Reader Crafts Effective Complaint Letter, Scores 50% Refund From CVS

Reader CMM was able to score a partial refund from CVS after they flubbed up her gift photobook order. Instead of bound and ready books, they handed her husband a pile of loose pages and covers and said “go to town.” Some of the pages had minor ink spots on them too.

CMM says she then:

…sent an email to, crafted according to your guidelines (explained the problem as succinctly as possible, stuck to the facts, and stated that it could be resolved by issuing me a partial refund for my partial books). I was going to be perfectly happy with a 15% refund, but they credited me with 50% of the books’ price, which I thought was pretty nice. And we did get the books together – couldn’t do anything about the ink blots but at least we had Christmas presents.

So yay, thanks for teaching me how to write an effective complaint letter!

Excellent, glad you got a satisfactory solution (though I think you could have shot for more, like a full refund or replacement). Once again, to write a good complaint letter that gets results, remember these three important tips. Make sure it’s:

1. Short and sweet
2. Professional
3. Offers a solution

Then you have a much better chance of getting what you’re asking for.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Alvis says:

    I don’t like these well-written, concise, on-message posts. Nothing to complain about.

  2. BettyCrocker says:

    So they delivered a faulty product and you were going to accept 15% off? Why not have them replace it with what you actually ordered?

    • backinpgh says:

      Agreed…I would have been demanding a lot more if someone handed me that.

    • EtherealFlame says:

      Completely agree. I would have made them fix the whole debacle at their expense as it was their mistake to begin with.
      My solution to them would have been: FIx your screw up in full at no cost to me in a damn speedy fashion or my Credit Union gets a call and I get my money back.

    • HighontheHill says:

      Well, they exceeded her expectations and she was satisfied, sounds like if she hadn’t ‘made-do’ she would not have had these for Christmas which was her goal. I say congratulations and a job well done….If she had had more time, perhaps she would have requested something different to resolve the situation.

    • nbs2 says:

      I’m glad she was satisfied with what she received – if she’s happy, I’m happy. I will note, however, that when snapfish screwed up an order my wife sent them (they doubleprinted one of the pages), they replaced it with an accurate version at no cost, which they also expedited.

      The bad copy is the copy that the 3yo gets to keep in her room, as she loves pictures but is still learning how to be gentle with books.

  3. Rebecca K-S says:

    I agree that she should have asked for more. They didn’t provide “part” of her order, like she ordered doubles and only got single prints. She ordered photo books. They did not create photo books for her.

    Oh well, at least she got something. I would’ve asked for a full refund as well.

  4. stevied says:

    50% refund?

    How about doing it right and refunding all of the $.

  5. c!tizen says:

    I wouldn’t call half your money back for not providing the service you paid for “effective”.

  6. El_Fez says:

    50% off a pile of useless pages is a victory? I would be raising holy hell getting a 100% refund or getting a correctly bound book. Sorry m’man, you got screwed.

  7. Hi_Hello says:

    I would pay 50% off for the items ad pix i need to put the book together.

  8. tjthayer says:

    Why would anyone be happy paying 50% for a faulty product?

    That’s sad…

    I would pay ZERO.

    • Limewater says:

      I’m gonna try this next time I buy furniture at IKEA. You mean it’s not assembled!!! I should get a full refund!

      Seriously, it sounds like they gave her everything she needed– things just weren’t assembled. If you have all of the materials, assembling a photobook is a pretty quick and easy job. A partial refund sounds pretty reasonable to me.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        So if you buy a car, and they only give you parts, you’re willing to assemble the entire thing yourself, for full price?


        When you buy from Ikea, there’s an expectation that you’ll be getting an unassembled item. When you order completed photobooks, there’s an expectation that you’ll be getting completed, assembled, photobooks. If they’d wanted to make photobooks, they could’ve made them at home for far less.

        • Limewater says:

          That’s an even sillier comparison than my IKEA one, which was a joke.

          The difficult part of the photobook is actually getting the pages printed. After that, it’s like, a couple minute job to attach the pages. They’re designed to be quick and easy to assemble by hand.

          Since the OP kept the pages, covers, etc given to her, a partial refund makes a whole lot of sense. It would have also been reasonable for her to return everything she was given and request a full refund. What would have been unreasonable would have been for her to keep the unassembled photobook AND insist on a full refund.

