How to Complain the Right Way

Rule #1: The customer is always right.
Rule #2: Refer to rule #1.

For many years, large corporations have talked about the golden rule of customer service.    The golden rule is to make sure that no matter what the customer is always satisfied.    This has largely meant over the years that if a customer would complain about a dissatisfactory experience, someone on location or in customer service would figure out how to make it right.  They might even go above and beyond the call of duty to make some type of concession if there is a serious problem.  This usually leads to perhaps a free months’ worth of service, a discount on the next purchase, or free item.  However, rule #1 has gone by the wayside for many big companies recently that have lost the art of customer service.    This makes me wonder that perhaps we, as customers, have lost of the art of how to complain? Here’s a story that you might want to consider.

I’ve always been fairly astute at figuring out how to haggle for a deal.   There is just something magical that happens when you can buy something for less than you originally thought. When a product or service isn’t up to par, there’s something even more interesting about whether or not you are able to illustrate your point in such a manner as to get the company to only apologize, but also to give you something extra.  I guess in the South they call that “Lanyap”.  It’s like getting a 13th doughnut in the box when you only were expecting a dozen.

Last week, I took my family on Spring Break to the Pacific Northwest.  We stayed in Seattle as the home base in the downtown Westin.   This is a beautiful hotel and well within walking distance of the entire downtown area.    We arrived early on Saturday and got to the hotel before normal check in time.   We were to have two adjoining rooms one with a king bed and one with two double beds.    The front desk clerk told us the rooms would not be ready until 3 p.m. and that they would call us when the rooms were ready.   At about 3:15 p.m., we got a call from the hotel and they told us that we could check in anytime we would like.

We meandered our way over to the hotel and let the front desk know that we were ready to take our bags upstairs. They alerted us at 3:30 p.m. that only ONE of the rooms was ready. Do you see the problem? So, rather than getting angry, I mentioned to the front desk clerk that I was Starwood Preferred Gold member and how disappointed I was that Westin’s usually high standards of excellence were slowly dissolving into something I’d expect from a Motel 6. Perhaps my business wasn’t really important to them. After my comments, he quickly upgraded the rooms to twenty floors higher with a nicer view, gave us complimentary internet access, and added 750 bonus points to my account.  Still, with only one room ready, he said that they would put a rush on it for us.

After sitting in the ONE room for about thirty minutes, I decided to start complaint number two and call the general manager. I spoke with him and asked him if rush meant a half hour, an hour, or maybe rush meant we should wait until bedtime. I let him know how much I generally enjoyed the upscale high quality of the Westin, but this experience was substandard and unfortunately it was putting a big damper on the beginning of my vacation. Perhaps, I didn’t really matter as a customer. I must have struck a nerve because in addition to all of the other things the hotel threw in for me, he gave me $100 of credit to try at the new restaurant Relish in the Westin Seattle.

Most of us complain all the time about how companies lack in customer service. I wonder that if we are so quick to yell, scream, and drop expletives on some customer service representative that we’ve lost the art of complaining. Most businesses know how to do the right thing if you give them a chance.

Let them know:

  1. how much you enjoy their product or service,
  2. how let down you are from the experience you are having, and
  3. how highly you would speak of them in the future if they would just do the right thing

Ask and sure enough in most cases ye shall get!

Written by:

Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®

Co-CEO and Founder of oXYGen Financial, Inc – The Leaders in Gen X & Y Financial Advice and Services

Ted Jenkin  is one of the foremost knowledgeable professionals in giving financial advice to the X and Y Generation.

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About the author  ⁄ Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves

Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves


My friends and family all think I’m a workaholic, but I say I’m just a guy that loves to help people do better in life.

My mother is still the only one that calls me by my real name Theodore Michael, my wife calls me Teddy, but for the rest of you it is just plain old Ted.

Ever since I was a little kid, I always loved money and being an entrepreneur. In fact, I still have cassette tapes of me talking to my grandmother at the age of five and my mother tells me all the time how much I played with money as a kid...

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Ted Jenkin is a frequent guest columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Headline News Weekend Express. He is the co-CEO of oXYGen Financial. You can follow him on LinkedIn @ www.linkedin.com/in/theceoadvisor or on Twitter @tedjenkin.

Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. oXYGen Financial is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. Kestra IS and Kestra AS do not provide tax or legal advice.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor regarding your individual situation. 

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  • Avatar
    April 9, 2013

    Awesome. Your method accomplishes two goals: a) people get the idea that you aren’t happy without raising your voice, and b) it allows them to fix the problem for you AND learn for future customers.

  • Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves
    April 11, 2013

    Can I trademark it?

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