Attention complainers: This place welcomes your gripes
Complaining is generally believed to be a sad, useless and unproductive thing to do.
However, for some Ukrainians, it’s the only way — and a practical one at that — to improve their lives.
At least 1,000 of 4,500 submitters to Ukraine’s Electronic Complaint Book say that filing an online grievance helped get their problems solved.
Kyiv resident Mariana Manko is one of them. When she brought her phone to a local mobile service center to fix it, the service refused to give her phone back. After her complaint was published on reaction.org. ua, the service center immediately returned Manko her phone, according to Alen Bobrov, the website’s founder.
Bobrov launched the online complaint book in September 2012. Since then, more than 4 million people from Ukraine visited it.
When Bobrov started working as an intern at a TV channel five years ago, he was surprised how rarely journalists read letters from viewers.
“The letters were cluttering the tables up, but the journalists never had time to read it. It seemed that those letters were doomed to fail- ure,” Bobrov recalled.
To get people’s voices heard, Bobrov launched the website reaction.org.ua, where anyone can write up their problem and reach journalists.
Bobrov manages the website with two other people, while other freelancers join from time to time.
The website publishes complaints on various topics, but most Ukrainians grumble about corruption, unresponsive state officials and bad service in shops and restaurants.
“We help people make their problem disappear,” Bobrov said, Sometimes merely publicizing the problem leads to a solution.
Those who want to have their story published in the electronic complaint book have to write the full description of the problem and leave an e-mail address and a phone number for journalists. Photos, videos or documents can be attached to posts. The adminstrators check complaints before publication and contact the person to get more details if needed. Bobrov also distributes the complaints by email to journalists.
Problems all over
Bobrov said that the top complaint from Kyivans is a lack of hot water and heating in their apartments. The monopolistic water supplier Kyivvodokanal annually stops supplies of the hot water in summer, but many people write to Bobrov that they still don’t have hot water, despite temperatures close to freezing.
Bobrov also said that Kyivans, who complain the most, often tell about problems with utilities, such as lack of lighting in corridors and broken elevators. Mobile services are another hot topic, with people complaining about bad connections or bad service.
People from Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine with more htan 1 million people 482 kilometers east of Kyiv, complain about corrupt officials and noisy music festivals.
People from Lviv, the western Ukraine of 723,000 residents 540 kilometers west of Kyiv, mostly complain about bad service in restaurants and cafes.
One complaint from Odesa, the southern Black Sea port city of nearly 1 million people 477 kilometers south of Kyiv, criticized a local official who refused to remove religious icons from his office, while people from the small town of Chernyatyn in Vinnytska Oblast complained that the head of a local school demanded that parents of children who study there should cut trees and bring wood to heat the school.
While people from all over Ukraine can submit a complaint, Bobrov already made a separate online book for Bila Tserkva in Kyiv Oblast and plans to create a separate entry for Lviv residents this year.
Bobrov said that, in small towns and cities, it takes national publicity for local authorities to solve problems.
“In the regions people take criticism more seriously, but at the same time there may be no free media who will write about this problem,” Bobrov said. “We know that our website works, because the authorities don’t like criticism, and when we start to push to one point they start to react.”
Got a complaint? Post it on www.reaction.org.ua. It might help solve the problem or at least make the complainer feel better by sharing the situation with others. (Oleg Petrasiuk)