5 On Your Side

When You Complain, Complain Effectively

Consumer Reports and 5 on Your Side share how to complain to companies effectively and get results.

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They're things that cause all of us to complain: a product that breaks or is never delivered, a used car that turns into a lemon. Consumer Reports and 5 on Your Side have information to share about how to complain effectively and get results.

Rosemary Localla called a florist to complain when roses she ordered died a day after they were delivered. A day later, the company delivered three dozen roses to Localla.

Talking directly to the company was a good first step that helped Localla get a satisfactory resolution, Consumer Reports says.

"That's where you're likely to get the fastest satisfaction," Tony Giorgianni, with Consumer Reports, said. "And if you can't get help from a supervisor, go right to the top."

That's easier to do with smaller companies, so for larger ones, scour the firm's Web site or annual report for the name of the customer-relations director, chairperson or chief executive officer. A complainant won't likely get to talk directly to that person, but could get to their office, where they have someone designated to handle complaints.

When talking to the company, remember to keep your emotions of out it. No matter how angry you feel, stay calm. Don't embellish or exaggerate, but stick to the facts and be specific. Always, be firm but friendly.

"Let the company know that you want to resolve the problem, but you are also interested in remaining their customer," Giorgianni said. "If you act angry or threatening, the company may not help, because it already knows it lost you."

Make it clear that you expect a resolution, and say what you hope that resolution will be. Make sure your proposals are reasonable.

Also, keep good records of the steps you take, and once a problem is solved, be gracious.

If the company still does not respond, get outside help.

"The best place to start is with the local consumer protection agency," Giorgianni said. "Often that's either a consumer protection department or the state attorney general."

File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. If all else fails, call 5OYS.