3,800-year-old Tablet With World's Oldest Customer Complaint Goes Viral: 'What Do You Take Me For?'

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Clay tablet; letter from Nanni to Ea-nasir complaining that the wrong grade of copper ore has been delivered after a gulf voyage and about misdirection and delay of a further delivery. The British Museum

A 3,800-year-old Babylonian tablet from the ancient Sumerian city-state of Ur in Mesopotamia—now Tell el-Muqayyar—is the oldest documented customer complaint known to man.

In the clay tablet, a man named Nanni whined to merchant Ea-nasir about how he was delivered the wrong grade of cooper ore. “How have you treated me for that copper?” he wrote. “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.”

The message was written in the Akkadian language, an extinct East Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia from the 30th century B.C.E. until it was replaced. The tablet is currently sitting at the British Museum in London.

Quartz rightfully points out that “the amount of effort required to make it gets across the magnitude of Nanni’s grievance.”

Earlier this week, pictures of the tablet resurfaced on Reddit and it has since gone viral, with over 64,000 upvotes and over 1,000 comments. A user of the website posted a translation of the language by the Assyriologist A. Leo Oppenheim. It is unknown whether Nanni’s complaint was ever resolved.

Full transcription of the 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!'

c889755c97ca8e0896b98b2e072d4975 Clay tablet; letter from Nanni to Ea-nasir complaining that the wrong grade of copper ore has been delivered after a gulf voyage and about misdirection and delay of a further delivery. The British Museum

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 umi-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 Samas.

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."

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