How to Complain and Get Your Money’s Worth

Getting bad service and feeling like you didn’t get your money’s worth stinks. On top of that, you have to go complain about the situation to someone who’s heard a thousand complaints before and go through this whole process to make things right again. That barrier is enough to keep most people from ever complaining about anything. Especially those who just don’t like conflict at all.

How to Complain

Quit Your Belly Aching!

But when you’re watching every dollar you spend closely (because you’re saving or trying to become debt free), you want to make sure you get what you pay for. I think something that’s lost on our current culture is the expectation that you get what you are paying for. We consumers spend so much these days that we don’t stop to focus on value. Maybe that’s just the old man in me talking though.

How I Complained and Got Half Off a Hotel Stay

I recently took a last minute trip to New Orleans with some friends. It was the weekend of JazzFest and the hotels were mostly booked. We ended finding a room at a large hotel chain. The room’s A/C didn’t work effectively and we were told on one occasion that we couldn’t get more towels delivered to our room because the hotel cleaning staff had left for the day. Both of these things, combined with the fact that we basically paid a premium for the room on a busy weekend, left me ready to complain.

I decided against discussing the issues with the hotel staff as it appeared there was no manager in sight. Being the Internet nerd that I am, I immediately hit up Twitter to find the hotel chain’s Twitter account. I tweeted about my bad experience and was careful to included the “@hotelname”. I also went to their website and used their feedback form to report my displeasure with the experience. Long story short, within a couple of days the manager of the hotel called me and asked what he could do to make it right. We agreed that half off was about right. He thanked me for my feedback and said to call him next time I was in New Orleans.

Tips for Effective Complaints: How to Complain and Win

Assuming you’ve got a legitimate complaint and you’re not just being nit picky, here are some tips for getting your money’s worth:

Give immediate feedback. As soon as you experience the issue at hand, stop to complain. One of the mistakes I made in hotel stay is that I didn’t complain soon enough. We knew the A/C wasn’t up to par within the first couple of hours. We could have informed the hotel soon and they could have possibly moved us to a better room.

Have the end in mind. Before you complain, be able to articulate what the problem is and what you want done to correct the situation. If there is a contract or policy involved with the transaction, be sure to be knowledgeable about that before proceeding.

Don’t be rude. There’s no reason to be rude or yell when complaining. It only makes you look bad and delays the process. If you need to wait a couple of days to make your complaint that’s fine. Take action when you know you won’t blow up. I really struggle with this one.

Talk with someone who can help you. Don’t waste your time making complaints with people who can’t do anything about it. Go directly to management.

Use social media. Most companies have a social media presence these days. These channels can quickly put you in touch with the people who can help you resolve your issue. The companies that handle issues effectively like this in the online social space are the one’s who will rise to the top.

Read these other tips for complaining from Liz Weston.

What are your best tips for effective complaints when you don’t get what you pay for?

photo by db*Photography

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About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon. He created this website back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence. He uses Personal Capital to track his wealth. All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.


  1. I agree. I had been having balance issues with my cell phone company for the first 2 months of the contract. I was getting irritated being transferred from person to person (usually someone with English as a second language). I remembered to keep my cool, because I have worked in customer service. An even temper paid off. They erased the balance they claimed I originally owed and paid the following month’s bill. I was incredibly happy. It’s also restored my faith in their company. I guess complaining to the right people persistently has its benefits.

  2. Greg McFarlane says

    it sounds too stupid to be true, but if you’re not getting anywhere with a particular representative (usually over the phone, less so in person), wait 5 minutes, an hour or a day and try another one. The pedantic employees who only know the rules and that they must be followed are no match for the ones with enough common sense to want to keep the customer happy. (NOTE: this strategy doesn’t work with governmental agencies.)

  3. I agree that keeping your cool is the most important thing you can do when making a complaint. You also need to know who to go to with your complaint. For example, I had a complaint about a plane ticket purchase and calling the company hot line got me nowhere. After that failed, I spoke with a travel agent who had a separate phone number for the company. The travel agent was able to get me a full refund on a plane ticket when I had been told by an employee on a hot line that I was out of luck.

  4. Also having photos is good. Damaged luggage (before and after) shots to be sent in with a complaint or a TwitPic of something broken always adds a little proof to your complaint.

  5. kt- lifedividend says

    what i use it stating your case in a very cool way and avoid cussing someone out because things dont sit well with you(even if i am almost flipping over). When you are very polite, people seem to be more willing to help you. I also thank them after i get what i want(more often than not anyways) But them again there are very few instances where i am forced to complain

  6. myfinancialobjectives says

    Wow congrats! I never would of thought that complaining via twitter would have resulted in a half off stay! Impressive. I like you points about how to complain. I was a waiter for a few years, and working with customers who would complain was the WORST! From now on, whenever I have to complain, I am sure to do it very politely.