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Better Bellyaching: Write a Complaint Letter That Gets Results

Joanie.Demer

Everyone has had a bad consumer experience. Sometimes, customer service was plain lacking and we’ve left an establishment so frustrated! After all, if we Krazy Couponers are going to spend our hard-earned money and limited time, we expect to get the service or goods we were promised. The question is, what can you do about it?

As a writing teacher and couponer, I have crafted several successful letters of complaint that yielded the exact results I wanted. I’ve received gift cards, coupons, and free passes when the service I received at various establishments wasn’t as promised or as expected.

Here’s the formula for writing a letter (or e-mail) that will get results:

Step 1: Gather all the details. Before you start your letter, dig out your receipt. You want to find detailed information such as the exact location, the date and time, the name of the employee or server who was assisting you, and the total cost of the goods or service.

Step 2: Do your research. The Internet makes it easy to locate customer service information. It is best to address your letter to a person, not to a random “ to whom it may concern,” if possible. Be sure that you are sending your e-mail or letter to the correct address.

Step 3: Create a clean, professional-looking letter. Write the letter, revise it, and make sure it contains no errors. Customer service employees will not take you as seriously if you can’t spell the name of their establishment correctly or your letter is full of typos. A few minutes of revising and checking can help get results.

Step 4: Use a friendly tone. State your name and share some sort of connection to the establishment. Meaning, if you shop at that particular store often, say so. If you have a store credit card, say so. If it was your first visit, one you made on the recommendation of a friend, say so. This is your first paragraph.

Step 5: Jump into the details. State when you visited the establishment, what time, who your server or store employee was, what services you asked for, and how much you paid, etc. If you cannot remember the name of the employee, it’s OK to describe the person (nicely!) to help the representative identify who it was who helped you. State only the details that matter to the story (the fact that it was a cloudy day or that you were wearing your favorite heels isn’t necessary.) This is your second paragraph.

Step 6: Clearly state the issue and what resolution you expect. Be authoritative, but not belligerent. No cursing, no name-calling, no personal insults. For example, state, “Because it took over an hour to get our food order, the appetizer arrived at the same time as the entrees, and the food was barely lukewarm, I would like a gift card for the amount of bill.” Include a copy of the receipt if possible. This shows that you did, in fact, visit the establishment, pay the amount stated, and are serious about receiving a gift card for that amount. Other resolutions you might ask for: a refund, a free pass (if the establishment was an entertainment venue, for example), or a discount code or coupon.

Step 7: End nicely. Thank the person for taking the time to read your letter. State that you wish to visit the establishment again and receiving your requested gift card, pass, refund, or coupon will help you do so. Sign your name, followed by your address, phone number, and e-mail address. This gives the representative the opportunity to contact you with your requested item and ask any questions if necessary. (Once I had a restaurant manager call me to personally apologize for the bad dining experience we had.)

As you can see, writing a letter of complaint does take a little bit of time and energy on your part, but taking a few moments to write a letter can help you recover lost money spent and give you the opportunity to give the establishment a second chance to earn your future business.

 This has been a guest post by Rachel from St. Louis, MO
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