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But why should they complain - all London Underground lines are running a good service :)

Seriously, I know you hinted that we should blame the organisation more than the individual, but the logistics of the situation drive it. A late night bus driver is often alone and isolated, and the shop assistant is not usually making small decisions that can hugely affect your life, as in hospitals or banks.


I think you do have to place more weight on which industries are most likely to have drunk customers.

Seamus McCauley

Botogol - but why then do the banks have them and the pubs not? I concede that banks get the odd drunk, but more than pubs where in my experience these signs do not proliferate?

Paul Sweeney

What a good observation! I have to go with context here again: yes, money and real serious lifetime outcomes are involved when your bank tells you NO, we can't give you an impromptu overdraft, SIR. The person behind the bank counter is also not usually primed and ready for trouble, your average bartender is always on the look out for, and knows how to nip it before it becomes a problem, or how to deal with it if it does happen. Thus no need for a sign. I would hazard a guess that you will see signs anywhere people are in extremis, hospital A&E, customer service centres dealing with appointments, late payments etc.

on another note, my other half noticed that on the Bank of Ireland counter there is a little machine that asks you to rate from 1 to 5 how good the service you received was. It was 3, or 4, because those were the buttons that were most worn looking!

Which leads me to my final point, are their "artifacts" that you could "hunt for" as evidence of customer services levels?

Dave Petterson

I was going to do a post on this as well. It seems that over in Switzerland and Germany they don't have these signs anywhere either but we do in the UK. I think I seen more in the airport than anywhere else whilst I waited an hour to just show my passport.

I have no doubt it is the service that causes it. Indian call centres, 10 passport areas with only 2 working and an hour long queue.

To be honest I'm surprised that abuse seems to be the norm and not full scale fighting. Put it down to the Brit stiff upper lip. It can't last forever.


Seamus - drunkeness, yes I agree it's not the only factor, but I'd guess it was weighted larger than you suggested.

I think I'd be most likely to thump my mobile phone provider, if ever got the chance to meet them in person :-)


Banks: I'd certainly agree with the earlier suggestion that it's the impact of the decisions someone is getting there, more than the actual quality of the service, that's causing that.

Transport: Less sure about this one. Which are the members of staff that tend to be assaulted? If it's ticket inspectors, then that might explain it.

Michael, in UK

Prof. Robert Cialdini argues that signs like this are counter-productive: the message they communicate (sub-conscious level) is that the proscribed behaviour is in fact permissible. It is a function of the principle of what Cialdini calls "social proof"). eg. People who drop litter will do it (or do it more) in areas where there is already litter.

Cialdini argues that medical surgeries should not put up signs saying "100 patients failed to keep their appointments this month". For people who would never dream of not calling to cancel an appointment, the sign just makes them miserable or angry). People who do sometime "fail to attend" - the sign tells them that they are far from alone, and the idea that "it's ok really" is reinforced. Cialidini's book is excellent (new edition soon) and there are two audio files of recent lectures on the RSA site.

Seamus McCauley

Paul, Tom

Good points, I agree that a lot of it is to do with the importance of the decision being made, hence the problems banks have. Imagine for a moment that your access to water or air was in the gift of some clearly idiotic junior bureaucrat - there would be constant attacks on the bureaucrats. Access to your own money is only slightly less vital in the modern world.


Very good pointer, I love Cialdini's work - see indeed Influence in my list of recommended reading, left.

Thanks for commenting guys.

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