How To Write A Complaint Letter

A letter of complaint is an opportunity to arm someone who may be unfamiliar with your problem with the fact necessary to investigate. Make sure you are clear, concise, and compelling. State the facts and how you would like the situation resolved. Lastly, provide a timeline for their expected response before you forward the matter onto a higher authority.

Below is a fine example of how to draft an effective complaint letter.

samplecomplaintletter-thumb

See, not so hard. It’s just like Mad Libs!

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  1. Listen consumers, if you have to write a generic complaint letter then you really are failing to understand the artistic nature of the “complaint” itself.

    If I were an employee who’s sole purpose was to read these sorts of things, I would feel more inclined to reward those who went above and beyond the stock generic form letters that are regurgitated oh-so-often.

    • ShizaMinelli says:

      It’s not up to the customer to have to jump through hoops to get a company’s attention. The fact that it would even have to result in something like this is unnaceptable.

  2. Ben Popken says:

    First, get the basics covered in the sample letter above. Then you can get creative!

  3. thatabbygirl says:

    I like to throw in evocative details so the person reading it can imagine a human on the other end of the complaint. Things like “this double billing tied up nearly $350 for over a week, requiring me to borrow money from friends so I could feed myself” or “this flaw in the toothbrush construction so injured my right hand that I cannot write legibly”.

    I also include things like “I have been a loyal customer of xxx for however long, but problems like this are forcing me to consider switching to yyy” or “I make the purchasing decisions for my family, which spends an average of $xxx on product such as this every month”.

  4. SpamFighterLoy says:

    On Dec 7, 1944, I leased a box of plastic sporks, model PM22A at the dark side of the moon.

    Unfortunately, your product has not performed well because the soup broth dribbles through them. Your salesperson misrepresented the item, clearly indicating these would make me a sex goddess. Dribbling is a tiny niche turn-on.

    To solve the problem, I would like your entire staff to be summarily executed in the manner of being pecked to death by chickens. Enclosed are copies of my caterer’s bill, birth certificates for my children and my mother-in-laws dental x-rays.

    I look forward to your reply and a resolution to my problem. I will wait until I have to pee before seeking help from a rabid anti-corporate website like Consumerist.com or the eunich Better Business Bureau.

    Please contact me by brainwave, as I have disconnected all electronic communications methods because of the Martian rays.

    – You’re right, it IS like mad-libs :)

  5. jenwam says:

    For 13 years I edited a consumer complaint column in a major newspaper, and I think your example is right on target. I have just a few things to add:
    1. Before you start writing letters, make at least 2 attempts to solve the problem with the company’s usual consumer complaint resolution track.
    2. If those 2 attempts are unsuccessful, address your first complaint letter to President (just the title – you don’t need a name), Company name. Always start at the top. Let the President’s staff direct it to the consumer complaint department. Meanwhile, you’ve gotten the attention of the top person, and most of them don’t like to hear that a customer has had problems with their product.
    3. As much as you may be tempted, never be rude or crude. It will hurt your case.
    4. Definitely be creative … write as though you were telling your friends the details of the problem (but without the profanity).
    5. If the company doesn’t meet your deadline, send them a second letter, with a copy of the first one and all supporting materials, but with a cc to the atty gen’s office, the BBB, or other consumer protection agency. Or, if your local newspaper or television station has a consumer complaint column/show, cc them.

  6. badcommo says:

    eight years of great service, until. until I got the bundle service. since then tech’s been out 3,4,maybe 5 times. first my internet wasn’t responding, fixed. then, after dialing a number would get 4-6 beeps then start dialing, fixed. then, lost part of my cable channels, fixed. then, back to getting the beeping sound when number dialed and now poor pictures on some of my cable channels. which these last two not fixed. one tech will change input/output on the splitters, then the next will come and change them back. as a former tech this problem would/will be solved by installing another cable to the house and dividing up the data and/or providing one line for each service phone/cable/internet, which will be the correct way.don’t try calling corp office was on hold 32min ended up on a voice mail. since then letter been sent to corp with no answer so will set down and write a letter to my local paper to commit on this service, also since 90% of people in this town want charter to go will now fully support the issue.

  7. mydogsnameismaceo says:

    I’m currently writing a complaint-type letter that I will send both via email and by snail mail. For emails, what are your ideas on good subject lines? Suggestions would be appreciated!

  8. dgcaste says:

    @SOMETHING_AMAZING: that’s terrible advice. people aren’t trying to see who can be creative and that’s not what they’re thinking about. they’re thinking, “my boss and 5 others got a letter from this pissed off guy and he’s not afraid to write the right people.”

    besides, you’re not one of these employees. if I were a web admin, I would delete comments like yours that are posted inappropriately oh-so-often.

  9. cope242 says:

    Try THIS! I sent this and had the lead monkey of the customer service department on my phone within ten minutes. Did I mention I CC’d the e-mail to about 20 other execs at Charter as well as my local paper and TV news?