          • George4478 says:

            From their email they were expecting a bound book. Do you have bookbinding equipment in your home? I’m assuming you do, since it only takes you a couple minutes to attach the pages to the binding.

            Most people, however…..

            • Limewater says:

              You think your local CVS has fancy bookbinding equipment? Photo book bindings are made so they can be bound by hand. Usually the process involves putting the pages in order and then threading either string or plastic or metal brads through pre-punched holes.

  9. JayPhat says:

    I’m just curious. How do you get runny ink on pictures when theres no ink to start with? The paper is waterproof and applied with a thermal printer. Not that I doubt the OP that the pictures weren’t of high quality. I just want an answer to that. Also, I would have given them half off to start with. But that’s only because I have people who drop $300 a week on pictures and can’t afford to lose them.

  10. Hoot says:

    I think you’re all being a little extreme. She ended up with the product, though some of the effort she paid CVS to do, she had to do herself. It also had a couple of defects. None of this altered her desire and ability to give them as gifts. You’re acting like she ordered a vase and it came shattered.

    That being said, I would also have expected either a new, corrected version or a refund. That would have been better customer service.

  11. sheriadoc says:

    Fight for a full refund, girl! From the sound of it, they really dropped the ball with the printing job. A pile of unbound pages? I’d have been hollering the minute they handed that crap to me.

  12. heyoldstyle says:

    I had the opposite experience with that CVS customer service email address. I sent an email to that same address telling them about one of their clerks that had taken my credit card and typed the number into his cell phone behind the counter. He said that it was ‘standard procedure’ for returns, and that it was just a cell phone and I shouldn’t worry about it. It’s sort of my fault for not being vigilant – I was only kind of paying attention to the process until I saw him typing something into a cell phone behind the counter – I asked what he was doing, and asked to see his cell phone. He and his manager (who was standing right next to him, kind of shielding what he was doing from my view) mumbled something I couldn’t understand, then gave me a refund in cash and I left.

    I immediately canceled that card and received a new one, and shot off an email to Customer Service, complete with the store number, location, employee’s name, and description of events. I heard nothing back, and did not report it to the police since I was not out any money.

    I started going to that CVS again once they installed the self checkouts. Haven’t had any problems since, and I haven’t seen this kid working there, so maybe they did something about it and just didn’t tell me.

  13. not-gonna-tell-ya says:

    Is it really that acceptable to gift people photoalbums full of pictures of your self?

  14. gman863 says:

    Like any major chain, what you get out of CVS depends on who you talk to.

    I recently purchased an expensive bottle of vitamins that (although the stated 2011) smelled bad and were obviously stale. Since there are 4 CVS stores within 4 miles of my home, I went to the location on my way to see a client. The “assistant manager” panicked and said she had no authority to exchange opened drugs.

    Next day I was driving by the CVS where I have my prescriptions filled and politely asked if I could exchange them. He took one whiff, apologized for the product and told me to grab another bottle off the shelf. No paperwork, no attitude.

  15. YokoOhNo says:

    i think i was behind this women in line the other day. i saw this exact same thing happen and the lady was like, “ok, now I’m supposed to spend the time and/or money to complete what was advertised and i paid for?”

  16. PLATTWORX says:

    Actually, while I am glad the OP got 50%…. I think she should have gotten a full refund.

    That said, I recently had an experience with CVS. I have a “25% Off Your Purchase” coupon that I did not see said in line four of the small print “sales items excluded” until I made my $50 purchase of mostly sale items, the cashier scanned the coupon but little came off.

    I wrote and while I received a phone call within 24 hours agreeing with me that the coupon was poorly worded they offered nothing in compensation. That was very odd but I remained pleasant and thanked them for the call.

    I then went to their corporate website ( and found the e-mails addresses of top executives. I then wrote another e-mail that was sweet as pie (you can’t be rude) but explained what had happened and closed my saying I had been contacted but was sure the response I received was not entirely what they would want a customer to get.

    Sure enough, within a day I received a call from a woman in the Executive Offices. She was outstanding. She said she had even gotten the recording of the call I received, had spoken to the person who runs customer service and they agreed the rep SHOULD have closed the call with an offer of compensation and are lost as to why she did not.

    End result: I was mailed a gift card for more than that 25% would have been. Sometimes, you need to knock on the door twice to get the right answer but always get to the point, be nice and explain what you are looking for to resolve. Nasty, sarcastic, etc gets you nowhere.