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Here’s why you should never swear at your customers in writing

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An email spat between a Johannesburg-based removals company and an unsatisfied customer brings two lessons to the fore: customers need to understand that no business and its services are perfect; and companies should never, under any circumstances, attack their unhappy clients personally and do it in writing.http://hometimes.co.za/advertise-with-hometimes/


Dear **** ********

Just thought I would take the time to thank you for your pathetic / non-existent service we received on 01.04.2016 for a scheduled move. As of today (07.04.2016) no-one has even bothered to return one of my calls, nor has anyone bothered to apologise for the lack of service we received.

Despite trying to contact **** ******** various times both before the move date and on the day, we have had a half-hearted or non-existent customer experience. We were told you have our booking and a sarcastic response of “WE WILL MOVE” by one of your consultants. Yet nothing! So what happened?

No one bothers to answer your *** *** **** number, nor return emails.

I had a VERY embarrassing situation with my old landlord, not to mention the stress it caused. I had to also ask someone else to move us the next day and pay them R1,500 MORE!

You were supposed to contact us and tell us what time you were arriving; no one bothered either.

I have left you a token of my appreciation on the HelloPeter website, but then again you won’t pick up or answer that either as I see you don’t bother replying to any of your complaints on their website either.

Don’t bother replying, you have not bothered before so why start now




Dear Tom

www.hellopeter.com is designed for a particular type of person: liars, extortionists and petty people.

Although there was a legitimate reason, which was your fault, why the job was not done I am filled with delight that you suffered and paid R1,500 extra.

You know full well why it wasn’t done.

You are a liar and the worst type of “look how I’ll show you” little man that deserves little respect. I have no doubt that you would soil yourself if faced with a real confrontation.

We are pleased that we didn’t do your work, you little petty man who doesn’t answer his phone on moving day. Someone who posts on www.hellopeter.com is comparable to a “telephone tough guy”.

Your little lying comment does not diminish our business in any way, you have only exposed your own impotence.

Best regards


The company’s second email following Tom’s partner’s post on HelloPeter


Dear Tom

Just thoroughly enjoyed the repost on www.hellopeter.com by your partner.

I have established over time that apologising to people that post on this deplorable website in expectation of a retraction is pointless as two types of people generally use the site.

  1. Pedantic housewives.
  2. Usually, but perhaps in your case both, the female, or submissive partner in a homosexual relationship.

We have no objection to such people but find it hard for them to accept logic as they are more emotional than logical.

We apologise to you and your partner as our driver, who was allocated the work, indicated subsequently that you were unavailable on the numbers you provided. You were a “cash on the day” customer and we don’t send vehicles to customers that are not answering their phones.


occupational rent and moving day - resizeSo what caused all this unhappiness?

What the client says happened

  1. Tom* booked his move with the local company five to six weeks in advance using the company’s online booking system
  2. Two days before the move Tom’s letting agent moved the key collection time at the new property to an earlier time
  3. Fearing this would complicate the move, Tom called the company explaining the situation. The company owner told him to rebook online which Tom did
  4. Tom says he confirmed the move was still going ahead the day before as is required in the company’s terms of service
  5. On the day of the move, the company’s driver never phoned to confirm a time and the move never occurred
  6. Tom says he and his partner attempted to phone the company 18 times on the day with no one answering or returning his call. Neither he nor his partner have record of any calls being placed to their phones from the removals company.

What the company says happened

  1. Paul*, the company owner, says Tom booked using the cash payment on the day feature which is riskier for his business
  2. He confirms that clients who elect to pay cash on the day of the move are not prioritised over those who pay a deposit
  3. Paul says he contacted Tom the day before the move and confirmed the agreement
  4. On the day of the move, Paul’s driver tried phoning Tom and his partner but no one answered their phones
  5. Paul says this is where the company’s responsibilities start and end with cash on the day clients: if they do not answer their phones, the driver moves on to the next booking.

When it got ugly

Tom says he was forced to use a different company the next day and had to pay an extra R1,500 on top of what he had budgeted for and felt dissatisfied with Paul’s lack of response to his calls and emails.

“We researched various moving companies before selecting Paul’s,” says Tom. “On HelloPeter their compliments and complaints were 50/50 – and those who were complaining were long-haul clients. I understand that these kinds of moves can result in unhappy customers.

“What was frustrating is he didn’t answer his phone after the fact and it felt like the door had just been closed on us – for no lack of trying to get a response from him.”

Calling the watchdogbeware of the dog

This frustration led Tom to post a complaint on consumer watchdog site, HelloPeter, and then email Paul to alert him to this fact.

“We got no feedback which is why I was blunt in my HelloPeter complaint and email,” says Tom. “But it worked – I got a response. Though the one he sent was very personal, degrading and hurtful. That is not how you deal with customers and it has really upset my partner and me.”

Paul acknowledges that he was being “human” and “stupid” in letting his anger at the HelloPeter complaint get the better of him.

“What I really didn’t like was that he sent me an email gloating about his complaint on HelloPeter,” says Paul. “As if to say, ‘Look, I got you back.’ Tom is a nasty character and HelloPeter is a horrible website because you have to pay to defend yourself as a company! It’s unconstitutional because if you sign up you agree to not suing the individual for defamation even if what they are writing is a lie. That’s why I will have to live with that complaint about my company for the next 12 months because I will not agree to their terms and conditions.”

Paul says he understands that moving is an emotional experience because strangers are in your home handling your possessions, but maintains that he did everything required from his side – his driver tried calling but Tom never answered.

Tom, however, says no calls were received and no one answered his calls or emails to the company on the day.

A classic case of broken telephone, it seems.

But why would a company owner, which operates in an industry that has a poor customer satisfaction rating on HelloPeter, fuel the fire and send threatening and defamatory emails to the customer in this age of social media?

“I should have had more foresight, but I was not pleased with him,” says Paul. “We move a lot of people on the last and first day of the month so you better answer your phone on the day. We lost out on Tom’s business, the slot allocated to Tom which could have been used for someone else, and a damaged reputation for the next 12 months.”


Low economic growth and even lower job prospects have seen South Africans turning to self-employment. Lesson number 1 is that the customer is always right. As a self-employed person you need to put your ego in your pocket and focus on customer service and customer satisfaction as referrals via word of mouth are the best form of free advertising you will get.

* Not their real names


David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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