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Take the First Step to Solve Your Complaint

You can solve most consumer problems by talking to a salesperson or customer service representative. Do this as soon as possible because some retailers have time limits on returns and refunds. If this doesn't work, ask for a supervisor or manager. With each person, calmly and accurately explain the problem and what action you would like taken.

When this fails, try going higher up, to the national headquarters of the seller or the manufacturer of the item. Many companies have a special customer relations or consumer affairs division whose primary function is solving consumer problems. Many companies provide a toll-free number or address for this office on the product label, warranty or other papers given to you at the time of purchase. If this is not the case:

  • Visit the company's website. Look for a "Contact Us" link.
  • Dial the directory of toll-free numbers at 1-800-555-1212 to see if the company has a toll-free number listed.
  • Ask your local librarian to assist you. Most public libraries have reference books with contact information.

As you do your search, keep in mind the name of the manufacturer or parent company is often different from the brand name. The ThomasNet, an online database of manufacturers, may be helpful.

A written letter is a good strategy because you will have a record of your communication with the company. Our sample letter can help you prepare a written complaint.

  • Be brief and to the point. Note all important facts about your purchase, including what you bought, serial or model numbers, the name and location of the seller, and when you made the purchase.
  • State exactly what you want done about the problem and how long you are willing to wait for a response. Be reasonable.
  • Don't write an angry, sarcastic or threatening letter. The person reading your letter probably was not responsible for your problem, but may be very helpful in resolving it.
  • Include copies of all documents regarding your problem. Keep the originals.
  • Provide your name, address and phone numbers. If an account is involved, be sure to include the account number.
  • Keep a record of your efforts to contact the seller; include the name of the person with whom you spoke and what was done, if anything. Also, keep a record of the dates and ties of your contact.
  • Take a screenshot if you use a company's online complaint form before you click "submit", so that you have a record of your complaint.

File a Complaint Using Social Media

Social media offers an alternative to filing a formal consumer complaint. The customer relations staff at many major corporations monitor posts and complaints about their company’s service. Someone may respond to your problem quickly, to avoid negative perceptions of their performance by other potential customers. While there is no guarantee that you’ll get your problem resolved, it can be a worthwhile effort.