Purpose: The aim of the paper is to examine the efficiency of complaining as a method of social
influence (Doliński, 2005). In Polish culture, complaining seems to be an efficient technique for
initiating a dialogue, potentially increasing the effectiveness of persuasive messages expressed in
Methodology: The hypothesis was tested in two natural experiments. In the first one, a random
sample of persons (n=246) were asked to let the experimenter through to the checkout counter at
a supermarket. The request was preceded either by (1) a dialogue, (2) a complaint, or (3) no prior
contact. It was either substantially or seemingly justified. In the second study, customers in a shop
(n=46) were invited to pursue conversation initiated with (1) a positive statement or (2) a complaint
regarding an extensive range of products.
Findings: Study 1 proved that a seemingly justified request preceded by complaining is less effective
(65.6 per cent) than a request preceded by a dialogue (93.8 per cent); this result is similar to
the result of the control group (53.1 per cent). When the request was substantially justified, both
dialogue and complaining seemed equally effective (86 per cent and 90 per cent respectively) – more
effective than the results of the control group (46 per cent). In Study 2, positive and negative remarks
initiating a conversation triggered similar responses in terms of willingness to pursue the dialogue
(73.1 per cent and 78.3 per cent respectively).
Constraints to research: Natural experiments presented in the paper were not controlled for such
variables as environmental factors or individual differences.
Originality: Complaining has never been subject to systematized examination as a method of social