The Art of the Complaint And How To Get What You Paid For.

My family and friends think I am very good at complaining to businesses when I am not happy with a product or a service. I explain to them it’s not necessarily that I am good at it; but rather I actually take the time to write or call management about the problem. Most people have a bad meal, or a bad experience and never do anything about it except get mad for a few minutes. For me, I refuse to lose when I am paying for something. Whatever it may be that I am spending my hard earned money on, I refuse to suffer unhappiness due to a bad experience. Sure, some could call it ridiculous, but if I am paying for something, I should get what I pay for. Hence, I wanted to give a few examples of things that have happened this year, what I did about it, and what the resolution was.

* Being that I traveled A LOT for work, I spent (ahem) some time in airports. Once I had a flight that kept getting delayed over and over again, and the airline refused to put me on another flight or airline. I had a meeting to attend and I was going to miss it if I did not get off the ground soon. So finally I got a customer service representative that understood my dilemma, and while she could not get me on another flight, she upgraded me to first class so I could get off the plane faster. So when the plane finally left, some 4 hours later, I was sitting comfortably in first class knowing that I was gaining a few extra minutes at the other end. Cost? Nothing to me, nothing to the airline. And now I fly that airline exclusively. It pays to keep talking to the desk clerk at the gate, you never know what you may get for your troubles.

* When my mom was in town, we had planned to take her to a very nice restaurant for Mother’s Day. I called to make reservations and was told that they were not taking reservations for Mother’s Day until that day and to call back at 10am when they opened. So, I did…and was told that all the reservations were already taken. Asking how that could be at 10:03, I was told they had been taking reservations since 8am just for that day. I was upset, as you cannot get reservations anywhere on that day anywhere else, they are all booked up. Besides, she had her heart set on eating there. I asked for the manager and he kept insisting that even though one of his employees told me incorrect info, he couldn’t do anything. I even offered to change the time I wanted and everything, and he finally said, ” I can’t help you, goodbye.”. Now, mind you, I was not even being rude or anything to this man, I just wanted to eat at his restaurant. Well, I contacted their corporate headquarters, and after a few days, someone called me at home, asked me all sorts of questions, could not believe that one of their staff treated us like this, and wanted to make it up to us. I was sent a gift certificate for another dinner free of charge…which my wife and I enjoyed sometime after my mom had left. If at first you don’t succeed…

* Another restaurant that we had frequent a lot must have had a bad night..the chicken my wife ordered was, well, gross. It was all fatty and tasted pretty gross. When our server came over, we told her to take it back and we ordered something else. Sure, it is sometimes dangerous to EVER send your food back into the kitchen, but we had to take the chance. The server did not seem too thrilled with us, but too bad…we did not like what we ordered and it wasn’t our fault. At the end of the meal I asked for the manager and explained that we always have a good experience there but tonight was just really bad. Well, she said she wanted to make it up to us and another free dinner was coming our way!

* We had guests in from out of town and after buying our tickets online (relevant in a minute) we took the 2 hour drive to a particular aquatic water park/destination with certain black/white whales, and were all excited to go in. As soon as we were inside, the #1 exhibit at the park, a certain (interact with the (fill in the blank) animal) exhibit was closed. No mention on the website, no mention on the signs outside, so no one even had the option to not enter the park that day. This was at least 50% of the reason we went to this particular place…so I went to the customer service counter and complained. I was given the name and address for corporate relations and went home and wrote a letter. I explained our long drive, our out of town guests, no signs at the park, etc..and sure enough, a few weeks later in the mail I received free passes to the park that were good for a year.

* My wife and I take a short vacation every summer to a certain hotel located about 2 hours from our house. We have never had any problems with them out there, and we continue to go back even now. But this one time, I reserved our room and we went to the hotel excited about our short vacation. Well, the first thing I noticed was the fact that there were about 110,000 screaming children everywhere at the resort…and I do mean everywhere; the pool, the parking lot, the lobby, the hallways. I figured they must be leaving soon as it was a Sunday, so we proceeded to check in and go to our room. Later that night, the kids were still there. And still loud. And still running all over. So I went down to the front desk and asked for the manager, who was very understanding of my complaint. We had come to relax and get away from kids (my wife is a teacher) and this is not what we had in mind. Come to find out, they were having a child’s beauty pageant that week (ugh), but there was no mention of it at check-in nor on the website before we left our house. So after my complaint, the manager upgraded us to our own private suite with its own backyard and pool, out by the golf course, away from the main hotel. Yippee!! This was a big reward for complaining; a private resort for 4 long days all by ourselves, it couldn’t have been better and it’s why we continue to visit this same hotel year in and year out.

* I already wrote about my experience with dealing with Sprint, so you can go read it if you wish.

