5 steps for lodging an effective customer complaint

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We do not get the right service sometimes. For example:

  • losing a reservation at a hotel
  • not getting a discount that is advertised
  • getting bad service at a restaurant
  • buying an appliance that does not work
  • getting spoiled or expired food

It is your right as a consumer to complain. Here is a good way to do it (based on the Complaint Road Map from Consumer Information.ca):

Know the rules

  1. Read the terms of purchase before complaining. Tip: Always ask about the store’s exchange policy before you buy.
  2. Stores have different policies. For example:
    • No return no exchange: for discounted products, or personal items like underwear or jewelry.
    • Some accept returns or exchanges within 30 days.
    • Some accept exchanges only for defective or damaged products.
  3. Read the product or service contract. Check if you can return the product, receive a refund, or void the contract.
  4. Always read and understand contracts before signing them.

Gather files and receipts

  1. When you return a product, the store will ask for the receipt and check the product. Others will ask for the receipt, original packaging, and the tag attached (especially for clothes).
  2. Bring contracts, warranties, job orders for services, or letters when you go to the store and complain.
  3. Write down important dates and names. For example: the names of staff you have talked to, the date and time you bought the product, etc.

Don’t be afraid to complain

  1. The next step is to go to the store.
  2. Don’t be afraid. It is your right.
  3. Talk directly to the store’s representative.
  4. Don’t post your complaint on Facebook. If you do this before resolving the issue with the store:
    • You could be sued for defamation. You can destroy their business with negative remarks.
    • You may not get the result you want.
    • The store may not transact with you again.
  5. Good businesses accept complaints. These make them improve their service. It also helps them build goodwill with clients.
  6. Complain right away after assessing the situation. If you wait too long, you might lose your right. You may forget some details. You can also lose witnesses. A limited period for returns or exchanges may pass.

Talk to them in person

  1. Calling customer service can be effective. But if the issue is complicated, complaining in person is better. Issues can be resolved faster.
  2. Talk to the waiter, salesperson, or customer service staff calmly. Tell them your complaint clearly.
  3. Be firm but polite.
  4. Tell them the solution you expect. Make sure that it is a fair and reasonable demand.
  5. Bring all papers (receipts, contracts, etc.) with you.
  6. If you are not satisfied with their answer, ask for the supervisor or manager.

Still no result?

  1. Call the company headquarters. Contact the customer service department.
  2. If this does not work, write to the CEO.
  3. Go to the Manitoba Consumer Affairs Office.
  4. You can also file your complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
  5. If you have done all you can, now is the time to post on social media. Businesses have employees that check social media feeds. A negative post can affect their business.
  6. Legal action is your last recourse. For legal questions, ask the Law Phone-In and Lawyer Referral Service.
  7. Remember to choose your battles wisely. If it is worth your time, effort and money, go for it. Otherwise, consider it a lesson learned.

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Community Resources

Go to the Canadian Consumer Handbook to learn all about the Canadian marketplace.

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