Tag Archives | How to Complain

When complaining, be direct, polite and clear on what can be done to fix your problem

From the Execupundit blog which I regularly enjoy, the advice below for how to complain to a business about poor quality, service or value for money, was published a week or so ago. It was particularly timely as a work colleague had earlier been bemoaning the fact that he wasn’t able to complain anonymously about problems he was having with his gym.

His concerns centered on what the reaction might be from the gym management if he was to give honest feedback – i.e. complain – about the quality of their service, and particularly the value for money of their offering.

Go to them. When you are not happy with a business experience, don’t tweet your disdain, go to them and explain the problem. Then ask for a resolution. Not happy with your grade on that paper? Skip the snarky Facebook status and go to them. Articulate your concerns and walk through how you might improve. Boss not so understanding of the problem you are facing? As satisfying as the social burn may be, why not exercise your diplomatic skills and try to improve you lot by having a meaningful discussion?

 You can read here the ValueIreland Top Tips on How to Complain.


How (not) to complain – some good tips from HBR

It’s a little while ago, but I loved these tips from the Harvard Business Review on how not to complain. In the past, I’ve published Top Tips on How to Complain – available here.

In the HBR article, while highlighting some live examples on how people publicly complained inappropriately, they also give some decent tips to be aware of if we ever need to make a complaint:

Frame your argument. At first, don’t attack, explain. There may have been an honest mistake or misunderstanding. Don’t put the seller’s representative on the defensive prematurely.

Propose a resolution. It helps the seller resolve your problem if they understand what they might do to satisfy you. For example, do you want a defective product fixed or do you want your money back?

Show respect. Chances are the seller is honestly trying to help you. Convey trust in the seller and you’re more likely get a quick resolution and build an enduring relationship.

Keep your cool. If you don’t, a seller’s representative may reasonably decide to hang up on you, or at least will be less inclined to help you.

Escalate if necessary. There is only so much that most salespeople are authorized to do. If a seller’s front-line representative cannot give you satisfaction, go over the representative’s head.


Business owners – know when to give up on customers?

I wrote on Monday about how to complain effectively as a consumer when we’re dealing with a business that we feel has let us down in some way.

In our dealings with businesses, we probably always have in the backs of our mind that we are dealing with someone who should be living by the motto “the customer is always right”.

But is that always the case? This article that I found bookmarked from last year says it’s now – that there are times when a business should consider firing customers.

  • Be professional. “Customers should always be spoken to personally, not by letter or phone. Only when the customer is at a distance, is it appropriate to speak with them about the matter on the telephone. But in no circumstances should the contact be other than verbal. E-mails simply will not do in this case.”
  • Keep emotions out of it. Odds are the customer made you extremely frustrated or angry, but now is not the time to vent. Customers often will take being fired personally, “so it is important that you explain your reasons rationally and clearly.”
  • Offer suggestions. Remember after you have fired them, customers will still need someone to provide the product or perform the service you did. Help them if you can.
  • “Stay polite but firm. It is time to move on.”

Have you ever felt that a company has fired you as a customer?


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.

Value for Money complaints

Irish News of the World

May, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Value for Money complaints

Historically, we Irish haven’t been all that keen on complaining. We normally wouldn’t like to draw attention to ourselves. For that reason, if we get poor service or a dodgy meal in a restaurant for example, we’re more likely to keep quiet rather than make our feelings known.

But I think that’s changing. More and more people are following up on dodgy quality products, bad service, and poor value for money. With money getting tighter and tighter these days, we’re starting to realise that if we don’t let business know that there’s a problem that we’ll end up wasting our hard earned cash.

Just in the last week, a large number of people sent in complaints to restaurants, garages, hotels, and shops and included ValueIreland.com on their complaint. As well allowing me share these complaints with you, it also puts a little extra pressure on the business through knowing that the complaint will be made public.

But there are a few things that people should always be doing when making their complaints to make sure they’re effective. In fact, if done properly, you can either save your money, or possibly even make some money.

Rules of Complaining

There are a couple of key rules you should follow when making a complaint that will help you be successful.

As soon as you have a problem, make your complaint. If you can, make your complaint in person straight away. It is also important that you complain in writing also – sent by registered post to make sure the business can’t deny receiving the complaint.

It is essential that you’re clear in what you’re complaining about. Provide as much detail as you can about what went wrong, when it happens and who was involved. Don’t be shy to ask for names of staff for example.

