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Ten tips

By LAURA T. COFFEY

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001


How to lodge complaints and get results

If you're convinced that a company owes you compensation or an apology, don't assume that it will be too much hassle to make yourself heard. Consider these tips on how to handle complaints constructively.

1. Keep your cool. Make a concerted effort not to get emotional. Doing so could damage your argument and your credibility. Behave as calmly and professionally as possible.

2. Start off the easy way. Call, e-mail or visit the company's customer service department. State your situation clearly and explain how you would like to see it resolved. This step could make the problem evaporate.

3. Save your records and receipts. If that doesn't work, jot down notes about each encounter you've had with people at the company. Your documentation will demonstrate your efforts to resolve the problem.

4. Write a letter. Write a concise letter in standard business format to the president or chief executive of the company. You can get that person's name by calling the company, visiting the company's Web site or going to http://www.hoovers.com or http://www.vault.com.

5. Mind your manners. The first sentence of your letter should capture your reader's attention, perhaps by saying you are dismayed or shocked. But be polite throughout the letter, thanking the person in advance for what he or she is going to do for you.

6. Be specific. Describe what has occurred without any exaggeration or embellishment. Depending on the situation, consider attaching photocopies of your records and receipts.

7. Have a clear objective. Let your reader know that you expect a resolution to the problem. Don't be unrealistic or demand too much.

8. Set a reasonable time limit. Ask the company to get back with you by a certain date.

9. List copy recipients. List them at the bottom of the letter. For example, send copies to top people at the Better Business Bureau (800-955-5100) and the state consumer affairs department, state attorney general's office and county district attorney's office where the company is located.

10. Don't lose your momentum. Recognize that it could take months for the issue to be settled. Be persistent, and be prepared to send more than one letter. -- Compiled by Laura T. Coffey.

Sources: Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed! How to Write Complaint Letters that Get Results by Ellen Phillips; and Consumer.gov (http://www.consumer.gov).

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