The corona virus came from remote Wuhan in China to suddenly change my life. As we belonged to a risk group we were advised to avoid catching the virus by social distancing. Our diaries were cleared. The choir, meetings, parties, Easter all were dumped. It was a voluntary lockdown.  English is my mother tongue and news one of my main interests so I was not surprised at the fast spread and severity of the virus infection. I had read an article by an Economist who’s subject was the future risks for the global economy. A pandemic was top of his list with the worst smitant being corona because it was so fast spreading, mutates often and does not have a long immunity. We get normal influenza, also from the Corona family, every year and it culls many of the weaker in the herd.

But this corona was not the familiar influenza but instead a new virus. The advice to us was to hide away because the chief victims were those already ill and over 70. During the course of the first few weeks of the global pandemic it also became clear the main victims were men with a preponderance of those with heart problems, weakened immune systems, high blood pressure and overweight. Right now, the average age in intensive care in Sweden is 61 and 70% have pre-existing health problems. The young seem to have a much lighter ride this time. The 1918 Spanish flu killed mainly young people whose immune systems overreacted and filled their lungs with fluids. This time residents of old peoples home seem to be a high proportion of the victims.

At the beginning the reaction of some of our acquaintances  was “it’s only another flu.” Eighty percent of those infected had mild or no symptoms. They changed tune when the death toll climbed and the severity of the illness for those with risk factors became apparent. The focus of the disease meant the young city dwellers were not highly motivated to follow the social distancing guidance. They were not likely to be severely affected.  Not surprisingly the virus took hold in Stockholm first because of the infection opportunities of a high-density city and a high proportion of residents who even if infected showed no symptoms.

The aged in homes do not have the luxury of social distancing. They are forced to accept help from a string of young carers. These carers when infected are often not aware of it and that they can infect their patients. The result in many lands has been a terrible high mortality for this vulnerable group. They represented a significant proportion of the deaths at time of writing it was circa 50%.

In the end some would have died from a normal seasonal flu. Norway’s average mortality for early 2020 was not significantly higher than normal but we are still early in the lifecycle of the pandemic.

The hope is that herd immunity will slow and stop the spread of the virus. We over 70’s will still run a risk of being infected for many months to come as the pandemic slowly achieves herd immunity. The only safe result for us will be an effective vaccine and an a campaign to spread it in the vulnerable groups.

Its going to be a quite year for us is my guess. No travel, no parties, no dinners with friends and always with a look over your shoulder to ensure people keep their distance.

The anatomy of complaints


How do you feel when someone complains. For example a guest in a restaurant complains to a waiter or a customer in a shop returns a faulty product. You are in proximity to the complainant and can see they are about to express their irritation. We are sensitive creatures we feel the emotions in the air of both the complainant and the supplier. Their radiated negative emotions promise to spoil our experience in the restaurant, shop or wherever. From a sheer selfish viewpoint maybe we wish they had not complained.

I was in a restaurant in London with a group of work colleagues. The wine had been tasted by a newly employed manager. When mine was poured I did not need to taste it. Just the smell told me it was off. I called the waiter and asked him to smell it. He did just that, removed the bottle and glasses immediately and replaced them. The newly employed manager was crushed, my colleagues were in a state of relief at not having to try the wine but embarrassed for obvious distress of the new employee. I drowned in my own thoughts how could I have handled it differently?

I could have just put the wine down and left the complaint to someone else. That action did not sit with my self image. I have never considered myself a coward.  I could have just bitten the bullet and taken a sip. The fact that the wine was off would probably  be discovered by the others and perhaps the only person drinking in the end would be the new employee. This would indicate not only his poor taste capacity but also stubbornness and a lack of courage to admit his mistake. That would quite likely taint our view of him for a long time.

No what I did was my only choice. Complaining when a service or product is not up to the expected quality is essential to hold suppliers accountable. It is in their best long term interests. In this case the restaurant handled it nearly impeccably. Perhaps if the waiter had smelled the cork he would have detected the bad wine. A bad bottle of wine was just bad luck.

We know there is a risk of the complainant being subject to “shooting the messenger”. The negative emotions in the air are disturbing to onlookers and somebody is going to feel badly either the complainant or the supplier or indeed both.

What if the complaint is on social media instead. Do we react in the same way? On social media the reaction is more extreme. The bystanders to a complaint have the same feelings and the freedom to express their discomfort. Often they try to close down the complaint by attacking the complainant. The catchment area of bystanders to the complaint is far wider. Trolls can also “stoke the fire”. But the principle is the same in my view. If you love your supplier you will complain when they fail to deliver. Collectively complaints point the way to a better service or product.

And those who want to close down complaints? They are exhibiting the ultimate egotism. “I do not care if the supplier gets feedback to help them improve just don’t embarrass me with your complaints”. If however the bad customer experience had been theirs?

The last alternative is for consumers to avoid bad suppliers, which they do of course, silently.

“When the lips are silent the heart has a thousand tongues” – Jallauddin Rumi

© Terry Hannington  2021