And finally, when you make your complaint, make sure that you explain what you want the business to do in order to make everything right for you.

In explaining to a business how they can fix things that you’ll be able to either save your money, or potentially make something for the future. If you’ve explained your problem clearly, genuinely and politely, and the business wants to keep your business, then they should be open to doing something to keep you happy.

Wherever you have a problem with a company you should complain to them to either get your money back or to get a discount or voucher for the future. Whether it be your bank, your credit card company, your mobile phone company or your management company, if you’re not happy, let them know. Here’s a few examples of how you can make a few quid from complaining.


Say you got a poor meal in a restaurant. Instead of meekly paying for it and saying nothing, ask to speak to a manager. Let them know that the meal wasn’t good value for money. You could ask for the meal to be taken off your bill, or maybe get a free meal or bottle of wine to the next time you visit. You could even ask for a voucher.


What happens if you buy a product you’re not happy with from your local supermarket? Do you bring it back and ask for a refund, or just throw it out and forget about it.

Bring the item back to the supermarket the next time you’re there and ask for a refund, or replacement. Explain how unhappy you are and maybe they might even throw in a few vouchers.

If the local store doesn’t help you out, write to the head office explaining the situation and letting them know that their local store wasn’t very helpful and that if they don’t follow up that you’ll be taking your business elsewhere. You might find that you’ll get some vouchers or a gift card worth more than the original product, just to keep you happy.

North – South multiples

I’m not advising that everyone do this, but it’s a money maker none the less. A ValueIreland.com reader bought several items of clothing in a store in Northern Ireland significantly cheaper than they were in Dublin.

When she discovered some problems, she went to the version of the store in Dublin and demanded a refund. She got her refund, but at the more expensive Dublin prices rather than the cheaper Northern Ireland price. A nice little earner to get away with.


If you’ve been away on a holiday but you weren’t happy, you should immediately make your complaint as soon as you get home. Many tour operators and holiday companies will hope that you put up and shut up long before they think about giving you any compensation.

Don’t let them away with it – fight for your due compensation by writing to head office. Persistence is the key to success with holiday complaints particularly if you’re case is legitimate, well put and politely argues. So keep at it. At the very least, you could get a voucher or a discount on your next years holidays.

Complain to the ESB

Something that a not a lot of people know, but if you complain to the ESB and for various reasons, if they don’t reply, they’ll give you €40. If they don’t respond to your complaint within 10 working days, they’ll pay you €40. If they promise you a refund for something, and they don’t within 10 days, they’ll give you an extra €40. Worth bearing in mind if you do have a problem with your electricity supplier.

Stick with it

With all these complaints, at some point, the companies will have to do something for you if you keep at them. If you have a legitimate complaint, you’d hope they’d do something sooner rather than later.

Remember though, it’s your money that you’re trying to get back, so stick with your complaints until you get what you’re looking for.


Customer reaction to poor customer service and mistakes

There’s a right way and a wrong way to react to poor customer service and mistakes, and this letter from a couple of weeks ago in the Irish Independent highlights a few things done the wrong way in the face of E-Flow toll problems.

Sir — Your eFlow letter, (Sunday Independent, May 24, 2009) prompts me to relate my experience. I drove Southbound on the M50 on Bank Holiday Monday, May 4.

I returned Northbound. that evening, and paid the €6.00 toll on the website. Payment Number 440269.

Some days later, I received a request for payment of €6.00., which I ignored. Two weeks later, I received Unpaid Toll Notice, requesting €47.50, and advising that if this was not paid within 56 days, an additional charge of €104.50. would apply. I phoned and eventually got talking to a human (Tony). I explained the situation. He was not interested, and said that failure to discharge the Toll Violation Notice, would result in prosecution. As far as I am concerned I have a receipt.

They can eFlow off.

Martin Dunne,

Malahide, Co Dublin

First things first, if you have a problem with customer service or any issue with a company, you should not ignore it. I realise we’re dealing with E-Flow here, but I would hope that a quick phone call on the day when the next bill was received could have sorted all out.

If you get a bill from anyone, whether it’s paid or unpaid, you should always follow up to confirm that you’re understanding of the current situation (i.e. bill is paid) is the same as the company itself – and therefore they can update their records accordingly.

