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How to Complain (When Things Go Wrong)


How to Complain (When Things Go Wrong)

Got a problem? Speak up!

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If there's one thing that drives hotel and restaurant owners crazy, it's unhappy customers who don't say a word -- and then slam the place later on a site such as TripAdvisor or Yelp. You should never put up with bad service for good money. Realize that it's in your best interest to deal with an unfortunate situation while you're in it. That way, the proprietor has the opportunity to make things right with your meal or your hotel room so that you can enjoy the rest of it. Being direct but polite in the midst of trouble can yield way more satisfaction than scribbling a scalding critique afterwards.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: varies

Here's How:

  1. Accept the fact that if both of you agree something is wrong with a restaurant meal or a hotel room, it probably is.
  2. Identify the specific problem.
  3. Figure out how you want the provider to solve it (e.g. supply another dinner, assign a new room, repair a broken lamp, within a set amount of time).
  4. Clearly and politely explain the situation to the person who initially assisted you.
  5. Determine if he/she has the authority and willingness to remedy the situation.
  6. If not, immediately ask to speak to a supervisor or owner.
  7. Repeat No. 4, including the time, location, whom you spoke to about the situation previously, and how you want the problem solved.
  8. In most cases, you'll get satisfaction at this point. No one likes an unhappy customer.
  9. If you're not satisfied, accept the fact that it may take longer to get your problem solved.
  10. Depending on the severity of the problem, leave the restaurant or depart from the hotel. Most likely you will have to pay, but hold onto your records.
  11. When you get home, dispute the bill with your travel agent or credit card company.
  12. Write a letter to the company president.
  13. If all else fails, take 'em to court.


  1. The more authority a company representative has, the more likely he or she can solve your problem.
  2. Don't threaten or lose your temper. It will only make things worse.
  3. Try to keep a sense of humor. Things always go wrong, but how we handle them can make the difference between a ruined trip and a rescued one.
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