    April 3, 2008

    Neil Smit
    President & CEO
    Charter Communications
    941 Charter Commons
    Chesterfield, MO 63017

    Bravo, Neil!

    You have successfully outsourced all accountability. You’re probably too
    dimwitted to figure out what I’m referring to, so I’ll connect the dots for you.
    I’m referring to how you have designed your phone systems to direct all of

    Charter’s Customer Service problems away from Saint Louis. It must be easy to
    consider yourself a success and sleep like a righteous man when there’s no one
    to tell you that you’re failing. Do you run around buying every copy of

    Consumer Reports reviews of telecom companies, to keep everyone from discovering
    that Charter is consistently DEAD LAST?

    In case you’re wondering, I have been a customer of Charter Communications since
    2004. During this time I’ve had a number of Internet outages that required me

    to call your Internet support department in order to restore my service. Each
    issue was a frustrating ordeal and always an issue with Charter’s network. Not
    to mention, they were resolved due mainly to my patience and due diligence.

    Today I had another outage and an experience with your phone imbeciles that was
    beyond compare. After being disconnect TWICE after navigating your phone menu,
    I finally connected to a support representative in the Philippines. Let me tell

    you, there’s nothing like the frustration when you are forced to combine a
    LANGUAGE BARRIER with a technical problem.

    Anyway, after navigating Charter’s useless automated “internet troubleshooter”,
    I got a support representative who informs me that my cable modem is defective.

    I’ve been told this before to discover that it was actually a service outage in
    my area. So, I decided to double check and went to Charter’s online Live Chat
    Support, using my Internet connection at work. Once again, a Charter Support

    Representative informed me that my cable modem was defective and that I needed
    to take it to my local Charter office for a replacement. (see copy of attached
    online chat). So, I proceeded to drive home on my lunch to discover that the

    modem was fully functional and my Internet service was restored. Am I
    surprised? No. Am I livid? Yes.

    At this point I tried to contact Charter’s Billing Department for a credit to my
    account for the outage and my personal inconvenience. Once again I got multiple

    busy signals before being connected to a billing representative in the
    Philippines. After explaining my situation and that I wanted to speak to
    someone about a credit to my bill, she transferred me to Canada to speak to

    someone in Cable Support. The representative in Canada informed me she could
    ONLY transfer me back to the billing department located in the Philippines.
    Unfrigginbelievable!

    Don’t bother getting out of your chair, Champ. I’ll take care of getting my

    refund myself. I can only hope and pray that you are forced to “toss some
    salad” like your previous CFOs…

    “In the criminal case, Barford, Charter’s former Chief Operating Officer, pled
    guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced to one

    year and one day in prison and was ordered to serve two years of supervised
    release after the prison term and to pay a $200,000 fine. Kalkwarf, Charter’s
    former Chief Financial Officer, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and was

    sentenced to 14 months in prison and was ordered to serve two years of
    supervised release after the prison term and to pay a $200,000 fine. McCall, a
    former Charter Senior Vice President of Operations, pled guilty to one count of

    conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced to two years of probation and
    ordered to pay a $200,000 fine. Smith, a former Charter Senior Vice President of
    Operations, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was

    sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay a $175,000 fine.”

    Sincerely,

    Mike Copland

    A representative will be with you shortly.
    You are currently number 12 in the queue.

    All agents are currently busy. Please stand by.
    You are currently number 12 in the queue.
    An agent will be with you in a moment. Thank you for your patience.
    You are currently number 2 in the queue.
    The next available Agent will be with you in a moment.

    You have been connected to TTD Maryjane .
    mike copland: hello?
    TTD Maryjane : Thank you for contacting Charter. My name is Maryjane. May I know
    who I am chatting with, and how may I help you today?
    TTD Maryjane : Thank you for contacting Charter. My name is Maryjane. May I know

    who I am chatting with, and how may I help you today?
    mike copland: my charter internet is down
    TTD Maryjane : I am sorry to hear that you are having a problem with your

    Internet service. Let me do my best to assist you with your concern. Afterwards,
    I will also check on your services to make sure that you are receiving the best
    level of service possible from Charter.
    TTD Maryjane : First, I need to check on your account to make sure there’s

    nothing had been missed. Can I have the phone number beginning with the area
    code. For security purposes, can you verify the name on the account, and for
    Federal Communications Commission compliance, can I have the last four digits of

    your Social Security Number, please?
    mike copland: my pc is off, i have completely disconnected and reconnected my
    modem
    mike copland: i just gave it to you
    TTD Maryjane : Thank you. Please wait while I pull up your account.

    mike copland: k
    TTD Maryjane : Have you tried what we call a power-cycle, Al? Here are the
    steps:
    Step 1: Unplug the power cord on the back of the cable modem. It is usually
    small, black and round. All the lights on the modem will disappear when you pull

    it out.
    TTD Maryjane : Step 3: Plug in the power cord on the back of your cable modem.
    Wait 60 seconds before doing anything else.
    Step 4: Restart your computer. Note: Please do not do this while we are
    chatting, as it would disconnect our chat.