On another note, despite any and all provocation, you should also be polite when you’re dealing with customer service people. In this particular situation, I can’t say how the interactions went, but I’m willing to guess that if the writer of the letter is willing to have their “e-flow off” statement attributed to themselves in a national newspaper, then things might not have gone swimmingly between himself and Tony over the phone.


Poor service from Komplett.ie

We received this e-mail from a ValueIreland.com reader in the past couple of days:

On December 12th I ordered a camera and memory stick online from Komplett.ie. Their website informed me that the camera would be due in stock and posted from Dublin on December 18th so I figured that I’d have it in time for Christmas Day. On Dec 18th I was informed by email that the camera would not be in stock until December 22nd. I received no further correspondence from Komplett.ie.

During the days after Christmas I presumed that the camera & memory card would be in transit to so I logged onto my user account to discover that the order had been canceled. I couldn’t get through to the customer service division and seemed to be constantly left in a queuing system every time I phoned. I sent two emails between December 28th and January 5th and still received no correspondence regarding my order.

I finally got through to the customer service division on January 6th. I was told that my order was canceled for no apparent reason. I am very annoyed at this service as a customer – if the item could not be delivered it should not be advertised for sale on their website. I think its also very bad form that I was not informed about this cancellation. If I had not made the efforts to check the delivery status I would still be waiting on the arrival. This was a great inconvenience as the camera was to have been a gift.

I have ordered equipment from Komplett.ie twice before this and was not offered so much as a voucher or discount coupon for the poor customer service. I will be taking my business elsewhere next Christmas.

Unfortunately, sharing stories like this is really the only way that Irish consumers can get any satisfaction from poor customer service experiences such as this. While the service provided by Komplett.ie was shocking, they haven’t broken any laws or done anything that could be investigated by the only people who are supposedly there to watch out for Irish consumers interests, the National Consumer Agency.

We in ValueIreland.com have always said that poor customer service experiences such as this should be shared around with others – it was one of the reasons the site was originally set up in 2003. It is important that the more people that know, and possibly stop using Komplett.ie, the more the company may start losing business and then have to begin to look at how they do business.

It’s particularly disappointing that Komplett.ie didn’t even acknowledge or respond to our readers complaint. As many customer service gurus will say, a complaint is a gift – free feedback on how a company might do their business in a better way.

We would always suggest that consumers be particularly hard on business that don’t appreciate such a gift – assuming it’s given in the right spirit (check our Top Tips on How to Complain).

In situations such as this, although such companies probably don’t deserve it, it would be a good idea to write them a final letter explaining what your problems were, what you tried to have them do to resolve them, detail how they let you down, and explain what you’ve done since – i.e. written to consumer organisations, told as many people as possible and had the complaint published on the web.

As a final piece of information, you should confirm to them that because of your disappointment with how they’ve treated you that you won’t be using their service again, and will be recommending to anyone that asks that they shouldn’t either.

I appreciate that this mightn’t always do you much good given how the company has already treated you – but you’re giving them a final chance to resolve the situation. It’s a desperately poor customer focused company that would pass up being given such a easy opportunity to retain a customer and retrieve the situation.


Why are we Irish so reluctant to complain?

A big intention when I set up Value Ireland was to encourage Irish consumers to complain a little more, to stand up for themselves in the face of poor service and high prices. We believed there was no point in general complaining about “rip off Ireland” if people wouldn’t actually direct their complaints in the right direction.

I remember when I was younger always hoping that the ground would swallow me up any time it looked like my parents might want to complain to someone, particular in restaurants and hotels etc.

With the brashness of todays younger people, I would have thought that they’d be more vocal in expressing their feelings. Not what I saw last Thursday morning.

I was on the 19 bus into town, which normally has a large number of school girls on it as the route goes past their school. However, on this particular morning, the driver got a little confused and took the 19a route instead.

The schoolgirls noticed, started chattering amongst theirselves, but said absolutely nothing to the driver. He was approaching a roundabout and had his error been pointed out to him, he could have turned back. A couple of them went towards the driver, looking like they were going to say something, but he went past the roundabout and carried on on the 19a route.

So, instead of complaining/commenting to the bus driver about taking the wrong route, the schoolgirls preferred to have a much much longer walk to school than normal. Maybe when schools these days are teaching students about “consumer affairs”, they should include a lesson on how to complain – they can use the Value Ireland Tips on How to Complain if they like.


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