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The Art of Complaining

Updated on June 4, 2012
Angry Customer Photo
Angry Customer Photo

It’s happened to all of us. We’ve gone out to dinner, shopped at a store or purchased a product only to be dissatisfied with the quality, quantity or customer service. We may complain to our friends and family, but, although this may be an effective way of letting our inner circle know a restaurant, store or product isn’t up to par, this really does nothing for us personally. So what’s a consumer to do? Complain!

Go Online to Submit a Complaint

Just about every business has an online presence nowadays. They want customers to find them and their products quickly and easily. It’s a terrific form of advertising. Almost every business website includes a feedback form that encourages customers to share both positive and negative experiences. Why? Because businesses truly want your opinion. They want to make money and they don’t want to lose anyone’s patronage. If they don’t know something is broken they can’t fix it. Large companies can’t possibly oversee daily operations at every facility. They rely on customers to let them know how they’re doing. That’s where the customer comes in. Knowing how to complain properly will get the best results.

Write a Complaint Sandwich

The sandwich method works wonders when submitting negative feedback. Begin with a compliment about the product, service or store. Start with the bottom slice of bread by letting the company know how long you’ve been a satisfied customer and how you’ve always been happy in the past. Then you add the meat (fish for vegetarians) by telling them what the problem is – the product fell apart, the dinner was awful, the server/cashier/salesperson was rude and unknowledgeable – by being as detailed as possible in the allotted amount of space. Finally, finish with the top slice of bread, which is where you tell the company that you understand that mistakes happen and you sincerely hope you can continue to patronize their service or product.

Get Free Products and Services for Complaining

I have complained to many businesses over the years and have used the sandwich method many times with positive results. Spending my hard-earned money only to receive inferior products and services is a very good motivating factor. Don't think of it as looking for a handout - you're looking for compensation.

I’ve received many free meals and products as a result. Olive Garden's frozen-meal-style cooking left me dissatisfied. I emailed them and they sent me a $25 gift card. I had an ongoing issue with the condition in which my Amazon books were arriving. After the third shipment of torn, bent books, they responded kindly by refunding the amount of my entire order and allowed me to keep all the books. Sure they were a little torn up and bent, but at least they were free. I wrote an article about my disastrous results when using Clairol Foam Hair Color. When I emailed them my concerns they nicely sent me a coupon good for any Clairol product (I did not choose the foam color again).

Dealing With Companies that Don’t Seem to Care

Some businesses are not receptive to any feedback and that fact always baffles me. Subway Restaurants sticks out in my mind here. I received a very curt, unapologetic email response to my concerns bluntly stating that each Subway Restaurant is independently owned and there is no system of quality control. What? My Cover Girl Perfect Point Plus Eye Pencil promptly dispensed the entire pencil onto my makeup table after one turn. I informed them nicely of this product flaw and, to this day, have not heard a word back from them. Sometimes you just don’t hear back from a company or they don’t seem to care about their customers concerns. There are plenty of other restaurants and eye pencils in the sea. But more often than not company representatives are responsive and receptive to consumer concerns.

Submit Positive Feedback Too

Don’t forget to let companies know when you’re satisfied with their product or service. I’ve also submitted many compliments over the years. Companies appreciate positive feedback as well. They may even send you a coupon or other freebie for your trouble.

Make good use of those online customer feedback forms. It takes very little time and effort and the results might even surprise you.


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    • lovesleftovers profile image

      lovesleftovers 5 years ago from Texas

      Thanks Marc! Yes, I agree, there seem to be some companies that don't care about customer complaints, but many are very receptive :-)

    • Marc Rohde profile image

      Marc Rohde 5 years ago from Racine, WI

      Great post, its amazing just how responsive some companies are and how non-responsive other companies are. If you can keep your cool this approach typically works in person as well.

    • lovesleftovers profile image

      lovesleftovers 5 years ago from Texas

      Thanks Randy! For the most part, I'm happy with the service and products I receive, but when I'm not I don't hesitate to let them know :)

    • Randy M. profile image

      Randy McLaughlin 5 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Good ideas. I need to try them on some of the Costa Rican businesses that I deal with. Living here has made me appreciate higher standards of customer service in the US.