Satisfaction Guaranteed

By Priscilla Herzberg

Lately I’ve been thinking about 100% satisfaction guarantee. What institutions abide by it and what groups of people are given the pleasure to be 100% satisfied. From my experiences growing up in the poor working class there were many institutions my family and I were a part of that did not offer 100% satisfaction guarantee. In fact when my mom complained to the apartment manager in our low income complex we experienced some backlash usually in the form of maintenance complaints not being responded to. My mom grew up in the middle class and so she brought that tendency to complain, to seek 100% satisfaction, into a new class where that is not practiced as much and people are even reprimanded for it.

I think about a simple Starbucks experience. If I don’t like my drink I simply tell the barista and I get a new one and a coupon for any size free drink next visit. Certainly Starbucks serves a wide range of people but do you see the homeless getting their coffee from Starbucks. No. That is a simple example of my point that certain groups of people, typically middle class and up, benefit from their frequented institutions while others take what their given silently.

A man was at my placement site to be referred to a shelter. It was an exceptionally cold week. He came in cheerful and just wanted to explain his situation to us. He wanted to explain how the shelter’s rules penalized him for having a medical condition that was out of his control. Unfortunately we are only a referring agency for the shelter; we have no influence on the rules, we can only enforce them. He badly wanted to prove a point and have an exception added to the rule. He calmly argued to the point of being asked to leave. Then he lost the chance of getting referred into a shelter for that cold night.

Why is the culture of beneficial complaining confined to more privileged groups? Why don’t institutions primarily serving socially and economically disadvantaged groups come with 100% satisfaction? I understand this is not possible in the field of social services, to always have satisfied consumers. However, I believe marginalized groups should not be silenced by institutions. They should encourage constructive criticism. Even if the consumer cannot be compensated and fully satisfied, their voice should be heard by those that serve them. Doesn’t everyone deserve autonomy and respect? Even though our institutions may fail some, I hope that people, we, as a part of these institutions will give grace and compassion.