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

Business Magazine - Complaining


Do the Preparation task first. Then read the Text. Next go to each Task and do the activity.

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!



Thanks for the answer, it is both interesting and surprising.

I'm very happy that I can write something without be afraid that I will make mistakes. Step by step. I hope that I will improve my English writing and to expend my vocabulary.

Hello Adrijana,

And we are very happy for you and everyone else to write messages here in the comments! You have a good attitude towards writing, which I'm sure will help you improve.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I'd like to make a small complaint here. Sorry to say, but the 'preparation' and the 'task' are seemingly swapped their places. Please check.
Apart from that, thank you very much for this exercise.

Hello NewAgeEnglish,

Thank you for pointing this out. I have now put the exercises in the right order.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

It was pretty healthy exercise for those who want to improve there skills.

r u giving certificate too?

Hello Munazza Hayat,

LearnEnglish is not a course and we do not record or check your work, so we do not issue certificates. The material on LearnEnglish is there for your use so you can improve your English - and, hopefully, have some fun too!

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I face problem to interact with others in English. please guide me