Writing the Complaint Letter

(See Woman’s Dayin February 2000 for Sandra’s article on this topic.)

The objective of your complaint letter, I explain in How to Write It: A Complete Guide to Everything You’ll Ever Write, is to get a positive result. So, it’s important to:

  • Expect cooperation;

  • Address the person with the power to make things right (requests move better from the top down, than from the bottom up in organizations);

  • Rationally and calmly state the facts; and

  • Ask assertively for reasonable, timely, corrective action.

If a mover has turned your China cabinet, a family heirloom, into sawdust, you won’t be calm. So, after you’ve pointed out the problem, immediately, to the movers carrying it in, you may need to vent your feelings by writing an angry letter. Then read it, and tear it up, or file it away.

When you’re calm, proceed.

Gather the Facts:

  • List the dates, times, reference numbers, witnesses, etc.

  • Decide on reasonable, justifiable, compensation.

Make a Verbal Complaint:

  • Make contact immediately, usually by telephone.

  • State the facts: "On February tenth, your company moved our furniture, including a nineteenth century China cabinet valued at three thousand dollars…."

  • Ask for compensation. (Use an expert’s evaluation, if possible.)

  • Establish a timetable for settling the matter.

  • Say you’re sending a follow-up letter. Today.

Write the Complaint Letter:

  • Refer to your conversation, list the facts, and state any verbal agreement reached.

  • Outline the next action step.

  • Attach pertinent information, like copies of the mover’s inventory sheet, before and after pictures, and an expert’s estimate of replacement value.

  • Be persistent, and follow-up.

When the mover sent a $25 check for our China cabinet, I returned it immediately with a second letter (by certified mail, return receipt requested), restating the facts. I closed with, "Please return a check for the full replacement amount within a week." Below my signature, I indicated cc:s to our homeowner insurance company, and an attorney. A check for the full requested amount arrived in four days!