How to Complain

We Irish are terrible at complaining. It’s not in our nature. Well, at least complaining directly. Much of the time, we are expecting others to look out for our interests, rather than doing something for ourselves.

Is it possible that we don’t complain because we don’t believe it will do any good? This is what many businesses may be banking on – by being initially resistant to satisfying a complaint, hoping you’ll go away.

So, next time you’re not satisfied with something about the value, quality or service you’ve received in a shop, restaurant, etc, COMPLAIN ABOUT IT!

  1. Act Quickly – As soon as you realise you have a problem, either with a product or service you are paying for, bring it to the attention of the seller as soon as possible. Do not delay. This is particularly important if you are in a restaurant – there is no point in complaining at the end as you haven’t given them an opportunity to rectify the situation.
  2. Always be polite – There is no point in “attacking first”. Calmly and politely explaining the situation is the best way to get a good reaction from those you are complaining to.
  3. Be clear/precise in your complaint and what you expect to resolve the situation – Vague and generic complaints are of no use to those you are complaining to as they cannot properly respond to such complaints. When you are making a complaint, you must have an idea of what it is that you want to achieve. Decide what you want if you are entitled to a full refund, a replacement or a repair. Are you prepared to accept a credit note or an exchange? You should however also be aware of what the consequences may be if you do complain.
  4. Allow the retailer/seller an opportunity to explain the situation, and hopefully suggest a solution – Listen to what they are saying in response to your complaint in order to avoid misunderstandings. This may save time, aggravation and money.
  5. Complain to the right person – If you return to a shop with a faulty or unsatisfactory product, ask for the manager. In a large store, restaurant, or supermarket, ask for the department manager or customer services desk. Shop assistants and waiters are not always authorised to deal with complaints, especially if you want a refund. If the manager is not available, insist that someone else must have been left in charge and ask to see that person instead. If this fails, make an appointment to call back and see the manager.
  6. When you complain, be aware of possible responses you may get – Do not automatically assume you will have to do battle to obtain your rights. In most cases, retailers are happy to refund or exchange faulty goods – even sometimes in cases where they are not legally obliged to (such as in the case of returning unwanted gifts or clothes that is too big or too small). It is impossible though to predict how all retailers will react.
  7. If you are dissatisfied with the response to your complaint, put it in writing – Put your complaint in writing, following all of the tips above, to the person in the shop, business or organisation that is responsible for dealing with complaints. If possible, find out also the person they report to so you can follow up with them also, if necessary. Where necessary, don’t forget to send copies of receipts, documentation and anything else relevant. Again, be clear on what resolution you expect to your complaint, and in your letter you should provide a reasonable deadline for action, and what subsequent actions you will be taking then.
  8. What to do if no response to a written complaint – Firstly, being the reasonable person that you are, send a second letter, only this time send it registered, and send a copy to the persons manager, or other senior people within the organisation. If you still receive no satisfactory responses, you should follow up with the relevant consumers organisations who will help you, and be better able to advise you on next possible steps – they may follow up for you, or provide assistance on whether you should pursue any legal actions.
  9. Finally, know your rights – You should be aware of what your consumer rights are, and clear on how they have been infringed in any situation where you are complaining.  Click here for full details of your consumer rights under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980.

4 Responses to How to Complain

  1. Maura July 20, 2009 at 08:14 #

    I was going around with a big resentment against a Restaurant in Grafton Street as they had charged me for a serving of bread in addition to my soup. After mulling over it for two weeks, I phoned them and they were so nice and explained it was a complete error on their part. That proved to me that whenever something happens, it is wise to deal with it in the moment and not let it grow legs, sometimes mistakes just happen! Now I can go back there again…

  2. toast July 20, 2009 at 14:24 #

    complaining in Ireland usually leaves me more frustrated than the action that led to the complaint. Last time I told people in a Cork hotel that almost everything was a mess she looked at me like I was the first person to say it. Irish people have no concept of customer service and take it personally when you tell them something was wrong. They mutter something and nothing changes.


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