing that would be played or performed, I'd suck it up, depending on the company. With my friends I'd have no problem complaining...all in good fun because they'd have a good time teasing me about the music, but with people I don't know so well, I'd try not to let people know my feelings about certain things unless asked. I wouldn't volunteer how much I didn't enjoy myself and I'd try to temper my true feelings if I really didn't enjoy an experience.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: yokozbornak on November 06, 2012, 04:53:55 PM
A friend's company does a similar concert every year, and we were once invited to a performance of The Nutcracker.  While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I wouldn't have said anything even if I didn't because it was a nice night out, it was free, and I wouldn't want to hurt my friends feelings.  If I were the company, however, I would be interested in knowing how the audience felt especially those who were clients because if I am shelling out a large amount of cash to make clients happy, I want to make sure that my money is well spent.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Last_Dance on November 07, 2012, 04:01:24 AM
Hmmm, was it the style or the content they objected to.  For example opera might be not everyone's cup of tea but bearable.  But overtly religious opera (I don't even know if that's a thing, but since we aren't really talking about opera, follow me  ;) ) could be significantly more annoying.  For example is the show billed as "Christmas" or as "Holiday"?  If something is billed as holiday but then only focus' on Christmas or is overly religious (many people consider Christmas to be a secular holiday at this point), I could see how a person would be annoyed by that and then the minor annoyance of the style of music would be amplified; alone the style would have been bearable.

I don't think it was that: last year we had a gospel choir and everybody loved it, while this year the music wasn't religious at all (first half instruental music, second half mostly love songs).


There's also the problem that 'not going' isn't ALWAYS really an option for anything work related.
In *theory*, it's voluntary.  In practice, a vendor's boss may not find it voluntary, a boss may not find it voluntary, etc.

I'm not sure I can explain it without going into details - perhaps I should have said "costumers" rather than "clients". Anyway, my BF works with private citizens, not other companies or firms, so partecipation was entirely voluntary.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: VorFemme on November 07, 2012, 09:17:24 AM
"Customers" and "clients" are a bit different - both pay you, but customers tend to get goods and clients tend to get services...at least in modern parlance.

The original Latin (I don't read Latin but I do read books written by pedants) had a very different flavor to the word "client" - apparently clients were more along the lines of hangers-on to a man with more fame, authority, wealth (generally), and political clout.  The meaning of so many words has evolved over the generations since they were co-opted into other languages, other cultures, and very different socio-political structures.

But the original people seeking clients were known to pay for free entertainments - they were called "circuses" - based on the locations where they were held.  Amazing how some things haven't changed....I'm sure that there were complaints about the entertainments back then, the refreshments, and the weather on the day that the event was held probably came in for comment, too.  Somebody should have picked a day with better weather.....
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: audrey1962 on November 07, 2012, 09:38:46 AM
Since you have defined the complaining attendees as customers, I do not think they were rude as this was not a social interaction but a business one. They were providing feedback, just as they would about any other aspect of the business.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: baglady on November 07, 2012, 10:22:31 AM
Since you have defined the complaining attendees as customers, I do not think they were rude as this was not a social interaction but a business one. They were providing feedback, just as they would about any other aspect of the business.

I disagree. The company may have a business relationship with its customers, but the concert was a gift to the customers to show them appreciation. And it's rude to complain about a gift to the giver. If I don't like the gift my office secret Santa gives me, it would be rude of me to tell him that to his face. The fact that our relationship is "business" and not social wouldn't excuse it.

Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: audrey1962 on November 07, 2012, 10:29:19 AM
Since you have defined the complaining attendees as customers, I do not think they were rude as this was not a social interaction but a business one. They were providing feedback, just as they would about any other aspect of the business.

I disagree. The company may have a business relationship with its customers, but the concert was a gift to the customers to show them appreciation. And it's rude to complain about a gift to the giver. If I don't like the gift my office secret Santa gives me, it would be rude of me to tell him that to his face. The fact that our relationship is "business" and not social wouldn't excuse it.