* We visit a particular coffee shop quite often, but we noticed that the employees were getting ruder and ruder and paying less and less attention to their customers. And one day after everyone (including some small children as well) in the shop heard about one of the employee’s sexual exploits, I decided to write corporate. A few days later they called me, and then sent an envelope of free drink coupons. Now when we go in there, I think management must have talked to everyone or fired people, because the people are different and A LOT nicer.

And lastly, for today at least:

* My wife’s car went in for service and it needed a part replaced that normally is covered under warranty. However, her warranty had expired just 12 days before. The dealer kept saying too bad, until I told them I was going to call the corporate office and ask for it to be taken care of. I guess they didn’t want that to happen, because all of a sudden they decided to just fix the car free of charge. This is a biggie..if something happens to your car right after the warranty ends, do NOT be afraid to ask for it to be fixed anyway. I have several friends that this has happened to, and they all had their cars fixed for free anyway, as the manufacturer wants to have a good relationship with you in hopes you will remember them the next time you are buying a car.

The key thing to remember is that businesses don’t want to lose you as a customer or have you start badmouthing them…we have seen how bad word of mouth campaigns have gotten. People that do not complain when they are not happy with a certain service or purchase are not getting their dollar’s worth and that is not being financially responsible. You go to work to make your money and you choose where to spend it. When you give it out, you should get what you pay for…it never hurts to ask if you are not happy. What’s the worst that can happen, they say no? Then you just don’t use them or their service anymore. The art of the complaint is this – you cannot be unreasonable and ask for crazy freebies or too much of a bonus or anything out of the ordinary…if you are nice and respectful but forceful at the same time, most of the time you will get something for your troubles. I find that skipping the first employee where I had the problem with and speaking directly with a manager tends to get the best result, and if there isn’t a manager to speak with, then to contact a corporate office if there is one. The nicer you are, the more you will get. We all fight our way through a car dealership experience, fighting our way through the maze to get what we want. The rest of the stuff in your life should be no different. If you are paying for it, you should get what you want. One last piece of advice – don’t fight the little things, like “our waiter was mean to us” or “the hotel room was ugly”. Know what battles to fight, speak up, and get what you deserve.

If anyone has any successful complaint stories, I would love to hear them!

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Comments (10)

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  1. Matt says:

    You really do turn complaining into an artform. Half the time that I don’t complain I simple can’t be bothered with the effort but it does pay to do so.

  2. […] The Art of the Complaint and How to Get What You Paid For […]

  3. […] My Two Dollars, a new blog charging out of the gates, has mastered the art of complaining to businesses. […]

  4. […] November 2006 (21) Recent Comments Mighty Bargain Hunter » Welcome to the Carnival of Personal Finance #81 on The Art of the Complaint and how to Get What You Paid For. […]

  5. […] The Carnival of Personal Finance #81 is up over at Mighty Bargain Hunter.  There are a lot of posts about financial goals for 2007.  My favorite posts include The Art Of The Complaint, Gasoline Prices, Why The Third Decimal Place, and Turn Trash Into Cash.  Bookmark to: […]

  6. […] My Two Dollars writes about The Art of the Complaint and how to get what you paid for. “I refuse to lose when I am paying for something. Whatever it may be that I am spending my hard earned money on, I refuse to suffer unhappiness due to a bad experience.” […]

  7. When I was 8 I used to write complaint letters to restaurants when I didn’t like the food or thought they weren’t clean enough. On more than one occasion, I received a voucher for a free meal! More recently, I wrote to Luna complianing about a stale bar and they sent me 6 more for free. I also wrote to Amy’s Organics saying that I loved their food but that I didn’t think one of their pasta dishes had enough sauce on it, and they sent me an envelope full of valuable coupons, including some for a free whatever I wanted. So I agree with you–speaking up really works!

  8. david says:

    Wow, you started at 8, thats amazing! See, it does pay to complain…if you pay for something, you should get what you want!

  9. sfmoneygal says:

    I’ve been complaining or rather writing companies for a few years now.

    Two of my best experiences so far come from Kashi cereal and Jamba Juice. I buy the wheat biscuits kind Kashi cereal regularly and I noticed the bottom half of the package was crushed cereal instead of biscuits. I wrote them an email and they sent me several coupons for free products.

    A few days ago I went to Jamba Juice and wanted the apple cinnamon pretzel. They were out so I ordered the sourdough pretzel instead. But it was too dry and tasted flat. I spent $1.75 and they’re sending me a free smoothie card because they were out of stock!

  10. Christopher says:

    This isn’t a success story but the reason you got your car fixed for free is because of what they call CSI. It stands for Customer Service Index. Virtually all of their bonuses are based off this. They will do ANYTHING to make sure you are happy.