Complaint calls to a caregiver service company: The case of desahogo

Márquez Reiter, Rosina (2005). Complaint calls to a caregiver service company: The case of desahogo. Intercultural pragmatics, 2(4) 481 - 513.



This study examines pragmatic strategies employed by Uruguayan (Montevidean) service providers and customers in 15 authentic telephone calls within an institutional context characteristic of contemporary Uruguay: a caregiver service company. More specifically, it analyzes the strategies deployed by callers in constructing their complaints and those by call-takers in responding to them with special attention to the expression of desahogo, a self-disclosure pragmatic strategy used by callers when they realize that they have been unsuccessful in obtaining their main transactional goal. The desahogo functions as a verbal avenue through which interlocutors, in this case callers, express frustration about the service received, even if remedial action is unlikely to occur. The findings indicate that the pragmatic strategies observed, and in particular that of desahogo, reflect a broader Uruguayan (Montevidean) socio-cultural reality; one in which venting to a complete stranger appears to be an accepted mode of behavior. In the context of these calls, desahogo is explained by: 1) a shared cultural understanding of the type and amount of personal information considered to be appropriate and / or inappropriate to disclose in task-oriented interactions with complete strangers; and 2) Uruguay’s developing socio-economic infrastructure, which does not yet fully safeguard consumers’ rights.

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