5 steps for lodging an effective customer complaint

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We don’t always get good products or services. A restaurant may have lost your reservation, or a perk or discount was not given to you. A product you bought may be defective, lacking some parts, or spoiled or expired. It is within your rights to complain, or get a replacement or a refund.

Here’s how to make an effective complaint:

  1. Stay calm

    You will get better results if you are diplomatic. Be calm and use respectful language when you complain. Show them proof then suggest a solution.

    Resolve the issue with the business first. Don’t complain on social media right away. Remember that good businesses welcome complaints. It gives them a chance to improve their service and build goodwill with clients.

    Make the complaint after assessing the situation. Don’t wait too long because your opportunity may pass.

  2. Be fully informed

    Know the store’s refund or exchange policy. There are products that cannot be returned or exchanged like underwear or cosmetics. Also, some businesses accept returns or exchanges only within a specific period. Know these limits before you complain.

    If you signed a contract, look for the rules for repair, replacements or refunds. Always read and understand contracts fully before signing them.

  3. Gather files related to your purchase

    Stores will ask for the receipt when you return a product. Others may ask for the original packaging and the tag to be attached aside from the receipt. Bring all contracts, warranties, job orders for services, and cheques or letters that you may need as proof.

  4. Face to face discussion is best

    Calling or writing to customer service may work. But complaining in person works best if the issue is complicated and you want fast action. Approach the staff and talk to them. Suggest a fair and reasonable solution. If they can’t help you, ask for the supervisor or manager.

  5. Still no result?

    Call their company headquarters if the manager has no solution. Write a complaint letter to someone higher up like the CEO. If this doesn’t work, consult the Manitoba Consumer Affairs Office or file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

    If they can’t help you, publish it on social media. Many businesses know that a negative post can affect their business. Suing them should be your last recourse. Consult the Law Phone-In and Lawyer Referral Service for legal questions.

Choose your battles wisely. Decide if complaining is worth your time and effort. If it’s not, consider it a lesson learned.
Article updated June 8, 2022.

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Community Resources

Go to the Office of Consumer Affairs for guides on various consumer topics.

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