Complaining to Customer Service

You should never feel weird about complaining to customer service. A few months back I was out with a group for dinner and came away displeased with the food. On one occasion the soup I ordered was so salty it wasn’t edible. On another, the restaurant had changed the menu and thus changed the main ingredient in the dish I got every time I came there. “I think I’ll write a letter expressing my concern,” I said. Laughter and eye-rolling ensued.

It’s the not the first time I’ve received this reaction. In fact the majority of the time I tell someone I’m contacting a company or writing a letter or emailing their customer relations department I get met with laughter or eye rolling or glib remarks. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but I think these are the major reasons people react the way they do.

People feel like it won’t make any difference

I think this is wrong on (almost) all accounts. Any business worth its salt realizes that repeat customers are the ultimate investment a company can make. With restaurants especially, there are hundreds of options within your city that each restaurant is competing with. Repeat customers who show loyalty are an absolute cash cow. They have every incentive in the world to keep you happy, especially when you have a valid concern. I’ve contacted airlines, food companies, restaurants, clothing manufacturers and everything in between.

I don’t waste my time contacting a business just for the heck of it, or if it’s something I can overlook. But if I don’t receive the product or service I believe I should, I contact them, mostly out of curiosity to see how they’ll respond. And more often than not they go above and beyond to keep me as a customer. Some send free products, some send refunds, some send additional coupons. In any business, mistakes happen and things break. What’s important is what that business does to make it right. It absolutely does make a difference to contact a company when you are unhappy with something or would like to see a change.

Any decent manager knows it's a far, far better business practice to keep a current customer happy than go out and try to find a new customer

Any decent company knows it’s a far, far better business practice to keep a current customer happy than go out and try to find a new customer. Here’s a picture of a cow, because.

People don’t want to be a bother

Using the restaurant example, this is often the case when people receive food not exactly as they want it. If you ordered a steak rare and it comes out well done, send it back. If you asked for vegetables and they gave you fries, send it back. Remember you’re spending the money you earned and accepting something that isn’t what you wanted is just wasting that money. The waiter is there for eight hours regardless of whether you send it back, so you might as well get what you asked for. This seems to be more prevalent in restaurants than in other fields. For some reason people feel like its too much of a hassle to speak out when their order is wrong or comes out poorly, while they may feel less trepidation about returning a product they bought that doesn’t meet their standard.

People feel like it’s somehow rude to the restaurant or the wait staff

I reject this notion completely. Going out to eat should never be seen as you doing the restaurant a favor. It’s a business transaction just like any product or service you buy. And since it’s significantly more expensive than groceries and eating at home, you should never come away being disappointed in the experience. You come in with your $20 and in return you expect to receive the meal you want, in a reasonable amount of time and then have your meal cleared. You don’t have to shop or prepare or cook or clean. It’s all done for you. And there’s a level of service you expect for your money. You’d never purchase a pair of pants that you learned has a tear in them and say, “oh well, no big deal.” You’d return them and ask for your money back or at least an exchange. Similarly you should never be satisfied if the food served to you is cold or expired or not prepared how you asked them. It’s very easy to be respectful yet firm with a waiter without being rude.

I get it. Waiters have it tough and don't make a lot. But lots of people don't make a lot and your money is valuable and shouldn't be wasted. Just be respectful.

I get it. Waiters have it tough and don’t make a lot. But lots of people don’t make a lot. Your money is valuable and shouldn’t be wasted. Just be respectful and ask for the service you expect. Oh and this is from the web, not my photo. Don’t be a jerk and squirt ketchup on the table.

So those are my thoughts on contacting Customer Service. You should never be afraid or anxious about doing so if you have a legitimate concern or complaint. Remember its your money and you can take it elsewhere. In a voluntary exchange of goods and services you hold half the power in the relationship.



  1. Greg Harvey
    October 13, 2014 / 9:45 am

    We were at a Golden Corral buffet, not a lot of service expected but we never had waitstaff bring rolls, refills or anything and we were seated right against their station. It wasn’t even that busy but I didn’t think we were invisible, though we were literally right under their noses. I went to a manager after we were all the way to our desserts and she refunded our entire meal. I told her that wasn’t necessary but she made it happen.

    • Steve Bierfeldt
      October 17, 2014 / 9:35 pm

      Greg, nice of her. Good for you in bringing it to her attention.