    mike copland: yes
    mike copland: ive dont that
    mike copland: im on my neighbors wireless account
    TTD Maryjane : Okay.
    mike copland: im not on MY charter account
    TTD Maryjane : May I know what state are you in?

    mike copland: mo
    mike copland: hello?
    TTD Maryjane : One moment please.
    TTD Maryjane : May I please have your MAC ID, I need to do a test on your modem
    to see if it is working fine.
    mike copland: ok

    mike copland: one sec
    TTD Maryjane : Thank you.
    mike copland:
    TTD Maryjane : One moment please.
    TTD Maryjane : I am done with the test. Mike , I can see that you modem is not
    in good condition anymore that is why you are having problem on your Internet

    and somehow getting interruptions. I need you to visit the local Charter office
    on your area to have your modem swap.
    mike copland: ok, thanks

  10. complaintventures says:

    Personally I like to start my letters of by saying something nice. State that my relationship with the company has been meaningful for me, which puts into perspective that the most recent experience was disappointing. It seems to reinforce the fact that they might potentially lose a really good customer (not just money-wise).

    Also, threatening never works for me. Companies know what actions consumers can take and probably already have a good idea on how they might rebuttal.

    Instead, I think it’s important to ask specifically for what I might want in return for my bad experience. 7 out of 10 times I have gotten it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I sent this to AA and actually got a really nice letter in response, and also a full refund and $100 vouchers for my mom, sister, and grandmother.

    ___

    To Whom it may concern;

    On May 8, my mother (*name*), grandmother (*name*) and sister (*name*) were traveling from CA to TX for my college graduation. They had a flight from Burbank to DFW (which I booked for them on *date*), and then a flight from DFW to *city*, TX. Their flight from Burbank (AA flight ***) was scheduled to leave at 12:40 pm. However, the flight did not actually depart until approximately 2.5 hours later, due to a malfunction on the plane (apparently one of the engines wouldn’t start, according to the information they were given). The flight from Burbank to Dallas is about 3 hours, so they should’ve arrived at 5:40 pm CT. Because of the plane’s malfunction in Burbank, they missed their connecting flight in Dallas when, if all had been well, they would have had a comfortable two hour layover (which I scheduled intentionally, having made this trip many times myself and knowing DFW can be difficult to get through).

    I expected that they’d be able to get on the next available flight after checking the policies at aa.com, and remembering that the flight from Dallas to *city* is rarely full. However, the flight was full, and my family was forced to split a rental car with a couple who was similarly stranded. In short, they didn’t take that second flight. Moreover, American Airlines didn’t offer to compensate them in any way. According to your policies posted on your website, “When cancellations and major delays are experienced, you will be rerouted on our next flight with available seats. If the delay or cancellation was caused by events within our control and we do not get you to your final destination on the expected arrival day, we will provide reasonable overnight accommodations, subject to availability.” However, according to three separate accounts from my mother, grandmother, and sister, the attendants at the American Airlines counter gave them no such service, even when they asked them directly about compensation of some sort. To top it off, they were rude to my mom when she asked about their compensation policies. All they did was give them a slip of paper with a toll-free number they could call, which my mom has tried, but to no avail after waiting waaaaay too long on the phone (yay, phone trees!)

    What can we do? At the very least I think their flight should be refunded, which adds up to about $128 each. I would love an apology from someone at AA, as well, for causing my family and I undue stress, the day before my graduation, especially considering that their trip was considerably more stressful and much longer than it should have been (My grandmother is 69 years old and doesn’t need to be exposed to stress like this, anyway). They were scheduled to arrive at 8:25 pm but ended up arriving closer to 2 am.

    I am a loyal AA flyer and have been since attending college. I have never been so appalled at the lack of service and courtesy given to my mother, sister, and grandmother. Unless this matter is given due attention, I will be forced to take to traveling to a more courteous airline.

    Thanks in advance,

    Kristin *****

  12. azwaldo says:

    It is all great advice, but I like to get the stink out right after general information is on the table. If a product or service sucks and that’s how you feel, tell them it sucks, but always tell them why. That is the only way improvement starts.

    I also recommend sending letters and correspondence to executives when you stop using or buying something because of a change they make. How will they know if you do not tell them and others?

    On the other hand, I say if you are at the point of writing a letter to an owner or executive, you are at the last straw and probably nothing they do will turn your boat around.

    The trouble today is we dance around the Maypole for everything, worry about sensitivities and what will they think stuff, that we loose the concept of black & white, right & wrong, and perhaps the real dirt of the issue.

    I say be honest, and let it fly. I appreciate letters like this as an executive rather than 5 minutes of build up. If your upset, that is what it is.

    Honesty!

  13. Maxine Ryder says:

    Thank you for the template letter, indeed this is very helpful and will make me feel much more confident when standing up for myself in the furture.
    Maxine