In Austria, we sometimes jokingly say:

Beschwerden ans Salzamt!

Complaints to the Bureau of Salt

meaning that it is not possible to appeal a decision, or that it is simply useless to complain about something.

Is there an English equivalent to this?

Some examples:

  • Meaning which I am searching for: Someone complains about something you don't want to fix, or makes an unreasonable or impossible demand. You send them to the Bureau of Salt.
  • You have released something to the public but know that it is imperfect, or you have made a decision you know that is unpopular. Yet, it is the way it is and you cannot or don't want to change it. You disclaim: Complain to the Bureau of a Salt!, or alternatively, This can be appealed at the Bureau of Salt.
  • There is this entity (usually a government department) which made the decision your friend does not agree to. They keep complaining to everyone (including you). Both of you know that it is of no use. At some point, you're fed up and tell them to complain to the Bureau of Salt instead.
  • Are you looking for a statement that you might make, say, as an employee in a shop to a customer? Or a statement that you might make as one customer to another? That is, are you deflecting a complaint directed at yourself, or commiserating with someone else?
    – Wayne
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 19:57
  • The German term can be used against an entity (No use in complaining to them!), but is also used to state "So I give you this, don't complain, I won't give you anything else". I am mainly interested in the latter.
    – elaforma
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 20:04
  • 3
    I like to use "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown." or "The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into." which is part of the standard disclaimer for competitions. Both of which seem to go over a lot of people's heads.
    – Neil W
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 22:16
  • As Wayne was saying, it would really help us answer if you provided some more context or example situations where this phrase might be used. It would also help if you said where you were planning on saying this. Idioms are vastly different between England and the US, for example.
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 22:43
  • You may appreciate questions english.stackexchange.com/questions/64079/… and english.stackexchange.com/questions/37997/….
    – ErikE
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 22:57

10 Answers 10


In slightly different ways:

You can't fight City-Hall. (There is no point appealing to the official authority, because they've the power that lets them do what they want anyway).

Talk to the hand. (I am not going to listen to what you have to say).

Complaints to /dev/null. (Geek jargon-based humour: You might as well delete any complaining emails before sending them, because that's what I'm going to do when I receive them).

  • The last one is like having a trashcan labeled "complaints".
    – Dispenser
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 18:18
  • @phs well, I could claim a starting point of /, but the truth is it was just a typo.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 20:07
  • 1
    For the last, in school they would warn us that complaints will be placed in the circular file (i.e. the wastebasket).
    – choster
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 4:17
  • I think what all these variants are missing is the "politeness" in the original. The person is sent to some distant unrelated entity for the case of complaints - before he attempted to complain(!). I think there is some "diplomatic" factor. The complaint is not refused, or said it will be refused - it's more like saying "Sure, you could complain if you want - but I suggest it will be tedious, slow, and not work out in the end..." Commented May 31, 2014 at 13:17
  • @VolkerSiegel if that's considered polite, I think including it in the translation is impossible; such would not be considered polite in most English-using cultures, no matter how expressed.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented May 31, 2014 at 13:38

Dear Points of View, Why, oh why, oh why, oh why ...


Dear BBC, Why, oh why, oh why, oh why ...

In the 1960's & 70's there was a BBC TV program called Points of View. It was designed to allow the public to express their views on the British Broadcasting Corporation's Television programmes, however it was clear that nothing that anyone complained about ever caused any change in the BBC's programming.

I still occasionally find myself muttering "Dear BBC ..." when faced with a situation where I know complaining will make no difference.

Here is a link to Wikipedia Points Of View It seems that the show is still on air some 50 years since it started and the BBC probably haven't acted on a single complaint in all those years.

I think I might send them a letter...

  • 2
    I always wanted them to cut off "Why oh, why oh,…" with "spells yo-yo".
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 23:57

The closest English equivalent to this expression is complaint department (occasionally complaints department), sarcastically referring to a fictional agency which responds to complaints.

For instance, you could say:

  • Take it up with the complaint department.
  • I'm not the complaint department.

I'm not English, but I have an English-speaking wife.

If I gave something to somebody and didn't want complaints about it, I'd just say,

There you go, take it or leave it.

In my opinion, this would function the same way as your phrase.


A close phrase in English is to tell them to go pound sand. We don't have a government agency though.

