I’d like to make a complaint… Why some of us are so good at making a fuss

Were you the child whose indignant letter yielded a free bar of chocolate? Séamas O’Reilly puts pen to paper to reveal why we are a nation of complainers

The biscuit was only barely covered. If I’d had to guess, I’d have said 30% of its surface had chocolate applied, and that’s being charitable. Certainly more charitable than the manufacturer of the Jaffa Cake in question, who I pictured as God’s perfect miser; a Scrooge-like figure toiling in a candle-lit factory, peering over their bifocals to smear homeopathic levels of chocolate on one sorry corner of my favourite tea snack. I was 10 years old, and had never had a particularly strong sense of myself as a consumer champion, but this biscuit, this disgrace, roused something inside me.

“Dear McVitie’s,” I wrote, addressing the entire company in my missive. “I was shocked and appalled to discover this Jaffa Cake (enclosed) in such a state.” In hindsight, I was savvy enough to moderate my speech to sound adult, but not perhaps worldly enough to consider enclosing the foodstuff itself in plastic before popping it in with my letter. By the time I posted it the following day, I remember already noticing some of its soft greasiness had permeated the envelope, but I reckoned this was probably just the way things were done. Evidently it was, as two weeks later I received a letter apologising for my suboptimal experience, along with an invitation to tour a factory, and two whole boxes of Jaffa Cakes. These, I am happy to report, were perfectly chocolated.

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