How to complain effectively and get results

As soon as we signed the contract to buy our first home, I started dreaming about furnishing it. After years of drooling over pretty furniture catalogs, I finally had a place to decorate. I have also been saving money specifically to furnish our house and, as a part of that fund, I have been collecting furniture store gift cards.

The minute our closing date was finalized, we ordered a couch for our living room from a famous furniture store. I started obsessing over the throw pillows, décor items and other accessories to complete the living room. I ordered the couch online and didn’t actually see the couch color in person. So all I needed was the couch to be delivered to make sure everything would go well together. I even invited people over to our house a week after the scheduled delivery date for a house-warming party.

Well, it didn’t really pan out as I had imagined. Long story short, it took over three months for the couch to be delivered. After numerous phone calls to customer service representatives and, later, their supervisors, after the broken promises and hours of our time, we finally got the couch we wanted and a $150 gift card for our trouble.

How is one supposed to handle a situation like this? How can we make sure we are not getting ripped off? After dealing with too many not-so-great-customer-service incidents, I compiled a list of steps that could help prevent situations that give rise to customer complaints and what to do if a complaint is still unavoidable.

Before leaving the store

Make sure the receipt includes the following:

  1. The exact model you are ordering. (It is a good idea to check the model number online to see if it matches what you ordered.)
  2. Expected delivery date.
  3. Price paid/payment arrangements. If you are signing up for a zero-percent offer, make sure it spells out all the terms.
  4. If you agreed to anything verbally, write it down and get someone from the store to sign on it.

If you feel you have been wronged

  1. Keep calm. Customer service representatives get a lot of heat from dissatisfied consumers; treating them kindly will help you get a better response from them.
  2. Ask to speak to a manager or supervisor. If you aren’t getting anywhere by talking with the representative, ask for a supervisor instead.
  3. If it is a local store, you may want to contact your local news channel or newspaper.
  4. File a report with the Better Business Bureau.
  5. Use your credit card company. (I bought my couch with gift cards, so this option wasn’t available to me. If I had used my credit card, and if the company refused to refund me the rightful amount, I would have definitely asked for my credit card company’s help.)
  6. Take the discussion online. If you are not satisfied, let it be known. Write reviews — ripoffreport, company Facebook page, and any other review sites. Do not be afraid to tell the truth, but keep a professional tone. It will come up when people search before buying. You might save someone from going through the same ordeal as you have. If you are savvy with social media, get a conversation going on Twitter.
  7. Contact your local chamber of commerce or consumer advocacy agency.
  8. I have never tried this personally, but I have heard emailing the CEO/COO of the company often results in quick resolution. If you are doing this, make it short, be as specific as possible, give a clear timeline of events and state your expectation.
  9. Keep the paperwork. One company charged me interest well before the zero-percent financing ran out. I had to fax them the original paperwork showing the financing terms. It is always good to keep all the paperwork until you pay it off.
  10. Every time you call, have a record of the conversation. Create a history of your conversations with the following information:
    • Date and time of your conversation
    • Number called
    • Wait time
    • The customer service representative’s name and employee number
    • What did you agree on?
    • A follow-up date, chosen by them, by which a full resolution is expected

We vote with our dollars. As for me, I will never buy anything from this particular store again, and I have told a few of my friends and family about my experience as well. I find that knowing what I want as the resolution, along with any additional compensation for my dissatisfaction, before starting to complain and approaching the whole situation as a negotiation yields the best results.

Have you ever had a bad experience with any stores? How did you resolve your conflict?

2 Responses to “How to complain effectively and get results”

  1. Anonymous

    Another suggestion – have the results you want written down, right in front of you. For example:

    I want you to refund my money, and compensate me for my time.


    I want this couch delivered in the correct color, and you take back the wrong couch, and you reimburse me for the delivery fee.


    I want my credit card credited, this item taken back, and a postage paid box sent to me for the item. I’d also like to see a credit on my account for if I wish to do further business with you.

    It’s always better to spell out what you want, because otherwise, the company will try to give you as little as possible.

  2. Anonymous

    Definitely agree, treating a customer rep with respect means you get problems resolved quicker. It’s so annoying to see customers giving reps a hard time when they want to help. Good guide, thanks for sharing.

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