You've raised some good points. I was reacting to the the customer comment and to this: "Yes, the concert is, in the end, a marketing ploy." That made me think it wasn't a gift, but a marketing event. However, I admit, I'm having trouble understanding the OP and what type of event it is.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: White Lotus on November 07, 2012, 12:29:42 PM
So...some people didn't like the entertainment.  It is still a nice gesture, and they did not have to come.  A business connection supports a modern dance company and sends out tickets as gifts.  Sometimes we go, sometimes we give the tickets away, depending on if we agree it might be fun. Sometimes the show is great.  Usually, it is simply not our style. Occasionally, it is just plain awful.  Do we say so? No. Gift is giver's choice.  Nice of connection to do it, nice of your company to do it.
OTOH, collecting feedback is good because you want your customers to have a good time and think well of your business throughout the year.  But be subtle, just like you were talking to a friend.  A survey sort of thing or official feedback website would turn me off.  That would scream "marketing" to me, and I would not like it.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Hmmmmm on November 07, 2012, 04:36:40 PM
I think the level of rudeness depends on how the feedback is given.

Rude scenario
Employee:  hello, client glad you could join us.
Client: I wish I hadn't as I haven't enjoyed this at all.

Non-rude
Employee: hello, Client. Are you enjoying the concert.
Client: I appreciate the invitation but I'll admit I enjoyed last years concert more. 
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Flora Louise on November 07, 2012, 04:38:07 PM
I say rude, OP. I just don't think you can ever criticize hospitality.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Surianne on November 07, 2012, 05:17:39 PM
I think the level of rudeness depends on how the feedback is given.

Rude scenario
Employee:  hello, client glad you could join us.
Client: I wish I hadn't as I haven't enjoyed this at all.

Non-rude
Employee: hello, Client. Are you enjoying the concert.
Client: I appreciate the invitation but I'll admit I enjoyed last years concert more.

I agree.  I'd think the business would appreciate the feedback in scenario #2.  Best to know what your customers/clients like, so you can decide what to do next year. 
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Venus193 on November 07, 2012, 05:26:26 PM
I also agree.   Something like this happened some years ago at a company I worked for when the company outing wasn't to everyone's taste.  It was never done that way again.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Deetee on November 07, 2012, 05:49:30 PM
I say rude, OP. I just don't think you can ever criticize hospitality.

I think the question is whether this is hospitality.

For example, if I go to my great-aunts and she serves me tough overcooked meat  and overcooked mushy vegetables, I will eat it cheerfully and complement the bread. My aunt is giving me hospitality.

If I go to a restaurant myself and I am paying for nice dinner and they serve me tough, overcooked meat  and overcooked mushy vegetables, I will complain and ask for another meal. This is not hospitality. This is a service/good I am purchasing and I deserve to get what I paid for.

In a situation where a business associate hoping to gain my goodwill and business took me out for dinner and it was not good, I could let them know. The associate is trying to make me happy and serving me an unpleasant meal does not accomplish that.

This sounds more like the third situation. The "guests" are indirectly paying the entertainment ( I am assuming they are a source of revenue for the company) and it would be in the company's interest to present something they enjoy.

However, without knowing what it actually is, it's hard to tell.





 
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Drawberry on November 07, 2012, 06:01:38 PM
When I was in my early teens (shockingly not long ago) my mother often took me on business trips to New York City namely because I couldn't be left home alone for the length of time she would be traveling. During these trips I was included in attendance for several Broadway showings that where 'shmoozing' events her company was doing where she essentially took out important clients to see these popular showings and really it was the company buying their loyalty. (and for the record, me going was perfectly acceptable)


Most clients where pleasant and kind, one couple who sat behind my mother and I however where completely obnoxious! It was a showing of my favorite play; Phantom of the Opera and it came to the scene in which the song 'All I Ask Of You' (and it's reprise)  where sung. The scene, and songs, are meant to be a very moving part of the play and many people in the audience tear up and it's generally a universal "wow this is sad, everyone be quiet" scene. The couple my mother was taking out via the company however thought it was the perfect scene to laugh loudly, chit chat, and otherwise be obnoxious and noisy.

