Learn about different ways of complaining plus useful tips on how to complain effectively!

Read the text and then do the exercises.

The different ways of complaining are:

  • Face to face
  • By phone
  • By email
  • By letter

Let’s first take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each before concluding which is the most effective.

Picture this scenario: you have bought a faulty item from a shop and you take it back to complain. You go directly to the shop assistant and tell them your problem. They say they cannot help you, which makes you angrier, to the point perhaps where you start insulting the poor shop assistant. RESULT: This will do you no favours, like getting any compensation, or even a refund. If you go directly to the first person you see within the organisation you are complaining about, you may be wasting your time as they may be powerless to take any action or provide you with a solution. So the important lesson to be learnt is to make sure firstly that you are speaking to the relevant person, the one who has the authority to make decisions.

Perhaps you don’t have time to actually go and see the relevant authority in person so you decide to make a phone call. The problem with complaining by phone is that you may be passed around from department to department, making you more and more angry until you finally give up. Either that or the phone is hung up on you, which leaves you fuming even more. Furthermore, any contact can be denied.

The same applies to emails too, which can additionally be deleted, or even manipulated.

This leaves us with the traditional letter. When we first make a complaint the usual response is a request to write a letter:  “Can you put that down in writing please?”

The advantages of writing a letter of complaint are that:

  • Written records are still very important, e.g. in legal matters as opposed to a fax or email.
  • You have complete control over what is being said, and you can present evidence.
  • You can be prepared, and plan your letter carefully.
  • You are able to keep copies of anything sent in writing.
  • You have time to reflect and/or consult as opposed to complaining on the spot.

So here are some useful points to consider when writing your letter:

  • State what went wrong exactly. You need to provide concrete evidence, with documentation, for example a receipt, where possible. Make sure you keep copies of all correspondence, including relevant documentation. You also need to state where, when, who was involved, what was said or done. Photographic or video evidence boosts your case.
  • What do you expect from your complaint?  If you are complaining about a situation at work, focus on taking action to improve situations rather than spending your time complaining.
  • State a time limit for when you expect a reply.
  • Be assertive, and stay calm.
  • Make sure you address the complaint to the relevant person.

This will be more likely to ensure that you will achieve a satisfactory outcome from your complaint. Good luck!

Language level

Intermediate: B1
Upper intermediate: B2


In the article above I learned about different ways of complaining plus useful tips on how to complain effectively. At Amazon I have find even entire book ‘The Art of Complaining Effectively’. I think it is really an art to be coherent, concise, convictive and compelling to make a point by complaining and to achieve a satisfactory outcome from our complaint. The mean principle in complaining is - as the famous Russian writer Anton Chekhov sad – brevity is the sister of talent.

Interesting, but, as for my country, rather useless recommendation.
Maybe if I buy a car, or a new house, or something in similar price, the traditional letter will be relevant.
But in most cases (I mean cheaper goods, like home appliances, clothes, toys etc) it will look rather strange to write a letter, or even an e-mail. I'm afraid I'll be just laughed at if I do it.:)

Usually it isn't a problem a faulty item to be refunded or changed to another.
Sometimes it takes some minutes, sometimes it's done immediately - depending on the bureaucracy level in the shop. But write a letter.. - it's too long and pointless:)

when there is the necessat i often type a email complaining, for me is faster and effectivy andI can add articles, videos or photographs of the object complained

Nowadays, online shopping is enormously popular due to internet development and people purchase the items online more and more. Although traditional letter complaints is the most effective way according to texts, I think email and messaging are faster and easier to have complaint at online shopping websites because it can directly get to either local sellers or overseas.

good task!

In my country, sometimes we can back the object directly in the customer services into the shop, and the big problem is the customer support with a phone call, many times I just lost my time around twenty minutes or more.

These type of thing happened sometimes in my country. Sometimes they solved our problems very easy way. Shop assistants managed directly but in next day. Some shops never responsible for that. Most complicated field is apartment services they never give respond and solve the problems. So, now I know the collect concrete evidence and go to relevant person who will make decision.

In our country it will be work in different ways. Some companies have very good customer services. it's enough to show them your receipt and thing you've bought in good condition, so they can change your item or send you to the workshop to check it if it doesn't work due to manufcture mistake. Other companies have bad customer services you have to go through letter exchanging or even go to the court to have a refund.

Hello Ablayl,

I feel it's similar in China. Most of the time, an effective and efficient way of complaint has something to do with the customer service policy of the businesses. Each of the ways mentioned in the article can be the best option in some situation.

In our country, we could go to the customer service if something we have just bought wasn't working. But, we don't get any refund if the damage is caused by customers and you have to accept that outcome even though you are not satisfied because we don't have a system like complaining by letters.