The world’s oldest customer complaint has been discovered – and the author of it doesn’t hold back.
There are two types of people in the world. First, there are the ones who’ll accept what’s given to them in shops and restaurants and never say a word, even if the shop assistant overcharges them or the waiter brings them the wrong food.
Then, of course, there’s those who’ll go in all guns blazing, heading straight to the manager and refusing to leave until they’ve been compensated with a public apology, or the promise of a free meal.
With the rise of review websites like TripAdvisor, some of the less confident complainers can now express their dismay from the safety of their own homes, while others will go out of their way to create a social media uprising against those who’ve wronged them, making the company rue the day they ever caused such agitation.
But before the internet, those who complained were much more limited in how they could get their message across.
While many might have handled the situation face-to-face, others opted for letter writing, conveniently creating long-lasting evidence of their issues.
At 4,000-years-old, the world’s oldest customer complaint appears on a cuneiform tablet, and records the anger of a man named Nanni. The tablet is part of the permanent collection at the British Museum but is not on display, IFL Science report.
It was found in the ancient city of Ur, which is famous for its Ziggurat, a massive stone structure located now in modern day Iraq. It dates back roughly to 1750 BC and was translated from Akkadian, the earliest known Semitic language, by distinguished Assyriologist Leo Oppenheim.
In the script, Nanni was having it out with a supplier known as Ea-nasir, and he’d obviously had a terrible experience because he had plenty to complain about.
According to the translator, Ea-nasir had embarked on a Persian gulf voyage to collect some metal, but ended up delivering the wrong grade of copper to Nanni.
On top of that, the supplier was responsible for the misdirection and delays in a further delivery. As if that wasn’t enough, to warrant a public apology, Ea-nasir was also rude to the servants Nanni sent to collect the delivery.
After all that, I don’t think you can blame Nanni for wanting to his express his anger.
The tablet reads:
What do you take me for, that you treat somebody like me with such contempt?
I have sent as messengers gentlemen like ourselves to collect the bag with my money (deposited with you) but you have treated me with contempt by sending them back to me empty-handed several times, and that through enemy territory.
Is there anyone among the merchants who trade with Telmun who has treated me in this way? You alone treat my messenger with contempt!
If you didn’t gather, Nanni felt he was treated with contempt. He could have perhaps done with a thesaurus to write his letter, but at least he got the message across.
As with any reasonable complaint, the author demanded his money back for the injustice, writing:
How have you treated me for that copper? You have withheld my money bag from me in enemy territory; it is now up to you to restore (my money) to me in full.
Take cognizance that (from now on) I will not accept here any copper from you that is not of fine quality. I shall (from now on) select and take the ingots individually in my own yard, and I shall exercise against you my right of rejection because you have treated me with contempt.
Hopefully that’ll teach Ea-nasir never to treat people with contempt again!
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.