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 re­ac­ 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 re­ac­, 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 on­ac­ It might help solve the prob­lem or at least make the com­plainer feel bet­ter by shar­ing the sit­u­a­tion with oth­ers. (Oleg Pe­tra­siuk)

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