It was pretty clear this was not their 'cup of tea', or at the very least that they had no interest in what was going on. I found it incredibly rude how they where acting during the remaining length of the play, mind you I was only around 15-16 years old at the time and even being that young I was shocked at how poorly two grown adults where acting.

Something being free doesn't mean you have to like it, no one's going to like free moldy bread! But when the gesture is done out of hospitality or generosity it's polite to be gracious in accepting this. The same way you accept a gift you may not like but your gracious and thankful to the individual.

I think it's perfectly acceptable to mention that perhaps a different musical genre was chosen over the 'opera', but this can be done tastefully and without simply complaining.

"Oh I had a good time tonight and it was great to be out with family and friends. Perhaps next time we can chose a different genre of music though?"

 
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Bijou on November 08, 2012, 12:01:59 PM
I think it is rude to complain.  Even if you don't enjoy it, it's another experience. 
And, better to discover you hate opera at a free concert rather than pay for a seat and then discover you can't stand it.   ;)
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Gyburc on November 09, 2012, 04:55:56 AM
I agree with the PPs who have said it's rude to complain in these circumstances. To my mind, it's also rather a silly thing to do, because it makes the complainer look ungracious.

By way of comparison, I once worked for a company whose Director was leaving, and he very kindly invited all the 'lower-echelon' office staff out to a lunch at his own expense to say thank you. We all went, had a lovely meal and wine.

However, one of my co-workers had taken a dislike to the Director some years previously. She attended the meal, barely speaking to anyone and never to the Director, but then groused and complained to the rest of us afterwards that she hadn't wanted to go but felt she couldn't get out of it. This really wasn't true - it was a completely voluntary event and she could easily have found a polite excuse. Instead, she came along, ate and drank on his dime, and then complained about it afterwards. It really didn't make her look good.

I do realise the situations aren't exactly the same, but I think the same principle applies.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Flora Louise on November 09, 2012, 09:38:22 AM
I once attended a dinner for a charity. The hotel at which the event was held was quite generous in their accomodations and yet, I overheard one man complain to a waitress afterward that the dinner wasn't to his liking (it was the standard charity function chicken breast). I felt embarrassed that he and I were associated with the same charity.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: miranova on November 09, 2012, 08:04:54 PM
In certain industries, certain clients tend to get very used to being taken out to dinner, given lavish entertainment, and in general just being catered to by businesses wanting to earn or keep them as clients.  I have seen some of these clients get extremely critical of the pretty expensive things they are receiving.  I once overheard clients go on and on about the bad seats they were given to a very nice concert.  I found it in very poor taste.  Yes, we all know it's a marketing game, but if you aren't enjoying it, don't play.  If the dinners are not good enough for you, just stay home or take yourself to your own favorite restaurant.  If you want front row seats, buy them yourself.  If you are that important to "deserve" them, then surely you can afford them yourself?

Marketing game or not, an invitation is still not a summons and no one is forcing these people to go see an opera that they don't want to see.  As the OP has further clarified that this event is totally optional, I have to wonder why the customers didn't choose differently for how they would spend their evening that night if opera was not to their liking.  Did these super imporant people not have any other invitations or options?  Or do they just like complaining and acting important and hard to impress?
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Surianne on November 09, 2012, 08:19:22 PM
In certain industries, certain clients tend to get very used to being taken out to dinner, given lavish entertainment, and in general just being catered to by businesses wanting to earn or keep them as clients.  I have seen some of these clients get extremely critical of the pretty expensive things they are receiving.  I once overheard clients go on and on about the bad seats they were given to a very nice concert.  I found it in very poor taste.  Yes, we all know it's a marketing game, but if you aren't enjoying it, don't play.  If the dinners are not good enough for you, just stay home or take yourself to your own favorite restaurant.  If you want front row seats, buy them yourself.  If you are that important to "deserve" them, then surely you can afford them yourself?

Marketing game or not, an invitation is still not a summons and no one is forcing these people to go see an opera that they don't want to see.  As the OP has further clarified that this event is totally optional, I have to wonder why the customers didn't choose differently for how they would spend their evening that night if opera was not to their liking.  Did these super imporant people not have any other invitations or options?  Or do they just like complaining and acting important and hard to impress?

