Writing the Complaint Letter – I am Appalled and Dismayed

I am appalled and dismayed that the average American, while capable of voicing an opinion on every topic from cold fusion to Lady Gaga, cannot write a clear, decisive letter of complaint.  As a well known expert complainer, I am here to offer advice gleaned from decades of carefully written gripe letters that have rewarded me – I must say in all modesty – with a value in the high two figures.  (Thank you, Calvin Trillin, for that phrase.)

At some point in our lives, we run into poor service, a lousy product or inferior goods.  We make a whole hearted but seemingly hopeless effort to explain our problem to the blank stare, uncaring gaze or deathly silence of a service representative who has been hired solely for the ability to be unresponsive.  Talking to a low-level clerk may get you nowhere but a ginned-up lab-tested pyrotechnic letter (or e-mail) of indignation direct to the company’s Office of the President assures you of getting nowhere with distinction!

Here are a few pointers that will present your complaint with literary flair and assure you of a place of notoriety if not dishonor on the wall of any corporation’s avoid-at-all-costs customer list.

First of all, it’s okay to be appalled and dismayed.   As a matter of fact, it’s a must.  Why would you be complaining if you were unaffected?  Along with appalled and dismayed, you can be indignant, dissatisfied, annoyed, upset, disturbed, disgusted, alarmed or bothered.  But don’t go overboard; you should not be pissed-off, apoplectic or suicidal, for example.  

Second, state your complaint succinctly.

  • Correct:  I am appalled and dismayed at the poor level of service I have received for the last three months.
  • Incorrect:  Why can’t you get your service right?  You’re as bad as all the other companies I have had to deal with and that is saying a lot.  None of you seems to understand that I am a hard working person who has better things to do than constantly call, write and e-mail to voice my complaint.  You want to know what is wrong with your company?  Well, let me tell you.  It’s your poor service.

 You can be abrasive but not abusive or obscene.

  • Correct:  Your inefficient and inexcusably slow accounting department has cost me countless hours and untold exasperation in attempting to sort out a 100 dollar error.
  • Incorrect:  Your accounting department consists of knuckle-dragging, mouth- breathing, blue chinned, f***ing  morons who have the average IQ’s of slugs.

Make your demands clear and reasonable.

  • Good:  I wish to be refunded 100 dollars which is the amount of three months’ service.
  • Bad:  Do you know what I want?  First of all, I want my life back.  Then, I would like to be compensated.  Oh yeah, and a red pony wouldn’t be bad either.

Finally, close with a flourish.  Tear at their heart strings (even if you think they don’t have a heart); appeal to their kinder instincts (even if you believe they have none); pull at their emotions (even if you feel they lack them).  Just don’t cry or beg – companies hate crying and begging.

I guarantee that use of these guidelines will gain you attention and get you a response.  That leads me to my next topic:  Writing the Response to the Complaint Letter.

Dear Sir:

Thank you for contacting us.  Your letter will be given the consideration it deserves. . .

2 thoughts on “Writing the Complaint Letter – I am Appalled and Dismayed

  1. Good advice, For years I’ve been sending letters asking for “red ponies,” and my stable is still empty. Next time I’ll be more flexible on the color. Have you ever sent a “letter” to complain about the mail service?

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