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Better Bellyaching: Write a Complaint Letter That Gets Results

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
Find out more about the KCL Contributor Network!

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13 thoughts on “Better Bellyaching: Write a Complaint Letter That Gets Results”

  1. scotterick0003 says:

    I HAVE TO BELLY ACHE ABOUT YOUR NEW IMPROVED WEBSITE. IT SUCKS ACTUALLY. WELL KNOWN STORES THAT I SHOP AT ARE NOT LISTED. I LOG INTO THE SITE AND IT WILL SOMETIMES LET ME IN AND SOMETIMES I WONT. I MAKE MY LIST ONLY TO FIND OUT THAT I DOESNT PRINT IT. SO I THEN OPT TO EMAIL IT. AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, I NEVER GET THE EMAIL. NO IT IS NOT MY SYSYTEM, MY KNOWLEDGE OF TECHNOLOGY OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. MAYBE PEOPLE SHOULD GO BY THE SAYING MORE OFTEN OF, "IF IT AIN’T BROKE DONT FIX IT" AND IF YOU DO HAVE TO FIX IT, THEN FIX IT!!!! DONT JERRY RIG IT AND SEND IT OUT. THANK GOD THIS SITE IS FREE BECAUSE I WOULDNT PAY A DIME FOR IT THE WAY IT IS. I USED TO LOVE IT BUT AFTER THIS LONG COMMMENT (since I cant find a way to email you) I WILL BE EXITING THE WEBSITE TO NEVER RETURN. I KNOW YOU DONT CARE, SO I DONT NEED A SAPPY FORMAL LETTER SENT TO ME. IN FACT I DO NOT WANT ANYTHING SENT TO ME. GOOD DAY LADIES AND GENTS. ENJOY YOUR COUPONING!! :-)

  2. Renee says:

    I wrote a complaint to Pampers about a box of diapers I bought… They replied very promptly, telling me that they were sending me TWO $10 coupons towards diapers and they would arrive in 2-3 weeks. 4 weeks comes, nothing. I send an email back to the representative, she apologizes and says she is sending them out and I should, again, receive them in 2-3 weeks. Here it is, 8 weeks from the original email, and I reply yet again telling them not to bother and just verifying they have the correct address because hey…it’s something free I really can’t do much more. I get the same email telling me to wait 2-3 weeks and no mention of whether the address is correct. I know I have no room to complain about something free, but seriously? I started out impressed with the customer service just to be disappointed in the end.

  3. avidcouponer says:

    Writing a letter really works I was having issues with my laptop which was under warrenty but was given problems by the store for trying to get their help in resolving the problem I wrote a complaint letter to corperate detailing what had happened and today in the mail completely by surprise I got a check from Best Buy for $160! It was totally worth the thirty minutes of my time I never thought I would see these kind of results simply by speaking out I only hope this imporves coustomer service in the future =) 

  4. Meek Monroe says:

    Thanks so very much for this information.  I shopped a few days ago, first time with a large number of coupons, and my experience was HORRIBLE!  I met with the general manager and he was not atall alarmed to hear what I shared about one of his asst managers.  This makes me assume that she portrays this type of behavior all of the time.  Hmmmm…I wonder.  I am definitely writing a letter as I do not feel he will do anything about her actions.  Thanks again

  5. PDT says:

    I have actually emailed two large corporations regarding substandard products (basically using the same formula as above) and both times I was pleasantly surprised.  The restaurant actually called and thanked me – they said they checked the frig and it was not working properly and they would not have known if someone had not called.  The other one called and asked for a bit more coding on the product.  Both treated my information as helpful to improve their business and also sent reimbusrement for my trouble.  Nice article! 

  6. This is great guidance for a letter. I have also called the customer service lines and have had good results when I am friendly but firm in my concern about the quality of the company’s product or service. My husband got sick from eating a store brand hot dog and I called the company the next day with the lot number from the package and the problem we encountered. I just wanted to alert them to a bad lot but they apologized and sent a gift card of $100 to use at the grocery store. Of course you continue to have loyal customers if you do that! We really needed the grocery money too so it was a great surprise.

  7. Rennie Topper says:

    I am sending my followers over here to read this. Great article!!!

  8. Shannon says:

    I might also suggest a short note of dissatisfaction left on Facebook or Twitter can yield a very prompt response. I leave just enough info so that they know I am not happy, but don’t give too many details. That way I give them they benefit of being able to respond and make it right without bashing them too harshly publicly. Had to do this yesterday with Nordstrom and it was handled instantly, and beyond my expectations! I was very impressed with their fast response!

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, free “advertising” threats usually yield good results. I recently had a problem getting the $10 Walmart card for purchasing the RainX blades. The fulfillment company tried to say that I had not used the original submission form and refused to pay attention to my reply that I had printed it from their website in black and white. Finally after another refusal to send my rebate, I told them to just return my original receipt so I could return the blades to Walmart. Lo and behold, I got my rebate pronto. Amazing.

  9. Shannon Chancellor says:

    I did this a couple of weeks ago.  My daughter’s doctor was going to charge a $20 copay for her well child visit because it had not been 365+ days.  When in fact it was going to be 364 days because it was leap year.  She had to have her physical to participate in her school’s “dance camp retreat”  which started on day 365!!!  I called the insurance company’s customer service and was told, “under no certain terms……  because if they did it for me, they would have to do it for everyone.”  My response,  “…  AS THEY SHOULD!”  I realized I would get no where with this representative, so I sat down and wrote a letter.  Three days later,  the insurance company was calling me to apologize and say that they had contacted the dr and there would be no copay.    This reminded me that you have to stand up for yourself, they don’t want unhappy customers and if your request is reasonable they will most likely meet your request.  

  10. Anonymous says:

    I have also sent off an email (not letter) to a manufacturer recently with wonderful results. I mentioned that the internet coupons on their web site were unuseable due to the fact the address for the store to be reimbursed was not legible. I just wanted to alert them to that fact and was dismayed that I was unable to use the coupons. I figured they would do something about the coupon since everything else on the coupon worked just fine. They sent me an email back apologizing and about a week later (after I gave them my address) I received a coupon booklet with food coupons that were good for a year. Several were as high as $5! I responded to the same lady and thanked her profusely for such wonderful customer service that was above and beyond. I am now a loyal consumer of their products. I dare not mention the name of the company since they would be inundated with requests.
    I have had other successes throughout the years and very few that just didn’t care. I stopped giving my business to those that did not respond at all.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have had trouble with coupons.com, Alexia products, Dove and Benjamin Moore not printing the coupons…  Coupons.com doesn’t do anything at all but send you an email giving you instructions on how to print even though I clearly stated that I could print every single coupon but one in particular…  Alexia products said that they apologize for me not being able to use their Q buut if it wasn’t directly from their website, they couldn’t do anything for me…  Dove, on the other hand, sent me a Q for a free product…  :-/  I guess it depends on the company to be succesful…