It's possible to not realize you won't enjoy an event until you're there.  I've been to plays where I paid for a ticket and didn't know it would be poorly directed, and concerts where I paid for a ticket and didn't realize how terrible the sound would be.  I'm sure the same must happen when the ticket is a gift. 

As long as the complaint is politely worded, I don't see anything wrong with letting the organizer or hosting company know that the performance wasn't something you enjoyed.  How else are they supposed to find out what their clients/customers would prefer next year?
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: miranova on November 09, 2012, 09:00:36 PM
In certain industries, certain clients tend to get very used to being taken out to dinner, given lavish entertainment, and in general just being catered to by businesses wanting to earn or keep them as clients.  I have seen some of these clients get extremely critical of the pretty expensive things they are receiving.  I once overheard clients go on and on about the bad seats they were given to a very nice concert.  I found it in very poor taste.  Yes, we all know it's a marketing game, but if you aren't enjoying it, don't play.  If the dinners are not good enough for you, just stay home or take yourself to your own favorite restaurant.  If you want front row seats, buy them yourself.  If you are that important to "deserve" them, then surely you can afford them yourself?

Marketing game or not, an invitation is still not a summons and no one is forcing these people to go see an opera that they don't want to see.  As the OP has further clarified that this event is totally optional, I have to wonder why the customers didn't choose differently for how they would spend their evening that night if opera was not to their liking.  Did these super imporant people not have any other invitations or options?  Or do they just like complaining and acting important and hard to impress?

It's possible to not realize you won't enjoy an event until you're there.  I've been to plays where I paid for a ticket and didn't know it would be poorly directed, and concerts where I paid for a ticket and didn't realize how terrible the sound would be.  I'm sure the same must happen when the ticket is a gift. 

As long as the complaint is politely worded, I don't see anything wrong with letting the organizer or hosting company know that the performance wasn't something you enjoyed.  How else are they supposed to find out what their clients/customers would prefer next year?

We will have to agree to disagree.  In my experience the type of people who go out of their way to complain about free events are not motivated by trying to do their hosts a huge favor and educating them for next time.  If the hosts really want to know what you thought about the opera, nothing is stopping them from directly asking you how you liked it, in which case polite honesty is just fine.  No one should have to actually lie.  But I don't buy the argument that complaining is actually a kind service to the hosts.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: CakeEater on November 10, 2012, 01:12:22 AM
There's lots of things I don't want, even if it's free. I don't think I should just 'suck it up' and take whatever's handed out, just because I didn't have to pay for it. To be honest, I'd rather sit home in my jammies and eat beans on toast than eat an awful dinner and sit through a painful concert that I didn't pay for. If something is not as it was advertised, or explained to you, or the quality is poor, I think absolutely you can complain about something free if you've invested time and energy into attending.

However, that's not the case here. If something is advertised as an opera concert, you don't go along and then complain that you don't like opera. That's poor form.
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Surianne on November 10, 2012, 05:45:15 AM
We will have to agree to disagree.  In my experience the type of people who go out of their way to complain about free events are not motivated by trying to do their hosts a huge favor and educating them for next time.  If the hosts really want to know what you thought about the opera, nothing is stopping them from directly asking you how you liked it, in which case polite honesty is just fine.  No one should have to actually lie.  But I don't buy the argument that complaining is actually a kind service to the hosts.

I'm not sure where you're getting "huge favor" and "kind service" from -- I don't think I said that at all in my post.  I would consider a politely-worded complaint to be feedback, not a favor or service. 
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: blarg314 on November 11, 2012, 06:55:16 PM
But overtly religious opera (I don't even know if that's a thing, but since we aren't really talking about opera, follow me  ;) )

As an aside, an overly religious opera is usually called an oratorio (like Handel's Messiah).
Title: Re: Complaining about free events
Post by: Venus193 on November 11, 2012, 07:07:40 PM
As an aside, Camille Saint-Saens intended to compose Samson and Delilah as an oratorio, but most classical music fans are really happy it's an opera:

(http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/the_bacchanale___samson_and_delilah.JPG)

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51iF5gUlhNL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)