Get Past Executive Customer Service Gatekeepers With Letter-Writing 101

As items in our mailbox go, April’s story is pretty mundane. She returned her broadband modem to her Internet service provider five months ago, and they caught up with her and…sent her to a collection company. No one believed April that she had returned the modem. What could she do? Write to the CEO, that’s what.

April also happens to write for one of the best personal finance blogs that aren’t this one, Get Rich Slowly, and shared her experience with the cable company there. It’s notable not just because of the story’s happy ending, but because of the structure of her letter.

We read a lot of complaint letters here at Consumerist, and we read a lot of complaint letters that companies previously ignored. It’s not just people online who say “too long, didn’t read,” but executive customer service gatekeepers do, too. Here’s how April opened the gate at her cable company and got them to believe her modem story.

She began her letter with one-paragraph summary of the problem.

I’ve been a satisfied Internet R’ Us customer for the last eight years, but I have run into a problem and I need your help. I recently moved. During the process, Internet R’ Us “lost” the records showing that I returned my old cable modem. So our old account, #000000, was sent to collections for a modem that we returned in May of this year. Despite numerous phone calls to Internet R’ Us, we’ve been unable to resolve the issue.

(There is no ISP that we know of named “Internet ‘R’ Us.” The name here was changed to keep the company anonymous.)

The body of the letter consists of the events regarding her modem problem, separated into paragraphs. You can check out that part of the letter on her post. In the conclusion, she summed up the problem and explained her proposed solution to the problem.


I have been a loyal customer for eight years. I always pay my bill on time, and I returned all my equipment properly in May. It doesn’t seem fair to me that I am being billed $61 for equipment that I returned properly. I also think it’s unfair to be getting daily collection calls because of an Internet R’ Us error. Can you help me resolve this situation?

Thank you,

April Dykman

Simple? Yes, you might have learned much of this in grade school while learning how to write a letter. People forget these simple steps when writing complaint letters, though: maybe it’s the lack of word processor prodding and the free-form Internet communications we’re used to.

To sum up: summarize your problem at the beginning and end of the letter. Propose a reasonable solution. Keep it as short as possible.

Bad customer service? Talk to the CEO [Get Rich Slowly]

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