The Complaints Department

The Interplanetary Tourism Bureau headquarters were located in Otto District, a bustling suburb in the heart of Dessa, the capital city of Qwark. Compared to the grand capital cities found on other planets within the Arbeth sector Dessa was plain. A simple city, neither sprawling nor small, its buildings drab shell white structures which rose out of a gray sea and were joined by a lattice of bridges woven out out of surprisingly sturdy light blue seaweed. Kara thought to herself that the sight of a city rising from an unruly ocean should have been something wondrous to behold. Unfortunately, it seemed everything on Qwark was fated to inspire disappointment instead of awe. The ocean was dull and still. Waves barely rose before they broke without much fuss or foam on the gigantic shells which formed the buildings of the city. The shells were enormous to be sure and were shaped with some craft into the round houses and high-rise apartment complexes that comprised the city, a feat which should have been impressive. However their pale white coating only half-heartedly reflected light, giving the city a somewhat washed out depressed look which deflated any sense of grandeur. It wasn’t ugly by any means but neither was it beautiful. It was just fine. Kara shrugged as they made their way further inward towards the Otto District and faced forward ignoring the hustle of the city around her. She wasn’t here for sightseeing. Well, at least not anymore. Midalyn walked exuberantly with barely contained excitement in front of her. However Kara couldn’t help but notice that the Phocida’s eyes were set with determination whenever she looked back to make sure they weren’t lagging behind. Eventually they arrived outside a shell structure which was somehow more nondescript than the other plain buildings surrounding it. No wonder no off-worlder ever issued a complaint beforeKara remarked to herself. They would never notice the placeA small dull sign declared it to be the address of the Intergalactic Tourism Bureau, although Midalyn had to point it out to Zo, who continued completely unaware they had reached their destination. Kara had avoided that mild embarrassment but only because she had been watching Midalyn and followed her lead. And she lead them inside.

 

The foyer room of the insidious Intergalactic Tourism Bureau was just as utterly unremarkable as its exterior. Kara noted that it was literally a textbook description of a foyer. All the things one would expect to find in a foyer could be found. There was an obnoxiously loud clock on the wall, which marked the passage of each second with a metallic tick. The couches were adequate but not particularly comfortable and always seemed to have one less seating space than there were people waiting. Between the couches on a table perfect for accidentally bruising shins on creatures with shins was an untidy stack of the same four brands of holo-magazine found in foyers across the galaxy. They came to the front reception, manned by a young professional-looking Phocida sporting a small ear-piece. Well, what Kara assumed was an ear-piece since she couldn’t actually see her ears but it was in the general area where one would find an ear on a head. Like all good receptionists, her desk was a barricade against visitors and well stocked with laser-pens for filling out unnecessary forms. She looked up at them with a casual indifference perfected through experience despite her youth. Although Midalyn had brought them here, Kara knew that she and Zo would need to take it from this point. She faced the receptionist’s indifference with a bright smile.

“Hi there, uh, we’d like to make a complaint,” she announced cheerfully.

The receptionist blinked. She looked from Kara to Midalyn to Zo and back to Kara as though trying to determine if she had heard the wispish girl standing in front of her correctly.

“Sorry, a complaint?” she asked disbelievingly. Her words came out in a harsh whisper similar to Midalyn’s but with a lilt.

“Yes, a complaint,” Kara repeated.

“A formal complaint,” Zo added supportively, resting his hand on the desk in what Kara thought he assumed was an authoritative manner. It was clear that the receptionist hadn’t had to deal with a complaint from off-worlders before. She blinked at them several times, her beady eyes uncertain in the face of the unknown.

“Um, I think, ah, that I might need to speak to my supervisor,” she finally informed them. “Just a moment, um, take a seat” she gestured to the couches. She then got up briskly and walked through the door behind her.

Kara strode casually to the couches and sat down. Midalyn and Zo followed her lead. The couches were just as adequate as they appeared. Not particularly comfortable but fine. They didn’t have to wait long before the receptionist reappeared with her manager in tow who introduced himself as Fhil, head of Marketing and Complaints. A grizzled Phocida, the gray of his whiskers had spread to his nose but he appeared as frazzled as his young receptionist. He was dressed in smart gray pants and a tidy shirt adorned with a simple black tie and waistcoat. He beckoned them to his office beyond the door and ushered them in hesitantly before he sat down behind his desk.

Kara realised that he was waiting for them to speak, unwilling to begin the conversation himself. To her surprise, it was Zo who broke the silence.

“We’d like to, um, issue a formal complaint about your holo-brochures, if that’s alright,” he stated before continuing, “I mean, we’d still want to complain if it wasn’t alright but it’s always good to ask first.”

Fhil still appeared frazzled but he looked relieved to at least have something to respond to. “But why would you want to complain about our holo-brochures? They’re award-winning, you know.” He gestured to a statuette on the corner of his desk - “Most Ostensibly Enticing Advert in Hologram Format”.
“Those are awarded by the Tourism Bureau itself,” Midalyn snorted. “Not really an endorsement of authenticity.”

“Like Zo said, we’d still want to issue a complaint about your holo-brochures, regardless of how admittedly shiny their awards are,” Kara declared definitively.

Fhil shifted uncomfortably in his chair, deflated. With no wiggle room left, he let out a sigh.

“What is the, uh, nature of your complaint?” he asked.

“Well, they’re a load of crockswallop for one,” Kara declared with some bite. Fhil’s rather ineffectual attempts to derail the complaints process had gotten on her nerves. “There aren’t any luxurious beaches or natural hot springs on Qwark.”

“Uh, ‘natural’ isn’t actually a protected description-” Fhil tried to retort but very quickly realised his error and shut his mouth.

“That doesn’t mean you should use it. It’s a lie. A bold faced lie to trick people to come  here. Like the whole of your marketing campaign,” Zo added with gusto. He seemed to really be getting into his role as an irate customer, Kara noticed. She hoped her performance was as convincing. Fhil muttered something inaudible as he held up a wide finger from his flipper hand like he wanted to say something but wasn’t ready to interrupt.
“Sorry, what?” Kara asked irritably.

“Not the part about hover-polo,” Fhil repeated softly.

“Hover-polo?” Zo echoed with confusion.

“Why lie about everything else though? It’s not like it was all a ploy to get off-worlders to watch hover-polo or something?” Kara questioned flippantly.

They all stared incredulously as Fhil slowly started to nod.