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How to Complain Effectively

How to Complain Effectively - The Beacon


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By: Cathy

How to Complain Effectively

One of the questions most often asked of us at the BBB is: “What should I do if I have a complaint?”  The Better Business Bureau always encourages consumers to try to work out the situation with the company first, before filing a complaint with us.  How should you go about doing that?  Here are some tips to assist you:

1. Get to the right person.  If you have had a problem at a restaurant, complaining to a waitress may not help.  Ask to speak to the Manager or Supervisor.  The same goes with a retail business.  Instead of complaining to the sales clerk, request to speak to the Manager or Owner.  If they are not available, ask when you might be able to contact them and get a phone number or make an appointment to speak with them.

2. Be civil.  While you certainly may be upset about a situation, speaking to a person in an irate manner or unfriendly tone seldom benefits anyone.  And cursing is always inappropriate. If need be, give yourself some time to gather your thoughts and calm yourself before speaking.  You may be firm but stay friendly.  Don’t assume that you will not be helped before giving the other party a chance to respond.

3. Present only the facts.  We find it is most helpful if you write down the events in a simple chronological order, citing dates and times when appropriate as well as names involved.  There is no need to bring other situations into your complaint (such as stating, “So and so said you always give lousy service, etc.).  Stick to your specific complaint and the facts supporting it.

4. Give the person time to work the situation out.  Not every complaint can be resolved instantaneously.  Perhaps the company will need to reorder a part or perform additional labor, all of which takes time.  Be realistic in your expectations.

So what if you do all of the above and you still can’t get your complaint resolved?  Then you may certainly file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.  How?  The easiest way is to go to  and follow the online instructions.  If you do not have access to a computer, you may put your complaint in writing, and fax to 812-473-3080 or mail it to us at: Tri-State Better Business Bureau, Inc., 3101 North Green River Road, Evansville IN 47715.  Feel you need to talk it out first?  Call us at 812-473-0202.

Whether you file your complaint online or by fax or mail, the same tips above apply.  Be civil, be factual, and be realistic in your expectations.  Don’t write rambling letters full of derogatory accusations that will not be helpful in getting your complaint resolved.  Remember, you want the company to work with yo

As mentioned above, dates are very helpful.  Copies of invoices, contracts or other documents that can assist in supporting your claim are fine and may help the company as well.

Is the resolution that you are seeking for your complaint realistic?  We once took a call from a woman that was complaining about a major remodeling job she was having done, several room additions which meant opening up her existing house and reconfiguring, etc.  Her complaint:  She noticed a small amount of drywall dust seeping through the plastic tenting.  She wanted the construction to be added with no changes to their lifestyle while they lived in the midst of it.  We talked with her at length and explained when you are doing room additions, etc.; there are certain inconveniences that you will expect.  Unfortunately, that was not her expectation and it was clear that she did not understand the construction process.  After speaking with us and then talking again with the construction company, she understood and felt more comfortable about the situation.

So make sure that you are requesting what should be reasonably expected to remedy your situation. 

Hopefully this information will help you resolve your issues before needing our services.  But if not, please contact us 812-473-0202, fax: 812-473-3080 or


*This article was written for the Evansville Courier & Press and appeared in the Business Section on April 20, 2014.*

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Cathy is the President and CEO of the Tri-State Better Business Bureau.