The Oldest Known Customer Complaint Found on Mesopotamia’s Clay Tablet [1750 BC]

Clay tablets are the archive of the ancient history of Mesopotamia. Probably the very first customer complaint of ancient times

Oldest-Customer-Complaint-Clay-Tablet-Main

The consumer and business are the two entities that are tied up closely. Consumer needs new technology or upgrade and business needs the new customers to increase the customer base. Customer satisfaction plays an important role in any business growth and it is not only applicable for modern-day business but in every era, it has played a significant role.

There is a piece of evidence which shows that customers were expecting good service in ancient times as well. As per clay tablet found in Mesopotamia (which is known as one of the oldest written artifacts in the world) indicates the same.

Clay Tablet’s

Clay Tablet
Clay Tablet of Gilgamesh

The clay tablets were written by cuneiform characters were imprinted on a wet clay tablet with a stylus often made of reed. Collections of these clay documents made up the very first archives. They were at the root of the first libraries. Tens of thousands of written tablets, including many fragments, have been found in the Middle East. Some of the found tablets are distinguished on the basis of reusability.


Reusable Tablet

Once written upon, many tablets were dried in the sun or air, remaining fragile. Later, these unfired clay tablets could be soaked in water and recycled into new clean tablets.

Non-Reusable Tablet

Once written, they were fired in hot kilns (or inadvertently, when buildings were burnt down by accident or during the conflict) making them hard and durable.

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Customer Complaint Clay Tablet From Mesopotamia

Oldest Customer Complaint Clay Tablet
Oldest Customer Complaint Clay Tablet

The complaint tablet to Ea-Nasir is a clay tablet from ancient Babylon written c. 1750 BCE. It is a complaint to a merchant named Ea-Nasir from a customer named Nanni. Written in cuneiform, it is considered to be the oldest known written complaint. It is currently kept in the British Museum.


Tablet Size

The tablet is 11.6 cm (4.6 in) high, 5 cm (2.0 in) wide, 2.6 cm (1.0 in) thick, and slightly damaged. Translated from Akkadian, it reads:

Tell Ea-Nasir: Nanni sends the following message

Translated Message of Tablet

When you came, you said to me as follows: “I will give Gimil-Sin (when he comes) fine quality copper ingots.” You left then but you did not do what you promised me. You put ingots which were not good before my messenger (Sit-Sin) and said: “If you want to take them, take them; if you do not want to take them, go away!”

What do you take me for, that you treat somebody like me with such contempt? I have sent as messengers gentlemen like ourselves to collect the bag with my money (deposited with you) but you have treated me with contempt by sending them back to me empty-handed several times, and that through enemy territory.

Is there anyone among the merchants who trade with Telmun who has treated me in this way? You alone treat my messenger with contempt! On account of that one (trifling) mina of silver which I owe(?) you, you feel free to speak in such a way, while I have given to the palace on your behalf 1,080 pounds of copper, and Sumi-abum has likewise given 1,080 pounds of copper, apart from what we both have had written on a sealed tablet to be kept in the temple of Shamash.

How have you treated me for that copper? You have withheld my money bag from me in enemy territory; it is now up to you to restore (my money) to me in full.

Take cognizance that (from now on) I will not accept here any copper from you that is not of fine quality. I shall (from now on) select and take the ingots individually in my own yard, and I shall exercise against you my right of rejection because you have treated me with contempt.

Credit of Translation

This tablet is translated by Leo Oppenheim and it is present in his book “Letters from Mesopotamia on page 93. But strangely, there is half a letter in the book.

Interesting Fact about Clay Tablet

Interesting indicative information from the tablet is, they always started with the instruction to someone to tell the message to the recipient on behalf of the sender and the sender also might ask some third party to write message on clay tablets such as a clerk or other official dedicated to writing the message on clay tablet.

Tell Ea-Nasir: Nanni sends the following message. In this message, Nanni is asking some third person to tell information to Ea-Nasir sent by the sender.

By studying the book, “Letters from Mesopotamia” by Leo Oppenheim, it looks like, writing letters in this style was a common practice in ancient Mesopotamia, for instance

First Letter in the book starts with the same style.
First Letter in the book starts with the same style.

References

https://web.archive.org/web/20150310133210/http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp363-ss15/2015/03/05/customer-service-in-ancient-mesopotamia/

Book Letters from Mesopotamia by Leo Oppenheim

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clay_tablet

dheaiai

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