Letters of complaint
Most people will need to complain about unsatisfactory goods or bad service at some point in their lives. If you are writing a letter of complaint, there are some dos and don’ts that can help you achieve the right outcome.
- gather all your facts before you start writing the letter—e.g., where and when goods were bought, any customer reference numbers or invoice numbers, or a record of any previous communication with the company concerned.
- get straight to the point and set out exactly what the problem is.
- give all the relevant information in a clear and logical sequence.
- state what action you want the company to take and when you expect them to have done this.
- enclose copies of any relevant documents that support your case.
- use abusive language, however frustrated or angry you might feel.
- allow yourself to get sidetracked from your specific problem into generalized criticism of the company or its products or services.
- send your letter without checking it carefully for grammar or spelling mistakes.
Structuring your letter
- Start your letter with the greeting Dear Mr. (or Mrs., Ms., Miss, etc.) Surname.
- If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, begin with Dear Sir or Dear Madam; if you don’t know their name or sex, use Dear Sir or Madam.
- Begin with a heading alerting the reader to the subject of the letter, and in your first sentence draw their attention to the matter you’re going to raise or discuss. For example: I am writing to complain..., or I wish to express my dissatisfaction with ... or Thank you for your letter of ...
- Introduce your main point as early as possible, stating your reason for writing in a clear, concise way. Once you have done this, you may want to give more details, perhaps adding further background or relevant facts.
- In conclusion, you should state what your expectations are. For example: Please let me know as soon as possible what action you propose to take or I look forward to hearing from you within the next ten days.
The wording at the end of a formal letter follows a standard format:
- If you know the name of the person you’re writing to, you should end the letter with Yours sincerely.
- If your letter begins with Dear Sir or Dear Madam, it should end with Yours faithfully.
- Your own name should be typed out underneath your signature.
Sample letters of complaint
Here are some examples of letters complaining about a faulty product, unsatisfactory workmanship, a disappointing vacation, and a leaking radiator in a rented apartment.