How to Complain – The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease

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Have you ever been screwed by a company?  Have they sent you the wrong item, or an empty box, or left your order backordered for so long that you can’t even dispute it with your credit card company any more?

What can you do?

I know you’ve heard the phrase, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  That means, he whines loudest, gets the most.  The thing is, you have to whine effectively, or you’ll just get round-filed.

Targeting Subsystems On

Who you complain to matters more than what you complain about.  The clerk at your local big-box retailer isn’t going to refund your online purchase.  You need to complain to someone who can make a decision to help you.   First, find the customer service email address.   Next, if you are complaining about a recurring service, find the retention department’s email address.  Finally, find the email address for absolutely everybody Vice-President or above for that company, including the board of directors.   Go to their website, find the email for some PR drone and figure out the format. or or whatever.   Look up the company in Google Finance and translate everyone’s name into the email format.   You might not have the perfect list, but it should be close.

Target Locked On

Now that you know who you are about to blast, what are you going to say?   A few things to include are:

  • Your contact information.   If they can’t get back to you, they can’t make it up to you.
  • Details of the problem.  Include the date of purchase, date of delivery, and a detailed description of what actually went wrong.
  • Scanned copies of receipts.
  • Any names of anybody you’ve had to deal with, either in the original transaction or when the problem occurred, if you have the names.


What to say, what to say?

  • Don’t be abusive.  It’s okay to be angry, and it’s okay to let them know your are angry, but swearing or threatening their lives will–at best–only get you ignored.  Worst case, threats are illegal and they can pass your email along to the police.
  • Stay brief.   It doesn’t matter that your daddy took you to Starbucks to use their free wi-fi when you were just three years old.   Don’t talk about that time the aliens abducted you or how sad you are that they never call like they promised they would.   Keep to the point.   “This is who I am.  This is what happened.  This is what I want you to do about it.”

Send that sucker out.   If you feeling particularly perturbed, send a CC to your state’s Attorney General and any possibly related regulatory agencies.   I tend to save this step for round 2.

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    1. The best advice above is definitely be firm but not bitchy. If you are abusive, they will go out of their way not to help. I know, I was a customer service rep and I held a grudge…

    2. I love this. Seriously, probably my favorite post of yours. It could easily be turned into an e book. I love when people use the unrelated guilt trip. “You charged me a fee, and my aunt just died.”

    3. I love this tactic! I bet it gets things done too.

    4. Which company have you used this tactic with, and how did it go?

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