4000 years old Babylonian clay tabletwhich is a customer’s letter complainingabout sub-standard copper and wantinga refund. It is considered to be the oldestknown written complaint.

Kane Khanh | Archeaology
November 22, 2023

It seems like complaining has been ingrained in humans from the very beginning of existence itself. Proving this feat is a centuries-old complaint letter from the ancient Babylonian civilization that is considered to be the oldest known complaint letter in history.  It was found in the ruins of Ur, in an old Babylonian house.

World’s Oldest Complaint Tablet Comes From An Ancient Babylonian Civilization

Take Notes On How To Get Your Money's Worth From This World's Oldest Complaint LetterTwitter

We have all had days when we had to spend hours on a customer call just to get our complaints through. Well, while people did not have any cell service in Babylon, they did have clay tablets and the earliest known system of writing, Cuneiform.

The clay tablet sits tight inside a glass case in the British Museum at the moment, but it is estimated to have been written in 1750 BC. The “Complaint Tablet to Ea-Nasir” is a cuneiform complaint to a merchant of the time.

In the letter, a customer named Nanni lodged a complaint against a supposedly cheating copper merchant named Ea-Nasir. The merchant travelled to the Persian Gulf and bought copper there to sell in Mesopotamia.

According to historians, the story is pretty straightforward. A servant went to buy copper from Ea-Nasir on behalf of Nanni and took care of the transaction. The copper the servant brought back was subpar and not acceptable to Nanni.

The Customer Lodged Official Complaint With The Clay Tablet

Take Notes On How To Get Your Money's Worth From This World's Oldest Complaint Letter

British Museum

To get good-quality copper, Nanni lodged an official complaint against the merchant and sent a clay tablet to convey the message to Ea-Nasir. From the translated transcription of the complaint letter, it was gathered that the letter was a complaint reporting on the inferior quality of the copper and even mentions how Nanni’s servant, who took care of the transaction, was treated poorly by the merchant.

The letter reads, “Tell Ea-Nasir: Nanni sends the following message: When you came, you said to me: ‘I will give fine quality copper ingots.’ You left, but you did not do what you promised me. You put ingots which were not good before my messenger and said: ‘If you want to take them, take them; if you do not want to take them, go away!’”

Nanni was not cutting their words when it came to holding the merchant accountable, “What do you take me for that you treat me with such contempt? … 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 to me in full.”

“Take notice that I will not accept any copper from you that is not of fine quality. I shall select and take the ingots individually in my yard, and I shall exercise against you my right of rejection because you have treated me with contempt,” wrote Nanni.

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