How to file a complaint against a business and get results:

If you have been mistreated, taken advantage of or lied to by a business there is a lot you can do to have it set right.   Your complaint will not only help you but will likely help future customers of that business.   The following is a list of the steps you can take.   While it will take a little effort on your part, you're likely to get results that you can live with.
  1. Complain directly to the business.

  2. File a complaint with a government agency if available.

  3. Use the Better Business Bureau complaint and resolution proceedure.

  4. Sue the buisness in Small Claims Court.

Complain directly to the business:

Start local.

Every legitimate business wants to keep you as a happy customer.   Often all you need to do is bring the problem to the attention of someone higher than the worker who created the problem.   If you feel that you are not getting the right response from the person you are dealing with, do not hesitate to ask for his/her supervisor or manager.

If that supervisor or manager doesn't resolve the problem, ask to speak to his/her boss, until you get as high up as possible within the store or office that you are dealing with.   If you get stuck with a "the manager's not here today," response, ask for the manager's name and telephone and fax number so you can contact him/her later.   And always ask for the name of the person you are dealing with.   When a worker sees that you are likely to take the matter higher, their attitudes will often change.

This will work best with small businesses, such as a small store, restaurant, deli, doctor's office, insurance broker, etc., where there is an owner somewhere in the background.   The owner is close enough to the day-to-day operation that he/she will do what is necessary to keep you as a customer and to keep you from spreading your horror story of your dealings with the business.  

Go directly to the top.

For larger businesses such as chain stores, banks, hospitals, gyms, utility companies, cable companies or any company that is so large that the people who profit most from the business are far removed from the business location you are dealing with, you are best off skipping straight to the top of the chain of command.   This usually means the President, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the company.

If you think that the top person in a large corporation is not going to want to take the time to deal with your problem, you are right!   That is exactly why this is an effective thing to do.   The CEO, or more likely the CEO's office, will refer your complaint to a special unit often called "corporate escalation."   The sole purpose of that unit is to make problems like yours disappear.   Giving you a refund, price reduction, voucher, cancelling your contract or almost any other thing you want costs less than using up top managements' time.   And they end up with a happy customer.

Follow these steps to get your complaint straight to the top:
  1. Get the name, address and fax number of the CEO: You can locate the name, address and fax of the CEO of most companies by searching for their stock information at Yahoo finance.
    • Enter the name of the company and click on "get quotes."
    • From the company's page, click on "profile" on the left.
    • Look under "Key Executives" on the right side of the page for the "Chief Executive Officer" which is the CEO or the "Cheif Operating Officer" which is the COO.
    • If the address and fax number is not on this page, do an Internet search of that person with the name of the company and you should be able to quickly find his/her address and fax number.
    You can also call the company's home office and ask for her/his address and fax number.   They will almost always give it to you.

  2. Draft the complaint letter:  An effective letter doesn't have to be long and should never be complicated.   It should simply cover each of the following in separate paragraphs:
    • What the problem is.
    • How the problem arose.   This is best done in chronological order and should include the names of any employees you dealt with.
    • How the problem affects you financially, personally, etc.
    • What you have already done to try to solve the problem.
    • Most importantly, what you expect the company to do to make it right.
    • Your contact information including address, telephone, cell and fax if available.
  3. The following is a sample letter which you can modify to your specific problem.

  4. Fax the complaint letter: If you don't have a fax machine at home or work, you can send a fax pretty cheaply at any Staples, FedEx. UPS store or Mail Boxes Etc. store.   Your fax must include your contact information.

  5. Follow up: You can expect to hear back from someone usually with 1-7 days.   Always return their calls and provide information they request (being careful to protect things such as your Social Security number or birth date).   If you do not hear from someone within 7 days, move on to the next steps.
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