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How Not to Write a Letter of Complaint

Evaluating and Revising a Claim Letter

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How Not to Write a Letter of Complaint

At times we can learn more from bad examples than from good ones. In the article Compose a Letter of Complaint, we considered the characteristics of an effective claim--one that's likely to lead to a satisfactory resolution. Here you'll find a letter that ignores our good advice.

Instructions

Read the following claim letter as if you were in a position to take care of the writer's complaint. Then respond thoughtfully to the questions that follow the letter.


Letter of Complaint: Mr. E. Mann's Problem With the DooDad Plus

Mr. E. Mann
345 Brooklawn Drive
Savannah, Georgia 31419
July 7, 2010

President,
House of Thingamajigs
160 Prospect Street
Savannah, Georgia 31410

SUBJECT: Faulty Products and Inferior Service

Dear Mr. or Ms. President:

I am writing this letter because I couldn’t get anywhere by talking to the manager of your store. Apparently, she never heard of the old saying, “The customer is always right.”

It all started in May when I returned the DooDad Plus to your “customer service” department because it was missing a part. (I don’t suppose that you have ever tried to assemble a DooDad Plus, but it just can’t be done without all the parts.) This guy in customer service was not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he spent about half an hour tapping on his computer and eventually told me that the missing part should arrive from the warehouse in three to five days. Three to five days--sure.

Here it is July, and the thing still hasn’t shown up. The summer is half over, and I still haven’t had a chance to use my DooDad Plus. I’ve been down to your “customer service” department about a million times over the past two months, and every time somebody taps on the computer and smiles and says the missing part is “en route from the warehouse.” Where in tarnation is this warehouse--Kandahar?

So today I went down to your so-called store and dragged the so-called manager out of her coffee break to explain that I was giving up. All I wanted was my money back. (Besides, it turns out that I can get a DooDad Plus from Lowe’s for ten bucks less than what I paid you. Ha!) So what does this lady tell me? That it’s “against store policy” to refund my money because I had already opened the package and started assembling the DooDad!

This is insane! I have already reported you to the Better Business Bureau. Now, what are you going to do about it?

Sincerely,

Mr. E. Mann


Questions

  1. Keeping in mind the advice offered in the article Compose a Letter of Complaint, explain what's wrong with the overall tone of Mr. E. Mann's letter. How might the writer's tone undermine his apparent purpose in writing the letter?

  2. What information in this letter should probably be omitted because it's not directly relevant to the writer's complaint?

  3. Some of the information that's typically provided in the opening paragraph of an effective complaint is missing from Mr. E. Mann's introduction. What useful information is missing?

  4. Offer a critique of the body paragraphs in Mr. E. Mann's letter. What useful information is missing? What unnecessary information obscures his claim?

  5. Some of the information that's typically provided in the closing paragraph of an effective complaint is missing from Mr. E. Mann's conclusion. What useful information is missing?

  6. Based on your responses to the questions above, revise Mr. E. Mann's letter, altering the tone, clarifying the claim, and omitting unnecessary details.
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