How to Successfully File a Complaint

At one time or another we have all been victims of bad service or an inferior product. Nothing is more frustrating than handing over your hard earn money and not getting what you expected in return. You want to complain but what good will it do? Well, it all depends on how you go about it. As with most things, there is a right way and wrong way to make a complaint.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you should always stay calm and don’t curse. You are more likely to resolve the issue if you are polite and respectful. However, that’s not to say you won’t have to get firm in some situations. You also want to make sure that you have a legitimate reason to complain. You don’t want to be somebody who is looking for a reason to complain or who makes a big deal over nothing. For example, while boarding a ship for a cruise I saw a man standing in the hallway yelling at his cabin steward because he had pre-requested that the twin beds in his cabin be pushed together to make one full size bed and they had not done that. The cabin steward told him they just hadn’t gotten around to it yet and assured him it would only take a minute to push the beds together. These stewards only have a couple hours between one group of passengers disembarking and the next group embarking so it can take them a little bit of time to fulfill all the special requests. For this man to stand their screaming at the cabin steward over such a minor thing that could have been easily corrected was out of line and if he made a formal complaint with management they would have just blown him off because it had no merit. So make sure you have a legitimate complaint.

The first step in a complaint is to voice your issue to which ever manager is on scene. In some cases your issue can be resolved simply by bringing it to the attention of the manager. Also be clear about what you hope to accomplish by your complaint. Do you just want to make the manager aware of the situation or do you want some sort of compensation. If you do not accomplish your goal by complaining to the on site manager the next step is to file a formal complaint with the company’s customer relations department.

A formal complaint should always be submitted in writing. Make sure it is dated and that you keep a copy of it. Be very specific in your complaint and give as much detail as possible including the date, location, name of any person involved, as well as a short description of what took place. If you have any pictures include them as well. Keep the feel of the letter formal. If you are wanting a certain type of compensation such as a refund of money, then state that in the complaint. Otherwise, leave it open for them to make an offer. Be specific about what you will do if some type of compensation or resolution can’t be reached and don’t make veiled threats. If they don’t come through with any compensation be prepared to carry out the steps you stated.

Here are two examples of complaints filed and the results.
Example One: Nightmare Cruise 
A few years ago my family took a 12-day Hawaiian Cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line. On the second day of the cruise at about 2 o’clock in the morning, I awoke to the sound of running water. My first thought was that my son had gotten up during the night to use the bathroom and didn’t turn the sink faucet off all the way. I got up to go shut it off and immediately felt a soggy carpet under my feet. I turned the light on and saw water running out from underneath the bathroom door. There was a slight step up to the bathroom. I opened the bathroom door and to find foam and water bubbling up from the shower drain. We immediately called the front desk who sent a couple of maintenance workers to our cabin. After several minutes they got the water to stop. They threw a bunch of towels on the floor and told us they would be back in the morning to vacuum up the water from the carpet. In the morning they told us that they would have to put a heater in the cabin to dry carpet. Fortunately, it was a port day, so we would be out of the cabin for most of the day. When we returned to our cabin late in the afternoon it was very hot inside and it smelled like wet carpet. Maintenance came back and shampooed the carpet but again we had to stay out of the cabin while a heater dried it. Later that evening management sent us a fruit plate for the inconvenience.

Two days later, it happened all over again. When I went up to the front desk to find out what was going on and ask to be moved, I was told the ship was full and there was no other cabins available. On day ten my son became sick with food poisoning. A lot of the passengers had been complaining about the under cooked food especially the runny eggs. By the end of the cruise I was so violently sick I had to go straight from the ship to the hospital where the doctor confirmed that I had food poisoning. After returning home I sent a written complaint detailing all the problems we had on this cruise and included the hospital’s report, to the cruise line’s customer relations department via email. A few days later I received an email stating they were sorry for any inconvenience but offered no compensation. In response I sent another letter stating that I felt we deserved some sort of compensation and if no acceptable compensation was offered I planned to file a number of complaints against them with various agencies and I listed the agencies. I also let them know I would actively campaign against their cruise line. I then included a list of connections I had within the travel industry and the names of cruise clubs I belong to. A few days later I received a written letter from them stating they were giving my family $1300 in cruise credit which I was happy with.

Example Two: Where’s the meat? 
I had gone to a popular fast food chicken restaurant to get dinner for my family. I ordered three combo plates that included 2 pieces of chicken and 2 sides. In the picture it looked like a good size meal and based on the price I assumed it was a decent size. After getting home and opening up the meals, we were shocked at what we saw. The pieces of meat were so small I swear they were baby chickens and the side dishes consisted of about 2 tablespoons of food. It was ridiculous and I understand that companies take a few liberties with embellishing their photos; however, these meals weren’t even close to what the picture showed. I sent an email expressing my frustration through the company’s website along with a copy of their picture of the meal and a picture of what I actually received. Their first response was basically too bad. So I filed a formal complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The BBB will contact companies who have had a complaint made against them and request they resolve the issue. If enough people file complaints with the BBB against a company it can affect their rating. After being contacted by the BBB, the company sent me $20.00 in gift certificates, which was fine, but I never went back to eat there. I wasn’t looking for free food I wanted them to take more responsibility in fraudulent marketing. I just wanted to get what they promised me and what I paid for.

In Review:
·         Make sure you have a legitimate reason for complaining.
·         Always remain calm and be polite whether you are making your complaint in person or writing.
·         First approach the onsite manager, if there is one, to see if you can resolve the issue.
·         Submit a complaint in writing outlining your issue in detail, what you would like to happen and your intentions if no resolution can be reached.
·         Along with your complaint submit any supporting documentation or pictures.
·         Be prepared to carryout any consequences you stated if no resolution is reached.