Don't be afraid to file a complaint

Your Money

October 15, 2006|By McClatchy-Tribune

If you've been mistreated by a credit-card company, a grocery store or even your child's school, you don't have to sit back and take it. In fact, taking action via a well-worded complaint letter can get you the results you expected in the first place and even put money in your bank account.

Janet Rubel, attorney and author of 101+ Complaint Letters That Get Results, says that almost "everybody will have a reason to complain nowadays. Customer service is non-existent - and everyone needs to act as his or her own advocate."

Though e-mail can be a tempting way to lodge a complaint, Rubel advises always sending a written letter in addition to an e-mail message.

"E-mail often doesn't satisfy legal requirements, and it's usually 99 percent ineffective," she says. "The beauty of sending a complaint letter is that you can have legal proof. ... It is difficult for a company to deny receiving your complaint letter when you can produce a certified mail receipt from the United States Postal Service."

Rubel offers these steps for getting your complaint addressed:

Write a courteous letter to the company stating the problem and what you hope to achieve.

Include a date for when you expect to hear a response.

Limit your letter to one page.

Don't make threats of lawsuits or other such action in your initial letter.

Keep good records and never send original documents.

After sending your complaint letter, wait 10 business days before following up. If you still get no response, follow up with another letter and contact the organization via phone. Keep track of all conversations.

If you still have no luck, complain to the company's general counsel or your state attorney general.

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