‘‘Talk to the hand’’. Complaints to a public transport company

Orthaber, S. and Márquez Reiter, R. (2011). ‘‘Talk to the hand’’. Complaints to a public transport company. Journal of Pragmatics, 43(15) 3860 - 3876.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2011.10.004


This paper examines the construction of complaints in service calls to a Slovenian public transport service company. The findings reveal that the construction of complaints unfolds in a step by step manner over several turns. That the complaints are explicitly initiated in the opening sections of the calls, when customers proffer the reason for the call, and before customers’ details are established, is indicative of their high priority. After the facts and details of the complaints are discussed, the agent either offers, or does not offer, a solution; and, at this point, the call is brought to a close. Face manifestations were observed throughout the complaint sequences, as evidenced by the incidence of extreme case formulations, negative observations, threats, insults and non-affiliation with the complainant. The findings also suggest that the ways in which institutional agents manage the complaints reflects company’s business practices affected by numerous bureaucratic barriers.

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