Have you ever gotten crappy service at an expensive restaurant (and the food was awful, too); purchased an appliance that broke in the next week; or put on a shirt, only to have the seams split? I know you have.
We all get our share of overpriced, shoddy goods and services. Unfortunately, most people just suck it up and write their unhappiness off to bad luck. Wouldn’t you like to do something about it?
Write a complaint letter — a “complaining letter,” our girlies would call it.
Writing A Complaining Letter
Document as much as you can of the problem — what appliance, where you bought it, the clerk’s name (or at least their description), and what happened. Get the place’s address, including the manager’s name. (Add a cc. to the company headquarters and president, if you sense you’re going to be ignored by the local manager.) Let’s assume it’s Ye Olde Burger Joint, for the purposes of showing how I do this.
Ye Olde Burger Joint
Dear Mr. Smith,
I wanted to begin by letting you know what a big fan I am of your menu. We really enjoy your — and —, and try to visit when we can.
On DATE, my family stopped in for a quick burger. Much to our surprise, the clerk at the counter (“Peggy” on her shirt, long brown hair in a ponytail) spit on our burgers, then said “So what?” when we complained. We had already paid her, so were forced to take the food, but it wasn’t as good as it usually is. We ended up throwing it away.
Your company is a quality place, I know, who would hate to see their loyal customers mistreated. We’d like to give your spot another chance, but are hesitant after this experience. I knew you would want to know about it etc etc.
Please don’t hesitate to call or write if I can give further information. (CONTACT INFO HERE)
See the pattern here? I use it almost every time.
- Contact Info — for them, as well as you. Be sure to include phone, address and e-mail.
- Address the letter’s recipient by name, if at all possible
- Start with a compliment. After all, you spent your hard-earned money on one of their products, so you must feel it’s worth it.
- Explain what happened. Be specific, and as thorough as possible.
- A second compliment — but a backhanded one this time. Emphasize that they’re a quality company and wouldn’t want to hurt their customers. Finish by saying that you’re sure they would want to know about this. (They usually do.)
- You might ask for your money back/replacement product…or stay coy and see what they offer.
Finish with an offer to provide more information. Include any receipts that prove you did what you said. If you’re uncertain if the manager will listen (perhaps they chewed you out, too, for complaining about Peggy!), then send a copy of the letter to the corporate offices, addressed to the president.
The letter can be typed or handwritten, but it should be done on nicer-quality paper and/or letterhead, if you’ve got it. Don’t include an SASE; they’ll contact you.
I’ve written dozens of letters like this over the past thirty years, and what have they gotten me? Gift cards and meals. Replaced items — often with extras included, and free shipping. Coupons for chips, soda and other groceries — multiple ones, at that. (Save these, and combine them with a BOGO special to make your coupon go twice as far.) A case of cheese. (Really.) Job offers. (That’s how I got the Traildust critic job in the first place.) Money credited on our bill, including half a month’s internet use.
It takes very little time to write one of these letters; in fact, sometimes you don’t have to write at all. Some companies have 800-number customer service lines; call and leave a comment, along with your contact info. Or you might talk to the manager before you actually leave the place. (Add on the end of the conversation, if they haven’t offered something already, “what can you do to make up for our inconvenience?”)
When you do get a refund or replacement, thank them graciously. Even gush a little, if they obviously went out of their way. (They’re human too, after all.) Tell them how much you appreciated it. And be sure to tell others, as well.
Next time you’ve gotten a raw deal or poor service, try a complaining letter. You’ll be amazed at the results. Promise.