All in all, based on experience I believe more good comes out of calls or letter writing than one would think. Much better than just fuming about it. Most company info you can find on the packaging of the product you are using or online.

However I feel one does get further up the complaint ladder by writing than by calling in, as it is easier to pass along a letter than to pull a call and send it around. If I do write a letter I usually have these ideas in mind.

Definitely write the company: There have been mixed results from what I have heard when you call the company. However, writing the company can be your best defense. You have the situation in black and white with time, date, names and the problem explained. In most cases it goes directly to the department at the headquarters that is setup just for your letters.

Keep your cool: Writing down the facts of who, what, where and when are good immediately after the problem. But when you write the company you want to give yourself some time to calm down. Maybe even write a rough draft and re-read it. Coming off angry can blind the reader of your letter to the good information that you will provide.You can also be 'flagged' as a difficult customer and the company would then take a more defensive stance and not work as well with you.

Have an action plan: Providing not only the problem but ways the company can solve this problem can open the door for negotiations. Be specific, but also be realistic. Just because your email access doesn't work, doesn't mean your internet cost should be waived for a 6 months.

Think like a lawyer: Keep copies of your letters, send them certified if you want to make sure they get to the destination, keep the responses of what they say they will do. Negotiating over the phone is fine, get it in writing though.

Don't over explain: Get to the point, please. If the company needs more information they will ask. Otherwise give them the facts and leave off the background about getting your dog running away. Describe the problem and what you would like done.

Have fun: Just like "bees to honey", not only can you express your displeasure in a nice way, but you can add a little comedy into the matter. It just throws them off totally. Get someone in a good mood and you can get some great responses.

I have two stories to relate to you from my parents and their experiences writing letters to companies - in their own words.

Mom said, "I had found stems in a number of cans of the same brand of green beans, which I frequently purchased. I saved a couple of the stems and taped them to a piece of stationery. I got the address off the can and copied the numbers from the lid, which identified the canning plant.

I had read that a good way to approach a "complaint" is to tell what you like about the product and how the company will benefit by making a change, so I didn't chastise them. I told them how much I enjoyed their green beans and the reasonableness of their price. I suggested that possibly sales might increase if the quality control at that particular plant was reviewed and upgraded.

In return, they sent me a letter, along with coupons for free canned goods from their company.

Dad said, [in the early 80's] "As little bubbles of memory struggle to come to the surface on this, I think the letter I wrote was combination of praise and humor - Praise for their normally excellent product that I was fond of using and humor about the situation.

I didn't use sarcastic humor, but I think it was a red pen that leaked, so I may have made an exaggeration about looking like an ax murderer or how I looked like I had been the victim of a shooting. I probably said something about the embarrassment, but rather than just chew them out and make outrageous demands, I think I specifically asked them to replace the damaged shirt. (I believe that was Linda's idea to make a specific, reasonable request that would satisfy me.)

I think they sent money for that [shirt] and maybe some more pens.


  1. Julie // Tuesday, July 07, 2009 3:37:00 AM  

    Writing a letter to voice your concern is probably the slowest method of getting a response. Why not try online consumer help groups and forums, or even sending an e-mail the company?

  2. Dawn // Tuesday, July 07, 2009 1:51:00 PM  

    I have done online 'contact us' forms and have called both of which have gotten me absolutely no results beyond a simple thank you from the phone agent or a form response from the company.

    I think that letter writing has become a rarer quality that it does stand out enough that they remember and contact me back.

    So for myself a slow response is better than no response or a copy and paste response.