We have all been in a situation in which we were a customer, and the product or sevice that we expected to receive was not exactly great. I work in customer service, so let me assure you, I have seen it from both ends. The bad customer service experiences tend to stick with us for a long time. Often times, we end up moving on and never going back to that company. This Little Rascals bit always reminds me of that, and makes me laugh.
Luckily, I have only had to write a letter of complaint twice in my life, but I believe it's something you should definitely know how to do well. What's to say that same thing wouldn't happen to someone else in the future, or happen to you again (if you even decide to stick around as a customer!) So whether it's a bad restaurant experience, a rude airline agent, or a difficult hotel manager, make your voice heard. There's no reason to not get what you have paid for, whether it is a product or service. You don't have to just accept it! Like Twisted Sister says, "We're not Gonna Take It!"
I recently had an experience where I was doing a speaking engagement in New York City, and the hotel manager where I was staying at was giving me a really hard time. When I checked in to the hotel, the woman at the desk asked me for a credit card for incidentals. I politely told her I didn't have one. I always do this, because most hotels will charge on your credit or debit card an incidental fee ranging from $50-$200 per night. You get it back upon checkout, of course, but I don't feel it's right to have to pay that if you aren't going to be charging things to the room anyways (movies, mini-bar, room service, etc.) I would have to say that 99% of the time I am in a hotel is for sleeping/showering purposes only. I am usually so busy in meetings, I don't even have time to turn on the TV. So, I explained to the desk woman exactly that, and that I didn't plan on incurring any additional fees. (And let's be real, why couldn't they just put that on the card that was paying for the room anyways?) The desk woman was very nice and understanding, but didn't know what to do, so she got her manager. The manager, however was not so nice and understanding.
After the woman explained the situation, the manager gave me a look of disgust and told me, "You probably won't be able to stay here." I was like, "I have never had a problem before. Usually the incidental charges are just turned off." The manager proceeded to tell me that I would have to pay in cash. I looked at her and asked, "How much is the fee?" She responded, "$200." I said, "I am sorry, but I am not paying for a service I won't be using, even if I would be getting my money back the next day. You have my word that I am hardly even going to be in the room, much less using it for anything other than sleeping." At this point, the manager copped even more of an attitude, and asked the desk woman to call a higher up manager, all the while making it clear that this was a huge inconvenience. The desk woman was very apologetic and said if it was up to her, there wouldn't be a problem. It all was resolved in the end, I didn't have to pay anything, but the manager made sure to inform me in a tone that resembled a teacher scolding a naughty student, "Don't even think about using the mini bar or restaurant." I thought, Oh, trust me, I don't want to give you ANY money after the way you have treated me!
The situation was eventually resolved, but you best believe that woman helping me had to talk to the head manager, as well as the person in charge of the group that was paying for my stay. Was that all seriously necessary? Maybe so, but there is absolutely NO excuse to treat a guest the way that manager did. As soon as I got home, the first thing I did was submit a letter of complaint to the Better Business Bureau. I am not trying to get that lady fired, or get something for nothing. I just want to ensure that doesn't happen to someone else in the future. The manager will probably just get a slap on the wrist, if anything. I requested that the group receive some sort of discount off of the bill for the way I was treated, since I wouldn't be returning to that hotel ever again. I will keep you posted if I ever hear anything back!
I hope that never happes to you, but if it does, here are some tips to keep in mind, and a sample letter that you can edit or use as a template.
-Type your letter; do not handwrite it (who does that these days anyways?)
-Don't wait longer than a few days to write it. If you are traveling, or something has delayed you in writing the letter, indicate so. Otherwise, it would appear that if the event happend 2 weeks ago, why did you wait so long to write a letter about it?
-Proofread your letter (I cannot stress this one enough!!!!!!)
-Make sure to keep a copy for your records, and sign and date the original letter and send it.
-Include all of your contact information: Name, email address, the best phone number(s) to reach you at and best time to reach you, and address.
-Be as detailed and specific as possible (the cost/amount of the service or product, date and time, names of people involved if you have them, serial number/specific product name, etc.)
-Leave emotion out of it. State how you feel, but stick to the facts.
-Don't use curse words, be sarcastic, or threaten anyone. Remain courteous and professional in your tone.
-Keep it brief and to the point, as much as possible. Try not to exceed 1 page.
-If the letter contains enclosures (receipts, invoice, etc), include the word Enclosures (#) underneath your name and title (if applicable). Also, send copies of enclosures, not originals (in case the letter gets "misplaced" or lost in the mail).
-In the first paragraph, state the problem. In the second paragraph, state how you would like the situation to be resolved. The last paragraph should thank the reader for their time, emphasize that you look forward to hearing from them soon, and also give them a reason why it would be in their best interest to grant your request (for example: importance of maintaining a good reputation, keeping you as a customer, or appealing to their sense of justice).
Miss Shelly Mattson
1267 Main Street
Milwaukee, WI 53214
May 10, 2012
Mr. Arthur Jones
Bentley Hotel New York
500 E. 62nd Street
New York, NY 10065
Re: Account # 476322
Dear Mr. Jones:
I was in New York City for a speaking engagement on the evening of Saturday, May 5th, 2012 and the group that was sponsoring the event was funding me to stay at the Bentley Hotel. When I was checking in around 10:00 am, I was asked to provide a credit or debit card for incidentals, which I understand is standard protocol for any guest. Unfortunately, I do not have a credit or debit card with me when I travel--I only carry cash. I explained this to the woman helping me at the front desk, and she was very pleasant and helpful. She did not know how to handle the situation, so she called her manager over and informed her of the situation.
The manager responded in a most unprofessional way. She informed me in a condescending tone that I would probably not be able to stay at the hotel. The manager then proceeded to tell the woman helping me to call a different hotel manager, all the while making it seem like this was a huge inconvenience to her personally. When I asked questions of her, the manager gave me short answers, as if the information should be obvious to me. Later on in the day, that same manager refused to acknowledge my presence or assist me when I approached the desk. She deliberately avoided eye contact and moved to the other end of the desk to avoid dealing with me, even though other desk workers were clearly busy with other guests at the time. I don't feel as though I should have been treated differently than any other guest simply because I was not using a credit card.
The situation ended up being resolved by a male manager, who agreed to waive the incidentals fee. He was very courteous and understanding, and most importantly, he worked with me to come up with a solution that worked for everyone. However, after a long morning of traveling, it was distressing to arrive at your hotel and be treated unkindly for something so trivial, and furthermore, something I have never had an issue with at any other hotel I have ever stayed at previously. It is, unfortunately, an experience that will not soon be forgotten, but can still be forgiven. I would like you to discount the total hotel bill for the group that paid the amount in full by at least 25%. Good customer service is not something that should be taken lightly, especially for a hotel wanting to uphold a good reputation.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I travel frequently, and would like to be able to recommend your hotel to colleagues, due to the way you treat your guests and handle difficult situations that arise. I look forward to your reply and a resolution to my problem, and will wait 2 weeks before seeking help from a consumer protection agency, such as the Better Business Bureau. Please contact me from 9a-5pm CST via phone: (414) 807-8462 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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