  • According to this rather extensive document on Navy slang a "sand pounder" is a Marine, contrasting with "ground pounder" being Infantry, and is the origin of this expression.
    – tadman
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 19:22
  • A ground pounder is any infantryman.
    – Oldcat
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 19:53
  • Oldcat, your answer would be improved if you mentioned where in the world that phrase is used.
    – Tristan r
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 20:31
  • 1
    @Tristan I have heard and used this phrase plenty. It's not quite like the Bureau of Salt phrase, though. Saying go pound sand is the same as telling them to go away. "Beat it" "get lost" "scram" and so forth. I usually use it like "If they don't like it they can pound sand."
    – user39425
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 22:17
  • 1
    fredsbend, it is unfamiliar to me in the UK.
    – Tristan r
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 23:16

Consider Department of Hopeless Causes, Department of Lost Causes, Department of Last Chances, and Department of Last Resort.


Catch-22 is close to what you are looking for, except that it has a specific reason why it is useless to complain or fight a decision.

The phrase comes from a story by the same name that explains a catch-22 as a situation where fighting or appealing something yields the same result as if you didn't fight at all. The story specifically describes the 22nd clause in some military terms where you can appeal for dismissal based on mental inability to perform your duties. The clause requires that you must make this appeal on your own volition, however, doing so proves that you are mentally capable, therefore, your request will be denied.

In usage, the phrase is sometimes simply said after it becomes clear that there is nothing you can do. Other times people who already understand will start with "It is a catch-22."

There is another phrase that means close to the same thing as catch-22: Screwed if you do and screwed if you don't. That's pretty self explanatory.

  • Believe it or not, the story in question is actually called Catch-22, a 1953 novel written by the American author Joseph Heller.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 22:03
  • @Erik Yep, I just found it. Linked to it too in the post.
    – user39425
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 22:05
  • 1
    I've never heard "screwed if you do..". It's always "damned if you do, damned if you don't" which displays alliteration
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 22:30
  • @DC yes, that one too. Some people, however, are offended by the word. I don't hang around with prudes or anything, but most times I hear screwed.
    – user39425
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 23:28
  • 1
    A catch-22 is exactly as you describe it but this doesn't answer the question, which is asking about a situation in which complaints will just be ignored. The closest relevant catch-22 would be a statement such as "The fact that we can complain to the government means that our society is free enough that we don't have much to complain about." Commented May 31, 2014 at 12:22

Most of the answers here so far are things I've never heard before as an American living in Iowa, Texas, and Colorado, although they may be regionally popular or popular in other English speaking countries.

I can't think of any phrase that is truly equivalent to what you've outlined, but there are a number of them that are close. I think the "no use in complaining" part will be easier than the "decision can't be repealed" part.

I think it would really help a lot if you provided some context or example situations where that phrase would be used.

Some possibilities:

"It is what it is." This means that things are as they are and can't be changed so there's no use in thinking/complaining about it. Just accept and move on.

"No use crying over spilled milk." Generally, means that there's no point in lamenting things you can't change. Also sometimes used when someone is complaining about something unimportant, like spilled milk.

"All decisions are final." Not even an idiom, just exactly what it says.

"I'm not the complaint department." As Theodore Broda suggested, this is really pretty close. There's no such thing as a complaint department.

"It's like talking to a wall." If you were trying to get a bureacrat to help you, and they weren't even really listening, this would be an appropriate thing to say to someone else in line. This phasing isn't specific. "I may as well talk to a wall," or some other variation would also be reasonable.

"Like arguing with the wind." This is similar to the last one.


Your complaint will promptly be placed into the circular file (trashcan).


In England at least, I think "Computer says no" has a similar meaning. It was introduced into the lexicon around 2000 in the Little Britain sketch show. In the sketches (example), The Computer is the higher authority to justify the customer-facing person being unhelpful.

For example: one friend might complain to another "I tried to rebook my holiday for a week later, but computer says no"

Or "You can try and ask the finance department to approve that, but you are going to get back computer says no". I this case it means that the request is probably unusual enough to require extra work, and they will reject it outright since that is the easiest option.

This doesn't fit the "Complain to the Bureau of a Salt!" meaning though' "Complain to The Computer" feels odd.

Another possibility is "tough luck". For example a friend might complain in the pub "I failed my driving test because I wasn't holding the steering wheel correctly, this is ridiculous!"

To which someone responds: "Yeah well, tough luck", meaning 'I recognise that you might have been harshly treated in this situation, but there is nothing you can do to change the outcome and I'm fed up listening to you moan about it'.

Or "We've rolled out a new version of the website following our new design guidelines. The text is now pink on a green background. If you would prefer the old one, tough luck."

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